Cosmopolitan Editor Amy Odell Still Feels like an Outsider — And That’s Empowering

As New York Fashion Week revs up, we usually look to the front row for the latest gossip — but in fashion writer Amy Odell’s debut book, Tales From the Back Row, we look to the back row — or “Canada,” as Odell puts it. Odell started her fashion journalism career as The Cut’s first fashion blogger, but before that, she was party reporting for New York and working as an editorial assistant for After four years at The Cut, where she was known for her no-BS voice, she founded the women’s interest section at BuzzFeed, which was a startup at the time. Now she runs — but before you assume that hers is a tale of rising the ranks to the coveted front row, read on for some of the lessons she’s learned about building confidence despite being naturally shy.

Amy Odell’s new book, Tales from the Back Row. (Photo: Simon & Schuster)

Amy Odell’s new book, Tales from the Back Row. (Photo: Simon & Schuster)

Introverts can put themselves out there.

“I wanted to succeed. I really wanted to get clips. I do think that shyness is a complicated thing, especially when you want to excel in your career and you’re climbing the ladder,” Odell tells Yahoo Beauty. She considers herself an introvert, citing Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking for helping her reconcile with living in a society where extroversion is celebrated. “You have a lot of strength when you are an introvert,” Odell says. “And you need to find a balance of being shy and self-promoting.”

Self-promotion isn’t just about pretty Instagram shots.

Odell explains that “self promotion” comes in two facets: “One is Tweeting and putting your face out there in public,” she says. “Another is going to your boss and explaining what you’ve done at your job that’s been successful.” In industries like media and fashion the latter is oftentimes obscured by the pressure to present an aspirational social media profile. Odell points out that doing the actual work is just as important. “If you look at anyone who is successful, the one thing they have in common is their work ethic,” Odell says. “If you’re not a Kardashian, you don’t have to act like one,” she writes.

You don’t have to be in the “in” crowd to have a huge impact.

Odell’s entire book is premised on the fact that she was an outsider to the fashion industry. “I wanted to be on a feminist beat. Something like Gail Collins or Maureen Dowd. I ended up doing fashion by accident,” she wrote in an essay on Even now, after becoming the editor of a major women’s website and amassing over 50,000 Twitter followers, she still considers herself an outsider to the fashion world. “I think I’m an outsider in a lot of ways, even though I’ve been working in media for a long time,” she says. “I just don’t have that gene that makes me inherently stylish.” She decided to use her lack of style to her advantage. One of Odell’s biggest legacies to the fashion media world has been tearing down the fourth wall and covering the fashion industry like a “political convention” instead of purely from aesthetics, a tone of voice that is copied on many women’s blogs nowadays, from Racked toJezebel. “You have to look at content through the lens of empowerment for women,” she says. “It’s important to not marginalize women’s media and the topics and content that it covers.”


You can get used to everything — even shoving tape recorders in front of drunk celebrities.

“When you’re interviewing celebrities, you don’t want to look like a dumpster who didn’t care about the interview or event, so I thought doing my hair and makeup was the first step in showing up,” Odell explains. In the book, she describes the time when she attended P.Diddy’s Unforgiveable Woman fragrance launch party held in a townhouse on the Upper East Side. “This was during pre-recession New York,” Odell explains. “These really elaborate, over-the-top parties were so common back then.” At the party, Odell spoke with Jay-Z and Beyoncé very briefly — by shoving her tape recorder in front of Jay-Z’s face and shouting her one question. It was a bold move for a shy young person who didn’t even have anything to drink. “The absurdity of the question and, surely, the aggression and desperation with which I asked it, prompted him to pause before me and deliver a truly spectacular answer,” she wrote. After several months of party reporting, she began drinking at these events and growing a sense of humor about the job, even beginning “to treat celebrities like extremely cute pets out for a walk,” she wrote.

[By Noël Duan] [Read More]