Alumna makes it in fashion industry

In Features

It was a nostalgic trip back to Cal State Fullerton for Elana Pruitt. As she peeked into the Daily Titan newsroom and noticed the writers working diligently on their stories, she couldn’t help but remember the time she was a reporter and making deadline was all that mattered.

But today, it was Pruitt’s wide-ranging and flourishing career in the field of fashion journalism that brought her back the newsroom to get interviewed herself.

She is the senior editor and editorial manager at PlasticSurgery.com, a search engine optimization site that provides information about the plastic surgery industry to its readers. She also writes a fashion column for Agenda Magazine.

And if that didn’t keep her busy enough, she also runs her own blog by the name of Good Girl Gone Shopping, through which she reflects on social issues, provides fashion tips and shares interesting life experiences. She also offers her services as a personal shopper through her blog for people from all walks of life.

But before venturing into a successful career, she was just a 17-year-old freshman at CSUF with a passion for writing.

“I always knew I loved to write. I didn’t know if it was English or poetry or what, but I knew I wanted to write. That’s always been my thing,” said Pruitt. “I remember going to the newsroom and asking how can I write for the paper … I was so eager.”

In 2001 she started writing for the Daily Titan in her sophomore year as an arts and entertainment beat reporter. Going to plays and listening to CDs was exciting, but she still wasn’t sure what direction she wanted to go.

And then came the major opportunity of being the editor-in-chief of the second issue of Tusk magazine the next year. It was the experience of working for a promising new publication that made her realize that her true passion was working for a print magazine.

“I went to New Orleans for a journalism conference with other staff writers and Professor Jeff Brody. I remember we were at the airport and we were all talking about the paper and how we loved working for it. And Professor Brody said to me, ‘Do you want to be editor-in-chief (of Tusk)?’” Pruitt said.

Although she knew it would be a lot work, she took it as an opportunity to learn about the magazine industry. From appointing photographers to making important editorial decisions, her role as the editor-in-chief prepared her for her future career.

“I had the time of my life and that’s why I know that I eventually want to go back to print. Everything I am doing right now is online, which is a wonderful experience, but my goal is to be in a print magazine,” Pruitt said.

As the adviser of Tusk magazine at that time, Brody saw a great potential in Pruitt because of that “sparkle and the know-how to be a great editor.” Pruitt was also invited by him to speak to his feature writing class last year, and he says that he is certainly proud of her accomplishments.

“Generally instructors can see the certain students who have that inner drive and that talent. However, some people are later bloomers. But there are some people who you say are destined for success, and Elana was one of them,” said Brody.

Besides writing, fashion has always been one of her interests, although writing for fashion was not something that she always wanted to do. It was at the age of 20 while working at Nordstrom that her love affair with fashion began. It was also during this time that she met her future boss.

While working at Nordstrom she also interned at the Hollywood Scriptwriter magazine as a requirement for her major. She interviewed a filmmaker by the name of Kaylene Peoples for an article, but after the internship was over she realized the editor never printed the story.

“As I was going through my notes, I felt really bad. That woman was so nice to me so I decided to call her to apologize. She told me that’s fine and asked me if I ever wanted to write for a fashion magazine. And I was like, ‘I would love to!’ She told me that she was starting a fashion magazine and wanted me to write a fashion column,” Pruitt recalls.

And that was it. She has been with Peoples for seven years now, writing a column for her Agenda magazine, attending fashion shows and store openings.

“She has an amazing spirit. I have never seen anyone so excited to dress someone up. Seeing a college student who really loves fashion was exciting. I was really impressed when she interviewed me; her interview skills are very good and very professional. And then she even followed through when the article didn’t run,” said Peoples. “She had heart and she was a kind of person I’d want to know anyway. I was just starting the magazine and I thought I’d call Elana because this is about fashion. Why not give her a shot if she is available, because I figured by then she’d already gotten picked up by some major magazine.”

For Peoples it has been a “thrill to watch” Pruitt grow from a student journalist to a professional. “We’ve been like a team from the start. I am so proud of her. I think she has only reached a little bit of her full potential because there is so much more she can do. She has grown with the magazine, and if you read her first article up until her last you see the growth in her writing too.”

Over the years, Pruitt has built a name for herself amongst readers and industry insiders with her unique take on social and fashion trends.

“When Britney Spears shaved her head, I wrote about how it was the first time she stood up for herself. It was a fashion statement too. All these celebrities have stylists but when they think for themselves, who knows what is going to come out of them,” Pruitt said.

Recently she was able to meet Steve Madden, one of many designers she had been able to meet through Agenda. Sometimes it can be nerve-wracking too when she would have to go up to the ramp just after a show to interview a designer.

“Most people are in awe of celebrities. I am more in awe of designers,” Pruitt said.

She explains that at the end of the day designers are people too, and once you get to their level and realize they are just artists who want to express themselves, then there is no nervousness. The majority of the people she has come across in the fashion industry have been quite friendly and open to her. The only challenge she has to face is people not having time.

“I realize that they have an empire to look after. Sometimes I think that my blog is so small but it is amazing how people would put it so high. It’s more positive than negative, and the only negative being the lack of time that a person has to speak to you, which is not really a big negative, they are just busy,” Pruitt said.

The idea of starting a personal blog came to Pruitt over many years of giving fashion tips to coworkers and friends.

“One day I thought that maybe I (was) on to something because I sure do help people a lot. I said to myself, ‘You know what? I am going to start a personal shopping business.’ When I was at Nordstrom I loved helping people shop, so I kind of took that and created the Good Girl Gone Shopping blog in 2007,” Pruitt said.

Being a personal shopper is another one of her ventures. She has different packages that she offers to her clients on her blog. She visits their home for consultation, looks at their clothes, figures out what is lacking from their wardrobe, what they want and she goes to the mall with them to shop within their budget. She aims to keep it a very casual experience but is committed to treating them in a special way.

“The selling point of my business is the fact that I work within their budget. If they say they only have a $100 budget and want to buy three things, then I am not going to show them a $100 blouse,” Pruitt said.

So how does she do it all? “You know what’s interesting? I learned everything at Fullerton,” she answered.

Being a reporter and a copy editor for the Daily Titan, and then editor-in-chief of Tusk, taught her a lot and she attributes her ability to handle things so well as a professional to the deadlines she had to meet as a student writer.

“Deadlines, you don’t mess around with. And I’ve learned as a professional now that not making deadlines can do you more harm than good. But I learned at Fullerton the importance of that,” Pruitt said. “Being a student, I had an internship, I worked full time for 30 hours at the mall and I was a full-time student as well. Being young and doing all that, I just knew that it had to be done.”

She advises aspiring journalists to believe that their voice is very important and that they should trust in their talent. Even at the age of 30, she still sometimes questions herself, but at the end of the day her belief in herself keeps her going.

“It is very easy to question your worth, but you just have to trust in your talents and take an extra step and be proactive. If I never would have called Kaylene to tell her that the story didn’t run, I never would have been with Agenda,” Pruitt said.

She also believes networking is an important tool in today’s world, something she did not quite understand when she graduated.

“When I graduated everyone kept saying ‘network, network, network’ and I had no idea what that meant,” Pruitt said. “I only knew of network from like a computer. But now I’ve come to realize that it means telling people what you do, being a nice person and following up with people. Just let your passion come through. Don’t hold back and know your worth.”

Her own experience in the professional world has made her realize that CSUF students are trained to compete with students from the best colleges in the country. The UC tag may look good on a resume, but it does not always guarantee success.
“CSUF is known for its communications program,” Pruitt said. “I’ve been in many interviews and I’ve never seen someone give me a certain look of ‘oh, you went to Fullerton.’ The fact that you have a communications degree and that you came from a school that is hardcore communications and journalism is all that matters. The experience students get here, every single, tiny thing they do prepares them for their future.”

But sometimes she wishes she could just go back to her college days and just worry about her assignments.

“It is a different kind of pressure (in the real world),” Pruitt said. “But all the experience I got at Fullerton, I took it to my career. It doesn’t feel hard because it is my field. It’s work, but if it’s your passion then it’s fun.”

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