"Have you ever seen The Devil Wears Prada?"
That's how I answer the question, "So, why did you choose to go into fashion?"
The explanation, of course, ends with a word-for-word regurgitation of Miranda Priestly's infamous speech about a certain cerulean blue sweater.
That mic-drop-worthy monologue (delivered impeccably by a goddess who goes by the name Meryl) shattered my perception of what it means to work in the industry — in the best possible way. Even now, 10 years later, re-watching the clip revives the kind of visceral reaction in me that can only be likened to a guttural grunt or fist-thrusting, "F— yeah!" (Think: men watching sports.) In under two minutes, this fictional beast of a woman legitimized the idea of a career in fashion, one that I had previously believed to be a far-off fantasy.
For context, I didn't have much of a personal identity at age 13 (to be fair, at age 23, I still don't). But I knew I was book smart, and that book-smart people didn't pursue careers in fashion. Miranda, of course, changed all that. Miranda, to me, was the embodiment of all of the qualities that I, an awkward pre-teen, aspired to: She was powerful, competitive, sharp, shrewd, unsympathetic — and her snark was unparalleled.
In an era I like to refer to as pre-DWP (Devil Wears Prada), I never thought that fashion was a place for smart women. Growing up in suburbia, I didn't know anyone who knew the difference between Ann Taylor and Anna Wintour, and the rom-coms I consumed obsessively all portrayed women working at fashion magazines as vapid, shallow and unfairly pretty. They dressed and spoke like Elle Woods, dripping in pink and leaving a trail of glitter wherever their four-inch stiletto heels clacked. They smiled way too much.
With only the great works of Hudson (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) and Garner (13 Going on 30) to guide me, I fell under the impression that magazines like Composure and Sparkle would only be the final frontier for my less ambitious, more conformist classmates, those girls who owned velour Juicy Couture tracksuits in every pastel shade (which they matched to their Michael Kors handbags and Tiffany charm bracelets, naturally) and worshipped designer labels for designer labels' sake.
And yet despite all this, I found myself coming back to fashion again and again, devouring catalogs obsessively and analyzing every fashion editorial in my weathered copies of Seventeen and Teen Vogue. I told myself that my interest was just a fleeting passion that I would have to ditch when I became a lawyer or a doctor or whatever other jobs people with good GPAs pursued to make themselves feel validated, important.
In high school, my best-kept secret was not some embarrassing blunder or inappropriate crush, but that I was a member of the Nordstrom BP Fashion Board, a sort of internship program for students who want to learn about retail. At my senior year send-off, my soccer coach commended my academics and said, "Sam's going to be a doctor one day, I'm sure of it." (Which illustrates both how well I hid my obsession and how poor I was at soccer.)
But in the post-DWP era, it was Miranda's speech I held in the back of my mind, a mantra I would return to to remind myself that women in the fashion industry could be just as badass, powerful and smart as women in any other cut-throat field.
After high school, I pledged to reinvent myself in college, and by some miracle I did. I got a job working retail. I launched a magazine so I could write about fashion when the school's newspaper told me I could not. I applied for internships in the industry — one of which evolved into my job at The Hollywood Reporter. Now, I get to witness the same trickle down pattern that led Andy Sachs to purchase that fateful cerulean blue sweater (though it occurs at hyper-speed now, thanks to social media and fast fashion.)
It took a long time to accept that I would be known as "the fashion girl," especially given that many people still have the same preconceptions that I did in the pre-DWP era about what it means to work in fashion. For example, in college, when I told a boy I liked that I was an aspiring fashion journalist, he said, condescendingly, "Oh, so what, you want to work at Vogue or something?" From his tone and the way he uttered Vogue as though it was a dirty word, it was clear he equated an interest in fashion with materialism and a waste of intellect.
To which I replied, "Have you ever seen The Devil Wears Prada?"
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