How I Got (and Lost) My Dream Job How I Got (and Lost) My Dream Job

How I Got (and Lost) My Dream Job

by Jade Taylor

New York City circa 2011 was a puzzling time to find your tribe. Magical things like Instagram, Rookie Mag, and Milk Makeup — beacons of light as far as Internet communities go — were either just starting out or hadn’t been invented yet, while Tumblr reigned supreme at the time as a space for anyone who wasn’t interested in conforming to social norms and needed a place to exist as themselves completely. But my best friend, my beacon of light, my tribe, wasn’t on the Internet. It was tangible, in my hands. It sat in fat stacks on my bookshelf and laid folded like a hotdog bun in my bag on-the-go. I carried it in my arms like a child, to the side sitting on my hip. NYLON magazine was the coolest magazine — self-described as ”the most awesome magazine in the world” — and it was all I had to turn to during a very dark (yet very special) time in my life.

I moved here in 2008 when I was 16 years old, which is a long story in and of itself and maybe not appropriate to get into at this time. So, in the interest of saving said time, let’s fast-forward three years to 2011, when I was 19 years-old living in a shitty apartment in Queens: My mom and I were on food stamps, I used drugstore hair dye to bleach my golden (correction: I’d like to think it was golden, but it was yellow) peroxide blonde hair that fell right above my butt, I smoked cheap, gross menthol cigarettes (I thought it was cool; I wanted to be Courtney Love [hence the hair, too]), and I was dating someone a decade older than me. Gross, but I didn’t give a fuck. And I don’t want anyone feeling any sort of sorry for me, because I loved it. I sometimes envy that free-spirited teenage girl, who didn’t take shit from anyone and who pranced all over the city at all hours of the night and just did her thing. I have lost many parts of her over the years.

During this time I was also going to a community art college in the city, I was interning for a Japanese fashion magazine, and I had just started befriending other really creative people. Being born and raised in lower-middle-class north Miami (my parents met as teenagers because they were neighbors in the same trailer park, true story!), this was all incredibly bright and shiny and exciting for me. Like that stupid “welcome to New York” song or whatever. I didn’t care where I lived or what I had, I was buzzing with so much creative energy that I could barely fall asleep at night. I was constantly making something with my hands, in the form(s) of: writing, photography, fashion, poetry, music, beauty, painting, sketching, collaging—I loved all these outlets of artistic expression and felt uneasy with the idea of selecting just one to pursue.

It was during a class at my community art college that my teacher brought out piles of magazines—foreign editions of Vogue [Paris, Italia], Dazed & Confused, i-D, and, my favorite one of all, NYLON—and asked the class to take a few copies, cut out stories, and start collaging as part of the assignment. I quickly scooped up all the copies of NYLON and started going to town—I already owned all the issues he had, and therefore had already memorized which stories were in each issue (a lot of them were already ripped out and pasted on my bedroom walls). Needless to say, I aced the assignment. However, what happened next literally changed my life, and it’s so simple when I look back on it. After class, my teacher asked me to stay behind. He asked where I was interning, and then asked where I’d like to intern next. Without missing a beat I said NYLON, my only answer. He encouraged me to go home, look up an email address, and send out my résumé. I left school on another creative buzz, but I also remember drowning in voices of self-doubt, like soft-yells echoing inside my head: I’m not good enough. They’re not going to want me. I’m a nobody. Why would they care about me?

I decided to defy these voices. So I went home, typed up a cover letter and resume, Googled an intern email address (I found two of them), and sent my email out into the ether. It took a few weeks to hear back, but when I finally did, I was over the fucking moon. I wouldn’t shut the fuck up about it. (I was 19-years-old! Obviously I was annoying.) There was only one problem: I had applied for an internship in fashion/beauty/editorial, but I got an email back from the receptionist saying those spots were taken, but she needed an intern to help her around the office. “Are you still interested?” At this point, I didn’t care if I had to clean up garbage (which, spoiler alert, I did a lot of), I just wanted to be a part of NYLON. I wanted to be inside the magazine I had fanatically and obsessively read for years. So I said, Yes!”

The next thing I knew, I was standing outside of the Soho Building, wearing layers of black chiffon and a ton of vintage jewelry — I was channeling my inner Stevie that day — smoking a cigarette and saying a little spell for good luck. I’ll never forget walking through those doors for the first time — or rather, singular, the door, since there was a different entrance at this time (before the company bought out the space next door) — it was like a vessel to the most magical place on Earth. Then, bam, there they were, those infamous pink neon lights that beamed NYLON above the receptionist, who I had my interview with. I guess it went pretty well, since I ended up scoring the internship. I remember being elated. I cried to my mom, I cried to my friends. I was just so fucking happy. It’s bittersweet to reflect back on this memory now.

I started as an intern helping out the receptionist, which, in hindsight, was the smartest thing I ever did because I got the most face-time with the owners at the time — Editor-in-Chief Marvin Scott Jarrett and (his wife) Publisher Jaclynn Jarrett — than any other intern. Everything happens for a reason. I didn’t care that I was essentially just taking phone calls, doing expense reports, or passing out mail to people at first (i.e. nothing creative), because this is exactly how I got to know everyone. And everyone who worked at NYLON during this time was so cool. It was electric in that place. Records would be playing all day, people were laughing, and everyone was existing in this very free, creative bubble. It was small, and it was like family. There were probably only 30 in total in the office (including interns). One day, Jaclynn said my name. I remember the girl’s who worked there being shocked. “Holy shit. I’ve never heard her call any intern by their first name.” I felt special. I felt like I was in a cooler version of The Devil Wears Prada. Jaclynn was a fierce, powerful woman. Everyone was scared shitless of her. She walked around in head-to-toe black leather, like the Real Housewives of Soho, or something like that, and she was saying my name: Jade.

I was also on a first-name basis with some of my favorite editors, people who’s names I read over and over again each issue. It was from these connections where I saw first-hand how the pages inside my favorite magazine were actually made. Whenever I got to go into the art room, I saw pages from the next issue plastered on the walls (I can’t believe I’m seeing this before anyone else?!). I remember one morning I ran (literally) into Emily Haines of Metric in the bathroom. The next day model Chloe Norgaard would come in, I’d get her some water. The next day I looked up from the receptionist desk and Pharrell was standing there, telling me he liked my hair color — which, at this time, was either pink or blue, I can’t remember because it changed so often. I had started helping NYLON’s beauty director at the time with small tasks, like organizing nail polish or whatever, and in exchange she’d throw products my way, like jars of Manic Panic. Hence, why Pharrell just complimented me. It was just another normal day at NYLON, and I was enchanted by all of it.

I was obsessed with beauty at the time. At my last gig (at the Japanese fashion magazine), I interned for the beauty editor, and that’s where I got my first glimpse into the beauty world. I knew from day 1 at NYLON that I wanted to be in the beauty department, I just had to figure out how to get there. I helped the beauty director every single chance I could, so I eventually switched over and became the beauty intern, working directly with her. I was obsessed with nail art (it was 2012 at this time, don’t judge me), so the digital girls would post my nails on the NYLON Instagram account all the time. Sky Ferreria would comment on the photos. I was living in cool-girl heaven. I’m sure this might sound lame, but I don’t really care. I had just turned 20 years-old, and I wasn’t as much of a wannabee as you may paint me to be in your head; I was just a fan. In Carrie Brownstein’s book (which is a gift to the Universe) “Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl,” she goes into great detail and length about the power of fandom, and how exactly this fandom got her from being a hermit listening to punk rock alone in her bedroom to joining Sleater Kinney and playing shows worldwide. I’m not comparing myself (or my journey) to Carrie Brownstein. However, I do agree that there is nothing more powerful than someone who genuinely loves something else. Devotion is underrated.

 

Eventually, the beauty director at the time had left, and there was a big, empty spot in the beauty department that needed to be filled. I was too young and too inexperienced to fill that spot at the time, but I still got in. Jaclynn offered me the position of Beauty Assistant, a first for the magazine since the beauty department was historically a one-woman show, with the beauty director being the only tour de force there. Was I fucking dreaming? I couldn’t believe it. It was the best day of my life. (And that’s not an exaggeration.) I felt so validated. I came from fucking nothing, yet I set out a goal and accomplished it all on my own. How? Because I was myself. I knew when to speak up with ideas, but I also knew when to be respectful and know my place. Interning is all about balance. You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes (which, at this time, were likely to be tucked behind a pair of Dr. Martens), but you also didn’t want to be invisible. If anyone needed something, I said yes. I wasn’t too good for anything. You want me to lug all of these boxes down the hallway? Sure! You want me to trek uptown with a Metrocard you didn’t pay for to collect something for you that’s definitely a personal errand? Absolutely! You need me to go to Starbucks and order EVERY SINGLE EMPLOYEE a coffee of their choice (this is a real story!) and then carry them back to the office and distribute them? No problem! The key to making it in this industry is sacrifice. Everyone has these stories (some are way crazier than mine), and everyone puts up with a lot of bullshit before ascending to the next level.

Being in the beauty world is surreal: You’re constantly being gifted products (and very nice designer things), you’re being sent cars to take you from one fancy event to another, you’re being flown business class all over the world to cover a new launch, you’re being treated to the yummiest (Michelin star) meals you’ll ever experience in your life—you’re essentially being treated like royalty. It was very uncomfortable for me in the beginning. The irony of me having less than $200 in my bank account and then going to Barney’s for lunch is not lost on me. Neither is the time that a red Ferrari drove me from a fancy event in the city back home to my shitty apartment in Queens. I used to show up to Chanel beauty events at 9am wearing a ratty, worn-out vintage Dinosaur Jr. T-shirt with checkerboard Vans (my tattoos and my long, blue hair probably didn’t help, either) and be stared—gawked—at by other beauty editors, especially the old-school beauty directors. Nobody would talk to me. It wasn’t until I said, “I’m Jade, from NYLON” that it would make sense to them why I looked “this way”. “Oooh, NYLON! So cool.” As if saying NYLON justified or made how I looked OK. I guess in a lot of ways one could argue that it did.

Jade at NYLON.
Jade at NYLON.
Jade at NYLON.

This was my identity for the next six years of my life.

Of course, if you know the magazine’s admittedly messy history, you may guess what comes next: One night, it was a Friday, the news broke on WWD that NYLON had been bought out and that Marvin and Jaclynn Jarrett were thrown out with it. My co-workers and I were in a flurry of texts that weekend. Do we still have jobs? Is the magazine still happening? Who are these new owners? We all met early Monday morning at Balthazaar for breakfast to think of a game plan. It was weird. Our executive editor at the time didn’t seem too hopeful. Everyone was terribly morose about the situation, we loved Marvin and Jaclynn. It felt like defeat, but we were still going to fight. All of us (probably 15 in total) marched those four blocks to the office, walked in, and sat down at our desks like it was business as usual, as a group of guys in suits stared at us. I was shaking. It was like a fucking movie. If that didn’t read as dramatic to you, please know: IT WAS DRAMATIC. Of course it’s funny to look back on now, but in the present moment, nobody was laughing.

It was explained to us, by these new guys in suits, that the company was bought out and that they were there to save the day. NYLON (the magazine and the website) would go on per usual, we’d just have more money! And proper health insurance! And proper annual salaries! Rejoice! I was immediately skeptical. What was the loophole? I didn’t trust them, and I certainly didn’t like them. But once the dust settled, they brought in a new EIC, and things started going back to normal. We did have more money to make the magazine. We were given proper healthcare, and subsequently a proper annual salary. We were even allowed to start hiring new people! It was rapid expansion. Before all this happened, I had just been promoted to Beauty Editor. I didn’t want to leave; I was just starting! A lot of people jumped ship during this transition — I was tempted to, but I felt like this was just the beginning for me. My boss, our beauty director at the time, was let go under our new EIC’s direction, and I became the new head of the beauty department, as Senior Beauty Editor. This is when I started to shine.

The first issue I did all by myself under my total beauty creative direction was October 2014 with Tavi Gevinson on the cover. It is the thing I am most proud of. When it came out, I remember crying in my bedroom. A few years had already flown by, and I reflected back to teenage Jade obsessively reading NYLON, and now she was in charge of creating the entire beauty section for it all by herself. It was surreal. Creating something and completing it from start-to-finish (thinking of an idea, pitching it, executing it, editing it, and then publishing it) was like a weird way of my brain giving birth. I was 23 years-old, and I had full control. I was the luckiest girl in the world.

I didn’t really give a shit about the free designer things, the endless array of beauty products, or the countless press trips and events. That’s not why I was in the beauty industry. Instinctively, I knew I was put in this position, in this lifetime, to change the industry. I started small: Under my beauty direction at NYLON, the entire section changed. I threw out 80% of the original beauty pages and reworked them. I also threw out the set “rules” for most of these pages, too. I created my own pages, my own rules. I started featuring models who weren’t just pretty, skinny, cis-white girls. I showed diversity. I showed girls’ body hair. I showed trans models. I showed curvy, plus-sized models. I showed girls with unibrows. I showed models who were gender nonconforming. I showed drag queens. I started doing beauty editorials inspired by aliens, skaters, goths, Marie Antoinette, Who Are You Polly Maggoo?—whatever weird shit popped into my head and inspired me, I did it. I had no personal life. I was constantly on set shooting something or I was constantly at the office (it wasn’t uncommon to be there until midnight, 1am, 2am, 3am… especially during a close). My entire life was NYLON. And I loved it.

I finally started being taken seriously as a beauty editor by my peers, both in the office and by fellow beauty alumni. But I was constantly the peg of some sort of ageist comment by someone. (This still happens to me.) “Oh, you’re too young to remember. How old are you? This product has been around since before you were born! Well, you wouldn’t know, you’re too young.” Why is undermining me (or anyone) because of age OK? If I look young to you, do I also look stupid? Those comments really got under my skin. I felt like I was constantly trying to prove myself. It was especially shitty because — little did anyone realize — I had been at NYLON since I was 19 years-old. I got a rapid fire, fast — almost brutal — education in the publishing world starting at a very young age. I was thrown into the waters, no life vest, and was told to swim. And I fucking swam.

My career was booming. Every issue I made important, beautiful, unique, and original beauty content. I’ve never written a red carpet celebrity beauty story in my life. I’ve never written a “top 10 best coral lipglosses” story in my life. And I never will. I wanted to dig deeper in my beauty content. I wanted something more obscure, something with more substance. I didn’t like any other beauty content out there, so I made up my own. And fans of NYLON started to really react. I can’t even tell you how many emails, DMs, comments, messages, and so forth I’ve received throughout the years from people telling me that “your story on __ changed my life.” That’s what kept me going for so long. It wasn’t the money (nobody works in editorial publishing for the paycheck), it wasn’t the products (I had become jaded by them), it wasn’t being relatively well-known (I am notoriously a pretty private person and don’t find fulfillment in that): It was the fact that I was making a difference, and I could feel the shift happening.

Fast-forward to now, 2017. All was going well at NYLON. I was able to hire two people underneath me (making the beauty department a record-setting three-person team), after years of being the only one there and struggling more and more with each issue. I had nearly quadrupled the beauty pages per issue from when I first started. I needed help. I hired two girls who I really felt best represented the magazine to work alongside me.

On a random Thursday, during New York Fashion Week, the print team received a rather suspicious email that a mandatory meeting was happening later that day. I immediately didn’t feel OK about it. I could go into great detail about what happened next, but I’m not going to. This isn’t gossip. This is my life. But what I will say is that what happened felt eerily similar to what I saw happen years ago: the news broke suddenly on WWD, with a title reading “NYLON to shutter print edition,” and myself and 11 of my co-workers (who were more like family to me) lost our jobs in a split-second. None of us saw this coming. We were already half-way through working on our November issue (which, sadly, will never see the light of day), expanding our team, and constantly receiving feedback like, “NYLON is nothing without the magazine” from the guys in suits. So what the fuck just happened? I felt numb.

As you can imagine my entire world started to crumble. I was hysterical. My boyfriend became a human-tissue, I couldn’t stop pacing around our apartment. I had been sober from alcohol and cigarettes for exactly 101 days that day, but I broke my sobriety from both that night (I am now back to being sober) — and I’m not blaming NYLON for breaking my sobriety, I blame myself, of course. I was just in such an intense whirlwind of feelings and emotions that I had nothing left to turn to. It was the most heartbroken I’ve ever been in my life. I felt like I was suddenly dumped and ghosted by a long-term relationship that I was still totally dedicated to. More than that, I felt like I had lost my identity. My voice. My purpose. Nobody is going to care about me now that I’m not Jade at NYLON anymore. Nobody is going to want to work with me. The same echos of self-doubt had taken over my brain. I am still fighting them off to this day.

The next morning, I had to go into the office and clean out my stuff from the last 6 years. I blacked most of this out. I felt sick being there, and the things I was reaching for to take didn’t feel like anything to me anymore. It was degrading, humiliating. What did I do to deserve this? I wasn’t stupid: I knew the print magazine wasn’t going to be around forever. I had just assumed that I’d be transitioned to digital when it folded. Why didn’t they do that? I kept torturing myself with WHY. Why, why, why. Even typing that out sounds like a cry. And it was! This was the first time I had ever lost a job, and it wasn’t just a job to me — it was my life. I was looking around at people’s faces, looking at me in pity, and I kept flashing back to those first memories I had at NYLON. I imagined all the people who used to sit at those same desks, pulling out a record to put on, pouring whiskey into a cup during late-night closes, and leaving together, in packs, to go hang out together at a bar down the street after work. The original spirit of NYLON died that day, I felt it escape from the Soho Building with me when I left. In many ways, I’d like to think it clung to me and I carried it out.

But hey, it’s me, Jade! If you know me, or are familiar with my work at all, do you really think I left being silent? Why shouldn’t I be allowed to be angry? Fuck that. You can be well-spoken, composed, and articulately angry without screaming, turning red, and crying. Or acting like “a girl” (whatever that means). Take it from me. The whole thing was so anti-NYLON in nature. I had spent the last 6 years fighting the patriarchy with my beauty pages. The irony of being let go by a guy in a suit is not lost on me.

I rebelled. I spoke my truth. I told off the man, and then on my way out (as mostly a joke), I turned around, flipped the bird to those pink neon lights, took a photo, and walked out. A few days later I posted it on my Instagram, and it garnered some pretty incredible feedback. In fact, I was shocked by how much feedback that photo got. In total (counting the comments and the private DMs) I had received over 1,000 individual messages from fans of NYLON reaching out to me and thanking me for what I had done. A lot them also shared their solidarity with me, and thanked me for my honesty. I was overwhelmed. I’m still overwhelmed.

It felt good, but I didn’t want the photo to be misconstrued as some unprofessional, disgruntled employee bullshit. I was allowed to be angry. Women are allowed to be angry. It’s a harmless statement that blares fuck you to “the man.” I’m not saying fuck you to NYLON, the magazine. I love the magazine and will continue to love the magazine for the rest of my life. I went down with that magazine. I harbor no negative emotions towards it. I wouldn’t change one issue, one page, one second that I was there for the entire world. I just hated how things had to end. It felt like I was being discarded, thrown away. Nobody even thanked me for my hard work over the last six years. My literal blood, sweat, and tears were poured all over that office. Not one person said thank you to me as I left. It was the most horrible feeling. I had worked — sacrificed — so much of my life for this place. And I was thrown away like a piece of trash.

This is another life lesson. One that I’m still learning, even as I write this. Although it’s just been over a month since it happened, it still stings every day. But I guess there’s a silver lining to even the shittiest of situations: I’ve recently joined House of Intuition—a metaphysical apothecary brand out on the west coast—as their Beauty Director! And while I’m working from the opposite coast, I’ve also started to bounce back by writing for brands (like my beloved Milk Makeup, hence this story) that I truly believe in. But no matter how many wonderful opportunities have already come my way, it still hurts. NYLON magazine may be dead, but its impact lives on in all of us—as people and as brands. The true ethics of NYLON were to proudly go against the status quo, to resist, to get up and say “fuck you” to conventionalism, to be yourself, and to be proud of that self. We used the word “rebel” so many times it probably lost its meaning (anyone who used to work at NYLON can laugh and agree with this point). But we repped that word so much because that was the spirit. And because of NYLON magazine’s impact, I hope that rebellious spirit lives inside each and every one of you the way it lives inside of me. Get out there, stick up for yourself, and never let the man get you down.