The fashion and beauty world’s relationship with technology is forever changing, so it can be hard to keep up! Nikki Ogunnaike, senior fashion editor at elle.com, is here to help make sense of it all with a panel at Samsung 837, where she’ll pick the brains of makeup guru Cassandra Garcia, the Floss Gloss nail polish founders, and Chromat’s Becca McCharen-Tran. Take notes!
First things first: Where are you from and how did you land in fashion media?
I’m from Springfield, Virginia, and two weeks after graduating from UVA, I moved to New York City without a job. I got a full-time market assistant position at Vanity Fair. I moved on to InStyle, where I was an editorial assistant and then an assistant editor. I decided I wanted to work online exclusively, so I went to Glamour as the style editor covering fashion and beauty. A position at elle.com opened, and I wanted to work in digital at Hearst, specifically. I e-mailed Leah Chernikoff [editor of elle.com] and asked her to take a meeting with me.
And here you are! What’s new at ELLE these days?
So much! ELLE is really on the forefront of digital media. Troy Young, our president, is so forward-thinking. We’re doing interviews with everyone from Issa Rae from Insecure to covering trends, political coverage, and women’s issues. We’re seeing where New York Fashion Week takes us and trying to figure out what that will look like in the future.
Will you be going to shows this year?
I’ll be at many in New York, and then I’ll head to Milan for the entire week, then Paris for half of [Fashion Week].
You’re a major digital force at elle.com—what is at the center of your attention these days?
Social media is really important to elle.com and has been since I’ve been here. What separates us from a lot of sites is that we try to stay true and organic to who we are as a brand, but also who the editors are. Gena Kaufman is our social media director, and she works with us to figure out Instagram stories for Fashion Week and other events. She helps us plan takeovers, whether it’s on Snapchat or Instagram Stories or Twitter. Social media has been this place where we can engage our audience, find a new audience, and also drive traffic back to the site.
Have you had any recent stories go viral?
There was this guy who posted a review of Patti LaBelle’s pies for Walmart, and I was one of the first people to cover the story. I had been watching the video on Facebook. I sent the link to Leah, and she was like, “This is crazy, you should cover it.” That story went viral. Recently, we had [writer] R. Eric Thomas, who has a column here called “Eric Reads the News.” He wrote a story with the headline “Congresswoman Maxine Waters Will Read You Now,” and that went crazy viral. Maxine Waters shared it. I think it had about 100,000 shares last time I looked at it. It was hysterical, but also very astute and critical of what is going on in politics.
Who was it that made you want to go into fashion media?
It’s twofold. My mom is one of the most well-dressed, nosy people, so I think that I grew up learning how to dress well and ask a lot of questions. Also, my sister Lola Ogunnaike is a fantastic reporter—she’s been on CNN and she worked for The New York Times.
You’re moderating a panel at Samsung 837—what’s in store?
My aim is to really discuss the way that technology has changed the fashion and beauty industries—the way it has supported it and the challenges it brings. Should you really be on your phone all the time? Is it destroying us or is it helping us? And technology in the fashion and beauty space in terms of activism—how if someone posts pictures on Instagram and they become the first male to become the face of a beauty brand…would that have happened if we didn’t have Instagram? I don’t know. It’s going to be a pretty wide-ranging discussion.
How plugged in are you?
I have my cellphone on me at all times, and I generally have my laptops near me—I have two, one for work and another for home. At the top of 2017 I told myself I would try to wean myself off of social media. Looking at it before you go to bed can be disheartening when it’s only news about how our world is falling apart. I’m trying to stop myself from doing that. I’m trying to get into reading paperback books. I am off my Kindle!
What do you think about the Samsung 837 space?
I went to the CFDA Awards after-party there, which was amazing. I love the place. I think that what they’re doing is cool and innovative. It’s always interesting to see how it transforms from event to event.
Where do you see the relationship among beauty, fashion, and technology heading?
If I had my way, people would become their own mini activists through fashion and beauty and technology. I think that’s sort of where this industry is heading. Right now, technology has become an interesting tool for people who haven’t been able to or haven’t been given the chance to use their voice before.
Where can we follow you on social media?
@NikkiOgun, on all my platforms!
Where will we find you most?
I’m more active on Instagram, but I lurk on Twitter pretty hard.
Watch the panel below!