Whether you want to be an astronaut, novelist, photographer or you have no idea yet, there’s something cathartic in hearing about the multitude of winding paths. That’s why Man Repeller launched a series wherein various team members answer your career questions — anything from how they got to where they are to what they wish they’d done differently to what they still hope to do. There’s always a lesson to be learned somewhere or, at the very least, relief in knowing that it’s more than okay if you’re still figuring it out. Haley, Crystal and Edith have already answered your burning career Qs, and up this time is MR’s new Executive Editor, Mallory Rice. Below, she introduces herself and answers some of the questions recently posed to her on Instagram.
You’re the executive editor! What does that mean?
That means I help the editorial and art teams develop stories from beginning to end. Ideas come from all kinds of places—pitch meetings, Slack rooms, This Thing We Call Life—and my job is basically to catch the best ones and do everything I can to support the people (editors, writers, stylists, photographers, graphic designers, etc.) who make them real. I also write and edit!
How did you end up at Man Repeller?
I was at a friend’s birthday party with former Man Repeller president Kate Barnett and she mentioned that MR was looking for an editor. I told her I’d let her know if I knew of anyone who could be good for it and then we were both kind of like …Waaaaaait. I interviewed for the job a couple of weeks after that.
How did you get started in your career?
When I moved from Florida to New York after high school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do—only that I had a vague interest in fashion and loved magazines. One day, while waiting for my clothes to dry at the laundromat, I decided I was going to study Nylon and Paper so that if I met someone who worked there I’d have a hyper-specific fact in my back pocket that would impress them. A week or so later, I helped a Nylon editor at the denim store where I worked, said “the fact,” and immediately asked for an internship. (It happened that he needed an interview transcribed ASAP, so he hired me.) That I was able to Secret this opportunity is just one of many examples that proves we should always trust Oprah.
If you’re looking for some actionable advice here I would say: 1. Become an expert in the thing you want to pursue 2. Always talk to strangers, especially if they walk into your part-time job holding a few issues of that thing in their hands.
And then what?
I stayed at Nylon for seven years (after interning, I worked part-time through most of college, then full-time my senior year and stayed a couple years after graduating). I pretty much grew up in that office. Having a place to share the weird little things I loved with people who loved them too was a life-changing thing.
After Nylon, I wanted to try different kinds of writing, so I worked on copy and editorial direction for fashion brands and advertising. But I missed the intimacy of publishing stories for a community of people I really related to and loved. I remember going to see the Raf Simons documentary by myself and getting home and just bawling because he cared about his work so deeply and I missed feeling like that. So dramatic! Right around that time an opportunity came up to make a new kind of publication for Snapchat, which I ended up taking, along with my mentor from Nylon.
I think the original direction they gave us was: “Make it cool. Make it beautiful. Make it involve shopping somehow.” Total dream scenario. We called it Sweet, and it was all about discovering new things and sharing them with your friends. It was absurdly fast-paced but really creative and fun. After three years of Sweet, I traveled a bit and tried not to look at my phone for a couple weeks. Then I came back to Brooklyn and let myself get bored enough to work on stuff I’d been back-burnering, like shooting a short film with one of my friends and writing about the kinds of things I always thought I would if I weren’t busy with a full-time job. Then I ran into Kate at that birthday party!
What did you go to school for?
I studied creative writing with a focus on fiction.
What’s your favorite part of your job at MR?
Well, to circle back to “community I really relate to and love” [pauses to make uncomfortably earnest eye contact]….
Least favorite part of your job?
I have no complaints other than being asked to complain! How dare you! OK, fine: My commute from Greenpoint kind of sucks.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I’m finding it difficult not to say something that sounds like it belongs on a refrigerator magnet, but I don’t believe in growing up or making concrete long-term plans this way. Maintaining a curiosity about the world, meeting interesting people, and pushing myself to try new things are my main concerns and I can imagine them taking a million different forms. Now that we’re getting a little existential, let’s dive right into the questions readers submitted on Instagram!
“How do you recommend meeting people and making connections when you don’t have a fancy schmancy family?”
You’ve come to the right place! Like many people, I moved to New York with zero-point-zero friends and was the first person in my nuclear family to go to college. My main approach was to follow my interests and try to meet people that way (whether it was going to a concert or DMing someone I thought was funny on Twitter). I knew if I met people through this stuff we’d have at least one thing in common. Honestly, when I went to my first community event at MR HQ last month I looked around the room, which was packed to the gills with interesting, friendly people, and was like, “Damn, this is exactly what I would have wanted when I was starting out.” So, if we’re ever having an event in your city, I must insist you attach your finest barrette to your hair and come hang out.
“How did you find your own voice? How do you get published with no experience? And how can you pitch confidently without going overboard?”
I’ve been doing this professionally for more than 10 years and I’m still finding my voice. Recently, Leandra’s writing and the general MR vibe has inspired me to get more personal and conversational, for one. And then, of course, I’m always reading new-to-me things that evolve my own approach. This year I finally got around to reading John Jeremiah Sullivan’s essay collection “Pulphead” and I was totally floored by how palpable his enthusiasm for his subject feels on the page. You can tell when someone is excited about what they’re writing and when they’re simply going through the motions. If I ever feel like I’m just ‘doing the writing,’ I stop and do something else. (And just a side note: If you really want to learn how to write, read literary fiction as much as you possibly can!)
As for getting published with no experience, you can try a couple things. 1. Write something no one asked you to write, publish it yourself, then share it with people who you want to write for. 2. You can try to get an internship somewhere and work your ass off while you’re there and see if someone throws you a bone. Either way, you should expect to start small, at or near the bottom and you should be eager to learn, above all else.
Pitching properly has everything to do with understanding the publication you’re pitching, reaching out to the most relevant editor and respecting everyone else’s time. Keep your pitch short and sweet and don’t take it personally if they don’t respond. (But don’t be afraid to follow up a couple times either, especially if you got a response initially.)
“I can imagine working in a creative industry like fashion has such wonderful advantages. How do you navigate things like imposter syndrome or stress from societal pressures/views of fashion from those outside the industry?”
I think you’re asking two really good and distinct questions. One is about how to deal with your own self-doubt and the next is about dealing with the perceptions of other people. Regarding question 1: The sooner you can come to terms with the fact that other people are always going to have things you don’t have—whether it’s a skill or a privilege or whatever—the sooner you can get back to focusing on what you have to offer. This is the only thing that matters. It’s so easy to become distracted by other people’s advantages but it’s a colossal waste of time. I can’t stress this enough.
As for outside perceptions, there are good and bad reasons to do any kind of job, and you should make a habit of communicating your motivations. It will not only help attract the right community of people for you to work with and befriend but it will also help you contribute to your industry in a meaningful way. There are lots of things about the fashion industry that could be improved — from sustainability to inclusion — and I think if we’re open and honest about that we can do better work.
“Can you provide networking tips? I feel that it’s a word thrown around a lot so people network for the sake of it and as a result it feels artificial and forced. How do you do so in a way that feels genuine, effective, and substantial on both ends?”
I totally understand having an aversion to the word “networking.” You’re right that it sounds transactional and cringey. If attending something like an “industry mixer” feels unnatural to you, take a grassroots approach by just individually seeking out people whose work you like. I think this should come from a genuine interest in the person and their work, though. If it turns out you guys are able to help each other out, great, but I don’t think it’s the best motive to start out with. If you focus on getting good at what you do and consistently put feelers out this way, I really believe you’ll end up where you want to be.
“Any advice about what to do after getting fired?”
Hello! OK, let’s go there. I’ve only been fired once, from my high school job as a host at a restaurant, because I called out on New Year’s Day. As soon as I realized I’d been canned I was like, “So that’s how jobs work. Got it.” However, I have been laid off before. It’s pretty shocking and humbling, even if you see it coming and kinda-sorta wanted it deep down. In my own experience, and in the experience of some of my friends, I’ve seen that it can be a net positive. If you messed up and got fired, you need to own that, try to make it right if you can, and not repeat the same mistake again. Either way — but especially if it’s a no-fault layoff type of situation — you should take a moment to relish your newfound brainspace. We get so few of these breaks in life and if you were already itching for a change, this could be your moment to commit to doing something radically different. If you view it as an opportunity, it really can be one.
“What do I do if I’ve studied one thing, had some jobs in that one thing, and totally fallen out of love with that one thing? I’ve spent years of my life following a path I’m not sure I ever wanted or should have gone down.”
A long time ago I read an “Ask E. Jean” column where a person posed a similar question and E. Jean said something like, “If you’re lucky, you’ll live many lives.” That really stuck with me. Don’t let a desire for change stress you out—it’s innately human and I’m willing to bet the change you want is totally manageable. You—specifically working up your own nerve—are probably your biggest obstacle, and luckily that’s the thing you have the most control over. That said, chances are the opportunity is not just going to present itself. You’re going to have to make it happen. And the beginning of this change-making might be uncomfortable and confusing. Practically speaking, you might be broke and overworked for a while. This is why a lot of people just stay the course even when they’re not happy. It comes down to one thing — quoting my new favorite tennis player, Frances Tiafoe, here — How bad do you fucking want it?!