Beauty Editor Kayla Greaves Talks Inbox Zero and Hair
Updated: June 29, 2020
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On this episode, beauty editor Kayla Greaves talks about her work which focuses on the intersection of women's issues, culture, beauty and fashion. Kayla has interviewed Academy award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, Naomi Campbell, TIME 100’s Most Influential People and women’s rights activist Jaha Dukureh, Kelly Rowland, and Chaka Khan, to name a few.
For this episode of the Fashion League podcast, Kayla Greaves discusses mentorship, working in media, and advancing the natural hair conversation to include all hair textures. This episode is also transcribed below. Enjoy!
Kayla Greaves Daily Reads:
Women's Wear Daily WWD.com
New York Magazine's TheCut.com
Mikahila Bloomfield [00:02:44] We have Kayla Greaves on the Fashion League podcast today. She's an award winning journalist who's currently at Bustle. She's the fashion and beauty features editor there and she's worked at so many great places. Her work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Elle, Blavity. And today we're just going to talk about career and have a fun little chat at the end. So what are you up to these days.
Kayla Greaves [00:03:12] I am up to working writing strategizing thinking of what I can do next. And sleeping when I can see you catching up on my reality TV when I can.
MB [00:03:22] First, Oprah recently posted this Instagram where she was holding a cocktail tray and a lot of people been reposting this thing where they featured inbox zero as one of their goals. I find that a little troubling. I don't hope to reach the inbox zero; is inbox zero one of your goals in life?
KG [00:03:41] I actually love a clean inbox. I do I try to make my inbox go down to zero by the end of each day each day. That's one of my goals that I try to do; I don't always get it done, but I try. .
MB [00:03:53] Are you actually reading and responding or are you categorizing? What is your process?
KG [00:03:59] I will probably honestly take about 10 seconds to skim through each email if there's a lot going on. A lot of times if the subject line is interesting and it makes for me, then I'm going to take the time to read. There's so many e-mails that we get sometimes that have nothing to do with our beat and what we cover. Sometimes we'll get pitches for cars.
MB [00:04:22] Has this always been your personality like growing up?
KG [00:04:27] Definitely I've always been somebody who has to finish what they start.
MB [00:04:32] So what is something like that? For instance, did you always know that you wanted to work in journalism? Did you always know that you wanted to work in media?
KG [00:04:39] I always knew I want to work in media. I remember watching Entertainment Tonight with my mom and I was like I'm going to work in media one day. I didn't specifically know where I wanted to go. At first, I thought for a long time I wanted to do music, that I wanted to be in entertainment more broadly, and then beauty just made more sense for me.
MB [00:05:02] Where did you grow up?
KG [00:05:03] I grew up in Toronto as you can tell my Raptors jersey.
MB [00:05:06] I know! I don't watch basketball. I'm 6 foot almost and people just automatically assume, that I know, I'm sorry. I knew it [NBA Finals] was happening.
KG [00:05:18] You get credit for knowing that it was happening.
MB [00:05:19] Thank you.
MB [00:05:21] So do you draw from your experiences growing up in Toronto for some of your ideas of what to work on next?
KG [00:05:27] Absolutely absolutely! I grew up in a predominantly white town. I was one of one most of the times. And back in the 90s and early 2000s we didn't see diversity and beauty the way that we see it now. So for me, I grew up thinking I'm hideous, I'm ugly. There's something wrong with my hair. I didn't see anyone who looked like me and everybody around me was telling me that everything was wrong with me.
[00:05:56] So now with a lot of the work that I do it's really focused on black women. Also women of color, and anybody who's been marginalized or made to feel like they've been othered or that they're not pretty. I think my experiences growing up as a child, it sucked in the moment, of course, to feel like that but now being an adult and looking back at it it really propelled me to do what I'm doing now and my career.
MB [00:06:18] What was your first job in media.
KG [00:06:20] So my first job in media I worked at a magazine in Toronto called Urbanology magazine. It was there an entertainment magazine. They still exist.
MB [00:06:30] In print?
KG [00:06:33] I'm not sure if they still do print, but they're definitely online. A woman named Priya [at Urbanology] took me on and took me under her wing and I still talk to her to this day. And that was really my first intro into [media] and I just loved it.
MB [00:06:48] You said Priya took you on. Was she like a mentor? Because that's one of the things I wanted to talk to you about [mentorship]. A lot of people focus on getting a mentor and follow people on Instagram and they immediately try to DM you and see how they can I pick your brain. Did you have a mentor besides Priya?
KG [00:07:05] I think it's hard to say because a lot of the people who are my mentors were really my friends. I met Priya and I she was the EIC of the that magazine. She may have changed roles now. But at the time she was the EIC of the magazine. I respected her as a boss and an authority figure, but at the same time she was so personable I could talk to her all the time and I just learned from her by watching her and then talking to her and listening to all the things that she said and taking all her advice.
[00:07:34] Other mentors of mine are people I met along the way and we just got along and they gave me advice I gave them advice, like a give and take thing and I look to them for career advice.
MB [00:07:46] So there wasn't anyone that you reached out to? It was just something that happened naturally?
KG [00:07:49] Not particularly. I think that's the biggest thing with mentorship. It needs to be like any relationship, it should always be organic. I think the phrase picking your brain can be really triggering for a lot of people. They just automatically shut down. It's a lot. And on top of it, people don't necessarily have time to do those things. And it's not that they don't want to, but you're very busy when you work in media.
KG [00:08:13] So, if I could give advice to people who are just trying to break into the industry, I wouldn't necessarily try to pick someone's brain. I would try to just have a conversation with them, but also when you're trying to approach someone with a conversation, if you decide to DM them, you need to be very specific of what you're looking for. Sometimes I'll get a DM where people just say, "Oh, I want to work in fashion. Or I want to work in beauty." And I don't really know how to help you when you are so general with what you're saying.
KG [00:08:42] So at the end of the day, if you're saying I want to work in beauty. OK, lots of people want to work in beauty, but what specifically do you want to talk about? What specifically do you want help with or do you want advice with?
MB [00:08:53] I think sometimes the person reaching out, they don't know. All they see is the Instagram, the glossy images on whatever magazine they like to read. Do more research I guess is the takeaway. Research before you reach out.
KG [00:09:18] You need to know what it is that you want, before you reach out to other people for help. You need to figure that out completely on your own first. And in order to do that, you have to intern, you have to volunteer places, you have to freelance. And in those settings you will meet people who will naturally become your mentors.
MB [00:09:32] How many internships did you do?
KG [00:09:34] I didn't do that many internships per se. I kind of freelance my way into it. I worked with Upscale magazine, I worked with another magazine in Florida. And with Upscale magazine, there was a woman who saw me, I think on Twitter, that I wanted to get into writing. She's like "Let me give this girl a chance." And to this day, her and I are best of friends.
MB [00:10:00] How did you get to Florida? Don't try to glaze over that.
KG [00:10:04] I wasn't in Florida. She was actually from Toronto originally. She moved to Atlanta. She was living in Florida at the time so she was working at a magazine in Florida, a regional in Florida. And then when she got back to Atlanta she was at the other Atlanta Magazine. So again, she just took me under her wing and she became a mentor. But she's also a very good friend to me and that just happened totally organically.
MB [00:10:25] So I read somewhere on the Internet that you like reading memoirs. What do you reading now?
KG [00:10:30] I love a juicy memoir.
KG [00:10:32] I just actually finished this book called 'After the Dance - My Life with Marvin Gaye'. It was written by his ex-wife, Jan Gaye. They were exes but they were still very much intertwined by the end of his life. It was such an interesting book to read about her life with him completely from her perspective, because all you really hear about is his life. If you were to hear about anything all these years later. But it was such a juicy book and there's so many other people in that book that you would not expect to be in it and there.
KG [00:11:05] She talks about the Jacksons. She talks about Michael and then a few of the other brothers. She talks about Rick James. She talks about Frankie Beverly. She talks about Teddy. It's just so interesting to see the messiness that people got in to back then when there were no cell phones or screenshots it was just so good.
MB [00:11:26] After the Dance. What else should we read?
MB [00:11:30] I'm asking because I'm making more time for reading. I realized that I've spent too much time on the Internet. I complain about people spending time on Instagram. That's all I do. I have a time tracker. Do you know I spent five hours last week on Instagram, per day. That's an insane amount of time. And then I try to feel superior, I'm like I don't use Facebook. Whenever someone says "I posted something on [Facebook]", I don't use it.
KG [00:12:06] I actually permanently deleted my Facebook page like two years ago. It was the best thing I've ever done. And in 2017 I deactivated my Instagram and I didn't have it for like a whole year. It was great.
MB [00:12:18] What did you do with all that extra time.
KG [00:12:21] I enjoyed my life. I went out. I didn't feel the need to post it for everyone else to see. I just like had a good time.
MB [00:12:29] You go out in the city? And enjoy going out. Here's what I talk to my friends about. I like going to the movies, but I don't need someone to go with me. I enjoy going by myself at a 10 a.m. matinee on a Saturday and that's what I enjoy doing.
KG [00:12:52] I also just like to sometimes sit at home and turn off my phone. It's really nice to just disconnect and because we're so connected these days, it's like you're stripping yourself of something.
MB [00:13:06] Working in this industry and being in New York does that to you. You're always having to go to an event or have you to meet with people and it's just so good to just be at home. You don't always get that luxury.
KG [00:13:20] I mean you're paying rent so you better enjoy your house, you pay for it. I just really love alone time when I can get it.
MB [00:13:28] But you gave me one book recommendation. I just told you I'm trying to read more.
KG [00:13:33] After I read her book, I'm reading about his [Marvin Gaye's] entire life and it's super interesting and I really want to read Rick James memoir because I feel like there's a lot of mess in that one. I feel that's super juicy so I would definitely get into that one.
MB [00:13:55] Of course, this is a fashion podcast so tell me about your favorite outfit whether it was from growing up or a future outfit that you imagine wearing. It can't be your pajamas on a Saturday.
MB [00:14:07] So for me, example, my favorite outfit was from when I was four on my first day of kindergarten and I planned this outfit out. It was a green plaid skirt set. I can picture it in my head. I don't have a picture of it anywhere else. I just I remember picking it out and it made me feel so good and excited and ready to take on the first day of kindergarten. So what is your favorite outfit past or future?
KG [00:14:33] I love it. I actually have this one beige crochet dress and I love it because it just reminds you of being on vacation. And I always wear it on vacation.
MB [00:14:42] Do you wear it any other time?
KG [00:14:43] Not really because it's a little bit too risque, but it's my vacation dress and I love it and that's like my favorite outfit.
MB [00:14:52] Where have you vacationed in this beige crochet dress?
KG [00:14:56] Jamaica. Always Jamaica. .
MB [00:14:59] I've already researched, you're Jamaican. And so am I. So, are you one of the Jamaicans that only goes to Jamaica on holiday?
KG [00:15:09] I am. I've gone to other places, and to me I'm just like 'It's not as good as Jamaica". I'm such a nationalist when it comes to Jamaica. I'm so patriotic when it comes to Jamaica.
MB [00:15:19] You're like my friend who went to Carnival in April in Jamaica. She was there for like two months. She's not Jamaican, but she just loves the culture and she loves being there. What do you like doing in Jamaica? For vacation, I'm not a beach person, I'm more of a city person. I love cities.
KG [00:15:46] When I'm on vacation. I literally just want to do nothing. I want to chill. I don't know there's just something about being in Jamaica that makes me very happy and it makes me feel very vibrant and rejuvenated. Being in the water. It's like everything. Negril is my spot. It's the best beach in the country. The food. The sun. I just feel so moisturized and blessed when I'm there. That's the only phrase I can say to describe it. I just feel so good when I'm there and it's like my happy place.
MB [00:16:17] I'm gonna bring it back to fashion. What are some of your daily reads? What do you have to read as soon as you start your day?
KG [00:16:26] I'm usually reading people's things that I'm editing. But when I'm not, Outside of work, I love to read WWD, BoF, The Cut is consistently good. I also think that right now, whether it's print or digital, I think Essence for example is doing some of the most beautiful editorial spreads right now. Like their Issa Rae shoot. Alicia Keys was gorgeous. Lizzo was like out of this world. I was like wow! They are really doing the damn thing.
KG [00:16:55] Also, I think this is not just me being biased, but Bustle does really amazing shoots, too. The shoots we do are just gorgeous and we're a small but mighty team that do it. It consistently is beautiful and I'm blown away by the team there. I just think the industry is in a place where, the photos we're producing, the things that we're doing are just gorgeous. Especially with black women, too. It's just vibrant and beautiful.
MB [00:17:24] Your 'Good Hair' package that you do for Bustle. That is so gorgeous - as a woman with 4C hair, who transitioned in 2007, when it was not a popular thing to do. Reading about other women's stories, how did that come about?
KG [00:17:42] I saw that we have talked about natural hair. We've normalized it for the most part, but then there's still that little push we need to give ourselves to accept all natural hair textures. Because as much as we've gotten to a point where curly hair is beautiful and it's acceptable, there's still that one little section of natural hair that we're not accepting still and it's the super kinky curly hair. We've always used terms like 'bad hair' to talk about that and to describe it and when we use that type of terminology to describe a hair type, what are women and girls that have that hair types also think of themselves? They're going to constantly want to change the structure of their hair in order to have 'good hair' that's acceptable. So for me, I thought OK, how can we push the natural hair conversation forward and not talk about the same things we've talked about already? Let's push it forward and let's talk about this specific hair type that doesn't get the love that other hair types do and let's celebrate it let's not talk about the horrible things that people have gone through with it. But let's talk about the joyfulness of having this hair type and what people love about it.
MB [00:18:58] Did you get a lot of support from your team there? Was this easy to pitch this?
KG [00:19:04] Yeah, totally. I think my team is so open to doing anything that they haven't done before, haven't tried before. I've never had an issue with pushback at this company. It's always very encouraging.
MB [00:19:27] I think we've come to the point of my segment. It's called 'Faux or Fashion'. It's a game where I'm going to read you a couple of headlines and you're going to tell me whether it's a real headline or it's a fake headline.
MB [00:19:44] "A French fashion editor slapped a publicist at a show during New York Fashion Week" as this fall or fashion.
KG [00:19:53] Can you tell me what year that happened?
MB [00:19:54] 2012.
KG [00:19:57] I mean, I wouldn't doubt that that happened.
MB [00:19:59] You have to pick. Is it 'Faux or Fashion'?
KG [00:20:04] I'll say Fashion because I just I wouldn't doubt that happen.
MB [00:20:08] It's true. Yes. The French slapper - This is a quote from The New York Post. She said, "I didn't hurt her. I just wanted to humiliate her. She humiliated me and humiliated me in front of the entire crew. So voila.". She was removed from a front row seat, so she felt humiliated and needed to reciprocate.
MB [00:20:36] So next headline, A swimsuit that can't be used in a swimming pool is retailing for three hundred and eighty dollars.
KG [00:20:45] I believe that yes that is fashion.
MB [00:20:49] Gucci debuted a sporty one piece swimsuit that you cannot use in a swimming pool it cannot touch chlorine and it costs three hundred and eighty dollars.
KG [00:20:59] There are a lot of swimsuits that you can't really swim in. They're just there. I mean, that would definitely not be me. But for those who just want to lay around take pictures, sure.
MB [00:21:17] OK. Last headline. "British retailer set aflame 38 million dollars worth of merchandise. So that other people wouldn't be walking around in their designer goods."
KG [00:21:29] Oh, that's fashion. Yeah, I remember that specifically. I couldn't remember the number of things, like the dollar amount.
MB [00:21:37] Yes. It was Burberry. They burned their merchandise so that they could keep the exclusivity of the brand and scarcity in the market. Actually France, they put in legislation to ban that practice. So good on [Emmanuel] Macron.
MB [00:21:57] Well thank you. That's it. So tell us where we can find you on Al Gore's Internet.
KG [00:22:10] It's Beyonce's Internet.
KG [00:22:18] @KaylaAGreaves