Inspiration and Editors / Interviews

INTERVIEW: Jo Elvin, editor of Glamour magazine (part two)

By Annette Stevens.

If you enjoyed last week’s interview, then keep on reading for more inspirational advice:

Do you have any specific advice about writing a good cover-letter and building contacts in the industry?

Proof read it several times. I’m quite unforgiving of covering letters that contain spelling mistakes, or god forbid ones accidentally addressed to another editor or another magazine.  Demonstrate in a paragraph what it is you like about the title/company you’re applying to work for – I like to spot someone who has clearly really understood Glamour’s place in the market and what it is we try to do.

What essentials do you have in your bag that help the production of Glamour?

The essentials of producing Glamour are the living, breathing humans who make our wonderful team. Besides them, I need my phone and paracetamol!

Is the running of Glamour easy to fit round family life?

‘Easy’ is not the word I’d use. But you do have to be very organised.

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How did you start out becoming the editor you are today?

I interned at a teenage magazine in Sydney for about six months before they offered me a full time job.

Features at Glamour often meet great acclaim, as part of the UK’s number one magazine. How are they put together?

That’s very kind of you! It’s a team effort, led by our brilliant features director, Claire Matthiae.  It’s all about ideas, which we get from all sorts of places. It might be an idea sparked by a story in a newspaper, something a freelancer has brought to us. More often than not, people bring ideas to the table as a result of something that came up while chatting to their friends at the pub. Then it’s a case of  our experience kicking in and working out, as a team, the best way to present and sell the feature in a Glamour way, that we think will be appealing to our readers.

If freelance journalists would like to contribute to Glamour, can you give them any specific advice?

Read at least six months’ worth of issues before pitching anything. Often I get ideas pitched that we have actually done recently. It will also help you to get a feel for what sorts of ideas will interest our editors. Be concise in what you’re pitching. Give me a headline, and sum the article up succinctly in two or three sentences. If you can’t do that, you haven’t yet found the heart of the idea. It needs to be able to be sold/understood quickly, otherwise readers lose interest.

Is there any “glamour” in the running of Glamour?

Er, not a lot! We have a great deal of fun, but we work in a messy office and we spend most of the time at our desks reading and writing. We do have fun, particularly with things like the Glamour Women of the Year Awards where we all get incredibly dressed up and have a fun night with a lot of celebrities. But even that is months of hard and decidedly unglamorous work!


What is the hardest lesson you have learnt as an editor?

That you can’t be friends with everyone you work with. You can get along really well and have a great working relationship, but when you’re the boss, inevitably you’re the one who has to deliver bad news, and make tough and unpopular decisions. So you have to accept that people will have a bitch and moan about you and they probably won’t invite you to the pub because that’s where they want to do it!

Annually, Glamour hosts the Women of the Year Awards. Is it stressful?

It’s incredibly stressful but we also absolutely love it. You never know what’s going to happen from one year to the next. But it takes about six months to organise and there’s about four of us who organise it. It’s mammoth. Getting about 30 celebrities to all be in the same place on the same night – it’s not rocket science, it’s much more difficult than that.

 The ceremony consists of giving awards to women, who are amazing at what they do. How are they chosen?

They are chosen by the readers. Every year we receive around 100,000 votes.


What goes through your mind when making your speech?

“Elvin, don’t mess it up, and don’t even think about trying to be funny, because you’re not as funny as all the hilarious, talented celebrities who’ve already been up here!”

What are your tips for journalists?

  • Be prepared to start at the bottom.
  • Get work experience anywhere you can. It doesn’t matter if it’s not your ‘dream place’. You need all experience.
  • Make sure you are learning how to be digitally savvy. That’s where it’s all heading, as we know.

And finally, one random question: If for one day, you could swap bodies with one celebrity, who would it be?

I’d need to find out which celebrity was having a day of lounging by their Beverly Hills pool. So if that was, say, Danny de Vito, that would be fine. I’d just like to have a lie down, really.

Thank you so much for answering our questions Jo!




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