EDITOR. SENIOR FASHION WRITER, VOGUE. NEW YORK, NY
If you've read any major online publication, there's a 99.9% chance that you've read one of Marjon Carlos' dynamic pieces. The cultural critic's distinct impression has been left everywhere from Vogue to Refinery 29 to Elle and beyond. Her words seamlessly compose mental illustrations as they set off all five senses and seize your attention. The Ivy League educated, Texas native, is a sublime mixture of cool and brilliance with an abundance of style. You might recognize her from Solange's PUMA "Girls of Blaze" campaign, as she was the founding arts and culture editor for saintheron.com. Update: Marjon currently serves as Vogue.com's Senior Fashion Writer.
If you weren't already aware, Carlos is a creative Einstein. Underneath it all though, there is a tenacious, desirous woman who, (get this) believes that she hasn't even reached her peak yet. Read on as Marjon and I talk her academic background, who's closet she'd raid (hint: rihanna), her next project that'll start necessary dialogue for women of color, plus, much more.
Krav: To begin, everyone has that moment where they realize what their passion is. When was the moment for you?
Marjon: It was actually my mentor, Dr. Manning Marable, who told me I should be a cultural critic. I didn't even know that was a such thing; imagine getting paid to comment on the behavior of culture at large?! Seemed like a dream job to me, and I respected his opinion so much that I heeded his advice. I'm really glad I did.
You studied at Brown University during your undergraduate years and at Columbia University for graduate school. How has having a strong academic background set you a part?
I definitely think my academic background allows me to see things through a certain lens. I see the subtle gender and racial implications in cultural phenomena, and I go after deconstructing them immediately. In fashion, particularly, that can be a hard road to climb: not every publication, not every person is up for those types of conversations, but I've been fortunate to work with some amazing editors lately who are really receptive to that type of content.
I also think because my perspective is painted so heavily by academia, I'm not the best at small talk, so I'm not always the best at like really formal fashion parties. My friend has been having intimate dinners with folks in the industry, which is so much more my speed: we sit around, drink wine, and really talk about the future of fashion and pop culture. Conspiracy theories abound and I love being around people who think so abstractly!
From experience, I believe that starting early is a significant part of any career path. While in college, what type of things did you do to prepare for your future as a professional?
In college I literally did the same thing I'm doing now: I wrote about pop culture for a column in the school newspaper. I remember my editor hating me because I was always bullheaded about my articles.
What unconventional things influence you creatively?
I like really tacky black celebrity gossip websites, like MediaTakeOut or Bossip! I think the content these sites generate are a fascinating look at race, gender, class, and celebrity: you're not going to get this type of stuff from Us Weekly or TMZ. They delve into a world that mainstream media ignores and they discuss gender binaries in really crude but eye-opening ways. I love that shit.
Your blog LADYPANTS was such a fresh breath of air. From the written content down to the photos, it was engaging. Why did you start blogging? why have you stopped?
My mother really inspired me to start LADYPANTS. I had just left a job at Moda Operandi and I didn't know what I wanted to do, so she suggested a blog to stay engaged and creative. A few months later, I teamed up with my then boyfriend and we just started going hard, creatively. I learned so much about photography and editing and coding (ha!), and I met some amazing people in fashion due to it.
In fact, that's really why my blogging teetered out, I was being offered amazing freelance writing opportunities and then the Saint Heron Arts & Culture editor role, which then led to more freelance writing opportunities with publications I've admired since I was a little girl. I couldn't say no, so I've been riding this wave ever since.
Your lengthy list of achievements are a writers dream. Throughout your life, what measures do you take to stay tenacious and driven to accomplish more?
Well, thank you for saying that but to be honest, I'm never satisfied with my work. I am very, very hard on myself and while that can be detrimental sometimes (I'm not always fair to myself), it keeps me going after more and working harder and improving upon my writing. I develop more goals as I accomplish them or as things tend to lag, and then go after them, full-speed. Not to be hokey, but I try to manifest as much as possible. I guess I just don't like to be comfortable.
Your style is quite sharp but still eclectic and polished as well. Is your style a direct reflection of your personality? Or do you just use clothing as another way to creatively express yourself?
Thanks for saying that! I love clothes—always have—and I definitely use them as a way to translate my personality or mood. I really believe in this quote by Edith Head, "You can get anything in life, as long as you dress for it." The way we dress can alter our minds, can exert a certain confidence we can't always exude. I think also your style is a direct off-shoot of your taste: how you live, how you design your home, how you approach art or music. It's all tied up together, so it should be considered.
Whose closet (it could be anyone) would you raid for a day? What would you take?
That's hard so I'll narrow it down to Rihanna, Tamu Macpherson, and Diane Kruger. All of Rihanna's Stella McCartney would be gone, along with her Timbs. Tamu and I are good friends, so I would just slyly take this bomb leather jacket she wore once, along with all her shoes! Diane Kruger's evening wear would be all mine: I feel like she's such an unsung style star and probably has an amazing collection.
One of favorite questions to ask people is how they deal with rough times. The answers are always unexpected. So, when you come to a tough moment, how do you cope?
It comes in waves. I've been reading the memoirs of Anjelica Huston (which I suggest you all read!), and she wrote that when it gets rough, she retreats to bed. That's me all day. I get to feel sorry for myself for a little while and I distance myself from the world. And after the boredom of complacency sets in, I go see my family or go out with my friends. I play with my niece, laugh with my brother and sister-in-law, drink some red wine with my girlfriends, or go to an exhibit. I hit a wall and just stop pitying myself. Then, I get back to work.
As a freelance writer, you've written for publications ranging from Refinery 29 to Vogue to Elle and a variety of others. Does the freelance route provide more excitement as you work being that each media outlet has a different focus?
Freelance is hustling. It is a 24-hour promotional tour. You have to be networking, producing, and attracting a readership pretty much all the time, which is a challenge I needed after my last job. I like working with new editors, figuring out a publication's voice, and pitching accordingly. I would like to find an editorial "home," though. I'm on the hunt for the best match.
When it comes to the subjects of fashion and culture, what do you think is missing? How do you fill the void with your pieces?
I'll be honest with you: style and culture content could be streamlined. There is so much that saturates the stratosphere due to a 24-hour news cycle, that we don't need it all. I tend to shy away from market round-ups, things of that nature, in personal work because I don't want to push product onto people they don't necessarily need. My work is just about looking at the granular details of fashion and culture: like my last piece for Vogue was about Halle Berry's lawsuit against her ex for straightening their daughter's hair. I saw that as a bigger conversation on beauty ethics rather than, say, a story on a new face cream—which are great too (laughs)! But there needs to be a balance—I hope my work creates that.
I read that that you feel as if you haven't reached your biggest achievement as yet. Which is surprising but also incredible. So, what can we expect next?
Well, I am working on a very big project with a former co-worker of mine that I think is going to really take off and start some necessary dialogues for WOC (women of color). I'm excited about it, but it's still in developmental stages, so I can't reveal too much, but I'll definitely let you in at the right time. Let's just say, I'm creating a new space.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Shanita Sims of Curb Appeal