In Conversation With: Becki Murray, Beauty Assistant At Harpers Baazar

I was so fortunate to come across the page of @beckimurray_ on Instagram, not least because you get to see plenty of the latest beauty products but because it inspired me to really grasp the reality of a successful beauty writer. Especially at such a tumultuous time in my life, where everything seems to be up in the air. It was a relief to see someone successful in doing something that they loved which may not always be a secure route to success. I hope with this interview, someone will be given the vision to do more of what they want to do. 

Did you always want to work in beauty?

I’ve always loved beauty and I was interested in journalism since my early teens but initially thought I’d go into feature writing, mainly because I knew more about it! Beauty was important to me though. As an identical twin, beauty products have always been a way to express myself and I have the hair dye damage in my hair in to prove how much I loved to experiment with my look throughout my time in school! In fact, I remember vividly being like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory whenever I went into town and got to spend some time in the beauty halls of department stores. Nowadays it’s exciting to be at the forefront of trying new products and talking about them to readers because I still get that feeling when I find a new product or technique I didn’t know about before.  

How did you end up working at Harper’s Bazaar? 

As I mentioned, at first, I thought I wanted to become a features writer so a lot of my first work experience placements were actually in general editorial roles (at a range of publications including a children’s magazine, local news and various young women’s titles). What knocked me into beauty completely, was a last-minute internship at Vogue UK in the beauty department, which I managed to get when another intern dropped out. As soon as I looked through the beauty cupboard and spent the month with the wonderful Vogue team, I didn’t look back. From there I interned intensely during my final years at university, probably spending more time in London than Bristol in my final year, (whoops), with the mind-set of securing a role in the beauty department of a magazine. I was interning at Cosmopolitan UK in 2016 when I interviewed for the Harper’s Bazaar beauty assistant role and was lucky enough to get the job. I’ve been there a year and a half now and absolutely love it.

What is the most exciting thing about working at Harpers Baazar?

This is actually a really hard question because there have been a lot of exciting moments! Working at a high-fashion magazine with so much renown and history is incredible. Harper’s Bazaar recently celebrated its 150th year in print and I was able to go through the archives for research. I learned so much about past beauty trends and products, and even unearthed a piece where Bazaar was ‘unveiling’ yoga practice to the UK because it just didn’t exist here at the time. It felt really special to be able to read that piece of history and it’s why I still love print media, despite working a lot of Harper’s Bazaar’s digital platforms too, because that joy of opening a glossy magazine has never left me.

Being able to help someone when they have a beauty question is a great feeling too – I like to think I can pass on informative and honest information to those that need help and I’m a bit of a science nerd too so it fascinates me to learn exactly how products work and the technological advances behind them.  

What is your favourite piece of work that you have written for Bazaar or ever?

I’m lucky that I get to work on the digital platforms at Harper’s Bazaar as well as on print, so I have a lot of pieces that I’m proud of. My most recent by-line in print is yet to be published in our May issue but I really enjoyed the opportunity to interview celebrity make-up artists for it so watch this space. As for online, I recently analysed the effectiveness of DNA-analysis skincare, using my sister as a guinea pig, to discover whether it really worked. It took three months, as I was focused on reviewing the products properly, but I’m proud of how the piece turned out and the response I got from it, especially from dermatologists. I was also in charge of our Fashion Month beauty trend galleries, which will then be used in our trend report. Being so involved behind-the-scenes, especially at the London shows, as well as looking out for popular make-up and hair looks was a busy but rewarding experience.  

What has been the most challenging part of getting to where you are right now?

I think a lot of my challenges were universal to beauty journalists trying to get into the industry – mainly finding internships and then affording to live during them. The “you need experience, to get experience” cliché can be annoyingly true – but with social media and blogging is a little more in your hands – and there is a lot of competition for intern places. I was also lucky that I often managed to find a sofa to crash on in London when I found a placement so the expenses offered by magazines could cover travel and lunch, but I was known to commute from Bristol to London (and use my student loan to try to cover the cost!) if necessary, because I wanted the internships so much, which was certainly a challenge.

I’d also say that having people doubt your chosen career path can be hard. There have been quite a few puzzled looks and snide remarks about beauty writing being anti-feminist or not proper journalism to get past, but I think that’s the sort of challenge that personal drive and wanting to follow your goals can get you through.

What did you study at university?  

I studied English Literature at the University of Bristol, mainly because it was something I was interested in but also because I knew it was a good basis for a career in journalism. I have to admit that I found the lack of contact hours frustrating and there were moments where reading books felt like the biggest chore in the world, but there were certainly silver linings. Magazines became my ways of destressing and I, quite madly looking back, used my free time to freelance and intern at different titles to gain lots of journalism experience.

What was the most important thing you took from University that helped you in the career you ended up in?  

Obviously there are the writing skills from my degree, but I’d actually say it was my work on the University newspaper, where I was Deputy Editor. It gave me the confidence to write to deadlines, work with and manage a team, use important systems such as InDesign and Photoshop and I made a lot of friends who had similar interests to me. I found I spoke a lot about my time on the newspaper when interviewing for internships, so would definitely say getting involved at University (or within a blogging/YouTube community) can make your CV standout, as well as being amazing for your personal development.  

How did you pick where you wanted to apply for an internship and what was it, do you think, that meant you were chosen?  

I applied for internships at the magazines I loved and read cover to cover and I think the innate knowledge of the magazine that comes with that really helped me out. It’s much more difficult to sound like you really want to work somewhere if you have no idea what the target audience or writing tone is of the specific publication. After I completed an internship, I’d also ask for feedback and advice from the beauty teams I’d interned with. The beauty industry is really close-knit so often I’d be referred on to other beauty teams that needed an intern and I built up an array of contacts in the industry that way. There is a little bit of luck involved, as with a lot of things, but I think if you remember that beauty assistants are humans and can connect with them on that level without being too informal, you’re likely to get further. Oh, and don’t give up. No one gets every internship they apply for.

What do you think about the relationship between the beauty industry and social media, where can it go?

I love how much more accessible the beauty industry feels because of social media, as everyone can share their opinion, which makes it feel so much more inclusive. I’ve never particularly liked the idea that there is only one way to apply say a blusher (or makeup in general), one ‘correct’ way to style your hair, or one ‘concept’ of beautiful, so when traditional print media, video, first-person reviews and photography comes together I get really excited. I think the next step is making beauty content feel more bespoke though. At the moment, the reader or watcher can feel like a bit of an outsider, but if social media and the beauty industry can become even more streamlined, hopefully we can approach beauty in a way that is high-quality, science-led but with an individual focus, so everyone will be able to get better, more accurate information that is relevant to them.

Where do you want to go next? 

I absolutely love my job at the moment because I get to work across both print and digital media, so would love to keep working my way up to say Beauty Editor and beyond within glossy magazines in that way. As the industry continues to adapt though, I’ll be following it closely with excitement and I certainly look forward to experimenting with whatever the next, new, exciting media format will be, because I think we are already going beyond the likes of Instagram and the traditional print/ blogging format. Whatever I’ll be doing in the next five years or so though, I don’t see me putting down my writer’s pen or my beauty bag in the near future – I enjoy it way too much.  

All images belong to Harpers Baazar* 

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