I was the cliché: a young, motivated, fashion-savvy women who moved to New York City at the end of the 1990s to make it big. I was “that girl” decades after Marlo Thomas’ original That Girl aired on television. I was also the cliché of how a city is able to chew up and spit out those young, motivated, fashion-savvy employees. Two years spent toiling in the trenches of a glossy beauty magazine left me feeling haggard, exhausted, and spent both on the outside and, yes, the inside.
It didn’t start out that way. Having received a master’s degree in journalism, I flew to Manhattan on a whim after a fortuitous meeting with a fashion editor who knew someone who knew someone in public relations in the fashion industry. My dream had come true – working in fashion was so very glamorous, and to get paid to do it was the cherry on top of the non-fat frozen yogurt sundae! But 10-ply cashmere can only make someone put up with so much — a moody, self-entitled boss , 16-hour workdays and an environment that rewarded people who fit into a size 0.
Fast forward to using my journalism skills to unearth the best publishing company in town – Conde Nast Publications. After several calls and cover letters and a two-day interview with Human Resources and then Allure Magazine’s publisher and Assistant Publisher of Marketing, the marketing/public relations assistant job was mine. For almost two years, I lived, breathed and basically slept at my job. I loved the people I worked with; intelligent, creative, and kind, they made those long days and nights fly by. It wasn’t like the cutthroat world seen in The Devil Wears Prada (though later on I did recognize the people that film mocked). Life was good — until the day my boss left and there was a new kid in town. And by kid I mean an Assistant Publisher of Marketing who threw tantrums, was indecisive and, I swear on my Manolo Blahniks, took daily mid-afternoon naps – just like a toddler. All my previous responsibilities, which had grown in my years on the job to include writing merchandising proposals, running special events, and leading college sampling programs, defaulted back to answering phones and filling coffee cups. A clash between us was inevitable. One of my “responsibilities” was listening to her voice mail and transcribing the messages. That is how I heard the HR department leave word on how best my boss could fire me.
That did it! Communication between us was nonexistent. I wasn’t going to let the woman who had me hear about my own possible firing can me. I knew how much overtime I’d worked in two years, so I realized I had several thousand dollars banked. I thought about my love of writing and how much I missed sunny Los Angeles and my parents. I thought about not having to pay over $1000 to rent a room in a fifth-floor walk up. Here was the golden opportunity to move back to the Golden State and not have to work right away, except to get started on my idea of a (here comes another cliché) screenplay.
I walked into the Assistant Publisher’s office a few days later and told her I was out of there. I still remember what I was wearing: an powerful slate-grey Calvin Klein suit and five-inch snakeskin heels. When I strode out of the building that day, it wasn’t those shoes that made me walk tall – it was the fact that I had enough confidence in myself to tell someone I wouldn’t put up with their BS – fashionable or not!