Monday, August 25, 2014

The Perks of Being a Corporate Sellout

            “I might be dumber by the end of summer, but at least it’s a good resume builder.” Or that’s what I told my mom when I accepted an internship with a beauty magazine. Spending three months writing blurbs about makeup that are as much advertisements as they are “reviews” sounded about as stimulating as, well, spending three months writing blurbs about makeup. So imagine my surprise when I found myself enjoying it. Yes, I was writing about beauty products, but it was still writing. And I like writing.
            The great thing about the beauty industry is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s completely frivolous, and the people inside the industry are just as aware of this as the people outside. My boss was educated, well-traveled and the first person to admit she never expected to wind up at a beauty magazine. She’s also one of the first people to admit: writing about beauty is fun. And I agree.
            I spent my days coming up with the cheesiest puns imaginable: “Inglot Cosmetics introduces a ‘scent-sational’ new fragrance line;” “Caffeine infused skincare, see what the buzz is all about;” “Worried about extra fat on your pooch? No, not your stomach, your dog.” (Did you know there’s liposuction for dogs now?! But don’t worry it’s purely for health reasons.)
            Aside from being fun, the perks didn’t suck. It was an unpaid internship, but there was a gym across the hall from me, an on site Starbucks where everything was free, a manicurist every other week (also free), and the occasional free beauty products. But corporate perks are never really free. Some part of your soul has to be sold. So what’s the trade off? What gets lost along the way?
            Artistic integrity. Coming from an MFA program where everyone seems to be aiming for different, where everyone wants to break through boundaries and do something surprising, and where I sometimes feel too mainstream (not that I’m complaining), writing about makeup is a big step in the opposite direction. It’s a world where facts sometimes go unpublished in favor of advertising revenue, and I know a lot of good writers who have moral qualms about that sort of thing. Luckily for me, I’ve never been one with an overdeveloped sense of righteous indignation. And chai tea lattes have a way of soothing my conscience
            Sure, maybe there’s something to be said for standards, for artistic integrity, for locking yourself away in a remote cabin in the woods to write a great American novel that no one will read until after your dead. At which point, moody high schoolers will rent the movie and glance through the CliffNotes. But there’s also something to be said for a building full of people sipping Americanos and getting paid to put words on paper. There’s something to be said for paying off student loans and not spending the last week of every month eating ramen noodles. There’s something to be said for making your art into your living. So don’t be afraid to trade in ten-dollar words for two-bit puns. It’s still writing. And as for artistic integrity, that’s what weekends are for.   
Shari Lefler is an MFA student and recipient of the President’s Award at Florida Atlantic University. Her focus is on non-fiction, especially travel and family memoir. Since entering the program, she has served as a non-fiction editor for Coastlines Literary Magazine, and Vice President of Graduate Teaching Assistants for the English Graduate Student Society. She has also worked as an editorial intern for digital content at New Beauty Magazine. She is currently organizing an underground group of rebel grammarians to join her fight against overuse of the exclamation point. To become a soldier for the cause, draw a semi-colon on a piece of masking tape and leave it outside your nearest Barnes and Noble. She will find you.

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