When new platforms like Tik Tok pop up, it can often feel like the people using them on behalf of a magazine are too old to be doing so. How do you tackle this at Dazed Beauty?
I have a really young, very diverse team and they are fantastic. Take Jess, our Social Media Editor. I think she’s 22, so they’re not 16, right. I can’t hire 16-year olds. But I meet those 16-year olds at the events we do. I stand around, and I chat with them and it’s amazing. We have been running a campaign [Tallawah] around black hair. We opened this big exhibition with Jawara and Nadine Ijewere and we had all these students come down. So that’s proper face to face contact with people who are at school or college or university.
“We’re a real motley crew of a team. I thought that was really sexy and really appealing.”
I think we are quite good at just naturally keeping abreast of that. That is not to say that I’m totally down with the kids – that makes me sound ancient – but I don’t feel that old myself. I’ve grown up on those mediums. I love watching those things and I sit on Tik Tok for a long time. Other people my age would maybe not, but there’s so much going on there. I’ll definitely sign up to whatever the next thing is. But I think that my team does a lot of that groundwork for me.
“When we set out the platform, we realised we couldn’t do Vogue or Allure. We don’t want to be those channels. I don’t want to represent those ways of being.”
Dazed Beauty is pitched as a futuristic vision of beauty. How do you stay ahead of the curve and keep pushing the conversation forward?
When we launched, we had Ben Ditto working with us really closely and Isamaya Ffrench as our creative director. Pushing the conversation forward is very much their sensibility. I was very excited by joining a team where you have the most prolific makeup artist in the world, who I am now lucky enough to call my friend. But also Ben, who was such a left-field option for a beauty magazine. We’re a real motley crew of a team. I thought that was really sexy and really appealing. I thought that, as a combination, whatever we created would be really unexpected – and it was.
It was pretty alien and pretty cyborg to begin with. When we set out the platform, we realised we couldn’t do Vogue or Allure. We don’t want to be those channels. I don’t want to represent those ways of being. It had to be something different, and we wanted to open up people’s minds. We wanted to do something exciting, and how impossible is it to do something exciting and different in this day and age?
“We really wanted to push and pull and tease with this idea of what’s beautiful and what isn’t. I had to ask myself, why does that make me feel strange? I was more conditioned than I’d like to admit.”
We launched with a very alternative idea of what beauty is, beyond makeup and cosmetics. The whole spectrum of beauty isn’t properly celebrated anywhere else in terms of a media outlet.
We really wanted to push and pull and tease with this idea of what’s beautiful and what isn’t. That sounds really predictable but, of course, it was a question that even I had to unpack when I started as editor, because I would look at things and think, oh my God that’s too far. I had to ask myself, why does that make me feel strange? I was more conditioned than I’d like to admit.
“We do take pitches all the time, but I wish people took more time to sense check and spell check their work because that’s important.”
Over the last few years, magazines have morphed into multidisciplinary media brands, where events, videos and social media are all key outputs. When a writer approaches you with an idea, should their pitches include ideas for stretching the content across other mediums?
People don’t do that enough and it would be a really nice thing to do. So often, we get stuff through and it’s addressed to Vogue. Somebody sent me a mood board the other day and it had a picture of Nathan Westling before he had transitioned. It’s just people being careless.
We do take pitches all the time, but I wish people took more time to sense check and spell check their work because that’s important. Pitches don’t have to be very long, but there’s such a hastiness that comes with content now. I’ve been in that freelance position, I imagine it’s very tempting to pitch the same idea to four different publications, but you never know who’s going to turn around and say yes and then you’re going to be really stuck. I think that suggesting ways in which your pitches could translate across other mediums would be a really agile way to work as a journalist, and as a writer. But you must also charge out for this.
“We behave a lot bigger than we are, but that’s modern publishing.”
You just hosted an exhibition with photographer Nadine Ijerwere and hairstylist Jawara Wauchope for Dazed Beauty. How do other mediums (like exhibitions) expand the scope of your work as a journalist?
That’s what I bring to Dazed Beauty because it’s how I think. Somebody comes to me with an idea and I think, okay, that could take the form of an exhibition and a talk and a video and a shoot. That probably exhausts my team sometimes. We behave a lot bigger than we are, but that’s modern publishing. Dazed Digital behaves like that. You absolutely have to. If we were just sitting in the office, writing news pieces about what’s happening on Tik Tok or profiling our community members, that would be totally fine. But, it’s not how new wave publishing works or functions.
“Writers very often think of themselves as solipsistic figures working in isolation. Actually, I think smart young writers become friends with up and coming fashion designers and photographers.”
What advice do you have for young writers just starting out in the industry?
There’s so much content out there. The more expertise and speciality you can have as a writer, the better. If I was starting out now, I would think in fine detail about what I’m interested in. Not just in fashion, but particularly about what point of view I would like to get across and who I want to be working and collaborating with.
“It should always be the best person for the job. The best person for the job isn’t necessarily the person sitting next to you.”
Writers very often think of themselves as solipsistic figures working in isolation. Actually, I think smart young writers become friends with up and coming fashion designers and photographers.
The more you can insert yourself within creative communities and switch up the kinds of writing that you’re doing, the better. Get to know the features editor you’re pitching to and their interests. It’s about tailoring the pitches to the features desk, without losing your authenticity.
A lot of young writers feel the pressure to carve a niche early on in their career, but your career is marked by so many different projects with brands as well as magazines and you even started a creative agency. How have you navigated that and has the variety helped or hindered your career?
I used to have a hang-up about not rattling around in one industry for long enough. People could be confused about what I did; sometimes you hire me as a freelance writer, sometimes I come and host a panel talk for you, sometimes I work in a music video. I don’t think it hindered me. It might confuse people, but I wouldn’t change it. And I think I’m definitely in the right place right now.
“We were all working shitty jobs for not a lot of money. We wanted to have conversations about how you get paid and what you do when someone talks to you inappropriately in the workplace.”
Which role taught you the most and what were the key lessons you took away from it?
I think it would be between Dazed Beauty, because it’s been such a huge year, and running my own agency. That was a massive learning curve. I was 25 years old and sitting in boardrooms with Nike, Converse and Stella McCartney, handling briefs that huge agencies were also pitching on. It cut my teeth. I really, really don’t take that for granted.