Glamour-ous Jo Elvin talks success in London
In an exclusive interview with our Australian Times reporter BIANCA SOLDANI, Jo Elvin gives young Aussies the “how to” on making it big in the UK, London success and everything Glamour.
By Bianca Soldani
WITH the chaotic world of gorgeous models, oversized sunnies, teased hair and Hermes handbags poised between her perfectly manicured fingers, Jo Elvin, the Australian born editor of UK magazine Glamour, has it all.
Jo has been editor of Glamour since its launch 11 years ago. At her hand, the publication soon rose to become the UK’s highest selling monthly magazine – a distinction it continues to hold.
Assuming the top job at the age of 30, Jo achieved in so few years, the success that compels most eager young Aussies to try their luck in London. I asked her to share her experience, and a couple of words of advice, for those of us who are still struggling to find a footing (so headphones out and pens at the ready girls).
Perfectly elegant and sporting an ‘is-she-really-an-Aussie’ accent, Jo was far less formidable – and much more down to earth – than the pouting Devil Wears Prada-like alpha female I had feared to find.
In our tet-a-tet, she revealed that her road to success was by no means an easy one. Her first job at Australia’s Dolly magazine saw her make a name for herself taking the more obscure and less glamorous stories her colleagues refused, and her first London job often involved 15 hour days, 4am starts and hundreds of empty cups of coffee.
Jo explained that you can’t come to London expecting the job of your dreams after your first interview. She wasn’t instantly rocketed to the top of the industry the moment she set foot outside Heathrow, but instead had to waitress her way through her first six months as the rejection letters piled up and her supply of money dwindled.
She even admitted that on one miserable London day, when her purse was feeling particularly light, she contemplated throwing in the towel. But this was of course immediately dismissed, being too stubborn to concede defeat. It must have been down to her heritage as she thinks Aussies are “allergic” to giving up.
True to that ideal, Jo continued to look for a job – any job – with a remote connection to publishing, and soon afterwards found herself taking up a position at a small London magazine, TV Hits.
“It’s not necessarily about an open door of opportunity, it’s about the crevice that you slip through. Just take any opportunity, even if it feels a bit crap at the time, do it! You never know who you will meet and what it will lead to.”
She added, “That’s easy advice to follow if you’re following something you really care about doing.”
And it’s obvious from just our brief chat that this very successful woman who hails from Sydney’s west is really doing something she cares passionately about.
Jo reins in the world of celebrities, catwalks and cutting edge fashion, processes it with intelligence and style – and a pinch of Aussie humour – to produce a magazine that’s not too high brow to intimidate middle class readers, and not to crass to leave you red-faced when you notice the guy behind you reading it over your shoulder.
But how does her team manage to keep Glamour at the forefront of ever changing fashion and social trends and on top of the magazine industry year after year?
“Be interested in everything” she said with a laugh. “You need to read a lot to keep up with what’s new.” She also relies on bloggers who she finds have an eye for spotting the hottest trends on the streets, and surrounds herself with a young team.
Glamour also has a highly interactive website to engage with readers online, and Jo herself says she’s very active on social media websites, describing Twitter as an “amazing customer service tool”.
“[Using Twitter,] people can contact me directly if they have an issue with the magazine and I can respond immediately – it’s fantastic! It’s an amazing way to disseminate information and to really get to know your readers and your users.”
Although Jo is certainly moving the magazine forward into the technical “revolution” she says she’s not a doomsayer ever anticipating the end of print.
“I’m certainly not one of those people who think that print will be over. I don’t think that’s the case at all, but I think that other mediums will become more prominent.
“People are becoming more tablet reliant. We do need to think about how we communicate and what medium we use to promote our brand. People will always want the content of Glamour, but the way they want it I think inevitably will start to move on.”
Mindful of not labouring the point, she said critics who have forecast the end of the ‘print age’ are not necessarily correct.
“I don’t think that everybody has to stop buying newspapers and cross over to this thing. They should stop getting hysterical about it”.
Attending the recent Australian Woman of the Year in the UK awards as the key-note guest speaker, Jo noticed a common trait among the Awards worthy nominees.
“It seems to me the most overriding thing is passion. Everyone in their field is completely obsessed with what they do. It’s really, really inspiring.”
It’s fitting then that Jo concluded with some inspirational advice of her own. To young Aussies trying to find their career path, whether it be in the UK or Australia, she said they just have to throw themselves into the game and “just go for it”. She also cited the all too familiar trio of determination, perseverance and passion. However, hearing them from someone who’s actually used them to achieve so much success, lends them a little more potency.