Q&A with Lucie Zhang

Managing Editor Emmel El-Fiky spoke recently with Lucie Zhang, Senior Manager of Social Media at Vogue, about what it’s like working in the world of fashion publications, how one’s personal background might play a part in one’s career, and some pertinent advice for those looking to make their way into the fashion industry in whatever way possible.
[El-Fiky]: How do you translate the Vogue message/brand to social media in ways that engages both new and old audiences?

[Zhang]: The root of our job is storytelling, so we’re constantly trying to think of new, innovative ways to tell engaging stories across our social media platforms. We’re very conscious of the fact that our audience is unique on each platform, and that each platform also has its own advantages, trends, communities, etc. I think the beauty of our job is being able to speak to all these different audiences simultaneously, and we work closely with our editorial teams to make sure that we’re on the cutting edge of trends in each space.

From your educational background to your previous work experience, what have been the most useful skills you’ve learned as applied to working in the digital media space?

You definitely need to have strong writing skills, an ability to analyze data and trends, passion for the space, and an eye for what’s next; but probably the most useful soft skill I’ve learned that doesn’t get mentioned as often is being able to go with the flow and stay calm during stressful situations. Social media is an ever changing landscape, and the digital news cycle is constant. You have to be able to react and adapt quickly–for your work and for your sanity’s sake.

I noticed you’ve published a few articles, including one titled “Learning to Love Across the Cultural Divide,” which was published back in February. How does writing for Vogue differ from the other work you do? What was the publishing process like?

We’re lucky at Vogue.com to be able to contribute to the website on stories we are passionate about. It’s been a fun challenge to write for the website and to experience what my colleagues do every day. The process is similar for us as it is for the other writers on staff, and it’s fun to me to own a story from start to finish and to work with the editors in a new capacity.

Speaking more specifically on the topic of “Learning to Love Across the Cultural Divide,” you talk a lot about the process of reconciling your Chinese heritage with your American upbringing, especially now in this current political era. How has your personal background influenced the work you do, and how you choose which projects to take on? What has changed about your line of work from before the 2016 election to now?

After the 2016 election, those of us in media have definitely been faced with the unique challenge of covering a president who’s unlike anyone who’s preceded him. Our team regularly covers news and developments from Washington, as well as Americans who we feel are making a difference, and we highlight those stories on social media as we feel would be most impactful. As journalists, we have to often set our personal feelings aside to report the facts, but I do think a part of that also involves providing a context to decisions that are being made in order to explain their significance. I think my personal background as a Chinese-American and public policy major naturally draws me to stories that highlight diversity and social policy issues, and I’m lucky to work on a team that similarly believes in the importance of these topics.

Did you always know you wanted to go into journalism/publishing/magazines? Can you describe the process of how you got to be the Senior Manager of Social Media at Vogue?

I had always been interested in working at the intersection of fashion and media, but honestly didn’t really consider it a viable career option for me at first, as a first-generation Chinese-American who was told I should become a lawyer or doctor when I grew up. However, I worked on the newspaper in high school and at Duke, where I also completed a journalism & media studies degree, so journalism had always been a big part of my education. My path to Vogue, though, was definitely winding. My first job was actually at a public relations firm in New York City, where I worked in digital strategy. I had a blog on the side that Tumblr then tapped me for to cover NYFW with them, and after that, I moved to working in fashion at agencies before going in-house at Ralph Lauren. I made the switch to editorial/publishing to become the social media manager of Vogue Runway, which then expanded to my current role now at Vogue.

Do you have any advice for people, specifically college seniors/recent graduates, who might be interested in pursuing work in the publishing industry? What are some necessary things to know, that might not be explicitly mentioned in school, when setting out to start one’s career?

The best advice I got when I was graduating college was to just focus on getting your first job. People put a lot of pressure on themselves to get their dream gig right off the bat, and that’s amazing if you do, but it’s not often the case. Don’t be discouraged, keep hustling, stay humble and know that your career is ever evolving and growing with you.

Since you work largely in social media, I have to ask – who are some of your personal favorite people to follow online? What makes them stand out among the millions of people using Instagram, Twitter, and the like?

As the social media space becomes increasingly saturated, I admire most the people who stay true to themselves and offer a unique perspective on life. Some of my favorites right now include @bardiazeinali for his one-of-a-kind videos, @sarahbahbah for her art, @newyorkercartoons for a laugh, @bagsnob for her real talk and beauty tips, @patmcgrathreal for inspiration, and @overheardnewyork for a reminder that we’re all going through the struggle together. Also, here is a shameless plug for a project that we do every year now called VogueWorld 100, where we highlight inspiring individuals to keep an eye on.

Originally published in ROCKET Volume IX, Issue 1.

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