Meet the Editor-In-Chief of Teen Eye Magazine! Get to know Em's favorite spots in New York, how she started the magazine that's completely run by teenagers, and of course, the best advice she's ever received
Besides answering these questions, what are you up to at the moment?
I’m finishing up junior year in high school (I just had my last AP), planning Issue six of Teen Eye, and fleshing out a couple of other independent art projects. I want to try to hold some larger artistic/activist events -- galleries, open mics, DIY sessions, movie nights, etc -- so I’m trying to figure out the logistics so my summer will be nice and busy. And I’ve been working on independent styling projects and reading a lot too!
At only 16, you’re editor in chief of Teen Eye Magazine, an incredible online publication. How did you go about creating this, and what would you say is the most fulfilling part about it?
It’s such an ‘internet age’ story! My dear friend Zak Cannon and I originally met on Tumblr, and we’d always have these really interesting and analytical conversations about the fashion industry.
In the end of 2014, he messaged me like, “hey, i’m starting a magazine, would you want to be our fashion editor”? And unsurprisingly, that was a dream job of mine, so I said yes immediately -- the next day, we started emailing and laying out an editorial with this amazing 19 year old photographer in Barcelona (I’m from NY, Zak’s from Texas, by the way) named Sergi Serra Mir: we really got straight to work. And that was during our Winter Break, so we had a big time frame to flesh out a vision. Zak came up with most of the behind the scenes ideas, I came up with most of the content, and it’s all just been building up since then. We were co-editors for a while, and then he had to leave the team (we’re still in close contact), so I’m EIC.
The most fulfilling part is, and has always been, creating this new type of environment that I had always dreamt about myself. I believe Teen Eye’s success is due to the fact that we offer a sort of launching pad for these really creative teens that are truly seeking to get involved in the professional creative world around them so they can seriously comment, or critique, on what they’re seeing. We don’t set a lot of constraints, and we’re online, so we can work with an international community. And seeing the work that our contributors come up with when they’re given an open platform always makes me really happy.
Were there any specific inspirations or publications that already existed that influenced the creation of the magazine?
I mean, Tavi Gevinson really paved the way for the credibility of youth media. She was one of the first people in our age group to prove that teens were able to be professional -- that they could write these witty sartorial pieces and sit front row at Dior and succeed -- and I believe that her work has now changed the publishing world. She proved to industry professionals in whatever field that teens are CAPABLE. So that made the creation of our magazine easier. We’re taken seriously. Rookie and Teen Eye are pretty different but we share a lot of the same core values. (I actually got to contribute to the Rookie website twice this year, which was so exciting!)
The editors grew up while the magazine did, so the many publications that we idolized throughout our process have changed. At the start I remember I was really into the original Style.com, before it became Vogue Runway. And basically anything big and dramatic that Meisel shot. In a similar vein, I now appreciate all the creative media that produces reliable and AUTHENTIC commentary: Broadly, Business of Fashion, Nowness, NowFashion. Our graphic designer, Sophia Hall, has also been sourcing these really great old zines for our new issues.
Something that I find really cool about your publication is the involvement of teenagers. What do you find different about working with teenager’s vs (say,) people in their late 20’s and up?
The main difference is the commitments of the artists. Teens and adults are just as professional or shitty -- it’s always one end of the spectrum -- at email writing and just as zealous when it comes to working on the project. BUT, someone in their late 20s who wants to be a writer will most likely have a career as a writer (or be working towards that career). A teen who wants to be a writer for Teen Eye is just as passionate, but they’ll be juggling a whole other career in school while they’re doing it, which is really impressive! I remember I had to take my SATs on the release date for Issue 4, I had to complete a massive project for a college level history class on the release date for Issue 5. It’s so intense, and every single contributor we work with is going through the exact same thing. The fact that they’re able to produce content while balancing academics sets them apart.
Vintage or Runway? Vintage runway! I’ve actually been trying to not buy any newly mass-produced items to not put a further strain on the environment, so I’ve been shopping vintage alot.
Leather or Lace? Leather! (Faux leather?)
Digital or Film? I shoot digital
Glossy or Matte? Always glossy.
Call or Text? Text (or facetime)
Eyes or Lips? Eyes
Hot or Cold? Hot -- less clothes needed
Coffee or Tea? I hate both!
The States or Abroad? The states -- too much to complete on the home ground before I travel ;-)
Taking a step back from the magazine, when do you feel most you?
Ooh… you know that feeling when you get home from a really good night, and you’re in a really cute outfit but your makeup is all messy and you’re listening to music or randomly cooking and it’s like 1 am? That might be it. But also, I think just anytime when I’m wearing good shoes and with real, good friends.
Being a New York native, what do you think it is about the city that has people hooked?
The ability to anonymously be individual.
To someone visiting the city for the first time, where would you recommend they go?
I do a repro rights zine folding/phone calling/letter writing activist session with friends every Saturday from 2-4! So I’d invite them to that! I’d also recommend Metrograph theater, the all-ages venue Silent Barn (in Bushwick), any park where you can sit and read, Bluestockings, the restaurant 456 Shanghai Cuisine, and Brooklyn Museum. The Met is so famous that it’s already probably on most people’s list, but it’s not overhyped! Go! And AVOID TIMES SQUARE -- it’s very overhyped -- if you want a ~ Tourist Experience ~ go to Chelsea Market and the Highline or Central Park.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Have you used it?
Ha! Math Class Is NOT The Most Important Thing In Life. And yes, I’ve used it.
What do you think are the top five pieces every girl should have in her closet?
My favorite items are: Big chunky intimidating superboots, plaid skirts, a coat you’ll actually want to wear daily in the winter, something you find online or in a thrift store and realize that you’ve never seen anything like it, and underwear that makes you feel good. I don’t want to be pedantic about prescribing a uniform though ;)
Who are you listening to musically right now?
Lydia Lunch, The Slits, Eartha Kitt, Priests, Hinds, Essential Logic, Julie Ruin (but also Bikini Kill), Jamila Woods, Francoise Hardy, and X Ray Spex.
In your eyes, who’s an icon to you?
I love La Loca, Patti Smith, Toni Morrison, Alexander McQueen, Sophie Scholl. That may have been easy for me, because we just did a whole issue on Icons for teen eye, where we basically explored what the definition means in an era where you can reinvent and celebrate yourself so easily.
You’re involved in a lot of amazing political and social activism that we’ve been seeing a lot of on social media. For someone who wants to get involved but doesn't know where to start, what would you recommend to them?
School clubs are very good but try not to get too frustrated if your classmates aren’t as interested in activism: you can set your sights in a larger community. Reach out to local activists! Harness social media!
If you could disappear anywhere for a few days, where would you go and what would you do?
The future so I don’t have to be worry about the news!
How do you feel about the term, Cool Girl?
I loooove cool girls until patriarchal media gets it’s hands on them. The term should be used with care because some bad people assign too much pressure with the label.