Tales from the Editor’s desk: INTERNS FROM HELL🔥🔥🔥

Interns are an integral part of editorial work at NYLON Singapore. They handle deliveries and photograph press kits for social media, they contact prize winners and facilitate the collection of prizes from our office; they sort a massive amount of things like products from our beauty awards and Christmas gift guide; and of course… they write. I appreciate interns very much.

Now I completely understand if an intern joins us not knowing how to do any of the above tasks; that’s what their internship is for — to learn and experience through actual day-to-day editorial work. We provide a real-world learning environment where interns shadow an Editor for client work, and get to pitch original story ideas for editorial. Internships at NYLON are a safe place to learn; every second is a valuable learning experience. This is the opportunity to have access to all parts of a media business (especially at smaller companies), and interns gain invaluable insight into how things are run. But as with all internships, it also depends on what the intern wants to learn. 

Very often, an intern lapses into a “comfort zone”, where I see them spending their office hours watching YouTube videos and chatting on Skype. But these, these are NOT the terrible ones. They are just the ones who are slacking off. And we’re all prone to some laziness from time to time. 

I recently came across an article written by a previous intern who wrote a think piece on his time at NYLON. He jokes about almost adding the phrase “Hell On Earth” in the title of his article. To be fair, he didn’t mean it in a bad way — it was meant to be click bait; but he decided to forego those three words assuming I would edit them away when it came to me. (Not true, I think it’s funny.) Anyway, his honesty got me thinking… interns always complain about their Editors… so I thought I’d chime in with an opposing view… 

These are some of the incredible stories from my personal experiences with interns in recent years. I’ve omitted actual names because the point isn’t to shame anyone; and I’m going to try my professional best not to — in the words of a critic who has personal issues with me, although I don’t know why — sound whiney.

(And just to be clear to the current interns sitting in the NYLON office now — none of these stories involve any of you. You guys are great! ❤️)

The ominous building that is 1008 Toa Payoh North (aka our office)

THE “CAKE” INCIDENT 🍰

I’ll start with a mild story. A few years ago, I was expecting my second child. I was in the final trimester of pregnancy, and it was the end of Chinese New Year. We had a lot of CNY snacks in office sent from clients and agencies, and being pregnant, you just don’t say no to food. I ambled over to the centre of the office where someone was cutting cake, took a paper plate with a slice on it, then as my butter fingers would have it, accidentally dropped the entire thing to the floor. It was a cream cake and it went splat. It went splat on the floor just behind the intern’s chair. She heard it, she turned around, looked at it on the floor, and then turned back to her laptop to continue “being busy”. I proceeded to get tissue paper to clean up the mess, and it was quite an exercise; a seven-month belly is huge… it is physically hard to bend over and get on your knees to mop up an oily spill. On hindsight, I really should’ve just asked her to help; but her complete nonchalance took me by surprise, and revealed to me a little bit about her character. Now whenever her name is mentioned, this story is really the only thing that comes to mind. 


THE JAY PARK FAN 🤳🏼

This story is about an intern who’s a fan of Jay Park. NYLON was offered an interview with him, and she jumped at the opportunity to take it up. After her interview was done, she asked the singer-songwriter to give a shout-out while she recorded it on her phone. The shout-out was to HER FRIEND. So instead of, “This is Jay Park and you’re watching NYLON TV Singapore…” — which would have gone onto our social media platforms, she got him to say “This is Jay Park and I’m giving a shout-out to XXX’s friend, xxx!” — and she proceeded to post that to her personal Instagram account. The more surprising thing was how the PR person at the event allowed this to happen.


THE “INFLUENCER” 💃🏽

This next tale is a polarising one. You will either completely side with the intern, or see where I’m coming from. She joined NYLON as a full-time stylist, but was planning to be an influencer (I hate that word). She asked if she could do “freelance influencer jobs” after work hours and on weekends; to which I made clear that as an employee of NYLON, her priority was to the magazine, and building a rapport with our clients for her own personal agenda was a conflict of interest. The final straw came when Topshop called to ask for permission to send free clothes directly to her house (in her capacity as an “influencer”). It became clear that she was working at NYLON to gain client contacts for herself — and since I’m running a business, my priority was and is to build NYLON’s social media content, not hers (or any individual’s). You can only imagine what happened next…


THE COOKIE THIEF 🍪

While on leave, I informed the Acting Editor to receive deliveries and press kits on my behalf, and to clear any food or drink items that will go bad. The week before returning to work, I received an email from the team at Crabtree & Evelyn telling me that they’ve sent over a Mother’s Day biscuit and tea set for me to try. I told them that I’d look out for it, and when I returned to office, I couldn’t find it amongst the many parcels in my room. I imagined it must have been misplaced, so I proceeded to ask the team if anyone saw it. Everyone kept quiet, and I got suspicious. Later in the day, an intern came up to me and admitted that he opened it, ate some of the cookies, and offered it to the rest of the team. I asked him why he would do that… to which he replied, “I’m so sorry I tot it was a press kit and didn’t know u were coming back today…” There are so many things wrong with that response. It was very much besides the point whether I was coming back to office that day or not. This was a press kit addressed to me, that he intentionally took and consumed.

Spotted! The incriminating empty paper bag found on the intern’s desk.

It got worse when I asked the Acting Editor if she knew about this, and she said no (so he bypassed TWO Editors!). He knew I was annoyed, and so came to me the next day with a new box of the same biscuit and tea set. I was initially impressed thinking he actually bought a new box to replace the one he shouldn’t have taken; but when I asked if he bought it, he told me that he emailed the PR company saying that the team enjoyed the cookies so much, and whether they could send a second box. 😓 Now he just made us look greedy. 


“I DON’T BELIEVE IN WORK BEFORE THE WEEKEND” 🤯

This particular person was not an intern, but a full time writer, and her story wins this page. It was the day that Deliveroo sent us a press release about their new Star Wars menu. I forwarded it to this writer and asked her to blog about it as soon as possible. And because our conversation was so unbelievable, here’s a screengrab:

Yes, you read that right. She believes it’s not right for people to give work just before the weekend. Let’s consider again that this blog post will take all of five to 10 minutes to write. “Deliveroo has a new Star Wars menu!!! Here it is!!!” — and then picture and caption, picture and caption. Wait, I take that back… it would have taken three minutes to write. The amount of time she spent trying to palm off the work, she could have finished the entire blog. Oh, and by the way, she quit over that weekend. 


If you enjoyed the stories above, read on! Here are more tales of horror from other Singapore Editors….

The follow conversations are kindly brought to us by Niki Bruce, former Editor of Herworld online.

Niki Bruce: Over the years I’ve had some really, really horrible interns. I’ve had a few amazing ones too, but honestly they’ve tended to be more bad rather than good. Here are a few examples…

Intern 1 at interview: When do I get to go to Paris Fashion Week
Me: Never

Me to Intern 2: Are you wearing something under that oversized tee?
Intern 2: Underwear.
Me: Please wear clothes that ensure I will never have to think about your underwear again.

Me to Intern 3: So, you just took a beauty product off your editor’s desk to use without asking?
Intern 3: Yes.
Me: That’s stealing.
Intern 3: Oh. I was just borrowing it.
Me: You can’t ‘borrow’ mascara.

Intern 4 to restaurant: I’m a writer for [insert Magazine name here]; I get a free meal.
Restaurant to me: When is our review coming out?
Me: What review?
Restaurant: The one on the five course meal that [insert Intern 4’s name] ate last week.
Me: I’ll get back to you.
Me to Intern 4: Did you ask for a free meal at Restaurant? Did you promise them a write up?
Intern 4: Yes. I’m a writer now, I can do that, right?
Me: You’re fired.

Me to Intern 5: We use British spelling.
Me to Intern 5: We use British spelling.
Me to Intern 5: We use British spelling.
… etc

Me to Intern 6: Why did it take you nine hours to return one bag to one client?
Intern 6: Oh. I thought that was my job for the day and went home.
Me: *Sigh*

Intern 6: I can’t attend the major client event on Friday evening.
Me: Why not?
Intern 6: I have to eat dinner with my father.
Me: Don’t you eat dinner with him every night?
Intern 6: Yes.
Me: ?!?!?!?

To all the fabulous interns I’ve had over the years, thank you for all your fabulous, hard work. You know who you are! — Niki


The follow stories are by Sharon Lim, former Editor-In-Chief of Elle Singapore.

THE INTERN PARENT FROM HELL 🔥

An intern’s father breached security to make his way to our office to complain that we were abusing his daughter, who apparently had scoliosis. She looked perfectly fine to us, and didn’t inform us that she had any physical condition we needed to be aware of. I wasn’t in the office then as I was on vacation but my staff alerted me.

The intern then called me to “explain” to me that her Dad was “concerned” and he got on the line to speak to me. He was well aware that I was overseas but it didn’t stop him from talking and yelling at me for over an hour, alternating between nuclear-level mansplaining and righteous fury over how I allowed such mistreatment of young girls by making them walk down Orchard Road with huge, heavy suitcases. (He didn’t get his facts right: We always got the intern to book a cab for a few hours at a flat rate, and the cabbie would wait for the intern while he/she did her returns. The suitcases were always packed with samples in easy-to-handle packages and in the sequence of the route the intern was supposed to take. Admittedly, some of the merchandise will be heavy. Tough. We all haul ass.)

Back to this guy. Whenever I tried to explain or clarify something, he would cut me off and yell further. He kept contrasting his own work experiences with our alleged treatment of his daughter. I found out he was a career military guy in a leadership role, obviously used to giving orders and having them followed without question. He also painted this perfect picture of his daughter, which as we all know is simply not realistic.

I finally gave up trying to be polite and basically shut him down. I told him in no uncertain terms that I’m not running a school, but a business, so our interns are treated like members of staff. And everyone, EVERYONE, pitches in. Even me. I added that if he was really concerned about his daughter’s alleged health and wellbeing, he would be glad, even relieved to hear that she did not need to come in to work tomorrow. Or ever. I also informed him that there would be an investigation into how he breached security and he would be hearing from the company soon. Finally, I told him that he should think very, very carefully before he let his emotions get the better of him, because intimidation may work in the military, but it doesn’t always work in the real world. I thanked him for his time and hung up on him. He tried calling me back multiple times on his daughter’s mobile phone as well as his own, and I answered just one call to tell him to stop calling me, or I would report him.

Some time later, his daughter texted me to apologise for her father’s “typical” behaviour (what, a typical bully?), that she was “totally OK” with hauling heavy bags but he wasn’t cos he’s “over-protective”, and that she wanted to finish up the rest of her internship. I texted her back to thank her for her message, and to reiterate that it was best that she not come in — in case of more “typical” behaviour from her father.


THE ONES WE LET GO

Example 1: One intern was so slow at typing, her screensaver came on. #truestory
This same intern spent some time trying to push our “after-hours” exit door, which had a prominent sign stating “PULL”.
We fired her.

Example 2: This intern has a collection of hangers from designer brands. How did we find out? She told our clients that she would “keep” a few hangers whenever she was assisting with sourcing and on our shoots. It was her holy grail to “own” Dolce & Gabbana hangers. This same intern will always be remembered for her headline for a snippet about Ed Hardy jewellery: “ROK NEVER DIE”. We fired her.

Example 3: The child of a local celebrity interned with us. She struggled to keep up with the intense pace, and was generally sloppy and not particularly motivated. The last straw came when she was doing returns after a shoot, and we discovered she had called the various luxury brand managers to “come downstairs and pick up our loans” while she waited in her cab. We fired her.

I have more, but these are the more memorable ones. — Sharon

😄