Excellence in Action
Taylor Stephan ’11
Interviewed by Monique Beals • August 27, 2019
To start, will you please describe your career path from UCLA to your current role?
It has definitely been a winding road. When I was at UCLA, I was really motivated to work in the fashion and celebrity industry. I spent a large majority of my free time doing fashion PR internships. My first job at the time was at Bulgari, high-end jewelry line on Rodeo Drive. I worked for the VIP and Celebrity Relations Director as her assistant. My job was to meet with stylists and help them pick out jewelry to match red carpet gowns for their celebrity clients. That was really fun and exciting. I also worked at Dolce & Gabbana for the Director of Studio Services. That was a lot more retail driven; I was basically a personal shopper for celebrity stylists that were dressing clients for real life or on TV shows. I also did some projects at Dior under their PR Director for a short time. All of my positions were connection-based. Then right out of college, I was Cindy Crawford’s personal assistant for a year.
I had stayed in the celebrity world for a long time, but when I met the West Coast Editor of Daily Candy at an event, I wanted to make a pivot. We just started chatting and I found out that she was looking for an Editorial Assistant. That was my first editorial job. I was making $12 an hour, and also working part time at a fitness studio to pay rent, but it was a very cool job that exposed me to a lot. I wasn’t doing too much writing but would attend industry events and help keep the website updated.
When DailyCandy folded, I used my connections to find a new job because I had a lot of public relations contacts from working as an editor. I got a job at food-focused PR firm. I did that for a year, and I felt I was meant to go back on to the editorial side where I could be more creative and produce content. On the PR side, their job is really to court editors and to secure press. I liked the freedom and authority that came with working in editorial positions.
Whenever I was looking for new jobs, I would cast the net really wide and email my contacts saying something along the lines of, “I’m currently looking for a new position if you hear of anything.” That’s essentially how I wound up getting the job as a Style and Beauty Editor at E! News. After 4 years, I recently left that role and I’m doing some freelance writing and taking a reset while I’m figuring out my next move.
What inspired you to choose this career path?
I just turned 30, so it’s kind of cool to look back on all I’ve done. I wouldn’t say I strategically chose this path. I think each thing I did was different from the next, and it was a process of elimination. It was all within the same industry, but I went through different facets of it to determine what I did and didn’t enjoy. I think I could have never predicted this would be my path. I was always really curious and if I wanted to do something I would figure out how to make it happen. When I was ready to try something new, I would move on never fully knowing what the next thing would be. Timing is everything. If I felt good about a connection and if a potential opportunity enticed me, then I would pursue it and see how it played out.
How did your UCLA experience help shape your success?
While I was at UCLA, I was doing a lot of internships, and I think that’s really noteworthy. UCLA gets you in the door at a lot of places. I was an Art History major, so it didn’t directly correlate with any of the work I was doing. I did learn a lot of writing skills as an Art History student, though. I can’t say that I was highly involved in the Art History community at UCLA, but I do think having that education and having that drive that got me into UCLA in the first place is what helped me to excel professionally a lot quicker.
What has been your greatest career challenge and how did you overcome it?
In my position at E! News, I spent four years in a corporate environment, and that was a growing opportunity. A lot of the other jobs I had were smaller operations with just a few people. Going into E! News, I really had to learn the system. It’s owned by NBC Universal, so it’s a huge organization, and just learning the chain of command, how to respond to emails, how to attend meetings, and all the nuances was a process. I don’t think I would have ever experienced all that had I not been in a larger environment. I learned to work with legal teams, creative teams, executives and how to operate in a fast-paced newsroom. That was a huge learning curve. I think whatever you do, there’s always going to be teachable moments and you need to be open to that. It is important to remember that you’re never done learning.
What advice would you give to UCLA students and alumni interested in your industry?
Networking is key. If you don’t genuinely like relationship building, this is not an industry you will thrive in. Every job I’ve gotten is because of it. It is because I knew someone, or was willing to send an email, and was brave enough to ask for what I wanted. You have to be a little bold. Keep it professional. Send your resume. Have your LinkedIn updated and always have samples of your work to share. Ask yourself, “What do I have to offer this person? How can I make their life easier?.” If you’re willing to put yourself out there, a lot of people may not respond, but a lot will.
What makes you most proud to be a Bruin?
I actually just got back from a trip and 90% of the girls there were UCLA alumni. It’s really great to see, because we’ve all gone our separate ways and so many of them are so successful. One just got her Ph.D., one is an accountant, and one is a lawyer. Another is in healthcare and then I’m in editorial. It’s really inspiring to see all these really strong women that have their dream careers as a result of the time we shared at UCLA.
And finally, what’s next?
I’m doing freelance now, and I’m starting to work for myself. I think I ran into a situation where I had grown as much as I could grow on a personal level within the company that I was in. It was important to me to go to the next level and find that next step. I plan on being a little more independent and having a little more ownership over choosing what I want to work on. Being able to manage a team and give back by mentoring at some point is my next goal. I’ve been doing this long enough where it is clear that it’s important to start from the bottom and really put your time in so that you’re able to recognize the next opportunity when it comes.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Monique Beals is a Communications major and UCLA College Honors student from Memphis, Tennessee. She has previously interned at the Office of Senator Lamar Alexander, the Orange County Register, and Tegna Inc. She has also worked as an Urban Fellow for the City of Memphis. At UCLA, Monique has been involved as Marketing Director of the Community Service Commission in addition to working as a Student Recruiting Assistant for UCLA Athletics. After graduating from UCLA, Monique intends to pursue a career in journalism or law.
Interested in learning more about UCLA alumni who are creating lasting impressions and impact in their industries? Visit Excellence in Action for the full collection of interviews.