Carlyn Sylvester: Glossier's Head of Creative Operations & Production

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Carlyn Sylvester: Glossier's Head of Creative Operations & Production

UPON GRADUATING FROM STANFORD with a degree in Modern Thought and Literature, Carlyn Sylvester booked a one-way ticket to Australia. That year, she flitted around the world, working at a surf hostel in Bondi Beach, Sydney for the better part of a year, and backpacking through South East Asia for the rest.

The reason why? At Stanford she'd staffed Chi Theta Chi as a junior and a senior, meaning she was never able to study abroad. After submitting her thesis and walking that June, she was burnt out. Wanting the study abroad experience she never had, she made it happen for herself. And that’s the thing about Carlyn Sylvester —  she makes things happen. Currently, she's doing that in New York, where she serves as Head of Creative Operations & Production at Glossier, an all-in-one beauty, tech, and editorial start-up founded by CEO Emily Weiss.

“I tell people my job is to, very simply, just get sh*t done,” she says with a light laugh. “My one job is to make it easier for creatives to produce great work. I bridge the gap between the creative side and the business side." Carlyn excels because of her love for carrying out great ideas from people with great content — she’s mastered the art and science of execution.

Carlyn brightens up as she describes her work, which encompasses oversight of operations and execution against all sorts of Glossier’s creative needs: photo & video production, print and packaging production, as well as retail/offline production. She talks through a marketing campaign as a high-level example: “Marketing comes to [my team] and says ‘hey guys, we have this new product launching in January, these are our goals, this is why or how we made this product, this is the story we want to tell, we want to create a campaign.’” Once that happens, Carlyn works closely with creative directors, designers, and copywriters, who ideate and brainstorm. The collective team (almost everything is done in-house) then shoots the content and repurposes it in post-production for Glossier’s marketing channels. At this point, Carlyn focuses on making sure “everyone who is creating, is creating what they need to be creating in the most efficient way possible,” without sacrificing creative or brand integrity.

As she moves further along her career path and takes on more managerial roles, she’s started to realize that her job is really about enabling talented people to do what they do and love best, removing obstacles, and going to bat for her team. Carlyn is as down to earth as she is talented, claiming several times that she cannot take responsibility for activations such as the recent Solution launch campaign or the IRL pop-up at Rhea’s Cafe in San Francisco because there are so many team members that play a crucial part in bringing these ideas to life.

She also lets me peer into the lens through which she views the Glossier community. “We are simple and barebones in the sense of what our product is, and so community driven," she explains. "We would never put something out there that makes no sense, because we are so in tune with our community...there’s this fluidity between the people who work here and in our community and vice versa. It’s this one big, huge ecosystem.”

When I ask Carlyn how she feels about working at such a female-powered company, she doesn’t skip a beat in letting me know that she loves it.  "It’s a lot of very down to earth, very intelligent men and women. It’s kind of a microcosm of the city...a hodgepodge of really intelligent people.” She goes on to tell me that “it’s amazing to sit in a meeting where you have a tech person who’s a woman, a logistics person who’s a woman, and you just have a lot of these really f—ing awesome intelligent women who are doing roles that at other companies you may not traditionally see women playing.”

For those of us interested in joining brilliant companies like Glossier, Carlyn has some advice. She stresses that “if you find people whose jobs you find interesting and you reach out with a really nice email, people more so than not actually respond. Leveraging the network that you have can be very, very powerful.” She was introduced to Glossier via a friend whom she knew from both Stanford and Harvard Business School. Similarly, she was introduced to her old boss at Spotify through an acquaintance she met while in Cambridge. Carlyn is a huge proponent of just asking someone to grab a cup of coffee. “Truly, truly, I think that can be one of the most powerful things ever. If you follow the things you truly love and are truly passionate about, that stuff naturally falls into place.”

And although Carlyn was understandably tight-lipped about upcoming product launches, she promises that a lot of really exciting work is forthcoming and that we should keep an eye out as their cadence of products is massively increasing — and not just in the USA.

After this hour conversation, I walked away with an even deeper appreciation for people like Carlyn who are humble, kind, and quite honestly just kick ass at getting things done. And as another round of Stanford seniors prepare to walk this June, I’m excited to see what badassery they’ll hatch up in their careers.

By: Ameeqa Ali
Photography by: Ameeqa Ali
Special thanks to Carlyn Sylvester for the interview

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Brandon Stanton: Our Favorite Human of New York

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Brandon Stanton: Our Favorite Human of New York

BRANDON STANTON'S GOT AN ACCENT I can't place. Not quite like a southern drawl—maybe something Midwestern. He’s got rs that he chews on, and bites into his es, hard.

It’s comparatively rare for a microphone and camera to be focused on him. Brandon’s photography blog showcases the voices of thousands of people across the world. No audio (save for recently; he’s started a video series) and no Brandon. Just memories, visceral and honest. Ice cream; divorce; bodies; kissing; trauma. Today, he’s posted the most-shared Facebook photo of all time, and the number of likes on HONY outnumbers the actual population of New York. HONY’s audience has raised millions of dollars to help end bonded labor in Pakistan, fund pediatric cancer research, and send low-income schoolchildren on tours to Harvard.

It wasn’t always like this. Later on, as he paces the CEMEX stage, Brandon will explain how his viral photo project began. Matching the tone of HONY itself, his talk is characterized by intimacy and casualness. He has a salmon shirt and a gentle, flutey voice, and holds his body with the looseness of a teenager—6 ft 3 inches, but shorter when slung back on his heels. He will tell us about his days spent “hitting the bong in the dorm room”; about getting laid off from the first job that ever made him feel important; about what it’s like to feel like a total Grade-A failure. Brandon Stanton is not in the business of being heard, but he is a damned good storyteller.

But before the CEMEX talk, before the crowd, he’s backstage on a couch with PULSE, explaining what it’s like to wield an international spotlight.

PULSE: HOW DO YOU PICK THE CAUSES THAT YOU SUPPORT?

Brandon Stanton: Primarily, I want HONY to be storytelling content. If fundraising can come out of that, that’s great. But mainly I’m asking, where are powerful and important stories that I can tell? Once I’ve found that, then I can ask, is there a social good element that I can do on top of this?

P: How do you find those stories?

BS: It’s kind of a mix. But it all starts with, you know, what are important and powerful stories that I could be telling right now? What’s the best use of the space on my blog?

Fatima in Pakistan was pretty random. I just met Vidal in Brooklyn on a cold January day. The Memorial Sloane-Kettering project was a little bit more structured and planned. I met with them and asked if I could have access to their pediatric cancer ward.

Laid off as a bond trader in 2010, totally broke and spiraling into feelings of purposelessness, Brandon decided to commit to his longtime hobby of photography. He moved to a tiny apartment in New York shared with three other Craigslist roommates, slept on a floor mattress, and vowed to document one New Yorker a day. This project was titled Humans of New York, though eventually it would spread internationally. At first it was slow going, which he didn’t mind— it was mostly a project for himself.

One day, he added a quote to a now-iconic photo, fondly referred to as the “green lady.” The combination of photo and quote was unexpectedly contagious. The next day, his page views had exploded.

As HONY’s viewership grew, its scope expanded. Brandon has now photographed and interviewed Obama, covered the Met Gala, and met unique trailblazers from all over the world. He has embarked on multiple photojournalism series, documenting Iraqi war veterans, childhood cancer patients, and traveled to 20+ countries, including Iran, Iraq, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ukraine, Vietnam, and Mexico.


P: AS YOUR VIEWERSHIP HAS INCREASED, DO YOU THINK THAT'S CHANGED YOUR BEHAVIOR WHEN YOU'RE CHOOSING YOUR STORIES? 

H: I used to like the very mysterious caption. Someone staring off into the distance. What happened was that the comments section started getting filled with speculations about the person’s life, and then arguments. Once it got big, it became such a stage, and the spotlight got so bright on the people there. One of the reasons I went to longer captions was out of that concern for the subject.

I insist on people taking anonymity a lot more. Very few times are you gonna have hundreds and thousands of people commenting on your life all at once. If somebody’s revealing something very vulnerable, you know, I’ll encourage them to be anonymous. If they’re talking about somebody else, and saying things about them that are private or accusatory, I will insist on them being anonymous. Those are the two big things.

It’s a single-source blog, so I do rely on people to tell the truth and I assume that they’re telling the truth. I’ve been duped a couple times, but it’s also very hard to lie on HONY, because everybody you know is gonna see it.

P: WHAT'S YOUR ADVICE FOR INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE INTERESTED IN USING STORYTELLING TO MAKE SOCIAL CHANGE, AS YOU HAVE?

BS: The power of HONY comes through getting out of the interview framework as much as possible. Real magic comes out of conversations as opposed to interviews.  The power of a story comes from being very present in the conversation with somebody, and being very curious too. And following your extreme curiosity, listening very intently, and asking questions tailored to what the person is saying to you, as opposed to following some sort of framework.

I only have one or two or three lead-in questions. Everything after that is a hundred follow-up questions, tailored directly to what the person’s saying. It’s very intense listening.

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Brandon’s chief concerns seem to be honesty and vulnerability, which he self-describes as being able to intuitively sense—the moment when a subject moves past defensive answers and eases into a quieter, more contemplative space. In his interviews, he chases it with a never-ending line of questions. This is why he “hates” photographing the MET Gala, despite his subjects’ beauty and fame: their gilded exterior personas are incredibly hard to break through, and honesty is hard to find.

P: HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE EMOTIONS THAT COME ALONG WITH PEOPLE OPENING UP TO YOU SO MUCH ABOUT THEIR PRIVATE LIVES? 

BS: One of the reasons why HONY feels very authentic is that I sit there in the moment and I feel whatever that person is feeling. I don’t know if I’ve gotten very good at segmenting it, but once it’s over, it’s normally over for me.

Sometimes that is impossible. Normally during the series, where I am doing something like refugee series, or PTSD— especially the pediatric cancer series, where the stories are just so tragic, and so nonstop, those kind of stay with you.

P: COULD YOU GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OF STORIES THAT HAVE STUCK WITH YOU?

BS: Every single one’s the most important one to somebody. It all depends on how similar the person’s experience is to the one that you’re going through.

There’re some stories that meant a lot to me when I was 26. And now that I’m 34 and I’m having a child, I relate to other stories more. So it’s always rotating.

P: HOW HAS THE HABIT OF PARTICIPATING IN EMOTIONALLY CHARGED INTERACTIONS WITH PEOPLE CHANGED YOUR INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS?

BS: Probably not as much as you’d imagine. When your work is so seamless in your everyday existence, it’s hard to say what is just maturing and what is a direct result of the work.

One thing is, I’m never afraid of invading somebody’s privacy. I feel like a lot of times, people are going through, like, divorce or a drug addiction, and everyone’s respectful of their privacy and they don’t ask them about their problems. That’s one thing that Humans of New York has gotten me over. When somebody’s going through something, they want to be asked about it. So I’ll go right into it. I won’t make small talk and I won’t dance around it.

I think there’s something about the interaction between two strangers that creates this intimacy. So it doesn’t directly transfer into the relationships in my life. I don’t know if it’s sustainable to have deep, searching conversations [all the time.]

P: WHAT'S NEXT?

BS: I’m trying to do more long-form stuff. Just ‘cause it challenges me more as an artist. By far the way that I could grow my audience the most, and sell the most books—whatever—is getting to master the short form. That’s what everybody consumes. But I’ve done that.

As an artist, I want to try to do deeper examinations of people, even though it might take me away from the blog.

I’m going to the Philippines for 5 or 6 weeks. I’m working on a documentary on one person that I met that’s very interesting. That’s the thing that I’m thinking about the most right now.

PULSE thanks Brandon Stanton for the interview and Stanford Speakers Bureau!

By: Annie Zheng

Photography by: Ameeqa Ali

 

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STANFORD DRAG TROUPE

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STANFORD DRAG TROUPE

AS STANFORD CELEBRATES Sexuality Week this week, PULSE profiles Stanford Drag Troupe, a student group dedicated to exploring issues of gender and sexual orientation through the writing and performance of drag.

IT'S A TUESDAY night during Week 9, and I’ve arrived at Roble to a scene of cheerful chaos. “Thanks for coming,” Lexi Neilan, wearing a fire-engine red wig, says as she lets me in. “We’re just getting ready.”

Ten or so performers, in various states of dressed- and made-up, are scattered across the foyer. Since the start of fall quarter, these students have been the creative and logistical forces behind the Stanford Drag Troupe (SDT). By providing a space for students to explore the art form, SDT allows its members—who come from diverse backgrounds and levels of drag experience—to take an unflinching look at gender identity and sexual orientation.

“[Drag is] basically a huge ‘f— you’ to gender roles and anyone who tells you that you have to act or present a certain way,” said Lexi, one of the group’s co-presidents. “I think I was confused about my sexual orientation or gender identity for a while, but experimenting with both masc drag and femme drag helped me to figure out who I am.”

Initiated by students Ima Grullon and Lexi Neilan at the start of the year, SDT became an official student arts group during winter quarter.

The group does not have a Creative Director. Instead, performers developed their own personas and choreographies, preparing their acts in the months leading up to the group’s inaugural show, Silicone Valley. As evocative as it is irreverent, the title seemingly pokes fun at tech culture in the Bay Area and at Stanford. “We wanted to show that hard work and creativity can manifest in ways other than a start-up,” Lexi said.

The night of the show, Roble Theater is packed. There aren’t any open seats visible when I arrive, so I hover uncertainly outside as performers and audience members mingle in the foyer. Thankfully, I’m saved by a performer who introduces himself as Beau and helps me find a spot to watch the show. “The sound guy’s nice. He’ll probably let you sit next to him,” he says. “You’ll be able to find him. He’s covered in glitter.”

As the performers take the stage in full costume and makeup, the crowd quiets down as Lexi takes the mic, introducing herself as her drag persona umami, and somewhat sternly reminds the audience to be respectful during the performance. “If you aren’t,” she adds with a smile, gesturing to another performer onstage who is dressed in police uniform, “We will have you removed.”

As the show begins, troupe members reveal the result of months of creativity and practice—performing their acts with professionalism and enthusiasm. Performances featured lip-syncs to songs like “I’m Afraid to Talk to Men” and “Psycho Killer,” as well as student-written spoken pieces such as “Am I Failing Hard Enough?” satirizing Stanford d.school thinking. The tone of the performances is consistently campy and sexy, regularly eliciting laughter and whooping from audience members. But the audience also feels deeply introspective reflections of performers on themselves and the campus culture around them.

The performers’ energy was matched only by that of their audience. When the finale comes around, the entire cast returns for a choreography to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” finishing to a standing ovation. Perhaps it’s the unapologetic yet self-deprecating humorous approach that SDT takes on self-expression and exploration that charms audience members. The balance that performers strike between critique and drama provokes the viewer but does not fail to entertain—and the group hopes its unique perspective will foster important conversation on campus.

“I have felt that there has been a lot of separation between the queer community at Stanford and those who don’t know very much about LGBTQ+ history,” Lexi said, “and I think that drag is the perfect way to unite people and have fun.”

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Check out Stanford Drag Troupe's latest show on Friday, May 4th from 8-9 pm in Toyon Lounge featuring Honey Mahogany from RuPaul's Drag Race Season 5!

Photo compliments of the event fb page

The full names of SDT cast members (and their drag names, if applicable) are listed below:
Lexi Neilan aka umami
Ima Grullon
Christian Badillo aka BINCH
Steve Rathje aka Lady Dragbeth
Eva Grant aka Annie Depressant
Medora Rorick aka Beau
Colette Brannan aka Alex Hardon
Tabitha Walker aka Paul Tart
Brigitte Pawliw-Fry

By: Cindy Kuang
Photography by: Alessandra Diaz

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THRIFTING: $20 IN MY POCKET

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THRIFTING: $20 IN MY POCKET

THERE ARE A few trends that never go out of style: stripes, trench coats, statement pieces, to name a few. However, since the 60’s, thrift shopping has become one of them; thrifting is becoming an increasingly popular avenue for shopping. To some, thrift shopping is an important economical choice; for others, it’s about its sustainability over the recent surge of fast fashion. We interviewed three Stanford students with three different perspectives; here are their takes on why they choose to thrift.

LILLA PETRUSKA

PULSE: HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR STYLE?

Lilla: I’d say it’s pretty minimalist, but I really like statement pieces. I have a lot of basics, but I’ve found a lot of fun and colorful pieces in thrift shops. I’d almost say that my style mimics Monica and Rachel from Friends.

P: HOW DID YOU GET INTO THRIFTING?

L: My mom is super resourceful and thrifty, so I’d go with her when I was little. As I grew up, particularly in high school, I had my own job, and I wanted a pragmatic way to find things. Thrift stores are cheap!

P: WHAT KEPT YOU COMING BACK?

L: I really value the environmentally friendly aspect of thrifting. I think I started as a cost-effective way to find cool styles, but after taking AP Environmental Science in high school, I became very aware of the waste in consumerism and the clothing industry. I’ve even started buying non-clothing items from thrift stores, like furniture. I really like that I’m trying not to contribute more to consumerism and supporting a good cause.

P: HOW WOULD YOU SAY THRIFTING SHAPES YOUR STYLE?

L: I think that I have more of a unique style. It may be less “trendy,” but I appreciate this. I like a classic look. I don’t wear everything that I have all the time, but everything that I have, I love.

 

 

 

 

CLARA SPARS

PULSE: HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR STYLE?

Clara: Someone told me something today that I really liked: “Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz mixed with Frida Kahlo.” I try to mix “bohemian hippie” with “modern, second wave feminist.” A lot of my clothing is thrifted, so I’d preface those with thrift store junkie as well.

P: HOW DID YOU GET INTO THRIFTING?

C: I basically just walked into a thrift store one day, and I just found the pieces more interesting than I did those in a retail store. At first glance, some of the pieces can come off as “old,” or even “ugly,” but I’ve really found that you can do a lot with them.

P: WHAT KEPT YOU COMING BACK?

C: I found that, by thrifting, I could really shape my own unique style, and I’d always have projects. Also, it’s really cheap, which is always a plus.

P: WHAT DO YOU VALUE MOST ABOUT THRIFTING?

C: I really like picking something up and thinking of all the ways you can work with it. Thrifting constantly leaves me with projects.

ELEKOS PRAXIS

PULSE: HOW DO YOU DEFINE YOUR STYLE?

Elekos: I’d say it’s something like “Tony Hawk meets Donald Glover.” Sometimes I have an old man aesthetic.

P: OLD MAN AESTHETIC? PLEASE ELABORATE.

E: I like patterns on patterns, and that kind of just reminds me of spunky old men.

P: HOW DID YOU GET INTO THRIFTING?

E: I’ve been thrifting since I was a child, primarily due to financial necessity. As I grew up, I discovered some really incredible thrift stores in Austin with really cool pieces. There’s one called “Monkey’s Vintage and Thrift”--that’s one of my favorites.

P: WHAT DO YOU VALUE MOST ABOUT THRIFTING?

E: It’s super cheap. That’s important to me. I also really appreciate stepping away from a capitalist economy and not constantly buying into consumerism.

P: HOW HAS THRIFTING SHAPED YOUR STYLE?

E: Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t think about it too much. I wear what I like, and I can find a lot of it thrifting.

 

By: Jeyla Aranjo

Photography by: Chloe Peterson

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