Who could say no to career advice from Leandra Medine? At 26, she’s taken her website Man Repeller from cult blog to full-fledged media brand, she’s written a memoir, and she has a variety of high-profile collaborations under her belt, so to speak. (Rumor has it a subscription box is underway.) Perhaps most impressive of all? Her two-word term has become a philosophy that fuses fashion with feminism in a way almost anyone can embrace. She’s created a life—and style—philosophy based on authenticity, on being honest about what it means to be yourself.
Marie Claire caught up with Medine at LinkedIn’s Next Wave event, where she was honored as one of the network’s top 150 professionals 35 and under.
Marie Claire: You combine high-quality fashion writing and humor so effectively. What advice do you have for young people who want to channel their personality into creative work like building a website, but might not know where to start?
Leandra Medine: “Be authentic.”
MC: What is it like to be a voice that’s influential enough to advance a new designer’s career?
LM: “That’s a hard question to answer, because it’s not really something I think about, which I think boils back down to that honesty. As long as you are promoting something that you really believe in–yes, it’s incredible to see that designer earn the esteem they deserve–but there’s something to be said about the fact that if you’re convicted about an opinion and you really believe something’s great, you’re not going to credit yourself for their success. You can open doors all day, but they have to walk through them.”
MC: How do you deal with self-doubt?
LM: “I’m still figuring it out! Diane von Furstenberg actually gave me a very good piece of advice yesterday. She said, ‘When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt,’ so that’s something I’m going with. I think that’s a really good answer: Just don’t listen to the doubts. Your doubts are generated by fear, and fear is a series of distorted thoughts.”
MC: You’ve been doing Man Repeller for five years, and in that short time your site has taken off wildly, you’ve gotten married, and you’re about to enter your late 20s. As you go on, do you see your tone, topics, and audience changing with you? Are you still thinking of a younger audience, or are your readers growing up with you?
LM: “Again, this boils back down to the honesty and authenticity. Of course they’re going to grow up with me. I can’t imagine catering to an audience that doesn’t also interest me. I think fundamentally Man Repeller is a voice for women to connect with; they can come and try it on for size and be a part of it, and if it works for them, they take it with them. Of course the site is going to be bigger than I am, that’s realistic if we’re talking about Man Repeller as an attitude and not just the pastime of a single person. A really good piece of advice that I got from a friend was, ‘Don’t cater your instinct to the people around you.'”
MC: Man Repeller is about women being comfortable in their own skin. How can fashion newbies start to incorporate bolder pieces into their wardrobes in a way that’s empowering for them?
LM: “That comes down to confidence, which is also about honesty. So don’t integrate anything into your wardrobe that’s going to make you feel hugely uncomfortable when you leave home. Get the comfort thing down first–baby steps. If you love a huge shoulder-padded jacket, but you know you can’t leave home without it because it’s just going to make you feel uncomfortable, try putting tissues inside one of your shirts first. Ease yourself into the pool.”
MC: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
LM: “I’ve gotten so much really good career advice, but I think I’m going to go with ‘If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.'”
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