JOURNALIST. FASHION AND BEAUTY ASSISTANT, COSMOPOLITAN MAGAZINE. NEW YORK, NY
There is an air of sweetness that floats around Maya Allen. That sweetness, seeps out from the inside. Allen is, at her core, one of the rare people you come across that doesn’t leave you the same way she met you. This effortlessly translates from her interactions with people to her professional life. The Fashion and Beauty Assistant at Cosmopolitan Magazine has a resume that reads like a magazine enthusiasts' vision board. Her bullet points include: InStyle, ESSENCE and O Magazine, if you were inquiring what that encompassed. And for those who keep up with Allen, her day-to-day inspires you to work harder so you too can actualize everything you wish, dream and hope for.
In a transparent interview, the 24-year-old, Howard University Alumna chronicles her still-fresh but accomplished professional journey, the importance of mentorship and why you should never underestimate the power of believing in yourself and working hard.
Krav: You have a long record of experience with many magazines dating back to 2012, O magazine, ESSENCE, InStyle and now Cosmopolitan. Media has changed so much within the last few years, so what are some changes you've had to adapt to in the industry?
Maya: Digital is becoming everything now. I've always been in love with print magazines ever since I was a little girl. Of course, I read the typical books, but magazines were what I delved into on a daily basis. I loved holding the written word in my hands and being inspired by the covers and images of all these amazing women. However, things transferred to becoming extremely social and digital. Millennials are looking at things on their phones and iPads. This is my first digital job, so I've been able to have my hands in every pot. I have to be super-fast because there's not a lot of time that goes into many of these really long, cool articles that we do. Of course, there's thought and creativity, but you have to be on your toes at all times. Once news is announced, you need to be the first and at Cosmo, we love to be the first. With that, I really had to adapt to a fast-paced environment and I've gotten a chance to work with our Snapchat team in terms or recreating content that will work on that platform for us. Our Snapchat audience is huge; millions of women look at it. I also work with YouTube and the video team to create stories. I've been able to write, but I get a lot of cool experiences learning from other parts of our team.
And then there are those who love a certain media form and they wonder why and kind of hate that it has to change. So why is learning to adapt so important?
In order for people to be inspired by your ideas and your work on a media platform, you have to give the people what they want. If you know that everyone gets a lot of their news on Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat, it's important for you to be up on that, so you're making the changes that you want. I aim to inspire women to feel beautiful and empowered. A lot of my friends seek that information on digital platforms, so of course I want to be there. You have to adapt to the society that we live in today. It's staying informed and finding a way to align your purpose and personal mission with that.
You interned while you were in high school, right?
Yeah I did, I interned at the Oregonian Newspaper and that was my first ever hard news experience. I was a junior in high school and I was in a creative writing class. My teacher really thought that I'd be able to refine my skills in this super intensive internship. It was for a short period of time but that's actually when I met one of my greatest mentors ever, that I still keep in touch with. I've always been very eager to learn and jump into the industry as quickly as possible. I've known that I wanted to be a journalist ever since I can remember.
How did that positively affect your work ethic, transitioning from high school to college?
It honestly taught me how to meet deadlines. How important it was as a journalist, to be on time with your news and never late to the game. If you're late, that's less readers, that's less clicks, that's less shares. I really the learned the discipline of a good reporter, which means proper research and remaining factual. But it also taught me that I want to include opinion in my articles.
Take me through a busy day as the Fashion and Beauty assistant at Cosmopolitan, what goes on?
I work with a really incredible team of the most creative people I've ever met. A few of our team members have been doing fashion and beauty for over 10 years. I'm just now starting in my career, so it's really cool to learn from these editors. For instance, like today, a busy day. I started out with a beauty event in the morning. I will cover those on behalf of Cosmo's beauty director, Carly Cardellino. I'll take desk sides and brands will come into the office and they'll show me new launches and new projects coming out. I wake up at 7am every morning and I pitch ideas. I delve into the news, on my Instagram and just all of my social. I see what has happened the night before, so I know what I want to pitch, what's trending and what's important to me. I'm very careful with what I pitch because that's my byline, that's my brand. I want it to resonate with our readers and become viral, but also be something that I'm going to enjoy covering. I send my pitches over to our editors and communicate about what'll I'll be working on for the day. So then I know what I'm working on as soon as I get to my desk. In an average day I'll write about 3-4 stories. Another huge part of my day is shoots. I prep for a lot of the big fashion shoots we have. I also get to do a lot of Facebook Live, so I'm constantly running around the office throughout my day.
What have you learned in this position that you haven't learned in any other past position?
Simply put, I would say how powerful words can truly be. I really put myself out there with a lot of–we call them passion pieces here–and experimental posts where we do something out of our comfort zone. For example, I did a natural hair experiment for a week. Embracing my natural hair has been an ongoing challenge for me, since I was little girl, and I wore my hair in different natural styles for a full week. I wrote this big passion piece about it and the response that I received was so overwhelmingly positive. It was so powerful to know how much my simple words can inspire someone else. Words can be so powerful when you're truly living out your purpose, which is why I'm passionate about writing about diversity. Just talking about #blackgirlmagic, hair texture, different skin tones and body positivity. It’s cool to be able to promote self-love in the most genuine way, on an incredible platform that reaches millions of girls. I finally feel like I'm living out my purpose, I've never felt like this before in terms of my professional life.
You've been a mentor for youth organizations, has that changed the way you function as a young professional?
Whatever anyone does, you should always be of service to someone else. That's the main inspiration behind any article I write and anything I do. I want it to be of service to someone else. I have so many amazing mentees and girls who I keep in touch with on a weekly basis, that's what fills me up. I'm a firm believer that the good love and energy you put out into the world comes back to you. One of my greatest mentors is Kahlana Barfield, she's not only my soror, but my big sister. I worked for her at InStyle and she's one of the main reasons I am who I am today. Even in terms of getting to the next step with Cosmo, she was a huge help. Having my mom, my sister and mentors give so much to me, it makes me want to pass that on to any young woman who reaches out to me. I never deny them and I always want to help them, because that's what keeps me going.
You've spoken a lot about mentorship. When you have a mentor, especially someone high up in the field that you want to work in, some people are afraid to push the relationship. You don't want to them to think that you're using them, but at the same time, we all need help. Give some advice to people who are afraid to establish that relationship with someone they admire.
You have to be genuine. I cannot stress being genuine in your approach enough. So many genuine approaches will cultivate organic relationships. When you look up to someone and they inspire you, I'm assuming that you're familiar with their work. Let them know how their career has helped you. That's step 1–acknowledging that you respect their work and you've followed their career. These women are very hard to reach, so your follow-up needs to be appropriate. Don't follow up with someone in one or two days. Give them at least two weeks. They will respond. I would also say, know exactly what you'd like help with and know what advice you think that they can give you. You have to be in a place where you know what your dreams are, no one can tell you what they are. No one can plan out your path for you. That's between you and God, or whatever higher power you believe in. So make sure you stand firm in who you are, when you're approaching someone and know exactly the type of relationship you want to create.
When applying for jobs and internships, what is the one thing that you urge young women to remember or be mindful of?
When applying for a job or an internship, really do some soul searching, pray, reaffirm your goals, rethink what you want your future to look like and then consider how that company will help you cultivate those goals. This is what you're going to be doing every day, for a certain period of time. So, you want to make sure that you will truly be happy and learn from this experience. Do all of your research on the magazine, its editors and its mission. You want to make sure that you're adding to the brand. See what they're missing. Be deeply in tune with your skills.
What's your advice for someone who wants to take on a similar career path to yours?
Put yourself up on game early. Intern as soon as possible. I'm a big advocate of interning. During my journey, I've learned that I have to work twice as hard. Being a woman of color in any industry or field that you are in, you have to work twice as hard. We've read that a million times, we've seen that quote a million times. It's a hard pill to swallow but you just have to accept it. If they're working at 100%, you have to be at 150% at all times. With that being said, preparation is key. I was a freshman in college from Portland, Oregon. Very west coast. Very naive. I went to Howard and I didn't know a soul there. My first year at Howard gave me the toughest skin, going to an HBCU and being around all of these magical black people. I was the token black girl my entire life and I had to shine. Now I was around like-minded people and I still had to shine. I decided my freshman that I was going to do a big magazine internship, in New York. All of the recruiters told me that they usually only take juniors and seniors and that I probably would need previous internship experience. I did not listen to them, I applied to over 250 internships my freshman year. I would come home from class or break and apply to every single internship that I thought would fit what I wanted to do. I didn't think any internship was too big for my dreams and goals, even though I had not done it before. So I applied to Hearst internships. O Magazine, because Oprah has always been my fairy godmother. Guess what? I got a response. I had no experience. So I say that to say, you just literally have to go for it with everything that’s inside of you and never think anything is too big for you. When you work hard at the very beginning, people are going to watch you, people will recruit you. I was reached out to for this job. Just know, especially my women of color, make sure that you're the tightest that you could be.
Are there any apps or practices that you use to stay organized?
My calendar is what I live by. I update my calendar at all times. My work calendar is synced with my phone, so it's really convenient for me to always know what I need to be doing. I'm slightly old school, so I write things down in my journal. It gives me so much joy to cross something off of my list. So I do that every day. In terms of practices, prayer is key for me. Every morning I take a few minutes and reflect. I'm really big on affirmations and I make little promises to myself for the week. Sometimes it's: "This week, I'm not going to complain about anything, no matter what it is. I'm so blessed." I honor these promises because it's personal fulfillment.
As you continue to grow professionally, how crucial has self-care become for you?
I'm a beauty girl at heart. My self-care is always indulging in my latest beauty products. It's my job to try and write about them, so I'm really lucky in that aspect. My nightly skin care routine is my time to treat my skin and act like a princess. I do a mask 3-4 times a week, and then it's my serums, face oils and creams. Those are the few moments of my day that I'm dedicating to myself. Also, so much of my self-care comes from being around my amazing friends. I'm surrounded by positive angels all of the time. Laugh, have a good time. Play hard, work harder.
Who are some of your work style muses?
My main girl, my mentor, Kahlana Barfield. She's the Fashion and Beauty Editor-at-Large at InStyle. I would say in every single way, she's my muse. She's an inspiration. And now that she's a new mom, she's so beautiful and poised. She slays at all times and that's how I want to be in my life. I just follow so many amazing girls. I don't even know them! It's cool having that constantly on your feed. I always love to recognize someone's dope-ness to see how I can collaborate with them or even encourage them. My friends are my muses too. I have amazing friends who are doing great, creative things.
The slogan for Musings of Krav is "We Dream In HD," so how do you dream in HD?
I Dream In HD by relentlessly reminding myself of my purpose. Every single “no” that I've gotten, or not right now or we'll get back to you, has been because another door is going to open for me. I've had so many no's and when people reach out to me, they think that I was just automatically successful. But absolutely not. When you remind yourself that the biggest accomplishment in your whole entire life hasn't even come yet, that's when you have the strength to truly live out your dreams every single day.