How to Make It as a Beauty Writer
Introducing How to Make It, Clover's career column. Here, some of the smartest, coolest, and most successful women we know share career tips, life advice, and other invaluable wisdom they've learned along the way.
Though Arabelle Sicardi is only 23, the New Jersey native has been an Internet Person™ for over a decade. Fashion Pirate was one of the preeminent fashion blogs, before fashion blogs elicited an immediate cringe. Arabelle then parlayed quirky musings and a serious Comme des Garcons obsession into an internship at Teen Vogue (where we first met!), before heading over to work under longtime pal Tavi Gevinson at Rookie.
After a post-grad stint at Buzzfeed, the beauty writer has been crushing it on the freelance circuit, contributing to Clover favorites like Racked, The Awl, and Broadly (sample headline and absolute must-read: “The Deadly History of Women Using Perfume as Poison”).
Because we've known Arabelle for years—circa 2013—we figured the former Harry Potter fanfic author-turned-beauty-authority could offer more career wisdom than people triple the age. We were right. Check it out.
What were you like as a teen, and what do you wish you could tell your teenage self?
I was an insufferable, very serious tomboy troll who believed deeply in fashion. You know, I was heartbreakingly earnest about All Of The Things—because they were so new and exciting. So, like, honestly the same as I am now. It wasn't that long ago. I was incredibly driven and obsessed with the same things I love now—I had a ten year plan to Become Cool and I think I self actualized it pretty well? I remember sitting in 8th grade, writing Harry Potter fanfiction on the school computers during lunchtime, and staring at the wall, and whispering: "One day you will be so cool, and none of these people will be able to say crap anymore."
I used to cry all the time, I was a crybaby nerd who let people copy my homework in order to get invited to their birthday parties. I was lonely and mad about not being good enough. So! I became the person I wanted to be because I had to. I couldn't conceive of a reality otherwise. I was a teen fashion blogger shortly after and going to parties I shouldn't have been able to get into. I don't really have any regrets about the person I was as a teen, except I wish I had been kinder to the people I loved. You don't need to be mean to be cool. Kindness is the coolest thing. Niceness is whatever, but kindness is cool. It's so rare to find, real kindness.
How exactly did you get to where you are now, professionally?
I was a teen fashion blogger at the dawn of fashion blogging. I got in at the right time, I guess, and I managed to parlay my press coverage into genuine connections with people in the industry. I knew I wanted to work in fashion, not just blog about it, so I kept in touch with people and tried to prove myself. Eventually editors started soliciting me to write for their magazines, and I focused more on writing for publications than I did with fashion blogging. It took a few years to transition.
What do you wish you had known then that you know now about having a career?
Whatever you think you deserve for writing a thing, a man is probably getting paid three times as much to write it worse than you. Media has one of the most apparent wage gaps of any industry because no one is really transparent about money in it—it's insider baseball. So I think it's super helpful to befriend decent men in the industry so you can absorb their blissful arrogance and privilege and have it seep into how you negotiate your own wages. Talk about who's getting paid what and look out for each other.
Everyone who's not a dude writer I know really struggles with pitching themselves at a living wage, but the men I know just ask for ridiculous—their own words—amounts of money and negotiate down and only work when they get paid well. There's a difference we've been conditioned into. Don't undersell yourself. Say no if it makes you feel bad. There are always other opportunities. I don't really have any regrets about my career decisions, because I know my worth and what I bring to the table and I won't settle for less. I've learned refusal is it's own luxury and power and I cherish it.
What advice about work do you have for teens or for people just starting out (whether that’s an internship, or actual job)?
You can be critical of a media publication; but if you want to work for them in the near future, don't make it easily Googleable. Say, for example, you reblog a post critical of a publication, but also have your Tumblr in your email signature when you submit your cover letter. Don't do that. I see that all the time! It is so weird how often I see that. And do your research on your interviewer and the publication before you reach out to them. Chances are, they've answered a lot of questions about their career trajectory before—ask something new or unusual rather than "How did you get your job?" because chances are, their story doesn't necessarily apply to you. Ask them about their failures. Ask them about what they think about the industry now. Ask them what they think your industry is missing. See where you could possibly fit. Think of long term strategy for your future, not about how to replicate someone else's past.