Under the Radar with Polly Vernon
As someone with "Bad Influencer" as her Twitter bio, this Columnist is not afraid to cause a stir. Whether it's weighing in on the Westminster sex scandal or gun control, or penning "controversial" book Hot Feminist, Polly has "always been pretty sure of [her] own mind"...
Ellie Austin scored a job at Immediate Media as a Features Writer for Radio Times after graduating from the Magazine Journalism MA course at City University. Here she talks about working in the fast-paced world of a major weekly magazine and the power of a good coffee.
What made you want to work in the magazine industry?
I work for mainly one mag (Grazia) and one paper (The Times – though sometimes The Telegraph). I didn’t set out to do this. I have written for as long as I could hold a pen, but it never occurred to me when I was younger that I was a) any good, or b) could make a living out of it.
I came to London originally because I got a job in a cocktail bar, somehow parlayed that into a very low level job in fashion PR, where I started meeting journalists and writing press releases, and wondered if I might be able to do this for a living, too. It turned out that I could. My main aims then (and now) were (are): make a living from writing and do something glamorous.
Can you chart your journey from when you started out to your current position?
Fashion PR Assistant, Junior Writer job on a magazine called Minx (which I got after two solid years of applying for anything and everything and writing freelance pieces on spec in my lunch hour and at weekends – it wasn’t a breeze at all), got a comments and analysis column in The Guardian circa 1999/ 2000, was appointed Features Editor on ES Magazine, then Commissioning Editor on The Observer Magazine, then Deputy Editor on Observer Woman, went freelance in 2010, wrote a controversial book in 2015 [Hot Feminist]. Knackered just thinking about it.
Do you have a go-to work outfit?
I have so many. I love clothes, love getting dressed, mess about with it all the time. I am winning this ridiculous summer from a style perspective, no question.
What do you turn to when you’re on deadline – tea/coffee/snacks?
I’m actually fine with a deadline. It’s all I’ve ever known and I’ve been doing this for 20 bloody years. My trickiest time is starting a piece. If I haven’t got an intro already in mind (which I do about half the time) and I’m at home, I do often hit the fridge out of sheer performance anxiety, but once I get going, I’m always fine.
What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?
In a bikini on the beach of Le Club 55 in St Tropez, lying down with a lobster on my stomach, posing for a magazine cover shot. I’d gone to the market to buy the lobster earlier in the day and they’d given it to me still alive. I’d had to take it back to my hotel kitchen to get it killed and cooked. Actually, that isn’t even the most bizarre situation…
What would people be surprised to know about your job?
It doesn’t make you rich, it doesn’t make you famous, the celebrities you meet don’t end up being your friends (and most of the time, that’s a relief) – yet it is, without question, the best job in the world.
Walk me through your typical day.
No such thing!
If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day?
I’d definitely find a way to sleep. I love sleep.
What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)? Why?
Selfie of me in a sunhat and new shades for Instagram. I was chasing exterior validation – and freebies. It’s not doing that well, actually.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I don’t believe in the notion. If you enjoy something, just enjoy it – the idea you have to preface that with some sort of “I’M MUCH TOO CLEVER FOR XXXXXXX REALLY…” qualifier is just daft. I love Love Island. I love the Real Housewives of both Cheshire and Auckland. I love Taylor Swift and Game of Thrones, karaoke and Diet Coke. I have absolutely no guilt about any of it.
Whose phone number do you wish you had?
I have all the phone numbers I need – boyfriend’s, best friends’, Uber. Uber’s not really a phone number, is it?
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
God, so much. I’ve always been pretty sure of my own mind, but it’s incredible how many people think they know how to be you, better than you do. They don’t.
What/where is your happy place?
A Pilates mat. Regent’s Park on a sunny day. My flat.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I think I have quite a haughty looking face. I actually don’t take myself as seriously as I seem to – though I do take myself a bit seriously.
What would be in your Room 101?
Introvert or extrovert?
Optimist or pessimist?
Realistic optimist with significant blue moments.
Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment?
TV. I don’t binge-watch. I savour.
Sweet or savoury?
Morning person or night owl?
Tea or coffee?
Coffee. Don’t understand the point of tea.
Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most?
Good in very specific circumstances. I use the boxing glove one a lot. I do a boxing training class once a week, so when I use it, I mean it in the most literal way.