Interview with Eva Chen, Teen Vogue Editor

Eva Chen is the beauty and health director/special projects editor at Teen Vogue and she has kindly accepted FQ’s request for an interview! You can visit her blog here

FQ: You mentioned on your blog that you were pre-med before ultimately ending up at Teen Vogue, how and when did you realize that you wanted to work in the magazine industry?

EC: I guess working for a magazine company was always in the back of my mind. It was just an idea dormant in my head and it never occurred to me that it was a possibility. I loved to read and write while I was growing up but I never thought of working for a magazine as an option for me. I ended up studying pre-med for three years at Johns Hopkins and I loved it but I felt like I was drowning a little bit so the summer between my junior and senior year of college, I decided to take a break and try something completely different. I landed an internship at Harper’s Bazaar and from day one, I knew that this was my calling and that’s when I realized what I wanted to do as a career.

FQ: Parents often have great impact on their children’s future and many may not support the decision of going into fashion, what is your opinion on this matter? 

EC: This is actually something I struggled with myself. I was the first generation born in the states and my parents worked hard to support me and they wanted me to become a doctor. I think parents, at the end of the day, just want their kids to flourish and succeed. I definitely had a hard time telling my parents that I wanted to switch out of pre-med and forge my own path and the first few years of working in the magazine industry were very difficult. But if you’re doing what you love, you will find your way as long as you have the drive to succeed in your chosen field. I think it’s all a matter of how badly you want it. 

FQ: How would you rank passion, dedication, and intelligence when it comes to being successful in the field of fashion?

EC: With almost ten years of experience working in the magazine industry, I would say that all three are equally important. You can’t just have one or the other. Succeeding in this industry means being intelligent, sharp, and tuned in all the time. Many people may think it’s enough to have passion and dedication but you have to understand that this is a business and it is important to look beyond just the creative aspect of the industry. You have to continually prove yourself and your ability to portray all three of these characteristics is vital.

FQ: Many people had their first glimpse of the magazine industry when they watched television shows like The Hills or movies like The Devil Wears Prada. The media usually offers somewhat of a skewed and dramatized portrayal of reality, so how far of a stretch would you say those programs are?

EC: They are quite a stretch, to be honest. I think for any kind of exaggeration or stereotype, there has to be a kernel of truth somewhere in the midst but these particular programs offer around, I’d say, 1% truth. There is a tendency to paint people in the fashion world to be ridiculous but in reality, the people at Condé Nast and at Teen Vogue are here to work and all the individuals I work with demonstrate passion and drive. I’ve watched shows like The Hills and The City and I’ve seen The Devil Wears Prada and I take them as forms of entertainment, not serious portrayals of reality. On the other hand, I think The September Issue did a good job of providing a realistic sense of the industry. The documentary highlights the dedication and effort required to put a magazine together.

FQ: The younger generation has become highly dependent on the internet to do everything including job searches, but oftentimes searching online is not sufficient. How would you recommend going about looking for a job in the fashion industry?

EC: I think there is nothing more valuable than to reach out to real people, whether you do that through your school’s alumni data base, cold-emailing, or connecting with people in your social network. If I were a college student and I loved the writing of a particular Lucky magazine columnist, I would try to forge a personal relationship with her by emailing her. Contact people you admire on a day to day basis and use all the connections you have. But it is important to keep in mind that you are applying for a job and formality is incredibly important. In this day and age, with email, Twitter, Tumblr, etcetera, sometimes the formality gets lost in correspondence and my team and I receive a lot of emails with the casual “What’s up?” and that is not professional. It is a good idea to form personal relationships but nevertheless, formality is important.

FQ: What skills and characteristics do you think helped you acquire the job as editor for Teen Vogue?

EC: A lot of it is timing and luck. I don’t want this to come off as false humbleness but I think I was just very lucky because the timing was very fortuitous for me. It was somewhat of a one in, one out situation. Teen Vogue just happened to have an opening for the editor of beauty and health and I was lucky because my pre-med background came into play. I think the stars were aligned and my pre-med knowledge came in handy. 

FQ: If you could have any one item from the S/S 11 season, what would you choose?

EC: The coral PS1 satchel. I currently have an obsession with bags and was coveting this sequin striped bag I saw at a Prada store in SoHo and a leopard print Miu Miu shoulder bag but if I had to choose one, I would still go with the Proenza Schouler.