Chopping It Up
#WCW Instyle writer Ericka Franklin
Freelance writer for Instyle and Women’s Wear Daily, @Ericka.Denae
- How do you start your day?
I begin my day with a prayer, a smiling session, and two glasses of hot water. I know it sounds funny, but smiling is a great mood enhancer. I’m a naturally happy person, but it just adds an extra drop of bliss to my day. Also, I’ve met so many women with flawless skin and whenever I ask if they have a beauty secret it’s always water first thing in the morning; so I’ve incorporated it and it does wonders. Then of course there are the necessary external beauty rituals I need to actually get out of the door.
- At what point did you realize that being a writer was what you were going to do?
I think writing chose me. I graduated with my Associate of Arts degree before receiving my high school diploma at 17 and I didn’t have a lot of time to shop around for majors, but my mom suggested journalism and voila. It also didn’t hurt that the reality show “The Hills” was very influential while I was in high school and it deepened my interest in fashion enough to want to work in the closet at Teen Vogue. So I mapped out a plan to get there; which consisted of becoming an editor for my University’s newspaper, interning for Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) in the editorial and fashion departments and then finally moving to Teen Vogue. To my surprise, the internship in L.A. was for Vogue Magazine not Teen Vogue. The level of expectation in the Vogue offices really refined me and taught me so much. The biggest lesson I learned was that while I was happy on photo shoots I was even happier during my days at WWD where I was able to interview celebrities and really showcase my skills as a writer and have an article with my name in the byline to show for it.
- Many people might not understand exactly what it means to work freelance. Can you explain what being a freelance writer means and why you chose to work freelance.
I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but from my experience to work freelance as a writer means you know how to hustle. I work with WWD and InStyle predominately. Although I report to my editors, I’m on my own in a sense. Jobs aren’t just given to me. I believe they happen because I’m actively checking in; I’m proactive about getting work. What’s even more unique to the freelance experience is there’s no set schedule. I’ve had gigs that start at 11 o’clock am on Monday, 8 o’clock pm on a Wednesday, even 11 o’clock at night on a Sunday. Did I mention you’re your own assistant? We’re responsible for all the minor details like paperwork, expenses, and insurance.
I chose freelance because I love event reporting and it just so happens that most of the people who are in this line of work aren’t in-house. If you’re not familiar with event reporters we’re the people behind the rope on red carpets, we interview celebrities, observe the atmosphere and write articles. Simply, freelancing is the nature of the industry and I stick with it because my job never feels as though it’s a job.
- Do you have a mentor or anyone – whether in up close & personal or from a distance – who you admire personally or professionally that inspires your work/journey?
There’s nothing like a mother’s advice. So I’d say my mom was my first mentor; growing up she completely impressed me in every way imaginable. Naturally, I’ve gotten a lot of advice from her regarding work and life in general. In addition, my editor Marcy Medina at WWD is phenomenal. There’s a reason everyone speaks highly of her. Whenever I read her articles I learn new words and form. There’s also Michelle Papillion of Papillion Art. She’s definitely a name to know if you want inspiration on work ethic and making dreams come true.
- Have you ever wanted to pursue any other passions outside of writing? If so, what else could you see yourself doing?
Art! In 2015 I noticed that my childhood interest was actually still alive. I create self-portraits, portraits of others, and anything that comes to mind. It was something that just started as a creative release, but I’ve gotten a really great response to my work.
- What is the toughest thing that many people don’t realize about being a writer?
The hours. Event reporting looks glamorous on my Instagram because it’s a lot of musical performances, red carpet parties and seated dinners, but of course that’s just the tip of the iceberg. After the party is over, I go home to write and there are many nights that I don’t sleep. I just roll into the next day and Google some anti-aging remedies in hopes that I’ll be able to mask all of the sleep I’ve missed over the years.
- What determines whether or not you accept a writing job?
Unless I’m already booked for the day, I will always say yes.
- Tell us about any adversity you face as a black female writer. How do you use those things to fuel your drive to succeed?
That’s interesting. When I began establishing my career, social media was really blossoming and I was careful about protecting my image. I wasn’t concerned about people noticing that I was black or a woman. I simply wanted to balance being a teenager with a voice without the fear of losing out on a job opportunity because of something that was posted online. So before I was ever seen in person, my ability to write and report spoke for me through cold emails and not the things that people may have underestimated me by like my age, gender or melanin. Having that blind date factor when applying for jobs early on may have filtered out a lot of obstacles that others may have faced.
On the other side, what makes me different has always worked in my favor. Although I’m searchable now and the character of my editors wouldn’t allow them to use my person as a cause for discrimination; I find that being a black woman gives me an edge. Black reporters are outnumbered on red carpets and I’m sure this has helped me garner a few extra jobs that have a large black attendance and I’m almost certain it made Idris Elba speak to me one night when it was clear he wasn’t doing interviews.
- There are so many blogs and so many people using them as a platform to share their voice through words. How do you feel this has changed what it means to be a writer?
I don’t think it has changed what it means to be a writer. There’s a phrase floating around the Internet by Shonda Rhimes that says, “If you want to be a writer, write every day.” I don’t believe that anyone should be excluded. Their pen doesn’t erase my ink, meaning I’m not losing any jobs because someone else wants to write. I welcome it because a little bit of competition is healthy. Plus, I believe the standard of exceptional writing still exists and you have to write exceptionally well, be consistent, as well as know certain people to continue to make it in this industry.
However, what I do believe has changed is the experience for the reader. There’s a lot that you have to sift through to find a decent read.
- Having experienced things in your career, what would you go back and tell 18 year old you?
Ericka, don’t forget your religion, you’ll get even further with God.
You have no idea, but you’re incredibly good at networking. Keep nurturing relationships because a great deal of success in life is about the people that are in your circle.
You’re working extremely hard. Don’t forget to cherish the moments you have with your family when work moves as fast as a tornado or slows down to a crawl. You won’t regret it.
Also, take that Feature Writing class.
Life can change quickly and drastically. Don’t become so anchored with one idea that you’re unable to flow with the current because it might be taking you to a better destination. If you’re absolutely sure you know where you want to be in life continue to practice confidence, sincerity, and reliability. All hard work will eventually pay off.