Anyone who watched The Devil Wears Prada and thought that Anne Hathaway’s character had a dream job (despite her not-so-nice boss), will love CW’s new reality show Stylista. The show features 11 fashion lovers who compete for the job of a lifetime- to be an editor at Elle magazine. Serving as the two no-nonsense judges on the show are Anne Slowey, the renowned Fashion News Director and Editor of Accessories at Elle, and Joe Zee, the magazine’s Creative Director. Both Slowey and Zee have been in the business for years, working for other magazines such as W and House & Garden, along with creating ad campaigns for DKNY, Banana Republic, Estée Lauder, M.A.C. Cosmetics and Chanel before they began working at Elle. Their insights about the world of fashion and publishing make them the perfect guides to lead the eleven hopefuls in pursuing their dream of working for one of the top fashion magazines in the world.
Both Slowey and Zee are not shy about discussing their own beginnings in the fashion industry, especially about how their own experiences were so similar to the challenges given each week to the contestants on the show. Trying to make this competition as realistic as possible was their goal; they didn’t throw anything at these contestants that they weren’t asked to do themselves at some point in their long careers. Actually, these eleven hopefuls should be glad they didn’t have a first day like Slowey’s.
"My first day at Vogue, I had to go out and buy 32 goldfish and put them in 32 bowls and transport them to this woman's house without killing any of them," Slowey noted. "That was my first day. It's like, I went to Notre Dame. I have a degree in history. I sort of was like, ‘What?’"
Joe Zee’s experiences in fashion publishing weren’t so different from Slowey’s. He remembers a time, while he was working at W magazine, when many top fashion designers were given the job of making clothing for an elephant that would be participating in a photo shoot. Some would say this is ridiculous, but Zee claims it’s just the fashion industry- each day brings surprises and new challenges.
Obviously, regardless of the rules of other industries, the world of fashion is simply a different place. No, these contestants weren’t asked to tote fish around on their first day like Slowey or create stylish clothing for a pachyderm, but they faced daily tasks and challenges similar to those done by an assistant or even an editor at Elle.
In the first episode, the contestants are given an opportunity to showcase their personal style, by creating a contributors page about themselves, which can be found near the front of each edition of the magazine. They were asked to style themselves, write something about themselves, and come up with a layout for the page. In the second episode, they are asked to create a page for the Living section featuring a gem of a product that readers will not be able to live without. Essentially, they are learning about their own personal sense of style while also searching for the next big thing, the next trend. Slowey explains that this is the main component of her job.
"I distill the trends," Slowey said. "I conceptualize stories for the reader, for the Elle reader specifically. It is really personal. It's all about personal style and Joe [Zee] is in charge of the visual aspect of that. I like to have a lot of fun with it. If you read the stories that I edit and write, we usually try to have a sense of humor about it. It's sort of like ‘Adventures in Fashion Land.’ So if somebody has designed a wood table that you wear as a skirt, you know, we might take that on and say, ‘Yes. This is absolutely crazy and ridiculous,’ but it all boils down to identity, really, what we're writing about with fashion."
Though the contestants are given a taste of what Slowey does for the magazine by examining fashion and setting the trends, they are also given, as executive producer Eli Holzman mentioned, so-called "assistant tasks."
"Each episode has an assistant task where seemingly mundane things are given to the contestants to do, but it gives them an opportunity to demonstrate taste, savvy, an eye for detail," Holzman explained. "Through their performance in those tasks, they win the opportunity to perform more substantive editorial challenges that build in complexity over the course of the series."
But regardless of the task, Slowey never lowered her expectations about the quality of work that she would accept, even from those new to the business.
"We just have very high standards," Slowey explains. "Joe [Zee] and I were lucky to be trained by the best in the business. So, it’s in our blood now, we can’t accept anything less. And anybody with a great sense of self-respect, they always want to do their best. They don’t want to do anything sort of lazy or half-ass."
Many critics of Slowey disagree that such high expectations are necessary, but at the end of the day, Slowey believes that she gave the contestants a real taste of what it’s like to be an editor at a successful magazine.
"The industry is very demanding, so if we come across as tough, tough. That’s the reality of it."
And the reality of the fashion world is something that creator and Executive Producer Ken Mok is certainly familiar with. Mok has produced many successful series for the CW including America’s Next Top Model and Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll, which have propelled many a pretty face to fame and fortune. Like the coveted prizes extended to the winners of those shows, a modeling contract and a singing contract respectively, Stylista also promises great opportunities for its one winner, which include a paid editorial position at Elle, a paid one-year lease on a swanky apartment in Manhattan, and a clothing allowance at the fashion superstore H&M, all of which are valued at a total of $100,000—not bad work if you can get it.
But the road to winning this coveted position is not without its pitfalls, meaning full devotion to the magazine, passion for the cause, and, of course, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. So, what does it take to become an editor at Elle? You’ll have to watch the show to find out.
Don’t miss the CW’s new show Stylista, premiering Wednesday, October 22 at 9pm et/pt.