The Knight News kicked off it’s highly anticipated virtual speaker series with esteemed guest Celia Ellenberg, beauty director of Vogue. On Wednesday, October 21st, Ellenberg appeared on zoom with a warm smile and was more than willing to share her vast knowledge and experience of being in the beauty industry for 15+ years.
Ellenberg grew up in Philadelphia and went to Washington University in Saint Louis for her Bachelor’s degree and later went to Oxford University to study literature. As a 22-year-old straight out of college, Ellenberg recalls being the oldest intern when she started work in NYC. Although being an intern wasn’t financially fruitful, she did three part-time jobs in order to appease her addiction to journalism, which she considers being completely worth it. “It is a balancing act to be an entry-level intern and being in New York,” she says.
One of her first jobs consisted of managing Style.com, the first-ever fashion website people could visit to see runaway shows.
In 2008, without any budget, she helped design and build its online home that displayed its beauty vertical at style.com, although it is important to note that she collaborated on the site with a lot of senior officials in the industry. She also worked as a freelancer for some time as she navigated working in different spaces of the beauty world to find where she could best lend her skills. In order to not feel burned out, she highly advises writers to step out of projects in order to offer the best work possible. Everything she learned from those early experiences prepared her for what would be an opportunity of a lifetime: working for Vogue.
In 2015, Ellenberg was officially hired as Vogue’s new beauty director. As a director, Ellenberg’s authenticity is what sets her apart. “It’s [working for Vogue] a part of my life but not my entire life” she explains. In fact, most of her friend circle is not part of the beauty industry, which she finds refreshing. She recognizes the importance of having diverse people with unique outlooks around her because it forces her to be more aware of issues outside of her own realm of knowledge. “I get the ability to be inside and outside the beauty world,” she says. Ellenberg believes that this allows her to think outside the box and introduce exciting socio-cultural topics to Vogue.
When asked about brainstorming ideas for Vogue, she states that it is a delicate balance of spotlighting artists from social media that can connect to new readers, yet also writing stories that engage with the older audience. “I get the ability to be inside and outside the beauty world.” She desires to bring more perspectives and offer a cultural aspect. Her main goal as a writer has been to focus on exploring socio-cultural output which she states have paved her success. She hopes to shine a light on the beauty world and offer credit for the perspectives she uses to show the view of the world, inside and outside of beauty.
Ellenberg’s success is a testament to what dedication and drive can accomplish. She’s an inspiration to all young female writers that no matter how strong a glass ceiling may be, it can in fact be shattered.