She writes, and writes, and writes some more! She also tests your favorite beauty products, attends those glamorous Hollywood events that we all see in magazines, makes time for daily exercise, and is living her dreams. Isn’t this what we all want in life?!
Amanda Montell, author, editor, and beauty extraordinaire shares her story, her advice, and her desire to see body glitter make a come-back, in the interview below.
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Let’s start from the beginning. How did you know this was the industry you wanted to go in to?
I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was a freshman in college at NYU. I was certain I wanted to write books of nonfiction, but I also knew that wasn’t actually a job (until it somehow miraculously is). So I had to figure out what kind of real job I wanted.
I did a zillion internships—literary non-profits, print magazines, digital media start-ups. But writing online lifestyle content was the most fun—the people were the smartest, most hip, and friendliest—so that’s what I decided to pursue.
If we were to spend a day in your shoes (and we’d like to), what would that day look like?
At the beginning of August, I started a six-month leave of absence from Byrdie to write my book, WORDY: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language. I’m still freelance editing personal essays for Byrdie’s new vertical The Flipside, but right now, I’m working from home and dedicating 90% of my time to the book.
A typical day involves waking up to an hour of Pilates at Studio Elevate in Culver City (I never made time to exercise before going on book leave, so this is a big change). The rest of my day is spent sprawled out in my bedroom with my computer, combing through hundreds of scholarly linguistics papers, interviewing experts for the book, and writing until my brain hurts (intermixed with staring into space, telling myself I’m an imposter, and binge-watching episodes of Younger, of course).
I also still attend plenty of beauty events for Byrdie to remind myself my life was glamorous once—like today I just had a killer facial with celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau. This lifestyle is totally different from my beauty editor life, which I actually documented in detail on Byrdie here.
What schooling or experience do feel was most instrumental to your success today?
I honestly think everything that’s worked out in my life is due to the sum of all the experiences I’ve had—not just one class or internship. College is where I learned about linguistics, which is the subject of my book. The internships are where I learned how to write for the internet, which led to my job at Byrdie. And involving myself in the literary and editorial industries of LA has introduced me to so many people who’ve helped me along the way. It’s all been important.
You’re writing a book right now. What inspired you to take that leap?
It’s been my dream for my entire adult life! I feel so lucky that a publisher is actually paying me to do it. It’s wild.
Have there been any unexpected challenges that you’ve had to face?
The process was shockingly smooth for me—everything happened to fall right into place! But I think what helped is that I said “yes” to a lot of suggestions early on that someone else might have declined. For example, I had written an entirely different book before WORDY was even a twinkle in my eye, but I totally scrapped it once I got on the phone with an agent who didn’t think it would sell. I was happy to start from scratch. At the beginning of your career, you have to be willing to be flexible sometimes.
Anyone working in a creative field knows what it’s like to hit a creative rut. What do you do when you need inspiration?
READ. Whenever I don’t know what to write, I just pick up a book by an author whose work is like a much, much better version of what I’m trying to do. That always fixes my brain block within minutes.
What do you love most about your job as a journalist?
Not to sound overly sentimental, but I consider being able to connect to people through words a legitimate honor. As a journalist, I’ve had the
chance to tell stories that might never have been told otherwise, and when they inspire an emotional reaction in a reader or make them think about something in a new way, that feels so, so satisfying. It’s magical.
Is there one accomplishment at this point in your career that you’re most proud of?
Back in 2015, my mentor and hero Jill Soloway, creator of the groundbreaking Amazonseries Transparent, read some of my work about gender and language and invited me to collaborate on a writing project. Getting to work with a writer I admire so unabashedly was absolutely surreal. I was 22 and so green, but I think I’ll probably always think of that experience as one of the proudest and dreamiest of my professional life.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given that you want to share with others?
Successful people are just regular people who never gave up.
As an Editor for Byrdie, what’s the greatest perk of the job?
I mean, I haven’t paid for a beauty product in years. Which is obviously insane and amazing. That said, the excess does get disturbing. The beauty industry can be so capitalistic and icky. But it can also be really empowering. It’s a big responsibility as someone who works in beauty to make sure you’re always working toward the latter.
What beauty trend are you most looking forward to this fall?
Hmm… maybe some more androgyny. Boys in nail polish. More girls with shaved heads. Hopefully some weird, Bowie-esque, rock-and-roll stuff to counteract all the dainty glosses and millennial pinks we’ve been seeing. I like those Milk tattoo stamps a lot. Would like to see more stuff like that.
What are your go-to beauty product staples?
Tatcha’s red lipstick and Glossier’s boy brow.
What is your favorite beauty trend of the past that you would love to see make a come-back?
Body glitter. I’m ready.
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If you never thought you’d hear the words “body glitter” again, you just did! And who’s excited?! We are!
All sparkle aside, Amanda is proof of the very quote that inspires her: “Successful people are just regular people who never gave up.” And she doesn’t. She just keeps going, she just keeps writing, and she just keeps pursuing. There’s no reason not to! We will see so much more from her, and we couldn’t be more excited about it!
Keep an eye out for her book, WORDY: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language, out in 2019. Until then, check out her work at Byrdie and The Flipside, and follow her gorgeous Instagram feed here. But while you’re at it, don’t just follow her – follow her lead. Take leaps, don’t stop, don’t give up.