Carley Fortune is the Executive Editor at Refinery29 Canada. Previously, she was the Editor In Chief at Chatelaine. She has an impressive background in media and is someone who has never done things simply because people expected her to. She’s driven and ready to seize opportunities, even if it makes her feel uncomfortable. That’s why we’re sharing her story with you. Read Elle’s conversation with Carley.
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Carley: Watch the video to hear Carley's message.
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Carley: Watch the video to hear Carley's message.
Elle: You told me about putting yourself in uncomfortable positions and making bold decisions. I’ve observed that about you and love that, which is why I am interviewing you. Tell me, have you always been like that or is it something you had to develop in yourself?
Carley: I think I have always been bold. In fact, I remember one of my grade school friend’s mother complaining that I was too bold. I’ve always been someone who had a lot of opinions and who shared them a lot. In a way, I lacked a lot of self-esteem and I forced myself to break through that by talking a lot and arguing with my teachers. But I have always been a very driven person and someone who has always wanted to push themselves and succeed in what they do. I don’t like to stay in one place and I always want to learn. I get bored easily. So, part of it is about pushing myself and in order to that for me it’s about not staying comfortable. And not doing what people expect you to do.
Elle: I read an interview where you said that you knew you were the perfect person for the job you have now at Refinery29 Canada. I really like that because a lot of women shy away from displaying confidence and perhaps they are not encouraged to display confidence. You knew you were perfect for the job but did you decide that you were going to be vocal about it publicly?
Carley: No, I didn’t make a conscious decision to be vocal about it. I question myself all the time and in some ways, I am very self-critical. But at the same time I really believe in my skills and what I bring to the table. I know deeply that the skills I have make me very different than a lot of people in my field. I’ve worked in print, digital, magazines, newspapers. I’ve covered every subject from fashion and beauty to editing investigative pieces on domestic homicide and sexual assault trials. I like the fun stuff and I like the heavy stuff too. A lot of people tend to stick in a lane whether it’s the kind of work they do, the subject that they cover or whether it’s being a magazine journalist or a web editor. I think the way I am different is that I can do it all and I love it all. It’s what makes my skills special in a way. I also really embrace the numbers side of digital. I find a lot of creativity in analytics and data. When I started, I started out as an online editor and I’ve been a journalist for about fifteen years now and there were very few people who embraced analytics. I think that’s changed now in Canada. It made me stand out when you can analyze the numbers, write a great headline, and you know what to do if you have a source and they call and say they have been sexually assaulted; you know how to analyze that kind of situation. There aren’t a lot of people who can do that and who also love going to fashion shows.
Elle: You are covering everything from the Canadian Elections to conversations with MPs to writing about being okay about being a good enough mom to lack of diversity in Canadian media, and of course fashion and style. What kind of stories are you most excited to share this year?
Carley: There is no limit to the kind of stories I am interested in. General themes such as sustainability and living more thoughtfully are on my agenda. There is a very interesting tension right now with young consumers who want to purchase ethically and they want brands that are conscious about the environment and their business practices. People are wanting to live their values but not necessarily being able to afford that. I think there is an interesting space in there. One of the things I want to tackle and we will be doing soon is this idea of home ownership in Canada. Refinery29 has done a great job of looking at women’s relationship to money and home ownership in Canada is a big part of that. Something like eighty percent of millennials want to own a home and twenty seven percent do. There is a real tension there with the markers of success that we have grown up with and it’s not necessarily achievable for us so there is a conversation to be had around shifting what we think of renting. I think there is shame around renting as you get older in Canada. Also, demystifying how people have actually managed to buy a home. I think we look at people and are wondering how they have done it and lifting the curtain on that is important. We want to deepen our fashion reporting. There is so much we want to do.
We did some great work about representation in Canadian entertainment. It was fantastically reported by our senior writer Kathleen Newman-Bremang. I think there is more conversation to be had there. We recently profiled Maitreyi Ramakrishnan who is starring in Mindy Kaling’s new show on Netflix. She is an eighteen-year-old from Mississauga and she beat out fifteen thousand people in an open casting call to land this role. Uplifting women like that is really important to us. There is no end to what I want to do.
Elle: What has been your experience building up the team at Refinery29 Canada from scratch?
Carley: Building the team has been one of the most satisfying journeys in my professional life thus far. We have an incredible team. Canadian media is a very small circle and it’s very easy to hire great people that you have previously worked with. I have purposely tried not to do that. There is great talent out there who has not necessarily come up through traditional media. I wanted to challenge myself and get to know the talent. You tend to think I know everybody in this business but actually you don’t. I have hired the most incredible group of women who I truly believe are some of the most talented people in this country. They have distinguished themselves within the entire Refinery29 global organization. We work really hard and ultimately, I want people to feel their work has value and that they are valued.
We were talking earlier about how challenging the media industry is. It’s important in some ways to be selfish. As a team, we think “what are the greatest areas of focus we need to shine a spotlight on?” and then really throw our weight behind that. It’s good for the audience and it’s a lot of fun what we do. It’s such a privilege to work here.
Elle: What one word do you most identify with?
Carley: Evolve. I really like change but not for change’s sake. I like to grow and adapt and I also don’t know what I will be doing in five years, twenty years or thirty years. I don’t really want to know. I want to feel like I am ever changing, growing and adapting to what’s around me, what I need, what my family needs. I like that.
Elle: Before we finish here, let’s go back to something we were talking about earlier about women and images.
Carley: Something I have noticed in my career is that if you are a woman who cares about how you look people tend to think of you in a certain way. If you are someone who enjoys fashion people tend to put you in a certain box. We would think that we are beyond that but we are not. Sometimes I find myself kind of really embracing the feminine stuff just to say yeah women can love lipstick and also be extremely smart. I think it’s a shame when we try to fit the mould of what people want a business woman to look like or what people want an academic to look like and I think it’s all about just what you are most comfortable with. I love dressing and I love hair and make-up and I think there is still stigma and shame around that. I want to create an environment where people bring their whole self to work and wear whatever they like.
Credits: Zvelle shoes. Top to bottom image: Anais Ankle Boots (Black Multi).