There’s a lot of talk out there about models and actresses in magazines and how much they are re touched and ‘photoshopped.’ It can really be hard for a girl growing up to only see ‘perfection’ in many of these magazines and to not understand that oftentimes that ‘perfection’ they’re seeing is actually not so ‘perfect.’ Media feeds us content all day every day, and it can become very easy to get caught up in it and start feeling bad about yourself because of what you see in the magazines and online.
Well, one magazine that doesn’t re touch any woman in their magazines is Darling Magazine. I’m sure most of you know of Darling, but if you don’t, it’s a quarterly publication that is seeking to broaden those ‘ideals’ of beauty in media by using all sizes of models and it is the first magazine to not retouch women’s bodies or skin in photos. It’s truly incredible. The content within Darling is absolutely beautiful and so well curated, and the cherry on top of it all is that it’s authentic and real. It celebrates women and their pages are filled with inspiration, style, beauty, and beyond.
Sarah Dubbeldam is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Darling Magazine. She and her friend Kelli started Darling directly out of college, and through lots of hard work and a clear vision, they have taken this magazine to incredible heights. Sarah doesn’t only work full time on Darling; she also has a 6 month old baby. Her days are certainly full, but she loves what she does. Keep on reading for what Sarah loves most about her job, what she finds the most challenging, what a day in her life is like, what the Darling office environment is like, advice for someone wanting to become an Editor of a magazine, and much more.
How long have you been with Darling Magazine and what were you doing prior?
I’ve been with Darling since the beginning. My friend Kelli and I started the magazine together right out of college and prior to that, I was working at a restaurant.
I was a part-time teacher and doing a ton of different jobs (modeling, acting and doing freelance copywriting) in order to pay my bills and work on Darling on the side.
Did you always know you wanted to be an Editor of a magazine? If not, when did you realize this is what you wanted to do?
I didn’t always know that I wanted to be an editor of a magazine. I originally majored in art because I wanted to be an art director, set designer or prop stylist for film, and so I pursued that career by interning at Sony Pictures and working in film for a bit.
Being in that industry made me realize that I was interested in other forms of media, and soon the idea for Darling came about through one of my conversations with Kelli.
We started concepting out what Darling would be, the different sections and how it would be positioned as a brand and its mission and ethos. At that point I guess I just more became an editor more than anything. Once I was in that position I realized that it was something I really enjoyed. In the past, I’d always enjoyed writing and editing my own work and putting together visuals, and so in essence, it’s just the same idea: art direction, but in a different medium, so I have a lot of fun with my job.
Darling is such an incredible publication and it makes me so happy there is something like this out there: a beautifully, curated magazine with truly wonderful content, all about celebrating women. Do you ever have to ‘pinch’ yourself that this is your job? What is your office environment like?
Yes, I think sometimes I do! It’s more from the perspective of realizing how hard it was in the beginning to start the magazine. We spent almost 3 years concepting the entire thing, and actually coming from that point to getting it on Kickstarter was just such a long journey. When we reached our Kickstarter goal, we began to build up our circulation and it’s surreal that Darling has now reached millions of people.
So I think that it is a mixture of being shocked that I am here, but also that it seems like that journey was both really short but really long at the same time. It’s incredible looking back and thinking about all the decisions, all the photoshoots, all the articles, all the different people who I’ve worked with and just everything that has gone into building something that is hopefully lasting.
Our office is upbeat, fun, and everyone always has a heart for the mission, so we are really just always excited to bounce ideas off of each other. We work together on everything so it’s all a collaboration. We laugh a lot, but we also work really, really hard; everyone wears multiple, multiple hats and that’s just the reality of a healthy startup. Everyone tag-teams on projects just because you don’t have even 10 people working in the same department at the beginning. We’ve grown and will continue to, but it’s an overall team spirit environment.
What is your favorite part about your job? Most rewarding? Most challenging?
My favorite part about my job is just seeing concepts come into fruition from just a daydream into each issue, starting with a theme and the vision and working through all the concepts, brainstorming with our team. Seeing where it starts and what it becomes is really incredible.
What’s most rewarding is definitely receiving the emails from our customers who tell us how much Darling has impacted them and their self-esteem,the way that they view themselves, and how they use it as a guide for their life. I always want it to be an encouragement. The way our readers start conversations around the magazine with their friends and start groups around it just shows how it’s really becoming a movement. That’s really exciting!
The most challenging thing, I would say, is just having a really small team and more opportunity than we know what to do with, from the brand and having people wanting to collaborate with us, to the things that that we personally want to do and grow into, markets that we want to grow into, international events, video and more. The number of things we could do can be really overwhelming.
It’s just about knowing where to start and what to prioritize when you’re a small team. It’s really just a balancing act and juggling and that’s the biggest challenge of having a company like this.
What does a day in your life look like? I imagine no two are exactly the same!
It used to be a little more consistent. I use to work 9 to 5 at the office, but now I have a baby who is 6 months old so it’s often very different. I work 2 days full time in the office and the other 2 days I’m juggling him back and forth with my husband. I’m trying to spend time with him while still working and connecting with our team, so it can look anything like working in the office to working at home, to being on set for a photoshoot—very, very flexible, very random—sometimes I have meetings outside the office, phone calls here and there, so every single day is just very diverse in what comes up and what doesn’t. Sometimes days are more mellow and some days are absolutely crazy, which is always fun.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work at a magazine and hopefully one day become Editor of a magazine?
I would say that if you want to work at a magazine, you really need to hone your writing and editing skills.
That’s the number one thing we look for, even in resumes, you know, perfection with grammar and the ability to articulate ideas and to execute them quickly. You have to think quick on your feet and be able to write, to edit, to be conceptual, to have tact to work with people, to work with other creative people, to know how to edit people’s stuff without them getting offended, to be diplomatic, and really, to curate and know when things are too much, or when it’s not enough.
It’s very much a balancing act, so if you want to become an editor, practice writing, practice editing and if you are applying for a job, always send the magazine specific examples of your writing or your editing that are in line with their ethos or their mission and the type of writing that they do. So, don’t submit an article that that magazine wouldn’t publish.
Really capture their voice and their perspective. When you send samples, speak to them as though you really want to be on their team, that you don’t want to do just your own thing, but that you really want to contribute to their culture and direction.
What inspires you?
I would say the main thing that inspires me is just my wonderful friends, other female entrepreneurs that I know and admire. Traveling makes me really, really happy. It gives me a perspective on different people and the diversity and the beauty of our world. I love design and fashion and art, and learning about people through food and culture. Exploring just brings me back home with a brain full of ideas and new ways to communicate to women differently.
What are 3 products you simply can’t live without?
I couldn’t live without Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer. I really like Benefit lipgloss and anything by Tarte. But really I couldn’t live without my black leather backpack. I got it at a leather mart in Florence, Italy, for $40. It has literally lasted me for 4 years and I am obsessed with it. I carry it everywhere with my computer!
What motto/quote do you always try to live by?
My favorite quote in regards to business is: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” You just really have to stay in your own lane and focus on what you are doing and not worry about who is growing or who has more likes, or more followers or who is printing more magazines than you. The list can go on and on.
You have to stay in your own perspective, in your own business and realize that your work is something that you are doing uniquely and if you put more energy into that than comparing with others, then what you are doing will naturally grow. The same goes for your personal life.
Thanks so much, Sarah!
Read past interviews here.