Under the Radar with Kenya Hunt
While ELLE's Deputy Editor might have started her journey across the pond in New York, her job does not live up to The Devil Wears Prada stereotypes. In fact, she tells us that fashion weeks are less glamorous and more "demanding" than anything and recounts some memorable early journalistic experiences where she starred as a music video extra and joined an all-women's deer hunt...
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?
Reading my mother’s copies of ELLE and Vogue growing up and wanting to be a part of that world, but very rarely seeing women like my mother or aunts represented on the pages.
Can you chart your journey from when you started out to your current position?
My path was quite linear in that I started by traveling to New York to do magazine and newspaper internships when I was at university. From there, the relationships I built during those internships led to my first position as a Research Assistant at a now defunct magazine called Jane (formerly owned by Condé Nast). Then I just rose up the ranks from there, leaving Jane three years later as an Assistant Editor to join another magazine as Features Editor and so on.
Eventually I moved to London to take a position as Global Style Director of Metro International newspapers, a network of free newspapers across more than 100 cities. While there, I launched a digital fashion pure play, recruiting and leading a team of Editors and Writers based in London.
My career has always vacillated between print and digital. Afterward, I joined ELLE UK as Acting Content Director, leading the features across the mag and website before becoming Fashion Features Director and now Deputy Editor.
Do you have a go-to work outfit?
Usually a men’s crewneck jumper and graphic skirt or jeans, but I’m currently in my final stage of pregnancy, so these days the go-to is anything the size of a tent.
What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?
There have been a few, like breaking my vegetarianism during an all-women’s deer hunt in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. I was on my first travel assignment for Jane as a young junior staffer. I was writing about a rise in all-women’s hunts happening across the country. I just remember watching this woman gutting a deer right after she’d killed it (I had to hold the hind legs while she cut it open) and feeling both repulsed and ravenous. She later cooked it into a stew, which I happily ate – I have been a venison lover ever since.
One of the other standout awkward moments was going undercover as a music video extra during a time when music videos were incredibly misogynistic. Again, all stories from my days as a junior. The women were treated terribly – it was such a degrading experience! But the story had an impact.
What would people be surprised to know about your job?
Because of films and television shows like The Devil Wears Prada, The Hills, Ugly Betty, etc, people tend to view women’s magazines as either being a) unbelievably glamorous or b) filled with incredibly insufferable, shallow people. People are usually surprised to hear the stereotypes aren’t necessarily true. For example, my friends and families are always struck by how demanding fashion weeks (in theory, the most “glamorous” time of year) can actually be.
Walk me through your typical day.
They vary wildly, but are usually filled with quite a lot of meetings, whether this is an external meeting with a fashion PR or internal meetings at Hearst to discuss editorial planning, commercial projects, events, marketing, PR or circulation. Then there is my time at my desk editing stories and working with our section Editors and Writers, as well as reviewing and reading layouts from our art department.
If it’s ready-to-wear, cruise or couture season, my work day looks completely different and involves travel and representing ELLE at various runway shows, events and showroom appointments. It runs the gamut.
If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day?
Reading. I’m always fighting to find more time to sit in a quiet room and read.
What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)? Why?
My husband and six-year-old during our holiday in Iceland.
Whose phone number do you wish you had?
Barack and Michelle Obama who embody all the goals. Or Sade, simply because she’s so elusive and I’d love to know what she’s up to.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
A professor at university once encouraged me to manage my expectations and pursue “more accessible” career opportunities when I told her I planned to move to New York and become a magazine Editor.
What/where is your happy place?
A beach, anywhere hot.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I have a life-long obsession with whales and wanted to be a Marine Biologist when I was little.
Introvert or extrovert?
A mix of both.
Optimist or pessimist?
Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment?
American Horror Story (late to the party on this, I know).
Sweet or savoury?
Sweet, with a pinch of sea salt.
Morning person or night owl?
Tea or coffee?
Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most?
I’m very pro emoji. Lately it’s been the lightning bolt.