Renee Tse, Writer & Editor
When she’s not flitting around to different media and brand events, you can usually find Renee at any nearby pastry and coffee shop documenting her good eats for her @Tseparfait fans. Learn more about the hustle and bustle of being a freelance fashion, beauty and lifestyle writer and editor below.
What are you up to right now, Renee?
At this very moment, I’m grabbing a quick bite and coffee between meetings. I just caught up with a PR for a luxe beauty brand at Soho House, and later tonight I’m heading to a dinner hosted by La Prairie on behalf of The Kit Chinese Edition. It’s all a bit hectic, but I guess that’s the thing about being a freelancer. There are times when I'm sitting at a desk brainstorming and writing stories, but then there are times when I'm out and about attending press events, desk sides, and meetings.
How did you get into freelancing in the fashion industry?
I’ve always loved fashion, but I didn't think it was going to be a part of my career. Then around the time I was graduating university, blogging and social media really started taking off. The tides were definitely changing in the fashion industry. With digital content creators on the scene, there were different players in the game, so I wanted to learn what I could through internships to see how roles might change and open up. I ended up landing internships for publications like Fashion Magazine and Elle Canada, as well as the social media team at Hudson's Bay.
Through it all, I found that I love cultivating a voice and a digital presence. Nothing is as gratifying to me as putting a piece out there with my name in the byline and having friends and family tell me they read something I wrote and loved it. I guess that’s how I ended up freelance writing--my internships in the fashion world led me here.
What’s it like being on your own?
Being my own boss and freelancing in this industry means my life is simultaneously very scheduled and unscheduled. It really depends on the way events land in the calendar, which can be on any day, at any time, but it’s also about pacing and listening to my body. I know that I can only sprint for so long and the lifestyle I’ve chosen is full of the unexpected.
When I first started, I was envious of my friends with the stable office jobs, but now I love the energy and the fact that anything can happen. It’s changed the way I view the future. I have the utmost optimism for what’s next and around the corner every day--after all, who would’ve thought five years ago that influencers and digital content creators would be where they are today.
Of course, being on my own can also be lonely at times. There are moments when I wish I could be with a team to bounce ideas off of so that I don’t have to second guess whether the idea I have for a story is fresh or if it’s been done before. I know the grass is always greener on the other side though. Even though my job is incredibly different than the average 9 to 5, the highs that come with it are things I would never trade.
Can you give me some examples of some of the highs and lows?
Getting to travel and meeting incredible and inspirational founders behind brands I love--these opportunities are a privilege and I try to never forget that whenever I’m getting enveloped by it all. But I love being able to go behind the scenes and share their beautiful stories with the world.
On the flip side, my brain never turns off. I’m always consuming content and the second a word or an idea comes to mind, even if it’s the middle of the night, I get up to write it down. I take every single spark and really try to work it because you never really know where that next angle could come from for a story.
Tell me a bit more about being part of the fashion/ magazine industry.
Like any industry in this world, teams in media have started to shrink, which creates an interesting dynamic for freelancers and digital content creators who have entered the field. There is an ongoing debate around whether or not you need both editors and content creators in the space. Before, only a few key individuals in the editorial world had access to events and fashion shows, but now, there are hundreds and thousands of content creators that do too. Personally, I think both roles are amazing and crucial. Our niches will continue to get defined because people want to experience and see these stories from different vantage points.
As a content creator, it’s all about capturing the moment. There’s a lot of planning that goes into bringing a following along, and it truly is a never-ending cycle of sharing and storytelling via images and captions. However, as an editor, you spend time going deep. You search for an angle, you comb through data and facts to figure out what the long feature story will be. Both sides add a lot of richness and depth to the industry and I don’t think one should really exist without the other.
What are you most proud of?
My interview with Eva Chen. I got in touch with her and her publisher while she was promoting her debut children's book, Juno Valentine, and it had just hit the New York Times Best Seller list. I had been idolizing her since her time at Teen Vogue and following her Tumblr account for years, so it was crazy to me her publisher actually responded to a cold-email I sent out on a whim. When we met, I could tell she was juggling a million and one things (she is the Director of Fashion at Instagram, a mother of two young children, an author and has a cool 1.2 million followers on her Insta), but that didn’t stop her from being incredibly gracious with me during our short time together.
It was actually her words of wisdom that helped me find solace during a difficult time, as we all experience navigating our 20s. She told me that in the years she turned 30 (and afterwards), she had some of the best years of her life. Her take was that your 20s are harder than your teens because people expect you to have your shit together when you’re still just trying to figure it out, but your 30s are when you come into yourself. You stop doing things for other people and you just do what’s right for you.
Elaine Lui, a Chinese-Canadian television personality behind the infamous website laineygossip.com, was another favourite person to interview. She went through this whole transformation early in her life when she lived in Hong Kong for a few months with her mom and saw what it was like to be in an environment where the entertainment industry represented her. She told me she didn’t have to be the blonde cheerleader that she thought she needed to be after years of watching North American TV shows and films. I think being able to interview these Asian-American women who break the mold in terms of representation is a big reason I love working with The Kit Chinese Edition - it brings together both my culture and my passion.
What advice do you have for people starting out?
Don’t be afraid to cold-email people. Meeting people, talking to them and hearing how they got to where they are is the best inspiration in the world. The worst thing that can happen is they say no, and that's okay. Start writing and creating on whatever creative medium you like. Put yourself out there because you never know. Go after it with all the energy in the world because the industry will you give you back what you put in.