A couple of weeks back, a group of fellow students and I had the pleasure of interviewing none other than the Editor in Chief of Elle Canada magazine, Noreen Flanagan. We sat down with Noreen at a Starbucks early in the AM; she strolled in adorning a funky autumn coat, and a sporting a highly coveted handbag, definitely an object of conversation.
– – – – – –
We all thanked her for sitting down with us, and I felt it would be fitting to start off the conversation by asking what she was wearing; not only because she’s the Editor in Chief of Elle, but because I was actually dying to know!
“Well, I’m wearing this whimsical coat by Smythe, a Canadian designer…I also had to be really comfortable today, since I’m working at the office… so I’m wearing these Lida Baday pants. Also a J. Crew top that’s cozy with a little bit of edge on the side, these Italian [loafers] from this shop up the way…and a Céline (Edge) bag – a real mix of Canadian, mass and small designers!”
The coat was so chic, and paired well with her classic Céline bag (who can go wrong with a Céline bag?!) We then asked her what exactly she had studied in school, prior to being Editor in Chief.
“The idea of becoming a nurse was always planted into my dad’s head, so I went to the University of Alberta to study nursing. The first week I remember thinking ‘oh dear, I’m not sure about this’…[After graduating] I had to work as a nurse for a year…and it was fantastic training through interviewing random people. I later took some journalism classes to see if it was what I wanted to do…”
It seemed like quite the interesting story, and obviously not a story typical of an editor in chief of a fashion publication. She then answered what brought her into the position she’s titled today.
“I never really decided on my mission in life…I thought about becoming an actress…and then later a lawyer…I [ended up working as] a nurse for a while, and with the similarities between nursing and journalism, I merged over into that world…there were a lot of parallels…interviewing people and asking questions; determining their emotional states…having real life, honest conversations.”
With her cultured background, and now leading Elle Canada, we wondered what her biggest challenges were, as being the Editor in Chief must be demanding!
“Hmm…well, one challenge would have been the integration of our editorial teams. Both teams had two different points of views, so two different stories were being told. So essentially having merged those worlds together, where everyone now works on the platforms together; identifying and critiquing your content… and keeping on top of all the changes going on. There have been plenty of butterflies in my belly because everything changes so quickly, but I want people who can tell a great story to do it on different platforms, in different ways!”
Nothing could be more true, especially with extensive use of technology today. With all challenges aside, we asked what exactly her favourite part of working for Elle was.
“The opportunity I have to meet people who have a real hunger and curiosity, and openness…it inspires me. People who are designers or people who are just starting their careers….”
Everyone knows there can be ugly, unpredictable moments, especially in the fashion industry. We had to know if she had any advice for someone aspiring to work for Elle, since many people aspire to work in the magazine industry.
“I truly admire the balance between humility and hunger; a willingness to throw themselves at anything, being fearless to throw yourself in situations without knowing anything about it and just learning through it…if you never throw yourself in, you will always be someone watching on the sidelines.”
After hearing much about her past, and presently on her position as Editor in Chief, we wanted to finish off the interview by asking how she personally defines success.
“If every night you could put your head on a pillow and feel like you’ve done the best you could, or been the best that you could be, and your life were to end that day, you would feel accomplished. I would like to get to that point someday, where I could reach that feeling.”
– – – – – –
What a genuine, sweet, and well-rounded soul she was, with a really interesting career path at that! It was refreshing speaking with someone who had such an unpredictable and peculiar past, leading up to such a prestigious position today. I look forward to continue reading her funny stories, online and in her monthly editor’s notes in Elle.
Keep up with Noreen on her Twitter and Instagram @noreen_flanagan, and of course in Elle Canada magazine!