Interview with Heather Seidler
Meet Heather Seidler, Editor-In-Chief of ROGUE Magazine, Social Media Influencer, and all around badass boss lady. The Los Angeles-based magazine editor and writer has quite the impressive writing portfolio under her belt with work featured in publications, including Flaunt Magazine, Spin, LA Travel, Nylon, and Dazed just to name a few. While having interviewed high-profile subjects at various stages in their careers, such as Jared Leto, Kylie Jenner, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Usher, Andrew Garfield, James Franco, and Lizzy Caplan – again to name a few.
After four years as the Editorial Director & Partner of LADYGUNN Magazine, in July 2015 she founded ROGUE Magazine, a quarterly arts, fashion, and culture print publication. Her passion for storytelling and journalism is present in each feature, leaving readers anxiously awaiting the publication’s next issue.
“I strive to inject new life and continued creativity into an art form that many think is a dying medium while remaining outside that box.”
We had the incredible opportunity to interview Heather and learn about how she went from writer to visionary. Support this amazing Femmie!
What originally inspired you to pursue a career in journalism?
Lunacy I suppose. I’ve been a writer since I could pick up a pen, and even before I could write, I would dictate stories to my mother. Writing was the most innate thing to me but I didn’t know which medium would be my speciality. I knew it wasn’t going to be poetry, fiction novels or screenplays. That didn’t leave a whole lot of options. I figured I’d take a stab at a career in writing via journalism. Little did I know it’s statistically one of the most difficult careers to make money in on the planet. I had severe affections for music, art and cinema but not the right skillset to pursue a career in those fields, so I figured I’d instead write about those arenas. I wanted to tell the stories of my favorite artists in a way that others didn’t, to rebuild trust between journalist & artist. I grew up religiously reading every magazine I could get my hands on so that’s where the seed was planted. Then I just started spec interviewing local artists who I was acquainted with (like a young Steve Aoki, who was one of my 1st interviews in 2004) and the over the years, I painstakingly built my portfolio, navigating the crocodile infested waters of the editorial world.
You’ve written for incredibly popular publications, including Flaunt Magazine and Spin. What inspired you to take the leap of founding your own publication, Rogue Magazine?
This is a question I get asked almost daily. Long story short, I was spurred by a desire, not to reinvent the wheel, but to grease the wheel. There’s a lot of hitches in the editorial world, resulting in the struggle to keep print alive, but there is a way to sustain a print magazine without selling out or sensationalizing, without taking advantage of contributors & pandering to advertisers. I wanted to prove this. I also had the vision & drive to create a magazine that exposed certain cultural issues in a digestible way as well as filling a gap other lifestyle publications have created. Demonstrating that a magazine could be viable without being a shopping guide, a veiled tabloid or a celeb-driven handshake. Years after becoming a journalist, I also became an editor and eventual Partner of Ladygunn magazine, which made me a firsthand witness to the hustles & sacrifices publications make these days. A lot of indie mags become just a flash in the pan because they didn’t learn to adapt or rise above the complications of a consumer driven platform. But I didn’t have full creative freedom to do what I wanted/needed to do at another magazine, so I decided to start something from scratch that I could grow exactly as I’d envisioned. I wanted to create much more. Rogue was borne out of that.
In the world of journalism today, “creating buzz” is such a necessary and sometimes artificial thing. How do you choose the features that will run in your quarterly publications?
Great question. My career has always been predicated on creating content that interests the reader without sensalizationaling the subject matter in order to do so. We live in a clickbait listicle climate, but I’ve learnt the old cliche is true, if you build it right, they will come. I put in a lot of research into what’s of interest to my readership, what would engage them–so their attention comes organically. Our last cover story on Leighton Meester become the #2 top trending news story worldwide without me employing any clickbait tactics or headline-making buzzy pull quotes.
Rogue covers what truly interests us, regardless of what trends dictate. It’s also a team effort, my staff helps me curate a lineup that’s a blend of what’s underground, what’s popular and what is bold. I love the content i-D & Schön create (both of which I’ve contributed to) and I aspire to do things on their level, but my way. The more Rogue grows, the more we’re able to get our hands on the talent we want to shed light on. I like to embrace a kind of timeless cool in lieu of trying to figure out what’s the next big thing that month.
Rogue features a lot of stories surrounding revolutionary or rebellious youth culture, music, photography, feminism, and diversity. How do you set yourself apart from other art and culture columns?
I strive to inject new life and continued creativity into an artform that many think is a dying medium while remaining outside that box. We try to set ourselves apart by covering film, fashion, and culture in a way that isn’t boxed in by being commercial or driven by advertisers. We choose creativity over conformity. One way Rogue differentiates itself is by putting awesomely talented artists out there, showcasing their personality while elevating their aesthetic outside of their normal wheelhouse. We aim to embody the artists we feature with intelligent writing, bold imagery and provocative content. There’s such an insurgency in journalism now with how people consume content and I seek to entertain and inspire, not inform our readers on what they should feel, think, listen to or watch.
You also have an incredible social presence, personally – doing more than just posting Rogue stories on Instagram & Twitter. Do you agree that every editor today needs a social-media presence and brand to be successful?
Good question, and one that I often ask people I’m interviewing. I think social media can be a powerful tool and great way to bring exposure to what you’re doing. It connects you with people you’d ordinarily never have access to. However, social media is a semi-illusionary thing. As we know, the way people package themselves can be misleading. By carefully curating these glossy online personas, we risk looking to social media for validation. I try to always be distinctly myself on my social media, you won’t find any duck-faced selfies or product-endorsed pics on my feed. Believe me, with the swag I get offered, it’s tempting, but I’d be disingenuous if I did that. It’s dumbfounding that these “social media influencers” make so much money just being product peddlers. Having a stylish social media presence can be important in helping you stand out (mine being far from polished), but I don’t think it’s any requirement for success. I’m far more interested in growing Rogue’s social presence than my own.
Your resumé is beyond impressive, but what is the one accomplishment you are most proud of?
Thanks!! Whatever comes next will be what I’m most proud of. It’s almost impossible for me to be proud of what I’ve done because I always want to achieve more. It’s a curse and a blessing. Being published in GQ was a pretty big moment for me, but the pride was fleeting, I quickly yearned for the next achievement. I’m sorta lowkey never satisfied with my victories, always want what’s next/bigger/better.
Can you share a memorable experience that you hold near and dear when working with a past client?
There’s been countless memorable experiences in the decade I’ve been interviewing folks. The time Jared Leto gave me a tour of his private recording studio ending in a jam session, sitting in the sandbox for hours with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, doing Balkan shots with Cate Blanchett, making Billy Bob Thornton get choked up, getting Kylie Jenner to sing “Baby Got Back” in her dressing room, Tyler Shields cracking my back with a tennis ball in his living room…all highlights. If these walls could talk.
How would you describe your personal style? Aside from totally awesome and unique?
Not sure how to describe my style aside from I love pretty much anything with cats on it, peter pan collars, and I have a penchant for pastel vintage. When I was younger I used to be more concerned with how I dressed, now I pretty much wear the same 5 things. Valfre just sent me this amazing vintage-inspired dress and I’ve refused to take it off for the last few weeks, when people see me out, they must think I have no clothes.
What advice can you offer aspiring female journalists and entrepreneurs?
Best advice I could offer any journalist is: write, write, write. Write until you’re better than the guy sitting next to you. Submit queries to every publication that fits your style. After sending your submission, send follow-up emails. The persistent bird gets the worm. Approach smaller publications at first, fine tune your writing and interview skills. Don’t be swayed by rejection, grow from criticism but also learn how to spot when the criticism isn’t constructive. Also read a TON. Magazines and books are your lifeblood. Lastly, don’t let editors butcher your voice, that happened to me a lot in the beginning of my career, you have to ensure the integrity of your work speaks for itself.
Advice for budding girl boss entrepreneurs: Work harder than the guy next to you. Rock those dark under-eye circles, wear them like a badge. Don’t be scared to fuck up, mistakes help color the palate. Having a solid team behind you is key. Choose who you work with very carefully and treat those who do business with you fairly. Build partnerships with integrity and originality. Do things differently, better than your competitors and exchange in abundance. Give more than you get. Be bold, brave and boundary pushing.
What’s your interpretation for a Raw Femme?
I interpret Raw Femme to be someone who doesn’t conform to societal ideals of femininity and prescribed standards of beauty and confidence. We should all be a little more raw with our fem side rather than polished. In this Selfie-obsessed world, we should focus more on being kind to our femininity rather than filtering it through Instagram & Snapchat. Just be you always and don’t let public perception cloud or dictate how you should act, look or feel.
Photos courtesy of the amazing Sela Shiloni.