Introducing The Grazia Collective


by Grazia |
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We’re excited to announce the launch of the Grazia Collective – think of it as the best private members’ club in town, filled with brilliant women, AKA you, our readers.

Here, we introduce our line-up of awesome ambassadors – each one an expert leader in their field – who will be hosting talks, events and interactive discussions to help inspire you over the next 12 months.

Nicola Mendelsohn, 44, Facebook’s Vice-President, Europe, Middle East and Africa


There are over five and a half million small businesses in Britain but only one in five is set up by a woman. One in 10 women here have an idea but so many have told us they don’t know where to start.

We're partnering with The Federation For Small Business and also The British Chamber of Commerce to address this.

We’ve created a hub, She Means Business, where women can go to get practical advice, video tutorials, to help them set up the business of their dreams. My parents instilled in me the love of dreaming big and believing in myself and it was probably the greatest gift they could have given to me. Sometimes, we have two inner voices – a positive one and a negative one. Trust the positive one.

Our instincts are usually the right thing. The best advice I was given was, ‘Do the things that you think you cannot do’. If you keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone you keep learning.

We shouldn’t be worrying about pleasing people all the time. We should be ruthlessly prioritising – choosing when to say yes and when to say no.

Gizzi Erskine, 36, Chef And Award-Winning Food Writer


When I was growing up, my mum had loads of great dinner parties and I was always in awe of them. I started out as a body-piercer, but I realised I wanted to turn cooking into a profession, so I retrained when I was 23. I went to work at a restaurant in London called E&O and really got a kick out of it.

There’s a side to me that is very confident and I’m opinionated, particularly on social media. But then I always feel out of my depth. Somebody told me if you lose that feeling you’re probably missing the point of what you’re doing. I really care about producing food that’s delicious, that’s technically well done, that’s inspiring.

If you choose to do something well, you will do it well. When I started as a chef it was frowned on to have a sense of style – to be into anything more than food – and I got stick for it. But actually, people like the fact that I love clothes and music, too.

Jane Shepherdson CBE, 54, CEO Of Whistles


I studied marketing at college, but I knew I wanted to be in fashion. I was very lucky, I got in at Topshop on their graduate trainee programme and thought, ‘Right, foot in the door, off you go.’ You should only do something if you’re passionate about it and you can be proud of it. Otherwise it’s hard to see the point, and I don’t think you’ll give it your best.

I think women are tough on themselves, particularly women with children who have that feeling they’re not succeeding in either the home or the workplace, in a way that men probably just don’t even consider. It’s a hard one to overcome.

Confidence takes you a very long way, but if you don’t have it naturally there’s a lot to be said for acting as if you do. The first time I had to stand up in front of a thousand people at Topshop’s annual meeting I thought: ‘I can’t do this.’ But what I do is lots of research and lots of practising.

Very few people can fly by the seat of their pants. The more prepared you are, the more research you have done, the more confident you’ll be. If I can make some other women think that their aspirations are possible then that’s wonderful.

Jessie Burton, 34, Author Of Acclaimed Novel, 'The Miniaturist'


Failing in my career as an actress made me turn to perhaps my better skill: writing. For three years while I was writing The Miniaturist, I’d surreptitiously type away while I was working as a PA. I desperately wanted something to change in my life and I knew I had to make it happen.

There’s this idea that because you’re a writer you’ve got all the answers, but I’m open about the fact that I write because I don’t have the answers, because I’m curious, because I’m always searching.

Some days I’ll write 500 words, some days 5,000 and sometimes accepting that is the most productive thing I can do. I just aim to write something every day. There’s nothing more radical than a woman who likes herself, who’s proud of herself. It’s something we all need to work on.

When people get in touch and say they loved my book, it’s very humbling and, paradoxically, it makes me want to do better rather than congratulate myself. I think accepting that you’re never really going to be perfect is an incredibly liberating thing, so I try not to worry too much.

‘The Muse’ by Jessie Burton is available to pre-order now in hardback and eBook

Mary Katrantzou, 33, Fashion Designer


Both my parents were entrepreneurs, so I inherited that sense of wanting to build my own business. While I was studying at St Martins, I won British Fashion Council sponsorship, which meant I got so much advice and support, particularly from other amazing women. Relationships are so important.

Now, I always try to take the time to look at new female designers’ portfolios and help them if I can. The work-life balance is particularly difficult for women, because by nature we’re ambitious and want to excel in our careers, but many women want to have children too. It means our focus has to be razor-sharp to achieve what we want in a

certain time-frame. Fashion is a difficult industry to get into; it’s so competitive.

But talent is rewarded. Even if a decision is a mistake, you can

live with it, if it was yours. Having the courage of your own convictions is vital. Most pitfalls won’t change the course of your career, they’ll just make you sharper. Failure can sometimes be very useful.

June Sarpong, 39, Presenter, Broadcaster and a Face Of 'Women In', Which Campaigned To Keep Britain In The EU


My parents are from Ghana and when they came to Britain there were signs that said ‘No Blacks, no Irish, no Dogs’. My dad went from being very successful in Ghana to having to start at the bottom here. When you come from that you realise the value of opportunity and seize it. I was always the girl in school whose teachers said: ‘Very able, must talk less.’ I didn’t listen. I was lucky – I did work experience at 16 at Kiss FM and my career went from there.

When you have a big personality like mine, people assume that you don’t feel insecure. But I do, all the time, especially in situations where I’m among really clever people. But it’s really important to have a different voice in those settings, so I force myself to get over my insecurity. We need to encourage women to be more vocal about their achievements and not be self-deprecating because it doesn’t help anyone.

There’s always someone who has more than you; if you focus on that it just makes you feel horrible, whereas if you think about what you do have, you can figure out how to get what you don’t.

Every woman should have a personal mission to make things a little bit better for the woman who’s coming after them.

Karen Blackett OBE, 44, Chief Executive Of MediaCom, The UK’s Largest Media Agency


When I started my media career in the early ’90s, the people running the industry were predominantly white, middle-aged men. You wouldn’t see anybody of colour. I learned that I’m going to stand out when I walk into a room, so I try to use it to my advantage.

I’ve learned to celebrate that difference. I really believe in the quote: ‘There’s a special place in hell for women that don’t help other women.’ I’ve had some fabulous role models in my career and I want to be a cheerleader to other bright, committed women.

It’s important to acknowledge the situation you’re in, but don’t let it limit you. Sometimes there are things beyond your control, like people who don’t like women or black people or people from a different part of the country. Don’t sweat it, don’t worry about it, just move on.

My dad always told me, ‘You’ve got two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion.’ Listen, listen, listen, before you speak up. Then you can come up with the best solution.

Amma Asante, 46, Screenwriter, Film Director And Former Actress


I went to stage school and spent three years in Grange Hill, but I couldn’t stand acting. I was so bad at it, but I loved the industry because I loved story-telling, so I started writing stories in script form.

I was moved by something that Martin Scorsese said: ‘Sometimes you have to smuggle your ideas.’ I thought, ‘How can I tell stories about race and gender? Why don’t I cloak them in love stories, in period drama’ – find a way to smuggle those ideas. I’m happy that we can be much more open now. We can talk about these issues in a much more open way. We can confront the challenges that women and people of colour have been facing.

We have a responsibility to make sure we support as many females as possible within the industry, not just in directing but cinematography, sound, editing – traditionally male-dominated areas.

My friend who is also a female director said to me: ‘Always just be one step ahead of your crew, one step ahead of your team and you’ll be fine.’ That’s great advice, because female directors are challenged more on set. The gift of being trusted in our work is tougher for us.

Sam McKnight, 61, Legendary Hairstylist


I love the diversity of what I do. No two days are the same – each brings new faces and challenges. Laughter is key. The people I work with most, including Karl Lagerfeld, Patrick Demarchelier and Kate Moss, have a wicked sense of humour.

My career began in a salon in Prestwick, Scotland in 1975, but I fell for the discos of London and moved there soon after. In 1977, I went to work at Molton Brown and started to do shoots for Vogue. I decided to devote my career to studio work in 1980.

I couldn’t pick a single favourite image, but Princess Diana on the floor, laughing in a white ballgown and tiara, is up there. When I was younger, my life was pleasantly and willingly consumed by the business, but now I’m good at switching off. I find myself happiest with people

I love, or alone in my garden. It’s Facebook that keeps me up at night!

A major exhibition, Hair By Sam McKnight, runs 2 Nov – 12 March at Somerset House

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, 48, Partner At International Legal Firm Dechert And Founder of Inspiring Girls International


The marketplace has moved in a direction where it’s not only acceptable, it’s expected, for people to make career changes. There comes a point in every job that you give more to the job than the job gives to you. When that happens, you need to move away from your comfort zone.

I still feel intimidated by all sorts of things. I’m always aware of the fact that the more time I dedicate to something, the better I do. I think self-confidence comes easier with age – you realise no matter how intimidating an organisation or a meeting might be, you have done it in the past. I’m sure that you could talk to Hillary Clinton and she will have those intimidated moments, too.

I’m very disciplined and good at prioritising. I wasn’t always like that but I’m able now to see what’s really important. It’s not for society to tell you what is right for you. For me, it’s very important to take my children to school in the mornings, but I’m sure other people would think ‘Why? What a waste when you could be having a meeting.

Kelly Hoppen MBE, 56, Interior Designer


A good boss is fair, listens, protects, remunerates people for their time and doesn’t expect something unachievable. One of the biggest things is your gut. When I walk into the office, I can sense a riot, unhappiness, a pregnancy, a break-up or an illness – I just have to walk past someone.

My work ethic comes from my parents (both entrepreneurs) and grandparents. It was instilled in me. You went out and you earned a living. If you’re passionate about what you do, that’s 80% of the battle – the rest is just hard grafting.

Women are so powerful, the bond and honesty between them is incredible. Loyalty is what makes a good friend – 100%. I value and cherish it so much. If a woman breaks that bond, it’s not part of the ‘Scouts Woman’s Honour’. Even if you’re in an incredibly happy relationship, as I am, you still need your girlfriends.

READ MORE: New Female Career Emojis Are Coming!

READ MORE: Top Tips For Changing Your Career In Your Thirties

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