Stylista Winner Quits Elle, Burns Bridges

Illustration for article titled Stylista Winner Quits Elle, Burns Bridges

Johanna Cox, who won a job at Elle on Stylista, has left the magazine. In a bridge-burning blog post, Cox describes "working on the real-life set of that Meryl Streep movie" under a "very senior person" who was...less than collegial.


What follows may shock you. But it seems Cox was put through the wringer by a senior editor at the magazine. Cox started at the ladymag in 2008, and during her first year, she rotated through the magazine's various departments, learning the ropes. In a post announcing her job change on her personal blog, she says things at Elle were generally "nothing like the stereotype," and describes an encouraging welcome from Elle editor-in-chief, Roberta Myers. "On my first day," she writes, "I was brought into the big corner office, asked what I enjoyed, what I thought I was good at, and where I saw myself 'fitting in' at the magazine. Instead of being pooled with the interns, I was given every editorial first chance I wanted. And in that first year, I wanted."

And after one year at Elle, during which time her salary was paid by the reality show, and in the middle of a recession that saw magazines and newspapers laying off employees left and right, Cox was hired.

As one editor said to me in the elevator a couple of days after I'd gotten the offer: "Heard you got hired hired. Right now, that's like getting into Yale — except harder."

This not-quite congratulations was followed by an eyebrow raise that communicated the one line from that one movie that by the end of my time at Elle had replaced "This is all I'm capable of right now" as my least favorite eight-word movie line of all-time.

You know the one: "A million girls would kill for this job."

But Cox, who admits she "didn't know the protocol" around the office and may have stepped on toes when pitching her ideas directly to very senior editors, encountered some problems in her new journalistic career. The pay was low (imagine!), the hours were long (um...), and over 21 months in the job, her "overall quality of life had deteriorated." And there was this:

When you're new and unformed, there's a good chance you deserve to be spoken to in that tone about that mistake by that very senior person. That's how you learn and earn your thicker skin. Once you've been at the game for a while and you begin to recognize that the tone is never pleasant, the mistake wasn't yours, and that that senior person seems to spend most of their time undermining others, screaming at other people's children, and reminding the junior staff they're not allowed to sit in meetings when there are more than enough empty chairs, well, at that point, you have to make a decision.

Who could this Nameless Editor be? This professional underminer, this screamer-at-children, this rank-puller ensconced somewhere in near the top of the Elle magazine hierarchy? A source says it's probably not editor-in-chief Robbie Myers, creative director Joe Zee, or beauty director Emily Dougherty. (Guess that means fashion news director and onetime Stylista host Anne Slowey can't be ruled out, though we never envisioned her as a screamer.) Do you know whom Cox is talking about? Or do you want to shed a little light on Cox's time at the magazine? You know what to do.

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As someone who has now stayed over two years in a job in a very low-paying yet competitive field (at least at this time during the international financial environment), I feel for her, and think she has every right to speak out. My manager has bullied the life out of me, and it is only within the last six months that I have begun to find myself again, and to believe that I was worth anything at all. I have gone weeks at a time with no sleep due to stress, been berated (by my manager) for my managers mistakes, cried regularly, pulled numerous 16+ hour days, and have been denied career development opportunity after career development opportunity (I mean the money doesn't even cover living expenses some months, the least they could do is allow me to sit in on meetings that would provide me with career development and further insight into my field!). Eventually enough is enough, I have given my notice that I will not extend my contract, and I commend her decision to do the same. My mistake was spending over two years of my life believing that selling my self-worth and dignity was worth the "opportunity of a lifetime." I will never let someone treat me this way again.