An Industry Insight – Justine Cullen


Now the editor-in-chief of ELLE Australia and (the biggest launch of its kind in more than a decade), Justine Cullen was previously the Beauty and Style Director, then Editor of SHOP Til You Drop as well as its brands extensions SHOP 4 Kids and SHOP Weddings, landing her two Magazine Of The Year awards and an Editor Of The Year award.

Among others, she has also held positions as the Deputy Editor of Dolly and Beauty Director of Marie Claire.

How did you get to where you are today?

I knew that I wanted to work in magazines from a very young age. I was doing interning and working for free at different magazines on weekends and in my school holidays from year 9. While I was in the middle of my HSC exams I was offered the job as Editorial Assistant at Girlfriend magazine, and I decided to take it rather than go to uni. After a couple of years I moved to London, where I started the interning process all over again until I got a job as Deputy Beauty Editor at a BBC magazine, sadly no longer around, called The Clothes Show. A few years later I moved home to be the launch Beauty Editor on B magazine. I spent about four years at Marie Claire as Beauty Director, then succumbed to my lifelong love of teen and went to Dolly as Deputy Editor. I was freelancing for a while during the time when I was having babies, writing all kinds of things for all kinds of titles, then SHOP offered me a flexible role as Beauty and Style Director. In that role I launched and edited their brand extensions, SHOP 4 KIDS and SHOP Weddings, and was eventually offered the role as Editor of the main book, which I did for five years, picking up two Magazine of the Year awards and one Editor of the Year award, before coming to ELLE.

What are the highlights of your job? 

Working with a wonderfully talented, like-minded team toward a common goal – the collaborative process of magazines is rewarding and incredibly fun. Getting to actually make something from scratch and have something tangible to show for your efforts at the end of every month. The mind- blowing experiences and travel that are often part of the day to day. And being surrounded by so many beautiful things is constantly a joy.

What are the lowlights of your job? WHAT ARE THE LOWLIGHTS OF YOUR JOB?

The realities of publishing today – there’s not a magazine in the country that isn’t under- resourced and under-stated – means getting the job done (and done well) is often a very hard slog. There’s also a lot more admin and running the business and P&L than people imagine.

If you were going to hire a new entry-level person, what would you classify as a highly qualified candidate? 

Of course someone who has put in a lot of time working on the ground as an assistant or intern is going to have an advantage and show the right signs. But for me, when it comes to entry level positions, it’s mostly about a feeling. Do they want it enough? Will they give it everything they’ve got? Do they have the right attitude? It’s an industry where you have to do your time and almost give blood on the way up, often for not a lot of money, so that tends to separate those who are there because they love it from those who are there because it seems glamorous. I want to know that I’m hiring someone who will get a thrill out of the work, not resent it.

Do you have any special words of advice or encouragement as a result of your experiences? 

Don’t be in a hurry to get to the top. My favourite staff members are never the ones who are blindly ambitious but the ones who know how much they have to learn in their current job and are happy nailing that before they think about their next move (I still feel that now). And it’s all in your attitude. Over the years, the people I’ve promoted over and over – and the ones I see other editors promote as well – are not always just the geniuses, but also the ones who just do their jobs with positivity and a smile and, in doing so, make your life infinitely easier. They’re the ones you want to keep around.