INTERVIEW: SYDNEY GORE, JOURNALIST

Let’s toast to the style legends birthed by the 90’s — the cool kids who consider music to be their religion, who’ve vicariously lived through books, film, and television shows, and who’ve been paving their way to a creative career of their dreams before they even knew what a creative career was. The ones who are bold enough to take risks and turn their interests, hobbies, and lifestyles into a way to make a living. Unique as individuals, but one thing they all have in common is that they’ve got some great stories to tell.

Sydney GoreThis is the story of Sydney Gore, Journalist and current Assistant Digital Editor for NYLON Magazine. Sydney began nurturing her passion for writing at a very young age and hasn’t stopped since. She was kind enough to take the time out of her busy schedule to share her experiences with DARLA this past week, and for anyone interested in pursing a journalism career… You’re gonna want to grab some tea and a notebook.

“Really early on I was very interested in writing. Since I was a little kid, I was writing my own picture stories where I would illustrate and make up tales and short stories. It would be to the point where I’d be at my friends’ houses and all the kids would be playing outside and their parents would be like, ‘Where’s Sydney?’ — I’d be on the computer typing like a really long, crazy novel. At first adults thought I was anti-social, but when I’d finally go outside to play with the other kids, they’d find the document I was working on and be like, “Oh my God, she’s writing these really prophetic pieces of work!” I was an only child so I had a lot of alone time to be with my thoughts. My parents have always been very supportive of my creativity. They had me taking art classes and I did a lot of dance classes; I was a ballerina. I did pointe ballet and tap dancing, and obviously I did not see a career in either of those so I stopped once I got to high school… But writing was always the most consistent thing for me.”

Along with writing, Sydney also grew up with a major interest in music. She played instruments, like the piano and viola and would take weekly trips to the local record shop with her father. Naturally she began intertwining her passion for writing with her love for music, foreshadowing the journey to her dream career she’d take in the years to come. “He would pick up vinyl then he would let me get a couple CDs or whatever I wanted. I’d get these little Grateful Dead bears and ended up with a whole collection. (I didn’t listen to the Grateful Dead, but I thought they looked cool). Music was always very present in my life. In high school, when everything started coming together, I’d go to these pop/punk indie rock shows in Philly with my friends. It got to the point where I started writing reviews and one of my friends who was really into photography would take pictures. We started envisioning ourselves doing it for our jobs; didn’t really know if it was possible but we liked the idea of that. I was writing for my high school newspaper at the time and I didn’t have a section I felt that was my thing. One of my friends was eventually like, “Hey you like movies and music, why don’t you do reviews?” So that’s kind of how I got started.”

Sydney attended American University in Washington D.C. for college. Living in such a politics-driven city, she credits her college experience for making her a more politically aware writer. At first Sydney hadn’t decided whether she should major in Journalism or English, but after just a few weeks at school she was sure about the type of writer she wanted to be. “I ran into a girl on the quad who liked my style and wanted to feature me in her column for the school newspaper. She invited me to come to a meeting, telling me that writers get free tickets to concerts… So of course I went and I just never stopped. I ended up staying with the paper almost until the end of my time at AU. My first ever interview was with Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, and Ice Cube. They were doing a press tour for 21 Jumpstreet and stopped in D.C. All the college newspapers were invited to be a part of that. At the time I was like, ‘No way, I’m not qualified to do this,’ but I did it, and it was great! After that I felt like I could pretty much do anything.”

The high-priority intern culture at American University motivated Sydney to apply for internship positions early on. Her first was with a website called Property of Zack that revolved around the entire pop/punk, indie rock scene. She also had a brief internship at Sweet Green as their social media intern, assisting with a new blog for the brand. These were two valuable experiences that lead her to build up an internship portfolio with some of the most influential media outlets today. “My first editorial internship was at Billboard as a Web Intern. That one was crazy because it was huge and I felt like I was so unqualified for it. I never had a major internship before; all I had was my journalism classes and writing clips from my school newspaper but somehow, they thought I was a good fit for it. I was the youngest intern in our group and it actually ended up being a really incredible experience. At the time I sort of had my doubts because I figured they only covered mainstream, chart stuff and I’m more into the underground, subculture type of music… But they were really open and receptive to hearing our ideas and letting us learn about everything. A lot of the editors that I had then are still some of my mentors now and people I interned with there are some of my best friends.”

Sydney Gore 4During her junior year of college, Sydney studied abroad in London and interned for a magazine called Songlines. Through that internship, she was introduced to world music in various different languages and got to cover what wasn’t exposed in mainstream music media. Upon leaving London, she landed a position with Seventeen Magazine as an intern for the summer. “Seventeen ended up being really fun; my position was in the features department so I assisted with getting quotes for things in the magazine. At the same time, I ended up getting an internship at Pigeons and Planes, which is owned by Complex now. That was my favorite music website at the time (it still is because they’re awesome and so on top of everything). I did those at the same time, so two days out of the week I’d go to Seventeen and for two I’d go to Pigeons. It was nice because one was print and one was web. That really helped me figure out which type of editorial I was better suited for, which ended up being web. Another internship I had was for a local D.C. music site called All Things Go. Those guys were also really great; they have their own festival now in D.C. which is cool. It’s just amazing to be at a lot of these smaller places and then watch them grow a couple years down the line, knowing that you got to be a part of it.”

For the first semester of her senior year, Sydney focused on completing all of the courses she needed to graduate. At this time, she was getting paid as a freelance writer so she stopped working for the school newspaper. After resolving a misunderstanding with the number of credits she had completed (it’s so important to stay on top of this while in college, don’t depend in your advisors to do it for you!) she discovered that she only had 4 more credits to complete for graduation. This presented her with an opportunity to land the internship of her teenage dreams — NYLON Magazine“I always wanted to intern at NYLON but the timing just didn’t work out, or I could never find a posting, and I definitely wanted to be on top of my game when I applied so they couldn’t deny me. After finally applying, and a long back and forth, I was offered an internship that required me to commute to New York twice a week. Every weekend I would come home from school, taking the Mega Bus from D.C. to Philly and I’d stay with my parents in Cherry Hill. On Monday and Tuesday, I’d take the train from Hamilton into New York and go to my internship at NYLON in SoHo. Then Tuesday after I was done interning, I would take the Bolt Bus from New York back to D.C. and I’d go to class the next day on Wednesday. I also worked part-time at Madewell, doing that same routine for 3 months. Everyone thought I was crazy, but I thought it was worth it. I was able to get credit for that internship as well, so I didn’t have to take a class… But that was probably like one of the most insane things I’d ever done while in school!”

Upon graduation, NYLON didn’t have any job openings so Sydney applied other places without really finding a position she felt was right for her on a full-time basis. She ended up accepting a paid internship at Refinery 29, working in the talent relations department which was completely different from anything she’s done before. She learned a lot about digital influence and branded editorial content. About a month into that position, Sydney also interviewed with The Fader where she was offered a fellowship. “Those experiences really enforced, to me, that I wanted to stay in editorial and that I could be reporting on music and culture and all of these things but still do them with integrity, and focus more on the culture angle. In August, my former supervisor from NYLON reached out to me because they had an opening and I interviewed for that. I ended up getting that job and in October, I started as the Digital Editorial Assistant. I’ve been there a year and a half now, got promoted in December to Assistant Digital Editor. I’ve just been chilling, doing art, culture, and music everyday, managing interns, etc. It’s been a fun ride.”

Sydney Gore 5Sydney had acquired a unique internship experience with notable highlights from every one of them. They’ve helped shaped her perspective as a journalist and turned her into a writer with the ability to create great content that’s meaningful, relevant, and engaging. At Billboard, she was able to step outside of her assigned editorial work and learn about charting and the way that works within the music industry. At Seventeen, she experienced working with an editor named Alex Abel who was very supportive of her career goals and trusted her with extra responsibilities. At Pigeons and Planes, Sydney got to witness young people thriving at Complex Media and was inspired by their dedication and creativity. The Fader, which she notes as her favorite editorial experience, showed her the things that she really wanted to do and the way she wanted to tell stories was valued; she didn’t have to compromise that. There were many women of color who worked in this office, making The Fader a brand that truly represents feminism without using it as a marketing tool. NYLON was a brand that she always identified with and they completely trusted her taste and opinions as well. She was getting bylines during her internship and made a good enough impression to land a permanent position later on. “In general, working at all of those places, I feel really fortunate that the people there took the time to really get to know me. I really wanted to know how the industry works, how people got to where they are, and what I can do to someday be in their position. That’s what motivated me to go in and make connections; basically network but not in an overt way.”

“Since I’ve been at NYLON it’s been really cool to connect with people that I look up to. In the March issue, I got to interview Nelly Furtado which was really amazing. She was one of the most genuine human beings that I had the pleasure of being in the presence of. I remember growing up, my dad really liked Nelly Furtado and we listened to her all the time. When I was interviewing her I had a lot of questions because she’s been gone for so long but I also really wanted to know about her background and she was just so appreciative about that. At one point she stopped, reached out, touched my shoulder and was like, ‘Thank you for asking about me. You get me.’ It was like, Nelly Furtado is thanking ME — this is crazy. Having little moments like that with people whose work I really love has been so gratifying. There’s this one producer I really like named Jacques Greene; I first saw him when I was in London. Since then I’ve seen him in 3 or 4 different cities but now, with where I’m at in my career, I get to be on the other end and interview him for stuff. I got to fly out to Montreal which is where he’s from and see him perform there for the Red Bull Music Academy event. Now it’s like we know each other, we’re homies… And I wouldn’t be able to do that if it wasn’t for this job. Even last year with NYLON’s Black History Month series, getting to interview Brandy?! That was huge for me! Other people may not care, but I was freaking out on the phone. I was like, ‘Sorry, I’m tripping over the fact that I used to talk to you when you were my doll that’s still in my room and now I’m talking to the real you on the phone!’ Moments like that have just been making it all the more special. To have that kind of access and see how artists and celebrities are normal human beings.”

Since she started working in digital editing for NYLON, Sydney has created two special series that celebrate black creatives. These projects have received a lot of positive feedback, which has been progressive for the culture of the company. They’ve become inclusive in the contributing to real, accurate black representation in mainstream media.

Sydney Gore 2“The first year I started doing a Black History Month series was last year and it was called, Black Girl Power. I feel like now, with the way media is, diversity is a hot topic but I feel like there’s a difference between “diversity” and inclusivity. It’s obviously great when you see women of color on a magazine cover, but it needs to be more consistent. I’d much rather see all of these features inside a magazine and on websites about women of color versus one cover and nothing else. The first time I did the project, Black History Month was coming up and I’d been noodling with the idea for a while to do something that would have the feature of a different black woman every day. At the time I was real nervous about presenting it because it’s a lot of pressure as a woman of color to be the one who’s presenting these ideas. You don’t really want people to be like, ‘Here goes the black girl again, pitching things about black people…’ But if you don’t, nobody else will. I would rather be coming to the table with the idea than having it forced upon me. At that time we had our edit meeting and I pitched the series of highlighting a black woman every day and I was surprised that everyone in the room was like, ‘Yeah that’s a great idea, you should totally do that!’ When it actually came down to putting it together I only had like two weeks to find out every single person I was going to feature, get my questions ready for the interviews, make calls, send e-mails, all this stuff… But I got it done; it came together. It was a lot of work but it was really rewarding for me. I think that NYLON definitely needed a push like that and to be shown that something like this could work. The first one was really successful and since I knew that it worked, I had a lot more time to figure out how I wanted to do the second one which became UNAPOLOGETIC. I definitely had more ideas for it than I was able to execute but, you know, everything is all trial and error. We wanted to do a lot of different types of formats so in addition to just doing the spotlights that would go up, we wanted to have reviews and maybe incorporate a panel and do all this video stuff… But February is kind of hard in media because it’s also Fashion Week (really fashion month in NYC, London, Milan, and Paris back to back) and everything happens at once so I couldn’t only focus on just that one series. It ended up being good though; we were able to make merchandise which I never thought would happen. We made t-shirts with the UNAPOLOGETIC logo and pins that are on sale at the NYLON shop and then all of the proceeds go towards Black Lives Matter. Just the ability to do that was really awesome.”

Sydney explained how being a black woman in the media has its challenges, especially when it comes to issues involving cultural appropriation and attempting to bring it to the attention of close-minded people. It’s important that publications focus more on being inclusive than simply trying to appear to be diverse. Rather than hiring a token black person to cover a story or issue a response to a popular topic in the black community, they should actually hire black writers to work with them on a consistent basis. Media outlets should push to be a platform where people know they can come to speak up and share their point of views voices to the masses.

As a writer, Sydney’s personal life influences everything. That same storytelling spirit she had as a child is still present in her writing now and the emotions she translates into her work is what gives her the ability to connect to those who read her articles. “I’ve always been very in touch with my feelings and that comes through my work, especially with music. I find that the things I emotionally connect to are gonna have the best result in terms of my writing because I get to like bring something personal to the table and present it in a different way. For what I hope to achieve, if one person can connect to something I’ve written, I’ve done my job. I love being able to provide a platform for people who I think deserve to be seen and heard. Whether that’s a singer, a songwriter, a painter, or some girl from Brooklyn starting her own fashion or jewelry line. At the end of the day, I’ve always been a storyteller and I just want to keep telling stories.”

With being so passionate about creating meaningful content and making an impact towards equality in the media, it’s only natural to wonder how she manages creating on-brand content for a pop culture publication like NYLON. There is a need for trendy, viral content that will drive in traffic as well as deeper thought pieces for a forward-thinking audience. “It can be a challenging balance. For me, creating viral content has become a little easier because it’s just like, you know if you cover a certain meme, people are gonna freak out… So you can easily get away with stuff like that. For daily news, sometimes you just have to write about things like the Kardashians, but we’ve been good about being selective with what we cover. It’s weird because even though people complain about those type of articles all the time, the numbers speak for themselves and those things always do well. Not everyone is in a position where they do get to have that balance of covering a few viral, fluff stories and also cover personal things that really matter to them. A lot of the news stories, I get to pick myself and sometimes it’ll be things that I don’t think will draw a lot of traffic but is still worth covering. It’s always a balance. Hopefully you find yourself somewhere that you can write about what’s important with you and don’t always have to compete with what’s trending.”

Sydney Gore 3Sydney Gore is a well-rounded journalist who has soaked up and developed a lot of wisdom very early in her career. In a world like the one we live in today, it’s been empowering to learn about a young black woman excelling in fashion and music media with hustle and grace. She has tons of insight to share and genuinely wants to see more people of all races, genders, and cultures thrive within her industry.

On her creative career aspirations for the future…

At some point I want to get into editorial and creative strategy. It’s become my dream to work somewhere like Spotify or Red Bull. I really like their approach to the music industry and the way they’re engaging with their audience; not just on these platforms but in real life. Red Bull for instance — the Red Bull Music Academy was one of the most incredible experiences I ever had. It was all focused on music and innovation and it was really inspiring. I’d love to work for a brand that’s really on-brand for myself as well. Maybe someday I’ll work for myself or like with a group of my creative friends. I have so many friends that are creatively talented and gifted. When the time is right, maybe we can all come together and combine all of our greatest assets into one great thing.

On what advice she’d give to a younger Sydney from the past…

I’d tell my younger self to slow down. I’ve always been in a rush with every aspect of my life, whether it’s feeling the pressure to find a job or figuring out what I want to do; just always feeling like I need to get to the next step and not taking the time to enjoy the ride. I especially feel like when I was in high school, I wanted so badly to get out of Cherry Hill and get away. In college, AU was great for setting me up for the real world and my career and success but I feel like I didn’t truly get a traditional, authentic college experience because I was so focused on getting all these internships and writing done. I didn’t really enjoy being young and crazy. I’ve always said I’m like a grandma at heart, I’m so washed… And there are so many places I didn’t get to go to in D.C. that my friends did. I didn’t take enough time to explore and take advantage of my surroundings there. I’m trying to do that more now that I live in here New York. It’s so huge and you’ll never get to see all of New York, but I’m really making an effort to be more social when the weather’s appropriate and go out and do things on a whim. I want to be more spontaneous because I’m like really rigid and tend to stick to a schedule. I’m learning to be more flexible. I’d also tell my younger self to really take care of myself by all means necessary. Self-care is super important, I’m a big believer in it and there’s more to it than just buying things for retail therapy. I’d also tell myself to keep hustling. It’s a scam or be scammed world. People aren’t going to hand stuff to you, you need to work hard for it.

On the challenges of a full-time work schedule and a healthy lifestyle…

Within the first 3 weeks of starting my job [at NYLON] I was more stressed than I’d ever been in my entire life. Adjusting to a full-time work schedule was really hard. Our office hours at that time were 10am to 6pm, but depending on what’s happening you could end up staying really late or you might have to come in early for things. Sometimes I would forget to eat lunch and I wouldn’t be making breakfast for myself… I’d be so busy that I’d forget to eat! By the time I got home I’d be starving and just make some really disgusting pasta. That was not healthy; I was having all these migraines. One day I started exercising, which has always been really hard for me. In college, I never went to the gym. I used to be a varsity athlete in high school so I never had to work out because I was always doing physical activities. Prior to that I was a dancer so I had class twice a week and that was my form of exercise. I found that now, a gym is the only space I can go and not think about work and completely focus on myself or nothing at all. Sometimes I’ll listen to an album all the way through instead of being on my phone and checking emails. I’ve also started reading books at the gym so that’s a way for me to get reading in; when I was in college I stopped reading for fun because I didn’t have time. I try to go to yoga classes or sometimes do yoga routines in my apartment with an app I have on my computer. Exercise has been really therapeutic and has helped with improving my health. I take baths all the time, I think that baths really are the answer. I’ll take a bath, put a mask on, pour a glass of wine and just chill out. That’s complete me-time and I do that at least once a week. I stopped taking baths in middle school, but now I think that baths are the best thing ever and whoever said they aren’t cool deserves to be taken down! Something as simple as that really mellows me out. It can be really demanding and heavy on the mind when you’re doing digital work. Listen to your body 100% all the time. Shit happens, stress happens and you don’t want to deal with stress your entire life. Also, getting toxic energy out of my life has definitely been important to me… Whether it’s people, things, whatever. I drink tea, I don’t drink coffee. Every day I drink hot water with lemon. Those things are the keys for me. Also, being cozy and comfortable. I feel relieved that I work in a place where if I wanted to I could come to work in sweatpants or overalls or my Fenty X Puma slides and work comfortably. I find that I work better when I feel better, so that’s been really nice.

On the perfect Sunday…

Sunday for me is usually the day I run errands. I try to start off in the morning by going to the gym for an hour, then go to Whole Foods and pick up some salads, kelp noodles, and lemons for the week. Come back, have some tea and watch Netflix. If it was nice out, I’d go into coffee or matcha shops with my friends and just hang out there for a couple hours. Then I’d treat myself to a nice meal, probably ramen which is my ultimate comfort food. I’d come home and chill (I’m very much a homebody and it’s hard for me to push myself out). I live near Central Park so I might go for a stroll in the park at some point. My ideal Sunday would be a balance of quality me time and I’d trickle in people whose company I enjoy while listening to music all day as well. I’ve always been a playlist person so I have tons of playlists that I plug into at different times.

Follow Sydney on Twitter @sydegee and check out her work every day on the NYLON Magazine website!

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