No-Bullshit Career Talk With... A Buzzfeed Editor
Kristin Harris is Celebrity Editor and Head of Talent Relations NY at Buzzfeed, where she’s interviewed the likes of Ryan Gosling, Robert De Niro and Kate Winslet and generated over 6 million page views per month (!!!). We met while interning at Vogue and she’s been impressing me ever since with her tenacity, drive and lust for life. Here we discuss career mistakes, why happiness is a concept, how she learnt to stand up for herself and much, much more.
If you could be mentored by one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
There are too many to name, but if I had to choose one, I'd say Barbara Walters. Watching her interviews and the way she gets people to open up and be vulnerable has always been incredibly fascinating to me. There's truly no one else that can do what she does, and it would be incredible to learn more about her journey and process.
What does ‘happiness’ look like to you?
I believe that happiness is a state of mind, and not exactly some final peak or destination we can reach and cross off of our list. It's constant work, and a deliberate choice you make to choose happiness above all else. So for me, perfect happiness is letting go of anxiety, letting go of the pressures we put on ourselves and the constant judgements and comparisons. It's appreciating life for what it is in that very moment, no matter how imperfect things might seem. It's looking around and realizing that you're not going to get to some Happiness Finish Line and finally lose all of your worries — every single little moment we're living counts and matters. And at the end of the day, there's always something to be grateful for.
What is your ultimate motivation song?
Usually anything by the fearless queen Beyoncé gets me going, but lately I've been obsessed with "Masterpiece" by Jessie J. It's a total kickass/empowerment track about working on your dreams and having failures along the way, but not giving up until you've reached that goal. "I'm not gonna stop, I like the view from the top," is one of my favorite lyrics of all time.
What drives you?
Ever since I was little I've had some instinctual fire within me that drove me to follow my dreams. I think a lot of it has to do with me proving to myself that I can do it — that I have the power within me to realize my dreams and make them happen. Knowing that there's a world of infinite possibilities out there, and that you can truly do whatever it is in this world that makes your heart happy, THAT'S what drives me. Life is full of countless opportunities, you just have to be ready to grab them.
Biggest career mistake to date?
There are countless small mistakes you're going to make in your career no matter how hard you work, but I can't quite say I've ever had a major disastrous moment that sticks out. Probably my biggest regret, however, is not knowing when to stand up for myself when I knew things were too overwhelming for me to handle. Early in my career I was in a position where I essentially had to take on three different jobs, and it got to a point where the amount of work was so out of control that no matter how hard I worked, it was impossible to stay on top of it. Being a perfectionist, I didn't want to admit that it was too much, and I kept going trying to manage it all myself. But it got to a point where things were falling through the cracks, and I realized later that speaking up and admitting that something is too much isn't being weak, it's being smart.
Who are some of your favourite writers?
No one moves me as much as Cheryl Strayed does. I'm also a huge fan of Heather Havrilesky who writes the "Ask Polly" column for NY Mag's The Cut — reading her words feels like a much-needed therapy session.
And last but not least, what's the one piece of work-related advice that changed your life?
My very first editorial internship was with the incredible Eva Chen at Teen Vogue, and I remember on my last day I sat down with her to talk about her path to her career and advice on how to make my dreams a reality. Rather than just a string of words of wisdom, it was her story and her path and her taking a chance on me that truly changed my life. She gave me the opportunity to intern at Teen Vogue which really solidified the fact that this was my dream job, and learning about her unexpected path — going to med school to become a doctor and realizing that her passion was in magazines, and giving all of that up to follow that dream — really made me realize that you don't need some special path, or fancy friends, or some predestined plan to make it all work.
It really comes down to following your heart, and doing whatever it takes (no matter how difficult) to make that dream come true. I was some random girl from a small town in Florida that had no connections and no experience, and in that moment she gave me the confidence to believe in myself and my journey, and I don't think I'd be where I am right now without that first step.