Our Black History Month series, continues with Danielle Prescod, Lifestyle editor of BET.com. Donning her signature blonde coils, relaxed denim, and a killer pair of snakeskin booties, she dove right into giving us the 411 on her ambitious career path.
Danielle knew from a very young age that she wanted to pursue a career in magazines. She says, “I went to a really small all girls’ school in Connecticut. I wanted to go to NYU and everyone told me no because I’d be so overwhelmed. They said, ‘There’s so many people, you wouldn’t know what to do, go to a smaller school so you won’t feel pressured.’ I listened to everyone else instead of what I wanted to do, so I ended up at Tufts University in Boston, didn’t like it, and then ended up transferring to NYU. I transferred to the College of Arts & Sciences because I was at the traditional liberal arts school at Tufts, but when I got to CAS, they were telling me there was a cap on how much I could intern, and that’s really why I moved to New York City, and went to NYU. So I was like, well, I know what I want to do, I know I want to work in magazine, the only way I’m going to do that is by interning a lot, but it wasn’t allowed to get credit. I transferred schools again, within NYU, and went to the Gallatin School of Individualized Study where you create your own major, and I could basically do whatever I wanted.”
She strongly believes that interning is the gateway to positioning yourself for the career you desire. “[Interning] is pretty much the only way you can learn anything because you have to learn by doing, and the more you’re just thrown into a situation and have to figure it out, the more I think you’re able to grow. If you just think you know everything that’s not going to help you. I learn something everyday from someone that’s smarter than me or more senior than me. I think that interning is really the best way to start your career.”
She adds, “It’s really annoying, but you have to work really, really hard. It’s not fun; the tasks that you get are not fun. Taping down expenses is not fun, organizing racks and merchandising racks is not fun, you know. Untangling jewelry is not fun, but it’s jobs that need to be done. If you do those to the best of your ability, and do them well, people will notice, and will let you do other things. I think a lot of times now, I see very young people with terrible attitudes when they’re asked to do things. They think they’re going to be on camera if they have their hair and make up done everyday. They think someone’s just gonna walk by and say “You, yes! Let’s get you on a show!” and that is not how it works. Do your transcriptions right, make sure expense reports are right, make sure everyone in the department is supported and has what they need, even if you have to be the last one in the office. It’s not fun, but that’s how it is. Just do your job, that’s really it. Don’t try to jump over a million steps, just do your job, and do it really well, then it will happen for you.”
Lo’ and behold, her first big break came via interning. “I was an intern at Teen Vogue, inside the fashion closet, and I was a really good intern. I didn’t ever do anything wrong. This was before all the fancy systems, but I had memorized every address to every designer, so if you wanted to send something to Calvin Klein, that’s 205 West 39th street. See, I still know all of them! If you ask me to send something to Marc Jacobs I’ll know. With those jobs, it seems so redundant. Packing up shoes, packing up clothes, making labels, and sending them out, it’s all for a purpose. When I got my first job I was a market assistant and I had to make all these requests. Your brain has to train itself to do all these things. So anyway, I was in the closet and I was doing a really good job, and the accessories director at the time, Taylor Tomasi Hill, needed an intern to help her because there was not enough head count to have a personal assistant for her. They were like, ‘this is the best intern, and she could work for Taylor.’ So, I ended up working in her office, sitting in her office with her, and I basically became her assistant. After that, she took me everywhere with her. From there, she got a new job as the accessories director at Marie Claire, and we went there. Then, we separated a little bit. I got a paying job at Interview Magazine, so that was my first paying job. I went back to Teen Vogue because she introduced me to Shiona Turini who took over her job as accessories director, so I went back there. Then, she got another new job at Moda Operandi, and we both went to Moda Operandi” (Note how her work ethic warranted such loyalty).
After trailblazing through many internships and landing herself at various reputable magazines-Interview, InStyle, and Elle, just to name a few- she’s now found herself at home. Here’s what she had to say regarding her current position, “I am now the Lifestyle Editor at BET.com. I run all of our lifestyle related content. That includes everything from fashion style, to beauty, health & wellness, and relationships. Everything about how you live your life. It’s really fun and I ended up here because I started my career in fashion and really wanted to kind of expand on what I was doing beyond fashion. My last job, the biggest problem of my day, was that a shoe didn’t come in purple and it just felt so silly, especially with our current political climate; so many terrible things going on. I just said, I don’t want to do this anymore.”
Her work with mainstream publications has lent her a keen eye to race relations. She explains, “In particular, now that I work at BET.com, it’s my everyday. This is very exciting for me because I feel like in any other job that I’ve had, it was almost like you couldn’t talk about race, except for when I worked at Elle.com. We had very frank discussions about it. The site director was very careful about hiring a diverse staff, and making sure we were covering issues for every kind of woman, instead of the specific kind of woman. A lot of the brands I’ve worked for in the past were definitely geared towards a white audience, their content was geared towards a white audience, and I think that was one of my issues with magazines in general. When I would read them when I was younger, I was so in love with them, but I never found any useful information for me. I never found useful information for my hair, or my skin, or anything! I liked clothes, I liked shopping, but I never got into beauty at all because I was like, there’s no place for me here! It wasn’t until I started working in the industry and people would give me stuff. I was on set with makeup artists and they’d show me how to do things. I had the best hair and makeup people at my disposal, which made me really lucky, but then, I was the only one with that information.”
She continues, “So that’s why I wanted to be able to write about more than just styling an under 100 page. I wanted to be able to talk about the stuff that I was learning, and so I think that there is certainly a lack of diversity amongst content staffs. I think it’s definitely changing, but it was just fashion week and when I look at the majority of the women’s publications when they arrive places, it definitely stands out, who is more inclusive, and who is not. I think now that I work at BET.com, it’s definitely at the forefront of my mind and I feel very comfortable talking about it; whereas, if I worked at another place I would never say that. Now, there’s a generation of a lot of black talent, it’s not just black talent it’s Latina talent I have yet to see. Where are the super senior Indian editors? I know a few, but literally, I can name three. It’s crazy.”
Prescod tries to err on the side of caution when it comes to the pressures of work. “I try to have a healthy balance. I try not to be super stressed out. I have my apple watch; my apple watch tells me when I need to stand up. So it’s like ok, time to stand; I’m going to take a lunch break. Nothing is worth killing yourself over and stress will kill you. I can only do what’s in my parameters. If our CMS is acting crazy, I’ll do the best that I can, but you cannot stress yourself. I think that’s the problem with fashion magazines or fashion in general. You blow something so big out of proportion, so dramatic. That’s why working at BET is good; it puts things into perspective. We also report on people getting gunned down in the streets. Here’s how to look chic, but also what’s going on in the world; whereas, magazines have a much more narrow focus. Everything is fantasy, there’s all this drama behind the scenes all the time, as if that stuff really matters. To me I’m like, it matters, but not that much.”
Agreed. Keeping a work/life balance and healthy perspective on the world is key.
Be sure to keep up with Danielle on IG @danielleprescod
Thoughts? Are there others you’d like us to feature?