By Liza Darwin
Marissa Smith spent much of her career working her way up as a fashion editor at magazines, eventually landing her dream gig as the Senior Market Editor at NYLON. But when the print mag folded, she re-evaluated and found a new, equally dreamy calling as the in-house stylist at OBEY. She moved to California and now styles all the brand’s photoshoots (and hasn’t looked back since). Get Marissa’s best advice—from finding your passion to finding a great mentor—below.
What were you like as a teen?
That's a loaded question! I was a cheerleader but also "scene," and I hung out with drama kids. I was all over the place, but mainly I was pretty normal. I'm straight edge—meaning, I never partied in high school and was very responsible (designated driver for life). I went to a lot of movies, hung out with my best friend at her house listening to music and taking photos for MySpace...you know, the usual for a teenager in the early 2000's. Looking back, I'm pretty happy with my teenage years. I was confident enough to get through high school and move on with my life. I can't really ask for anything more out of a teenager from New Jersey.
As an adult, what do you wish you could tell your teenage self now?
Falling in love as a teenager was the one thing I never experienced. I'm sure my teenage self would be stoked to know that a year out of high school, I found my true love and married him. But mainly, I just would tell my teen self to trust her gut and that she's going to be OK. I swear—if I knew how much I was going to be able to travel, write, create, and get my dream job, I probably would have had a heart attack.
How exactly did you get to where you are now, professionally?
It all comes down to my internships and the relationships I made during them. I interned in college for Glamour
(twice) and ELLE
. I landed an amazing mentor (hi, Rachael Wang!
) and she’s helped me through all of my jobs since. Out of college, I couldn't find a full-time job, so I freelanced for GQ
. I eventually landed at NYLON
as a fashion assistant a year later, with my mentor Rachael as my boss. I worked my way up at NYLON
through the five and half years there and ended up as the Senior Fashion Market Editor, which was my dream job. It was the biggest accomplishment of my work life (and still is). In September of 2017, the magazine unfortunately folded—with that, my dreams were shattered. I had to re-evaluate my career goals and what I wanted for my life long-term.
I was lucky enough to have my mentor and a lot of friends who helped me figure out my next steps. That led to a cross-country move to California and a job with OBEY Clothing, a brand I've always been a fan of. As the in-house stylist, I work with the marketing team, styling and producing all photo shoots for both the men's and women's collections.
What's one thing you wish you had known then that you know now about having a career?
Once you get the job you've always dreamed of, you stop dreaming. I wish I would have known to keep thinking about the future and keep dreaming, bigger and better things. Also: Fight for yourself always. I'm very timid (and still am!) about fighting for myself. If I would have started when I was younger, this would probably be a non-issue now.
What work advice do you have for teens just starting out?
Find what field you're interested in, and then try everything you can within that field. Intern in multiple areas within the industry if you can. Test everything until you find the right fit. Don't get discouraged if things don't go your way in your twenties—there is so much time, and so much out there to do.
This letter is brought to you by our pals at Underlined, a teen book community by Random House Children’s Books. This month, we’re highlighting Two Can Keep a Secret, a new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying, Karen M. McManus.
Watch the AwesomenessTV Underlined Book Club on IGTV, where our host Dahlia breaks down Two Can Keep a Secret and why you should read it ASAP. Watch the book trailer here!