In our long-running series “How I’m Making It,” we talk to people making a living in the fashion and beauty industries about how they broke in and found success.
Tiffany Reid landed her first internship in fashion by telling a lie.
As a college senior, she submitted her resume to Allure with a New York City address (for her parents’ house), when she was in fact living in Philadelphia. Instead of owning up to the fib right away, Reid took a bus three days a week until the publication and her parents caught on. At that point, Reid had proven her value to the team, so she got to keep the internship.
Reid has that hunger that so many senior fashion editors say they look for when hiring entry-level candidates or interns. She was willing to commute multiple times a week to do the magazine’s dirty work — like packing trunks for a 20-look shoot — as long as it meant getting a foot in the door.
It’s evident that once she decided to have a career in fashion media, she was going to get it: Reid’s confidence is empowering and, in speaking with her, it’s clear she believed in herself long before she was portrayed as an outspoken editor on the small screen. (Those with an appetite for reality TV will remember her stint as a cast member on E!’s “So Cosmo.”)
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With welcome bursts of infectious laughter, Reid detailed her career to date during our chat, beginning with the Allure internship and assistant roles at More and InStyle. She then returned to Allure as a fashion market editor, before moving to Cosmopolitan as a senior fashion editor and being promoted to style director of the Women’s Fashion Group at Hearst. Following a brief stint as a freelance stylist, Reid wound up as the fashion director at Bustle Digital Group in January, and was recently promoted to vice president of fashion.
Ahead, Reid talks falling in love with clothes at church, how she continues to diversify her resume and what excites her about overseeing fashion-related projects in her current role.
What first interested you in fashion?
My grandmother was an usher at church. I went to a Catholic school my whole life, and also went to church on the weekends. My grandma used to always get dressed up for church and then my aunt also would get really dressed up and fancy. They would put me in these amazing head-to-toe looks. That’s what first interested me in fashion. I also think that it’s a reaction to wearing a uniform every day for school, from the time I was five until I was 18. The weekends were the only time I would get to dress up and express my personal style.
I would say I was in detention for two things: either laughing loud — because I have a crazy, loud laugh — or for a hoop earring, the wrong shoe or trying to accessorize my uniform.
When did you decide that you wanted to pursue fashion? What steps did you take to start your career?
I was a double major in advertising and psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia. I’m from New York — I was born and raised in the Bronx — and every summer in-between semesters, I would come back home. One summer, I was interning for this woman who was an old ad executive with a home decor and accessories line, prepping her lookbooks and getting her media contact list together. I remember in that moment, thinking, “I don’t want to be the one trying to get people to approve if my designs are nice — I want to be the one to do the approving.” That’s when I discovered what an editor was. I had no clue prior to that what that even meant, or if that was even a job or an option. So, then I tried to convince my parents to let me transfer to FIT. That was a hard no.
What was your first internship or job in fashion media?
I interned at Allure Magazine my senior year of college. I sneakily applied and gave my New York home address, knowing I was going to be in Philadelphia. But I was so nervous they wouldn’t give me get the job if they knew I was in Philly.
I would take the cheap bus to go from Pennsylvania to New York, three days a week — on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I scheduled all my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
At the time, interns weren’t paid, and we worked crazy hours. The only reason why I got caught is because I was interning on a day when we had a late shoot and I remember freaking out because I was going to miss the last bus to get back to Pennsylvania. I didn’t tell my parents that I was coming to New York three times a week, so I couldn’t go back home. Finally, I told the coordinator, and they were like, “What? Where do you live?”
Eventually, they cut my hours down and agreed to keep me on as long as I told my parents. I ended up interning at Allure for my entire senior year of college.
After that, I interned at W Magazine, but there were no jobs, so I actually went and worked at a market research company. I was a project director. I handled clients like Kraft and Colgate. I hated it and started to use all of my sick days and my vacation days at that job to freelance at W.
I juggled between the two for a while — maybe six months to a year — and then I got my first full-time freelance job at More magazine. I was so desperate to get in fashion and publishing. More was definitely more commercial than W, so I didn’t last long there, but it was my first step into an assistant job.
From there, how did you get to InStyle? What was the magazine like then?
I was there when Hal Rubenstein and Cindy Weber-Cleary were the fashion directors and Ariel Foxman was the editor-in-chief. It was crazy. We had so many shoots. I worked in the accessory department — actually, with my old bosses from Allure, Leah Adicoff and Nicole Chapoteau. That was how I got the job, because Leah hired me to assist her. That team was really great.
Then you went back to Allure and transitioned from working with accessories to ready-to-wear. How did you make that switch?
I started as an accessories editor at Allure and then I moved over to market editor.
I’d always done accessories — even when I interned at W. I had wanted to try ready-to-wear. It just so happened that Daisy Shaw left to go to Vanity Fair, so I took her job. It was a promotion for me and it allowed me to learn.
This was pre-Instagram, so how did you discover new brands?
That was the time when people would go shopping. I remember when I was an accessories editor, I had to go shopping on the weekend to familiarize myself with brands. And I would also look at what other magazines were shooting — go to the credits to see who they had shot recently, to familiarize myself with the market.
After working there for about three years, what made you decide to take a job at Cosmopolitan?
Cosmo‘s fashion director at the time had reached out to me. I had no intention of leaving Allure, because that team felt like family and at the time it was the most diverse fashion team: We had a Black accessories director, a Black market editor, a Chinese market editor, a Japanese accessories editor and our booking director was Filipino. It felt like home, and I was very proud to work in that department. But I wanted to have the conversation with Cosmo to see what they were putting on the table.
What was Cosmopolitan like? The market is so different than what you were used to.
It was a complete shock. In my head I thought, “I have all these relationships, it would be so easy to make anything look like luxury.” But, I would say in the beginning and throughout my whole time there, it was very challenging to get key luxury players on board to support our shoots. Towards the end of my time, I felt I was getting back to myself because I got promoted to the style director role of the Women’s Fashion Group, so I got to work across several brands at Hearst. I styled some shoots for the digital sites and did market for some Harper‘s Bazaar covers.
You also got to star in “So Cosmo.”
I never thought I would do it, but I don’t regret it. I definitely struggled with my old bosses, who were super traditional. But in the end, it gave me all this TV training. Now, I work with E! and do red carpet coverage for them, and I’m very comfortable speaking on camera. It helped diversify my resume, so I’m grateful for that experience.
What made you decide to leave Hearst?
When I left Hearst, I went to work for myself, because I just wanted to freelance.
I’d always worked. From the time I was 14, I worked at the Boys and Girls club. I worked during college. I worked at Footlocker. I worked at Nordstrom. I’ve never not had a job. So, I wanted to just have some flexibility to move the way I wanted to move, and I felt I had outgrown my position at Hearst.
What intrigued you about working at Bustle and in the digital space?
I respect Emma Rosenblum, who worked at Hearst with me, and when she reached out to me, I was like, “All right, let’s have a conversation.” It was an offer I couldn’t say no to. I’ve always wanted to be in the digital space. Like I said with TV, it’s important to diversify your resume. And since I already had the experience of working across multiple brands at Hearst, I was excited to oversee several sites at BDG. It’s not so easy for editors to be able to take one cap off and put on another. You’re talking to this audience today, you’re talking to another tomorrow.
Give us a rundown on how you oversee all these sites as the Vice President of Fashion. What have you been working on recently, and what projects are you excited about?
We just launched a Future of Fashion initiative, which is something that we ran across all of BDG except for Romper, because they don’t have too much fashion coverage.
Nylon, The Zoe Report, Bustle and Elite Daily have all come up with their own point of view of where we see the future of fashion going. For instance, with The Zoe Report, it was luxury redesigned; Bustle’s angle is fashion’s all grown up and super conscious. Then, we had two cover shoots. I do the wardrobes for those as well. A lot of my job is about juggling editorial initiatives and photo shoots.
Another thing I’m really proud of is that we just started this initiative called Amplifying Black Voices. It’s about talking with creatives, models, photographers, writers, even activists — anyone in front of the camera, behind the camera who is a Black voice with a story that need to be shared.
You’ve always spoken out about fashion’s lack of diversity. What gave you the courage to have those important conversations, especially when you first starting out in the industry?
I don’t have to tell you who I am. You look at me, you know I’m a Black woman. I grew up in the Bronx, in New York City, around Black people, around Spanish people and just around culture. That’s who I am. By nature, if I see something, I’m going to speak on it.
Granted, I’ve definitely sat there and not said something immediately because I was shocked by it. A lot of times if people don’t say something in the moment, others are like, “You’re complacent, are you letting it happen?” I actually could just be shocked and I can’t react right away.
But it’s probably a combination of having the support of my bosses — because I’ve had bad ones and I’ve had really great ones — and also just being someone from New York City and having those experiences. I’m not an activist. I’m not trying to call out people for the sake of calling them out. If it’s in front of me, I’m going to speak up on it.
Is there anything you wish you knew before starting out?
I would definitely tell myself to be a bit more patient and to perfect a role first before trying to get to the next.
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What advice would you give to aspiring fashion editors?
Don’t DM. Find the email address and email people, follow up, be thorough. If you want a job somewhere, do the research, know the team. The way I’ve gotten all my roles is through word-of-mouth or recommendations. Working within your network is really important. I don’t remember the last time I went and applied for a job online. I think using your network is important. Also, make sure you network at your level – you never know which one of your peers is going to get ahead of you or get a promotion and then be the one making the decision. Be friends with your assistant and your intern, because you never who’s going to be where.
What is your ultimate goal for yourself?
I’ll give you my immediate goals — I just got promoted, so I want to make sure I’m able to execute on that role. I also have recently joined two boards, a committee at FIT that works to fight social injustice and the Black in Fashion Council. I want to make sure I deliver in my board member roles.
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