When I was in college, I was a master networker. I was fearlessly unafraid to e-mail anyone and everyone that could get me to where I wanted to go. I wanted an internship at CUNY’s Feminist Press — so I emailed writing samples and references despite no open position listed on the site. Guess what? I ended up getting an editorial internship with the Feminist Press.
That very same summer I worked at the Feminist Press, I wanted more experience — so I reached out to my feminist idols Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, authors of Manifesta and Grassroots, and next thing I knew — I was an intern for their Soapbox Speakers Bureau scheduling Gloria Steinem (yes, THE Gloria Steinem) to speak at colleges across the country.
During my sophomore year of college when trans activist Kate Bornstein visited, I questioned her over spaghetti on how to truly succeed. She told me to never fear success but to fear the ability to not speak up for what I want and then to be brave or else I’d never get what I wanted.
I took that advice to heart but looking back at my childhood self that would write magazines in my room, smear acrylic paints on large canvases I bought with my allowance money, and dance wildly to the Spice Girls — it’s clear to me that I never gave much mind to fear because I always knew what I wanted to do, how to do it, and how to speak up when the time came.
When my junior year of college expected me to go after an independent study or internship — I knew I wanted to return to New York City and I knew exactly where I wanted to go: CosmoGirl.
To me, CosmoGirl was the holy grail of publishing and it would be my stepping stone to a career in journalism, my ticket to living in New York City, and my opportunity to speak to the world through the pieces I’d get to write one day. Rumor had it, only 9 girls would get an internship at CosmoGirl each semester out of thousands. I was one of thousands…not bad for a girl from a broken home with my family on food stamps and three of us living in a one bedroom, sleeping on pull out couches and living off scrambled eggs.
It was a very sunny New York Day when I went to start my CosmoGirl internship, but before I made it to the Hearst building I got an email telling me CosmoGirl was folding. The magazine was no more. There was no more internship program. There was no more hand written CosmoGirl in a new shade of lipstick each month on the cover of the glossy mag. The editor-in-chief, whom I loved, Atoosa Rubenstein, was now “former CosmoGirl magazine editor.” The magazine became a ghost and my dream drifted off with it.
I was devastated. But instead of crying my mascara off like a scene from The Hills (you know the ones where Lauren would have mascara stream down her face)…I put my head up and immediately cooked up a plan of who I could connect with in the city.
Could I meet with the head of Planned Parenthood? Well, it couldn’t hurt to ask (I met with them and volunteered). Could I visit Bust magazine? It couldn’t be too much of a burden to send them an email and explain my current situation (They let me in and let me feel cool for two hours in their super sweet loft). Could I reach out to former graduate friends living in the city to hear about their NYC adventures? Absolutely.
While I thought that I would sit at a desk writing articles about soulmates and orgasms between visits to the accessory closet and getting coffee for my editor, my time in New York post-CosmoGirl going under gave me the gift of time and the gift of conversation.
If it wasn’t for CosmoGirl folding, I would have never considered the opportunities in marketing. If it wasn’t for CosmoGirl folding, I would have never seen the gruesomely ugly side of what it truly means to be a New York “It Girl” (yes, it’s true — I worked for Julia Allison). If it wasn’t for CosmoGirl folding, I would have never learned how to hustle and bustle in a city that thrives at a pace much faster than where I called home — giving me the confidence to claim that “Yes, I am in fact a city girl. Keep up the pace.”
To this day, I’m still a connector of people. I want to connect everyone I can to everyone they need, just in case their CosmoGirl moment comes and they need to cast a web into the great wide open to find opportunities fit for their skill sets while opening their minds to something completely different (and they need to do it fast).
If CosmoGirl never folded, I know for a fact — 100% — I would have gone on to pursue journalism and I would have worked my ass off to become an editor at a glossy like CosmoGirl or Marie Claire. I would have never turned to marketing or branding. I would have never gravitated towards social media except to tweet out another piece I wrote. I would have been a completely different woman than I am today.
Sometimes I dream about what that life could have brought me. Sometimes I dream about the opportunity I missed by not being one of a few girls picked out of a thousand to enter the CosmoGirl office as an official intern. Sometimes I dream if I would be walking down 5th avenue in a pair of Christian Louboutin right now. And most of all, sometimes I dream about hearing “Hey Charlsie, the cover story of Taylor Swift - it’s yours.”
But then I wake up and realize — this is where I need to be. Freelance marketing, social media, branding, and writing wasn’t something handed to me or delivered in an envelope saying “Congratulations! You have been chosen to freelance.” No, instead — freelance life is entirely my own and even though I never got to play in the fashion closet at CosmoGirl or try on a Gucci dress — I have managed to make what I wanted to happen just like everything else since I was a child, a teenager, a college student, and a CosmoGirl.