(All content is fictional, any resemblance to real life characters is purely intentional).
When I was single, working a 60-hour week, and paying my own way, nobody cared what I did for a living. “Why aren’t you married?” was more of a concern. Is there ever a reason for the fortunate/unfortunate status of singledom? I never dared to answer back with: why are you unhappily married?
The word “magazine” stirred as much interest as the word manicure. “Is it that FREE magazine we get in the mail?” Claudia Souza, one of the Palm Island ladies would ask, pretending not to know the magazine and that she hadn’t been introduced to me a hundred times before. That’s because she hadn’t made it on our annual Best Dressed list, and her arch rival Veronica Perez, also a Realtor, had.
The Palm Island husbands would interrogate me about our number of ads and if the magazine was making any money. Away from their wives, the subject would take a different turn, often to the contact information for our front cover model. Whenever I was introduced to someone as the editor of Palm Island Magazine, I would be greeted with a facial expression that toggled between, “So what?” to “What can she do for me?”
Nobody knew that unlike editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour of Vogue Magazine, who has her assistants traumatized if the temperature of her afternoon extra-hot latte isn’t right, editor-in-chief of Palm Island Magazine, was Girl Friday and the Tea Lady. This devil, wore Forever 21.
Nobody wanted to know about my 5 a.m., photo-shoots. Or that if the Marchesa gowns that I’d borrowed from Neiman Marcus for the shoot weren’t returned (of course by me) the following day I’d turn into an eggplant. No one wanted to know, what it was like to deal with a stroppy model that would show up, to a photo-shoot two hours late. Looking nothing like her comp card, with a distracting twitch and a crater size dimple on her left chin, when she smiled.
No one wanted to know how on the spot, the shoot would change, with the existing clothes we’d pulled, from the Floating Fairy concept, to a Dark Angel story, and not a grin in sight. There were compensations, of course, like knowing an anorexic model can have cellulite but they were few and far between.
Nobody got to hear about my Cuban, Wanna Be Mobster, publisher that would sell his entire family for a ¼ page ad. His father a real mobster, who I was told wears a head to toe fur coat a la 80s, when up North, had spent a considerable amount of time in jail, for one of the most legitimate crimes: tax evasion.
Wanna Be Mobster, was one of three children that his father had with his Miami mistress. She had spent her entire life being, the other woman. She had a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house, a beat up Louis Vuitton purse, and an old jaguar to show for it. The electric iron fence to her Little Havana home had the mobster’s initials carved in scroll on it. Territorial initials on a front gate, in Little Havana, to me meant, illegitimate money.
Mini-Mobster didn’t believe in paying for an editorial team. The only reason he was paying me, was for me to find that team. So, I recruited my entire network of friends, which meant my writing group. For a while it was just like our writing club but in print, but how could I expect stories to be handed in on time if nobody was getting paid? I eventually persuaded Mini-Mobster that we’d have no articles for next month, if he didn’t pay up. With the little money the writers were getting, they all avoided me when the deadlines were approaching, (because they were working on other freelance work that was worth their while). One writer had five grandmothers die within a span of six months. I heard all the lines, the sob stories and the lame excuses.
If that wasn’t enough, there were the relentless Public Relations reps to deal with. Kristy Morales, the uptight PR manager at Saks Fifth Avenue who I had only seen in leopard print (and who wore Cavalli only because she was getting an employee discount) should stop writing press releases and start doing yoga. Public Relations reps stop pestering everyone about your clients. And where are they when you actually want something from them, like a correct photo-caption? They’re in Mexico, badgering someone else, about one of their other clients.
What Morales failed to write on her press releases, was that some innocent buyer was paying thousands of dollars for a dress that had probably been worn by countless, iPod dazed models during 10-hour long magazine photo-shoots. And just because they’re thin doesn’t mean they don’t sweat.
For our Vintage Looks fashion spread, our model didn’t fit into any of the size-four sample clothes. Not even with the help of the entire crew. She was more like a size 14 and had gained a few pounds since her last photo comps that had made her look like a goddess. The situation was beyond Photoshop and we were on deadline. Since my Wanna Be Mobster, publisher refused to pay for models, we’d use the free “fresh” faces from the agencies. Some of those faces being more haggard than fresh. So I’d pick the best from the bottom of the barrel. Then the art team would airbrush them until they no longer looked like Kate Adie and looked more like Kate Moss. In this case, we ditched the Vintage Looks concept. I called in Mauricio The Miracle Maker; the make-up artist responsible for the daily transformation of Univision’s evening anchor, plain Jenny, into the ravishing starlet, Jennifer Rodrigo. We did the entire shoot from the neck up, and ended up with a six-page Spring Beauty Shades. I survived.
It was a different story when someone wanted to be in the magazine. I would be invited out to a five-course dinner at The Ritz-Carlton, given use of a private yacht, and have a jewelry line named after me. They needn’t have bothered. We were desperate for Palm Island stories. Being from Little Havana, and still feeling like the “help”, my publisher was happy just to be rubbing shoulders with the Jet Set crowd. When pointing out current or potential advertisers to me at events, he would tell me what car they drive, who they know and an up to date list of their financial assets, that he had told me a hundred times before, at all the other events.
When he found out that our automotive writer, got to drive a new car every week, because he was writing about them, he went ballistic. He decided that I should fire him, so that he could get to drive the cars himself. “Perks like this are for us, not writers!” he yelled. When I told him that he was “writing” a column for driving the cars, he told me to find an intern (free writer), to write the column, with the information from the Internet, without driving the car. When I refused to fire the writer, he did it himself. This was the way things were done in the world of, the Mini-Mobster.
Even though I didn’t live in one of the mansions on Palm Island, I had to look like I did. Frankly if it wasn’t for my bargain buys at Loehmann’s, I don’t think I would have carried it off. I lived on the other side of the tracks, where the avant-garde art galleries, trendy wine bars and roaming crack heads were. As for the affluent readers of Palm Island Magazine, I could almost hear them thinking “Poor little, career girl, surely there must be more to life than thinking about a magazine that everyone tosses away, after looking at the pictures.”
With dark circles under my eyes, clutching onto my cocktail at events, I scoured for potential Palm Island stories. My diet consisted of caffeine and cigarettes or cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The red crosses that marked my calendar; reminders of all the events I had to attend; looked like the corrections made by a strict school teacher on a bad essay. It also reminded me that I was generally running out of time.
The “ladies that lunch” crew that I met at various social events, would tell me “You’re looking so thin,” and that; “A career is not everything,” and most importantly, “You should hurry up and get married because you might miss the boat.” The way I interpreted that was, “I’ve got a yacht, how come you can’t get on a ferry?” They didn’t know that I felt like I had missed the dinghy. A part of me wanted to be like them, to spend a mortgage payment on a handbag, to have a personal masseuse and not worry about my bills and a part of me felt proud that I was doing something I loved, and that I did it so well, that the ladies that had caught the yacht, vied to be in Palm Island Magazine, where I was the ship’s captain.
No-one had any interest in reading the articles in the magazine, unless, they were in it. In which case they would have it custom mounted and framed in dark mahogany and hung in their hall of fame at home, for all their friends (and fellow readers of Palm Island Magazine) to see. A note to all aspiring editors: give your readers plenty of photos to look at and party photos where they might spot someone they know (that probably doesn’t know them). The rest can be written in Greek. Nobody’s going to read it.
Unless, there is a typo in it. Then all hell breaks loose. You’re bombarded with emails with subject headers such as “You’re an idiot.” You have to officially apologize via print, email and in person to the entire Gonzales, family for having placed a Z and not an S at the end of their name. You also have to reiterate to the magazine readership that they are by no way related to, or have had any relationship with the notorious Gonzalez family (from Hialeah) spelled with a Z. If all of that wasn’t enough, you’ll be forced by your Wanna Be Mobster publisher, to write a six-page article (with photos) about the Gonzales family business: concrete blocks. If you don’t, you may lose their circle of influential potential advertisers from the Miami Builders Society.
I don’t know what it’s like at Vogue or The New York Times, but in my world, advertising, meant editorial coverage. It didn’t matter whether it was an ad for pest control or a funeral parlor, it would end up as a four-page editorial in Palm Island Magazine. All I had to do as an editor was to come up with a catchy title and an angle that’s going to fit our readership. Something like Mighty Mansion Mice Or Diggin’ Designer Caskets? It was that easy.
It must have been a fluke getting that job. In Miami, unless your name is Ana Maria, you grew up in Coral Gables and went to UM, nobody’s going to hire you. I don’t blame them. They want to keep things in the family. After all who’s going to invite a British Iranian to a Quinceanera? The only other way past this hurdle is to have a double barrel name, with a Von in the middle, that gives the impression of European aristocracy, and even then, it needs to be attached to serious money or contacts.
Even though you’re an editor, you’ve got to be bankable asset for bringing in an advertising revenue that will keep your employer afloat long enough to pay your salary, or wages which I prefer to call it.
Salary is for a proper job that comes with benefits such as health insurance, 401K, vacation time and a human resources department there to protect you from fraud or abuse from your publisher. Wages is what the rest of us got.
Unless, you’re married to Alfredo De Santana. If you’re married to De Santana you can get any job in Miami. But then if you’re married to him, it’s unlikely you’ll need a job.
Since I had no ties to Coral Gables, my last name was Azadi not Bacardi, my family had not fled Cuba in the 1960s, and I had only seen Alfredo De Santana from a distance of 500 km at an event, I didn’t fall into any of these categories.
Now that I’m married and figuring out what I want to do next everyone wants to know what I do for a living. People I meet at cocktail parties are now dying to know about my career. It’s the first thing they ask me. They even ask if I have a business card. I remember all the times that I’ve shoved my business card into someone’s hand and they’ve paid no attention to it. They’re now fascinated by my excruciatingly embarrassing details of, what I do all day.
Since I’ve stopped smoking, I have an appetite of a wild boar. I could tell them that I spend most of my “spare” time eating. I now refer to Palm Island Magazine for all the recipes that I never had the time to prepare. And just in case my 5ft 2in stature might not be getting all the nutrients my body needs; I’m supplementing my diet with multi-vitamins.
Should I tell them that I wake at noon, stare into space for most of the day and talk on the phone to my other non-working girlfriends? As I manage to force the words out and I tell them that, “I’m not working … right now,” I can almost hear them thinking, “Poor little, career-less girl.”