Olivia Palermo’s job at Elle used to seem silly, at times menial, and most of all pointless. But even if it is those things, it may just be the best job in the world because it seems to require the same amount of mental energy a bunny rabbit uses to chew a carrot. This being fashion, work can feel that way sometimes, but there are always the added pressures of deadlines, meetings, places to go and things to do and people to meet, many of which you won’t feel like doing. And who really wants to show up at work when they show up to work? But such is work, and even that which revolves around clothes and makeup can feel like work. But Olivia, as we learned in last night’s episode of The City, doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to do. She hardly has to do anything, actually. Woody Allen was wrong when he said, “90 percent of life is just showing up.” In Olivia’s world, she doesn’t even have to do that.
Last night, Olivia used her job to hang out with her real friends instead of do the story she was assigned, which was interviewing Whitney Port for Elle.com and Rue La La. She didn’t go to Whitney’s thing because she didn’t feel like it. Because jobs and careers are all about doing what you feel like doing! Fuck “assignments” and “commitments” and “showing up” and “being useful.” You won’t lose your job. You won’t have a place on the masthead, but at least you’ll be employed at one of the nation’s top fashion magazines and get to prance around in Internet videos for its site. And so it is Elle more so than Olivia that needs the most coaching in this week’s lessons.
Lesson 1: Being out of touch.
Don’t: Feature precious jewelry online over something young and fun. Being out of touch with the way real people shop seems more excusable in print magazines, but online, with daily content, fashion magazines have developed more of a responsibility to be realistic. Olivia pitches a story, whatever that means to her, on her friend’s precious-stone jewelry line called Jemma Wynne, which makes $12,000 earrings. A more interesting video would be Olivia going into Forever 21 and finding fake jewelry that looks neat, because she probably wouldn’t go into such a place without a hazmat suit.
Do: Reject bad pitches. The editor Olivia pitches goes for the Jemma Wynne piece. She could have rejected this idea over e-mail, but maybe Olivia didn’t feel like typing that day.
Lesson 2: Flirting.
Do: Stay on happy topics. Whitney’s Rue La La photographer (who cleverly makes the models sit in chairs, which hides some of the clothing) tells her, after she has eye sex with him, that he’s a war photographer. Whitney could ask about the hardship of war, but, personally unfamiliar with hardship, she says instead, “This is a breath of fresh air, probably,” thus bringing the attention back to her and her shiny silver jeggings.
Do: Make the person of interest feel important. The photographer says that shooting wars and Whitney’s clothing line are both “extreme.” Even when Kelly Cutrone is in the room, this is obviously not true, but Whitney probably thinks this way since when fashion people get stressed out, they like to think that such a comparison is accurate. Especially when Fashion Week happens and everyone has ten times more work than usual. Getting that picture of THAT SHOE becomes do-or-die, probably to compensate for the fact that it’s not that important in the scope of the world.
Lesson 3: Employing somebody who refuses to do her job.
Don’t: Keep her on if she doesn’t do her assignments. After Olivia fails to show up to Whitney’s shoot, Erin tells her she should be embarrassed. “You probably burned a lot of bridges that day,” she says. Olivia, who’s looking like Morticia Addams with her straight hair and no lip gloss, just turns around, gets up, and leaves. She may as well, because no matter how badly she fucks up, the only thing she’ll have to deal with is a little bitching from the Elle people.
Don’t: Keep her on if she plans to only cover one Fashion Week show. Erin asks Olivia what she’s doing for Fashion Week. With her jaw dropped and tight and her lip jutting out as it always does — the expression that always says “I’m better than you” — Olivia says she’s going to Ports 1961 and “that’s it.” This should make Erin furious, since everyone works (and drinks) around the clock during Fashion Week, and someone just covering one thing is as absurd as it would be if Olivia returned to her desk after storming off with a microwaved frozen dinner of macaroni and cheese for lunch.
Lesson 4: First dates.
Don’t: Be a blatant dog obsessive. Roxy goes out with Zach and can’t stop talking about her dog in L.A. Fine to be all about dogs, but she probably should have saved half that weird “goochie goo MY PUPPY” diatribe for date two.
Don’t: Turn the weather into something that it’s not. Everyone on a first date in New York discusses the weather differences between where they’re from and where they are now. Such as: “Where are you from?” “Boston.” “It’s so cold there — how did you stand it?” Or: “Where are you from?” “Austin. Where ice doesn’t crust on the sidewalk.” “But you can’t go skiing!” “I hate skiing.” Zach says to Roxy, “This is my third winter here and it’s really nice because it’s like more intimate and the people you hang out with are the people you wanna hang out with.” What?
Lesson 5: Disciplining someone who treats work like doing the laundry — if you don’t get around to it today, no big deal, you can just buy more underwear.
Do: Punish someone who’s fucked up badly enough for you to yell at. Joe yells at Olivia for not showing up to the Rue La La interview. He curses and seems threatening but doesn’t fire her or give her a scary ultimatum, so it’s completely ineffective.
Don’t: Tell her to have a lunch date. The last time Olivia fucked up, Joe forced her to go to breakfast with Erin. This time he forces her to take Whitney to lunch. So he only awards her more time away from work. This is New York — who takes a lunch?
Lesson 6: Being a bitch.
Do: Copy Kelly Cutrone. When Kelly finds out Whitney is going to lunch with Olivia, she tells Whitney to scare her. Whitney wonders if this is professional, and of course Kelly tells her it is. “Take this bitch out,” Kelly says. “You have to let people who are toxic and dangerous to you know you’re going to fucking fight back. Because you know where nice people land? On welfare.” If only Whitney were clever enough to come up with such quips.
Don’t: Whine. Whitney’s confrontation with Olivia is all wrong. First, she’s sitting down instead of standing up and cornering her against a wall. And everyone knows by now Olivia’s best — and actually highly effective — defense is getting up and leaving when life gets too uncomfortable for her. But also all her complaints — that Olivia is “immature” and “[looked] like a complete bitch” — come off as whiny, not scary. If Whitney wanted to scare her she should have stayed up all night sewing, not done her hair or makeup and had seven cups of coffee and a Xanax prior to the meeting to give her that edge she so desperately needs. Fashion is a war, after all.