I love reading through your questions every week – interacting with you is one of my favorite things to do on the blog. There’s one question I get asked more than any other, and that’s – how did I get into fashion, and TV? It’s awesome to think I could inspire or help any of your chosen career paths, so I’ve decided to write down how I got into the industry, along with a bunch of my top career tips.
I went to an all girls’ school just outside London, and although I liked fashion, I wasn’t aiming for a career as a stylist. I was more into sports, and I also wanted to be a reporter; to interview people – all types of people. That was what my Dad did, and I was totally inspired by him. He advised me to start work experience at magazines or newspapers as much as I could, so I was a total nerd about it. By age 15 I had a job in a little candy store, and age 16 I had a resume, and sent it to every editor I could find in the masthead of magazines. They all declined of course, saying I was too young – until Conde Nast Traveler agreed to let me shadow a writer there for a week. As soon as I walked through the rotating doors at Vogue House in London, I knew that was where I wanted to work.
I studied English Literature at Durham University, a beautiful, ancient town in the north of England. I loved it. During the holidays I did a few internships – Red magazine was my favorite. I did a couple in PR too, which made me realize what I didn’t want to do – which is sometimes just as helpful. When I graduated, I remember I’d landed an internship at Elle magazine starting the very next week. All my friends went off on holiday to party, and I remember being jealous but beyond excited to start my new job.
Like any ‘glamorous’ job, you usually have to support yourself during an internship. So for 6 months, I slept on friend’s couches in London and dined on canapés from the fancy parties I was allowed to attend. A Champagne lifestyle on a Diet Coke budget, is how my fellow intern described it. Then I heard about an opening at In Style, for a Features Assistant. There was a salary! Tiny – not really enough to live off in London – but it was a paying job! So I went to the interview, meeting Tammy Perry in the process. She was then the mag’s Deputy Editor, and was to become a close friend and career mentor. I got the job and sunk my teeth into all the tasks I got to do – from photocopying and fetching coffee, to coming up with fashion news stories and reporting behind-the-scenes on cover shoots. It was amazing, and I loved every minute of it.
A Proper Job!
Next I had a brief stint as Features Writer at Wedding magazine – a smaller publication, which meant I got more responsibilities. I covered travel, bought in photos, attended wedding runway shows, and helped style shoots. Halfway through my time there, I was asked to appear on BBC Breakfast News, to talk wedding dress trends. I was so nervous sitting in the green room, my hands were shaking and I had notes all over cards like a total nerd, even though the segment was only a couple of minutes long! But once the cameras rolled, I relaxed and really enjoyed the experience. That afternoon, a producer from the BBC called me up and said they’d like to put me back on TV. And that was how I started to host, little by little.
I read in the trade press that Vogue.com was launching Vogue TV. This was back when websites didn’t really have TV, so it was a big deal. I didn’t know if there were any jobs going, but I found some names and emailed over my resume, hoping for a bite. I got one. The editor invited me in for an interview, and I ended up hosting VogueTV for the next two years. I was also News Editor for Vogue.com, so I wrote news stories at my desk from 7.30am in the morning until 5.30pm, when I would go into the office loos, change into a dress and heels and hit the red carpet of some swanky soiree to interview all the celebrities and designers until late in the evening.
Life At Vogue
It was the most exhausting, but awesome job in the world. I learned a lot, fast, because without much of a budget, I had to play the role of producer and director too. I set up our filming projects and saw the footage through from shoot to edit. Then I’d write the accompanying story. I got to film at fashion weeks in New York, Milan, Paris and London; I went to Couture, to Cannes Film Festival, to Moscow for a Ralph Lauren store opening, behind the scenes at the Royal Ballet, to Coco Chanel’s private apartment, and to LA for the Oscars. I am so grateful for those experiences, and that role, because it prepared me for moving to the big kahuna of making TV: Los Angeles.<
Returning there more and more to film, I fell in love with the city and the open ambition of its inhabitants. Yes, there are cliché ‘wannabes’ roaming the streets with over-inflated egos, but there are also incredibly motivated, talented, kind people here too, ready to introduce you to their contact here and there, ready to give you sharp advice. Things happen here, it’s a place where if you really go for something, you’ll get it. I moved to LA six years ago, with an agent, a visa and a contract with E! Entertainment. I wasn’t about to risk moving here without all three, I didn’t want to work in a bar! Soon after, I booked Plain Jane, my beloved makeover show that started on the CW network before moving to Style Network and MTV International. For four series, we traveled the world making over young women who needed a big boost of confidence, and some fabulous new clothes! I’m so very proud of that show – of the emotional shifts it gave to girls – not just the ones featured on Plain Jane – but those of you who wrote (and still write) to me on Facebook, Twitter, or to Ask Louise, talking about how an episode has inspired you to feel more confident. After that I hosted shows like Fashion Star on NBC, Style Pop on the Style Network, and now all the fashion correspondence for Access Hollywood, and Style By Jury on TLC (which airs on Feb 20th by the way, don’t miss it!).
This April, sees the release of my first book, a style guide called Front Roe. It’s a mix of funny anecdotes from my career, practical advice – answering all your questions! And some really fascinating fashion history. I hope you guys enjoy it. Next week, I’ll be giving all my career tips, so send me the career questions you’re really keen to have answered now, and be sure to click back when I post my answers!