Meet Kara, the Senior Fashion & Beauty Editor for bustle.com. When she's not busy overseeing the beauty vertical of the site, she hangs out with her three cats in Brooklyn, New York, eating endless tacos. Zieley connected with McGrath to discuss the making of her career, her job at Bustle, and some of her tip on fashion, beauty, and writing.
ZIELEY: Can you tell us about your career (internships and full-time jobs) and how you moved through the industry to get to where you are now?
KARA MCGRATH (KM): My first internship was in the fashion closet at Teen Vogue. I learned so, so, so much there - the biggest takeaway being that print magazines probably weren't for me. Then, I interned at seventeen.com, which I suppose is where I fell in love with digital. After I graduated, they offered me a full-time freelance gig, which eventually turned into regular full time. Two years later, I decided I wanted to try working at a start up, which is how I ended up at Bustle!
Z: What was your favorite memory from interning at Seventeen Magazine?
KM: Seventeen was awesome because the web team was so small - it was just my boss (the site editor), a social media editor, and me for a lot of my internship. That gave me so many opportunities to really get hands-on experience in fashion, beauty, and entertainment news. Probably one of my favorite memories was my first celebrity interview. I had ten minutes with Jesse Eisenberg, and he gave me a bite of his pretzel. As a 20 year old college student, that was unreal.
Z: What is your favorite part about writing for Bustle?
KM: I don't do a ton of writing myself, but I truly appreciate the amount of creativity and experimentation we're allowed here. There's very little red tape in terms of the content. If you have a great idea for a story, you write it!
Z: What does your day-to-day at Bustle look like?
KM: It definitely varies! Some days I’m at my desk for the majority of the time, editing stories from freelancers, staying on top of fashion and beauty news, checking in on the content my associate editors are publishing, and analyzing our traffic from the day(s) before. Other times, I’m on video shoots for our Beauty Mark series or talking about how awesome Bustle is on TV or on photo shoots with the entertainment team. The one constant is being surrounded by beauty products!
Z: Who are your career role models?
KM: Honestly, my current boss Lindsay Mannering is the ultimate in career role models. I swear I’m not just sucking up to her. She’s exactly who I want to be when I grow up, because she’s the perfect balance of tough, smart, and encouraging.
Z: Have you always been interested in fashion and beauty?
KM: Beauty, yes! I went to cosmetology school before college and really considered being a professional hairstylist before I found out that beauty editor was a job. I fell into the fashion part, as beauty and fashion tend to get lumped together at publications with smaller teams. It’s a totally different animal, but I’ve loved learning more about it.
Z: For aspiring writers out there, what advice can you give to people wanting to enter the fashion/beauty industry?
KM: Just be obsessed with learning everything you can about the industry. I think that’s probably true of any successful career! Start your own blog and freelance places like Bustle that let you work remotely. Once you’re writing, attend press previews whenever you have the chance. They’re great networking opportunities, and usually super fun.
Z: What have been your keys to success in this industry?
KM: In addition to everything above, being a nice person has helped. People tend to want to help you succeed if you’re grateful, polite, and friendly!
Z: Can you tell us what got you interested in writing?
KM: I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil, basically. My earliest works were mostly short stories about my cats.
Z: What do you enjoy most about being a writer and editor?
KM: From my experience, being a writer and editor at Bustle is a wildly different thing from anywhere else. You have so much creative freedom here. I was just chatting with a coworker about how cool it is that I was putting a whole list of ideas into a brainstorm email and I knew the majority of them would be executed. You don’t see that sort of willingness to approve hundreds of story ideas (especially ones coming from people under 30) at many other places.
Z: What is something people would be surprised to hear about the journalism world?
KM: When new editors start, the biggest surprise seems to be that we’re all tuned in pretty much 24/7. Yes, we technically have regular 9 to 6 work hours, but if big news breaks at 2 a.m., you’re jumping online to write as much as you can. That’s honestly one of my favorite parts of the job; it’s awesome to be able to collaborate with a team of such enthusiastic hard workers.
Z: Why did you choose digital vs. print journalism?
KM: I function best in an environment where everything is fast paced and you constantly have to be doing several things at once. I didn’t enjoy the long approval process that goes into print magazines; the slight adrenaline rush you get from having to cover breaking news from approximately 100 different angles is so fun. Plus there’s moreroom for experimentation since space on the Internet is unlimited. From my experience with print publications, there’s this mindset that you have to do what you know definitely works because there are only a certain amount of pages you can fill. To master that is a talent I respect, but it’s not for me. Also, job security.
Z: What has been your favorite piece to write?
KM: I love writing “I tried it” pieces. Most recently I wore a pair of those stretchy Steve Madden sandals for a week. It was an incredible experience.
Z: Who has been your favorite person to interview and why?
KM: That’s tough. Recently I interviewed Kourtney Kardashian, and she was really fun to talk to. I always love chatting with all the hair stylists and makeup artists backstage at Fashion Week too, because I learn so many tricks I can actually use in my life.
Z: How do you continue to find inspiration for a new piece?
KM: Every day I think I’ll finally be out of ideas, and then, somehow, I find pitches to send in my daily email. I do keep a notebook to write ideas down when inspiration randomly hits too.
Z: What does the writing process look like from idea creation to published piece?
KM: It depends! If it’s a news post, we get stories up in a matter of minutes after we get the idea. Features generally come from group brainstorms, and then I just gather supplies or interviews I need and write it up. I do enjoy a good outline before I actually start writing, too.
Z: What tips do you have for someone with writer’s block?
KM: I open up a blank email and just start typing down literally anything that comes into my head. A glass of wine can help too.
To keep up with Kara McGrath, check out her Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @diosmioitskara
To see this exclusive piece along with Kara's style tips in Zieley Magazine click here