As Editor in Chief of ELLE magazine, Justine Cullen’s role role demands a monthly 300 page print run – though that’s only 10% of her job.
Meet Justine Cullen, Editor in Chief of ELLE Australia
On her first day of work experience, when she was 14, Justine worked on an Elle McPherson cover shoot.
Production staff were running around with racks and clothes,”it was everything I’d imagined.”
“Elle actually had her boobs out. She was holding ankle boots with holes in them and was pointing her boobs through them. I was besotted with the industry from that second.”
From that point, Justine spent her school holidays stepping in and out of the magazine world offering assistance whenever they needed it. She landed her first job before she finished high school.
Girlfriend Magazine snatched her up the day of her Modern History exam – and she’s been in the industry ever since.
Is this how you’d recommend anyone get their foot in the door?
“Experience is the only way to do it. Firstly even at a pragmatic level, I do not think I have ever advertised a job at a magazine. I am a really big fan of being able to promote from within, and to find the right people and ensure that they understand. I don’t like the idea of flying blind with a new person. The magic of a magazine the fit of the team, and if I know the person, than that is a guarantee that they’ll fit the brief.
Interning is just as much about you working out if this is something you like, too.We could have two interns in at the same time, and one will find everything that they do fascinating and be loving every second of it – even if they are locked in the cupboard taping shoes or packing suitcases, they are loving it simply because they are around it. And then the other one could hate it – and there is nothing wrong with that, but maybe you are better suited to working in a design studio or a PR company.
What’s your advice for people looking to make it big in the publishing world?
“Coming in with the expectation that you will blow everyone’s minds everyday will make you stand out. So no matter what the smallest thing is that you have been asked to do, whether it is writing captions for a magazine, make sure you are really good at it. Make sure you are expert at that, before trying to progress.”
I don’t want someone to be working for me for free for a long time. A lot of people think of magazine internships as getting coffee. And yes, that is the junior roles, but if you weren’t doing it someone else would be doing it. For you, it is about making the most of it, come in with the idea that you will blow everyone’s minds away. It’s a profile building exercise.
Why do you love your job?
No one is magazines for the money – you are in it because you love it.”[By it, she means the culture, her obvious passion for the team and her love of Elle as a brand.]
So how did you move into beauty?
After eighteen months with Girlfriend magazine Justine moved to London, “It was April, I arrived with a denim jacket, my warmest piece of clothing and 200 dollars in my pocket” where she stayed for four years pursuing the same end goal.
She landed a gig at the Clothes Show, a BBC magazine spin off, it was there that she learnt the valuable lesson: “I realised that the path to being an editor would be through beauty, because as a beauty editor you get to know every part of the industry. You get to know writing and styling and looking after a section, but also, most editors have a beauty background, so you really get to know the ins and outs of running a business.
Being a beauty editor is a beautiful life, you drink really great champagne at really great restaurants and become close with many other beauty editors because you are like a pack travelling to all of these functions together every day. It is quite a surreal life”.
Your next step was as deputy editor of Dolly, how’d that come about?
“I don’t think I was such an amazing deputy editor, but I was passionate about Teen – the idea of working at Dolly was exciting, I was excited to work with Mia” [Mia Freedman, today founder and managing Editor of Mamamia] – “Mia, She has an amazing ability to draw the best out of people. She is so charismatic, everyone is very hungry to impress her.” Of working under Mia Cullen smiles, “I think I learnt more from Mia in a week than I had from my previous editor in 4 years”.
How is your role as editor in chief different?
“I have to think much more big picture. It is about having a commercial understanding of the business. I work 10% on content, the rest is big picture, concepts and working with advertisers.
From licensing, brand development, digital development, today being the editor of a magazine is not only looking after the print aspect, but becoming the social media manager, the online editor – ensuring that every function of our brand is functioning together.”
How is the blogging industry changing your industry?
“I think that you know, ultimately, stories are stories. A blogger can be personal, the voice of one person, where as a magazine is the voice of an audience. We speak from a contextual point of view; but blogs, what they have done is made us more intimate.
What are your missing Footnotes?
“I think I would tell myself not to panic about the process. I can remember spending so much time considering the end goal, ‘holding the map out’, and maybe I should have enjoyed the journey more. I think if you have an end goal, a number of pathways will get you there it doesn’t necessarily need to be the one you thought you would take.
I mean, when rumours began circulating that Elle might be coming to Australia, I wrote a 38 page proposal for the role that very night! I even considered prolonging my second child! Someone at work told me, just to live my life, and it was probably the best advice I had.”
At just 12 weeks old her second born son became the most fashion forward tot on the Northern Beaches, his Mum was made Editor-in-Chief of Elle.
In the angst of trying to land the role Cullen reflects, “I think I had almost forgotten that the prize was doing the job, at that point I just needed to kind of get it”.
There it is again, that all elusive it that crystallises the magazine world