Elle’s New EIC Has The Best Advice For Working Women

Elle’s New EIC Has The Best Advice For Working Women

Prashansa Daniell

If you’re looking for raw information on what it’s like to be an Editor-In-Chief, an author, a mother, and a team player all at once, you’ve come to the right place. Supriya Dravid, Elle‘s new EIC gives us a low down on the path that lead her to becoming Editor-in-Chief and some of the experiences that molded her journey here. As a working woman who has an endless love for words myself, Supriya Dravid’s story and advice are as real as it gets. Life doesn’t go as planned; career flips are inevitable when you follow your gut, reading is your best friend if you wanna excel—are the few lessons I picked up in this e-interview with her. Read on for more tips from the pro herself:

Take us through your journey of how you got to where you are today.

I love animation and I thought I would become an animator. So my first job was in the marketing and public relations department at Cartoon Network in Delhi in 2001. But then I realised that writing comes more naturally to me than drawing, so I sent in my own interpretation of the alphabet to Aroon Purie at India Today, and I got the job. That was in 2003. There, I found a mentor in my first and former editor Shampa Kamath. India Today schooled me in the best possible way. In the middle, I tried reporting for CNN-IBN for six months in 2007 but I realised I miss print too much. I came back to India Today and stayed there until 2011. That’s when I decided to leave to write my book A Cool, Dark Place (Random House) for a year and a half. When it was published in 2013, I tried writing another book. But I realised that I missed working with real characters and not just imaginary ones. So I went back to journalism. And here I am.

Did you always know you wanted to be an editor at a major publication?

When one starts out as a journalist, being an editor is always a larger goal. So yes, it was aspirational at some level.

Your very first issue as the EIC of Elle has Sonam Kapoor on the cover. That’s an amazing start to this new phase of your career. What would you say is your favorite part of this issue?

I think it was the collaboration with Rupi Kaur and Pico Iyer. It was the first for them and us. In a first of its kind collaboration, we partnered with the youth icon and fearless feminist poet, Rupi Kaur to create a fashion story -painstakingly hand-painted over the course of a month, inspired by her words. Rupi and her team are super kind and accessible. To celebrate this partnership, we have something planned with her in February in Delhi. And with Mr. Pico Iyer, he had never written for ELLE India, and we thought we needed to fix that right away. Since the idea behind the January issue was exploring optimism in this post-truth world, I asked him to write on confessions of being an optimist. The piece was simply sublime. I also felt the conversation between Sonam and Imran showcased a different side to the actor. It was very revelatory. She was very candid and raised a lot of valid points when it came to inclusiveness, gender equality and LGBTQ rights. I also loved our beauty story on the key essentials to keep you happy for the year.

As Editor-In-Chief, what is a typical day like for you?

No day is the same. It’s like being on a treadmill that doesn’t stop. I rise very early—so I try to get in some exercise to get my brain to wake up. I am OCD about time management because we only have that much turn-around time.  My workday begins at 9.30 am when I get into the office. Mondays begin with getting my weekly calendar organised. There will always be a quick edit meeting to recap what’s on the week’s agenda, and a cohesive schedule on closing pages for the week. Before we begin work on our new issues, we sit down, and ideate with the creative director and the fashion teams so that we know what’s happening visually. To give you an idea, we are planning a full redesign with our March issue, and this involved all of us in the team, getting down to two days of brainstorming and ideating on the possibilities. On other days when I am not in the office, it’s about meeting publicists, clients, new designers, photographers—to understand what’s going on in the world and initiate future collaborations. Days—no matter where I am—usually end with me going over the pages that night to make sure that I don’t disrupt the frighteningly meticulous schedule made by ELLE’s managing editor, Serena Menon.

What is the most exciting part of your job? And least exciting?

Everything is exciting and exhilarating. I enjoy everything we do—from conceptualizing stories to putting together shoots, to writing, and discovering new voices, and going over mood boards with my brilliant fashion and art teams. I think collaborating with new voices and what they bring to the magazine is particularly interesting. Budgets are not particularly exciting. But we have to make the most of it, and we do—at least, I like to think that way. As an editor, I not only have to oversee the content in the magazine but also maintain an overarching purview across the digital landscape. At ELLE, we have a wonderful digital team, spearheaded by Rochelle Pinto,  that never loses momentum and is almost always thinking ahead, and of new ways to draw in a newer audience, through Facebook Lives, guest digital editors, and brilliant creative brand collaborations.

How do you typically dress for the office every day?

Comfortably. I am always big on accessories. Nothing is ever too much in that segment for me.

How was the shift from Fashion Features Director to Editor-In-Chief?

It’s been interesting—and in a way prepped me for my current role. Being an editor in today’s context is different to what it was a few years ago. There are no second chances, no allowing the ball to drop. One advantage of my current role is the opportunity to explore the kind of stories that I would like to read and learn about—from fashion to beauty, and art to literature. There has to be a great deal of negotiation with real-ness, and what one can take away from the stories in the magazine.

A lot of people might not know that you’ve written a book. What an accomplishment! From the snippets we’ve read, A Cool, Dark Place is (for lack of a better word) quite dark. Tell us how this literature came together and what message you wanted to relay to your readers.

I’ve always wanted to write a novel and I did. I just wanted the book out of myself. It took me a year and a half to write it from the start to finish. I had the greatest time writing it. The preoccupation when you are writing a novel is pretty magical. I miss that now. I don’t think I wrote to give out a message. But if there ever was one, it is probably if you want to write a book, do it, don’t procrastinate, don’t wait to go to a writer’s retreat – if you do go, then good for you – don’t wait for that ah-ha moment. Just go ahead and do it for yourself and for the love and respect for the power of the written word.

What career advice would you give to aspiring editors?

Read, write, read, write. Don’t sleep. Always feel you can do better. Never give up, or give in, or be too pleased with yourself.

With you at the helm, what can we expect from the new ELLE?

It’s got to be woke, for sure. ELLE has always had a solid reputation for always being on the forefront of fashion and capturing the zeitgeist of our times—largely due to the two brilliant editors before me, Nonita Kalra, and Aishwarya Subramanyam. I want to build on what they have thoughtfully created during their time here. I’d like ELLE to become the magazine that empowers young women (and men) to think big and fearlessly. Inclusiveness is important. As is the idea of playing with content that makes you want to get out of your comfort zone, think beyond the obvious, and indulge your creative spirit.  Besides genre-bending fashion, cutting-edge think pieces on design, feminism, gender politics, body positivity, identity, travel, art and literary journalism—I am hoping that ELLE becomes the only magazine that gives you your money’s worth for the month. It’s not just about showing a pristine, beautiful, perfect world—it’s also about writing about what makes you queasy, and what’s real. It’s also about adding more voices to the magazine, and a whole lot of content custom-made for our audiences. We want to push the boundaries—when it comes to covers—and work with ideas and thoughts that are relevant in today’s world.

Have any other questions about careers? Let us know in the comments below!

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