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Interviews

Transgender Advocate Janet Mock on What She Learned at People.com

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After writer and former People.com editor Janet Mock came out as transgender woman in a 2011 Marie Claire article, she made it her mission to raise awareness about the social injustices experienced by the trans community and to give young trans women an outlet via social media to share their personal stories.

Mock, whose memoir Redefining Realness was released this month, recently spoke to Mediabistro and discussed what she learned during her early days in digital media:

People.com was a stepchild of People magazine, which was the juggernaut. They were creating… the mold and creating what social media is and communicating [immediacy] to readers… And so that’s how my career was. It was sitting in a cubicle. I wasn’t a features editor. I didn’t write long-form pieces that I thought I would be writing. I was writing smaller blurbs, learning to sharpen language, and communicate what readers actually wanted and how to entice them to click on things without sensationalizing.

To hear more from Mock, including her take on the Piers Morgan controversy, read: So What Do You Do, Janet Mock, Writer,Transgender Advocate And Author?

Football Meets Fashion for This NFL Player

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Winning designer Kassie Haji and Brad Smith

Designer Kassie Haji and Brad Smith

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Brad Smith’s interests are not relegated solely to the football field. It turns out Smith is actually a burgeoning player in the world of fashion.

After completing a Fashion Week internship at Men’s Health, reporting to fashion director Brian Boye, Smith was inspired to help emerging designers. The result was his Design for Brad Smith competition, held in partnership with the magazine. The winner, Kassie Haji, was announced on Friday at Windsor Custom at The Ainsworth in New York.

“To be able to highlight people’s creativity and their artistry, especially in the realm of fashion and design, that’s something that appeals to me,” said Smith.

In our Media Beat interview, Smith tells us about being a fashion intern, describes Haji’s winning design and reveals his future fashion projects.

To watch more mediabistroTV videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on Twitter: @mediabistroTV.

Team USA’s Ashley Wagner on Her Journalism Hopes

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Olympic figure skater Ashley Wagner is in Sochi, Russia, right now, prepping for the biggest competition of her life. Before she left, we got a chance to chat with her about her future aspirations — as a sports journalist.

Wagner says she’s most interested in delving into the “other side” of figure skating and telling the fascinating stories of her fellow athletes’ road to the top, whether it be in print, on the Web or during a TV interview. She’s dipping her toes in to journalism now as a blogger for SI.com. Here’s how she scored the gig:

 I used to [have a video] blog, and that was really fun for me. I would take the camera and show people around backstage, show what it was like, you know, walking back to the competitor’s lounge, or what it was like getting rehab done on an injury. So I tried to show the different aspects of skating, beyond those perfect couple of minutes that you see on the ice.

It just comes kind of naturally to me to take something and try and make it relatable and interesting to someone who doesn’t know everything about skating. So I think that [the editors] saw that and thought, ‘Hey, she’s not too shabby at this. Why doesn’t she try blogging for us?’ And it took off from there. For SI.com, I’m mostly just giving people a glimpse of what it’s like on this crazy journey to Sochi. I mean because there are so many different aspects of competing and preparing and designing even that go on in figure skating, I wanted to give people a little insight into that.

For more from Wagner, including how she handles nasty criticism on social media, read: Olympic Figure Skater Ashley Wagner On A Possible Future in Journalism.

Two Former TV Producers Talk About Creating a Multimedia Lifestyle Brand

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From left: Albert and Gerstein

Melissa Musen Gerstein and Denise Albert are former TV producers with hit shows under their belts (Gerstein’s resume includes a producer credit on Anderson Cooper 360; Albert’s at Good Morning America). When the two met up, they decided to form their own lifestyle company, The Moms, which started as a syndicated newspaper column. Their media empire now includes a show on Sirius XM Radio and New York Fashion Week shows that feature “real” moms on the catwalk.

As Mediabistro’s Profit From Your Passion series winds down, Gerstein and Albert tell us about their early career successes, why they chose to start their brand with a Carrie Bradshaw-esque column called Moms in the City and how they landed a television show.

Says Gerstein: We [were inspired by] Sex and the City. We also thought, ‘Wow, [our first] column was so successful, let’s launch Moms in the City in print,’ and so, basically, we would write a very bold, provocative column about parenting, and then we would interview a celebrity mom based on that topic, which obviously generated a lot of attention and traction. And then we started getting booked on local television shows to talk about our columns, and also topical news that affected parents, whether it was how to discuss the images coming out of Haiti with your kids [or] the homeless problem on the streets. And after our fourth appearance on WNBC, we got offered a TV show, actually a pilot, which then got picked up on a channel called NBC Nonstop, which ran in ten markets across the country.

To hear more from Gerstein and Albert, including their advice on creating your own multi-platform brand, read: Hey, How’d You Start Your Own Lifestyle Brand, Melissa Musen Gerstein and Denise Albert?

 

Bonnie Fuller Talks Digital Media, Celebrity Journalism and Her First Big Break

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bonnie-fuller_149Bonnie Fuller, the veteran editor who has reinvented many major women’s mags, from Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan to Glamour and Us Weekly, is the founding president and editor-in-chief of the entertainment-news site HollywoodLife.com.

In the latest installment of Mediabistro’s So What Do You Do – our first interview in the “Digital Media” week of our Profit From Your Passion series – Fuller talks about transforming tabloids and handling the criticism about her career, and offers advice to aspiring celeb journos:

[You must] have digital skills because I think the world is only going to go more digital and more mobile. So if you want to have a long career in this business, you have to be prepared to have those skills. The second thing would be that every rule used in normal journalism should be applied to celebrity journalism. Just because you’re dealing with celebrities and news about celebrities doesn’t mean you don’t apply a high standard.

For more from Fuller, including how she successfully overhauled so many top mags, read: So What Do You Do, Bonnie Fuller, Editor-In-Chief of HollywoodLife.com? Also, below, watch a video of Fuller discussing how she got her first big break.

Sumner Redstone and His ‘Beautiful Women’

In Robert Evans‘ new book The Fat Lady Sang, there’s a lot of good stuff about the actor-producer-survivor’s lifelong friendship with mentor Sumner Redstone. Now, there’s also a fascinating THR interview.

SumnerRedstoneTHRCoverRather than the usual author of such THR features, Stephen Galloway, this one belongs to veteran reporter Kim Masters and associate TV editor Lindsay Flans. A lot of the answers are one-sentence, but that doesn’t detract from the pleasures of a transcript with one of Hollywood’s very small number of truly legendary figures.

The conversation was conducted mid-December at the mogul’s 15,300 square foot Beverly Park mansion. He was joined for the THR session by his longtime girlfriend Sydney Howland and friend Manuela Herzer:

You’ve got these beautiful women that you go out with.

Do you think they’re beautiful?

They’re both stunning.

You really think so?

And sweet, don’t you think?

Well, they’re sweet. I don’t know how beautiful they are.

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Josh Ackerman Mulls Over Possible Reality TV Show Settings

We couldn’t resist. At the end of our Mediabistro “Hey, How’d You Do That?” conversation with Bodega Pictures co-founder Josh Ackerman, we wondered what the busy producer thought about the potential of a couple of reality TV show settings.

TischSchoolLogoAckerman, once a teenage co-star of Disney Channel’s The All New Mickey Mouse Club alongside Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling and Christina Aguilera, currently has two shows on the air (Tru TV’s South Beach Tow, Food Network’s On the Rocks) and several other reality programs in active development. He agreed that the setting of a print media company trying to make the successful transition to digital was fertile. He was also intrigued by the idea of shooting a show at his NYU Alma Mater:

Could the Tisch School be a reality show?

Wow. I’m sure it’s evolved a lot since I was there, but yes. I think that the students are fascinating. I would have to go and see what’s going on there, and embed myself a little bit. You need comedy, conflict, characters. There are so many different things that the networks are now looking for, that you kind of go crazy trying to really think about whether you checked off everything. You just have really trust yourself and trust the story that you’re trying to convey.

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Keija Minor, Editor-in-Chief of Brides, on Her Legacy

keija-minor2Keija Minor has gone through quite a few career reinventions in her life. She started out as a corporate lawyer, decided it wasn’t her passion, and then took a major pay cut to became an intern at a startup magazine, Travel Savvy. Boy, did it pay off. Minor went from intern to EIC in three years, then, after stints at Niche Media and Uptown magazine, on to Condé Nast, where she is currently editor-in-chief of Brides.

In the latest installment of Mediabistro’s So What Do You Do?, Minor talks about taking a leap of faith in her career, her advice for freelancers pitching to Brides and her unique position at the top:

You are the first African American to hold a top title at a Condé Nast publication. Is that something you think about?
I think the industry has been changing generally just over the years, as all of corporate America has been changing, to some degree, to reflect more women and more diversity. I think with the title at Condé, you know, it’s fun to be the first. It’s exciting to be the first in any sort of category, and it’s an honor. But I don’t wake up every day thinking, ‘Okay, you’re the first black woman to hold this title.’ I think about, ‘What are you going to do to move the magazine forward?’ At the end of the day, yes, I will have been the first, but I also want to be the woman who knocks it out of the park as an editor.

To hear more from Minor, including what she thinks of Anna Wintour, read: So What Do You Do Keija Minor, Brides Editor-in-Chief?

Special Edition ‘Lunch’: Downton Abbey Dish with Gareth Neame

Diane Clehane and Gareth Neame

Diane Clehane and Gareth Neame

I was joined at my usual perch at Michael’s yesterday by Downton Abbey‘s executive producer Gareth Neame and Hope Dellon, executive editor at St. Martin’s Press whose new book, Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey, is the “official” and definitive behind-the-scenes look at the wildly popular series. Unless you’ve been living under rock, you have undoubtedly heard that series creator Julian Fellowes writes every word of each episode that Downton addicts devour every season, but you may not know it was Gareth who is truly responsible for bringing the series to the small screen.

Having worked in British television for over two decades, Gareth was, as he writes in the book’s foreward in which he chronicles the backstory of the creation of the series, “familiar with maids, footmen and aristocrats and historic houses that serve as inspiration for drama.” He was also a fan of Gosford Park, the film that earned Fellowes an Academy Award. Gareth approached Fellowes with the idea to do a television series set in a grand house during the Edwardian era, focusing equally on the lives of the servants and the aristocrats, but, as Gareth told me, “Julian was resistant at first to do it. He didn’t think lightning would strike twice.” Still, Fellowes sent an email a few days later outlining all the major characters and the plot revolving around an inheritance issue with a distant cousin, a male heir (Matthew Crawley), who comes into the world of a family living in a great house staffed with servants. “We didn’t know whether it would work,” Gareth told me. “But everything was there on the page.”

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THR Lands Interview with Pat Kingsley

As the specter of Nikki Finke has been to entertainment journalism, so too once was the aura of Pat Kingsley to celebrity PR. And given Hollywood Reporter executive features editor Stephen Galloway‘s wily ways, we’re not at all surprised that it is he who landed Kingsley’s first official post-retirement interview.

THRPatKingsleyImageGalloway paid a visit to the 81-year-old Kingsley at her Pacific Palisades home the day before Thanksgiving. She remains too classy to spill the beans on former clients and any major contretemps (except for The TODAY Show and Jeff Zucker; what does that say about Zucker?). Rather, the joy of this feature comes largely from the small details about Kingsley’s current life and daily routine:

She gets up around 7:30 or 8 a.m., makes breakfast and does a little exercise. Then she switches on CNN (“I want the news, not opinions”), watches that and sports but relatively little entertainment…

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