Under the Radar with Moya Lothian-McLean
Stylist's Editorial Assistant wants us to know that her role really is as wonderful as it sounds. When she's not interviewing Pharrell, she's finding a bone to pick with Liam Payne or informing her colleagues about the joys of toner...
Ellie Austin scored a job at Immediate Media as a Features Writer for Radio Times after graduating from the Magazine Journalism MA course at City University. Here she talks about working in the fast-paced world of a major weekly magazine and the power of a good coffee.
What made you want to work in the magazine industry?
I love print. I love long-form journalism. I guess it's an ego thing. When I've written something and I see someone reading Stylist or reading a magazine that I contributed to, it's amazing – I get this huge burst of pride. I worked in digital before, which is really fun, but there's something about having a hard copy in your hand that is really special.
I don't think print is as profitable as it was, which is sad, and I think there are new forms, but I don't think print is dead. I think print needs to adapt. There are always going to be people who want to read a physical copy. You just have to find a new way of balancing that with the way people are consuming – I hate this word – content.
At Shortlist Media, we also contribute very heavily on our digital platform and we do events and experiential things that are all part of the magazine brand, but without the magazine at the core, you wouldn't have that.
Can you chart your journey from when you started out to your current position?
It's very short. I was doing history at King's College London, and while doing that, I was writing a music blog. I'd always grown up reading VICE – I know, cliché. I loved music and I purposefully started writing this blog in the VICE tone to get better at producing clean copy.
I was lucky enough that somebody from Noisey saw it and they messaged me on Twitter – a great networking tool – and asked me to start pitching to them and writing for them. I started freelancing for them while at university, which gave me the first step into an office environment and a journalism environment.
From there, I did an internship at Fader, which is my favourite music magazine of all time. I skipped all my second term seminars to go to it, which my mother still doesn't know.
When I graduated, I got an internship in advertising. While I was there, a job post appeared on Gorkana [for the Editorial Assistant role at Stylist]. I knew that I liked writing and I loved Stylist. It was a poster application, so I spent several days cutting and sticking these mood board pictures together with images and text. They liked it and they called me in for an interview. I can't remember what was said, because it was very hazy, but I somehow got the job! I started in September 2016.
Do you have a go-to work outfit?
Oh god, no. My work outfit has actually massively changed. When I started, I used to wear lots of crop tops. Now I usually wear brogues or mid-size heels. I like wide-leg trousers, shirts and jumpers. If it's smart and I think it's got a bit of an edge to it, I'll wear it. I used to wear dungarees to work, but I decided it was time to start dressing for the job, so no more dungarees sadly.
What do you turn to when you’re on deadline – tea/coffee/snacks?
It used to be coffee, but I get too wired. I plug in my headphones and I listen to a Frank Ocean track if I'm on deadline. It's like clearing your palette – it just clears out my mind. It's usually "Nikes" that does it.
I also do terrible things when I'm on deadline. I don't let myself go to the toilet until I finish doing something, which I think is bad for you medically, but it gets me to do it. I'm like, "Okay, if you finish this paragraph, you get to go pee, so finish your paragraph!"
What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?
I've done crazy cool stuff. That sounds like I'm bragging. My Editor said, "Does anyone want to go to New York? I need someone to talk to Pharrell for a fashion shoot.” I jokingly went, "Ha ha yes, me." Then three days later, I was on a plane to New York, eating an ice cream sundae and watching Arrival in business class.
I was like, “Wow, this has happened to an Editorial Assistant.” That's the beauty of it – once you're in the industry, they do tend to give you opportunities. You just have to be open and say "yes" to everything.
The weirdest situation in this job was I went to the Mondrian Hotel to interview Danielle Brooks from Orange Is the New Black and when I got back to the office, I realised I'd chucked my wallet away at lunch.
I immediately had to go sifting through huge bins in the pouring rain, having come back from this beautiful hotel, really swanky stuff, and suddenly I was in the bins looking with my hands through everyone's rubbish for my wallet. I was humbled.
What would people be surprised to know about your job?
Toner actually just means ink. That's all it means, guys. I thought it was this magical thing that you put in the printer – it's just ink. I don't think people really have a concept of what an Editorial Assistant is. There's a lot of office management that you tend not to think about. The surprising thing is it really is as wonderful as it sounds. It's pretty great.
If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day?
Do I have unlimited money too? Because I'd be constantly travelling. I guess I would have to come back for my job, so I would be out dancing in the clubs – all hours. It'd have to be really dark. I hate dancing in the daytime, because that exposes me too much. I don't talk to anyone – just dance. I like the environment and hearing songs that I love.
What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)?
There's a lot of screenshots of horoscopes, a conversation, accidentally my phone screen. The last photo I have is of this really cool model on Instagram. I screenshotted her outfit, which is just this amazing yellow and she's got this beret on and she's got red lipstick. I'm really into berets right now, so I screenshotted that as outfit inspiration. Her name's Emily Bador.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Oh my god, I have so many. Diplo's tweets are one. I secretly love Diplo, but I hate admitting that. I really like reading Blind Gossip, which is this terrible, horribly mean and malicious gossip site. Reading the blind items about celebrities is my guilty pleasure. I feel dirty when I read it, kind of like the Daily Mail – really dirty. I need to stop looking at it.
Whose phone number do you wish you had?
I wish I had Harry Styles's phone number and not because I fancy him, because I don't, but I do want to be his best friend platonically. I think he'd be really fun to hang out with. I'd like to call up Harry Styles and just talk shit with him on the phone.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
It's usually from me to me. Probably when my friends say, "Don't text him, it will look desperate." Always text him, because then either way, you find out whether he’s into you or not. That way you're not torturing yourself.
What/where is your happy place?
My happy place is definitely in a night club – probably Visions – if Rihanna’s "Work" is playing.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I've got a salacious thing. My father ran away with an Olympic javelin thrower. He always wanted to get into sports, so he was trying to use her as his conduit, but he did not get into sports.
I was about three and The Sun came and doorstepped my mum to try and get her to comment on it. She was like, "No, no." That's about my dad, but I’m really quite boring. There's nothing surprising about me. I'm just an open book.
What would be in your Room 101?
Liam Payne – he's my Room 101. I hate Liam Payne. I hate him so much. He's so mediocre. I have like a burning...just stop him. Stop him now. Can you print that?
Introvert or extrovert?
Optimist or pessimist?
Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment?
Sweet or savoury?
Sweet, 100%. I've got the worst sweet tooth. I love sour sweets, so anything like Tangfastics, anything that's going to burn the roof of my mouth off.
Morning person or night owl?
Tea or coffee?
Tea at the moment, because coffee makes me too wired.
Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most?
It depends on the emoji – probably cringey. I'd say cringe over all. I'm not really an emoji person. My most used emoji is the “stop” hand that's just flat. It says a lot about me...