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Manchester High School for Girls

In Conversation with...Deborah Joseph

Last week, Deborah Joseph, Editor-in-Chief of GLAMOUR magazine urged a room of Manchester High alumnae to, “…unfollow me!”

Deborah, a former MHSG pupil herself, wasn’t attempting to cut ties with the school community but was driving home the fact that what people portray on social media isn’t their real life. “We lose hours and hours gazing at these beautiful people whose lives seem far more exciting and alluring than our own – but it’s not real! None of it is! Don’t follow anyone who makes you feel rubbish. I used to follow a lady who made me feel bad about myself every time she posted. She wasn’t doing anything wrong, the poor woman was just living her life, but it made me feel bad. I stopped following her and haven’t, until today, thought about her since. So, if any of my content makes you question yourself or feel bad, unfollow me!”

The impact social media can have on self-confidence was just one of the topics that Deborah touched on during Manchester High’s “In Conversation with…” event on Thursday 10th October at the Conde Nast College of Fashion and Design in London. Deborah recommended limiting social media scrolling to a maximum of 30 minutes a day and told the audience she left Twitter last year, “It’s just such a toxic environment at the moment that I don’t think all the ‘noise’ on there is particularly good for your mental health.”

 

While such an ‘arms-length’ attitude to social media may seem odd from the woman credited with successfully transforming GLAMOUR from a print publication to a digital-first brand, Deborah was keen to point out that she employs people who understand social media, not people who live their lives through various platforms,

“To me, someone who has the time to post three, four, five times a day on their social profiles isn’t an interesting person. Someone who is on Instagram all the time is missing out on key life experiences that will shape them as a person and that type of person probably isn’t someone I would employ.”

Navigating Deborah through a range of issues was another MHSG alumna and BBC journalist, Amber Haque. When Amber asked Deborah what character traits she had developed at Manchester High, she immediately commented,

Deborah and Amber

“Determination and ambition. I don’t know what they put in the water at MHSG but you really do leave that school believing you can do anything. It’s an incredible attitude to have, but as women I think we so often need to be kinder to ourselves when it comes to failing. I’d been Editor at Easy Living magazine for just five months before I went on maternity leave. During my leave the magazine folded and I was made redundant. Now, I’d only been there five months previously but I took that so personally and shouldered all the responsibility, it was a really difficult time. What matters most though is how you bounce back and I think that’s what Manchester High gave me, the ability to get up again and keep going.

“My redundancy also taught me an important lesson about this industry. All the people who are sending you flowers and gifts and telling you how wonderful you are; they’re doing that because of your job and it’s important to know that. A very select group of people called me when I’d been made redundant and it’s those people I’m still friendly with today.”

Deborah was candid about the realities of maintaining true friendships in the modern world. “Last year I was totally burnt out. I was putting too much pressure on myself to succeed in all areas of my life, to have the big career, the perfect marriage, be a hands-on mother and have a prolific social life. Some people told me to quit my job, some told me to get more help with childcare, but I didn’t want to have to choose between work and family. I love both.

“So, I came up with my own imperfect solution. I made a list of the top things that mattered to me and then, with anything else, I started to consciously drop balls. I call it ‘living my best 70% life’ – if something doesn’t fit into my top 70% then it doesn’t happen. It’s meant that I’ve had to accept that not everything at work will be ‘perfect’ (sometimes ‘done’ has to be enough), that I’m just not going to see some friends as much (people who I do genuinely adore) and I’m never going to be as fit as Jennifer Lopez (I have the body of a woman who has given birth to three babies) but not even attempting to ‘have it all’ has certainly helped me.

“When I spoke to my staff at GLAMOUR about this, a team made up of millennials and Gen Zers, I realised this isn’t just a working mum issue, it’s something we’re all struggling with in modern life and I do feel a responsibility to share this with the next generation.”

Deborah clearly takes her responsibilities as Editor-in-Chief at GLAMOUR very seriously. “The previous editor didn’t include any articles relating to aesthetic treatments, and, as a mother of two daughters, I can totally see where she was coming from. However, I feel strongly that by not including something, you’re judging it and that’s not my place. Aesthetic treatments are out there and available to girls from the age of 18 and let’s be frank, there are lots of people doing them badly. It’s my place, and that of the magazine, to provide well-researched articles relating to what is going on in the aesthetics industry so that people can make their own decisions.

“I’m also really passionate that our content shouldn’t purely be driven by what the algorithm says is most popular. For example, some of our features on sustainable fashion haven’t done as well as I would have liked but we’re going to keep running them as I believe the fashion industry needs to do more to reduce its environmental impact and it’s important we’re part of keeping the pressure on designers and fashion houses to change.”

Deborah concluded the evening by reflecting on what it is like to work with a team that is significantly younger than herself, “I imagine it’s similar to how lots of the teachers at MHSG feel, they certainly keep you on your toes and sometimes things get lost in translation. To me, Kylie will always be Kylie Minogue but for them Kylie is Kylie Jenner. I learn things from them every single day – they’re living at a speed we can’t even imagine and I think they deserve lots of respect for that.”

For more information about Alumnae events in 2019/20 please click here.