October 06, 2012 12:00 AM | by The Fustany Team
Getting to Know Dana Baradei
During our last visit to Amman, we met with the amazing Editor in Chief of Living Well Magazine, Dana Baradei, who has a great sense of humor, style and she's brilliant at what she does.
How did it all start?
The truth? Purely by chance. I was working with an NGO when I got the call and was asked to join Living Well as an editor. I came in with a lot of questions, opinions, and ideas and slowly started to get a feel for things. A year and half later I was asked to be Editor in Chief and the rest is history.
What were the biggest challenges you had to face in your career?
Getting things organized! My team was constantly pressed for time and it always felt like we were trying to make a deadline. It’s not always easy to come up with a million-dollar-idea if you have virtually no time to think about it.
Define style in a sentence.
There is no one-size-fits-all definition for style; rather it’s whatever makes sense to you.
Describe yourself in three words...
Ok my two positives would have to be focused with a sense of humor. One of my negatives is probably having a shameless addiction to Google and shoes – no one’s perfect.
What’s one thing people should change about their lifestyle?
I don’t think I’m one to judge but would recommend changing whatever it is in your lifestyle that makes you unhappy, I know it works for me.
The biggest fashion sin you have ever seen would be?
I wish women would really think twice before wearing high-heeled sneakers, I’m not too sure I appreciate the irony.
Tell us about a day in the life of an Editor-in-Chief?
A typical morning starts with coffee followed by a general “what’s everyone up to today” type meeting. We’re always on the lookout for groundbreaking stories, ideas, and themes and the team and I sift through a proverbial pile of suggestions. Tasks and deadlines are assigned, and then I’m off to a meeting or eight (depending on the day).
Dealing with such a creative team is truly a privilege, the influx of ideas and energy is nothing short of inspiring and I know I am lucky to be in a place where I can create a platform for dialogue and free thinking. It’s important to remember that although a pitch might not make sense to you, it always means something to whoever has suggested it, so a great deal of tact is required dealing with editors, writers, designers, photographers, etc.
The same applies to dealing with our readers, who we depend on for feedback and new concepts as well. Sometimes we are the darlings of society, and other times certain articles really send people off the deep end. We’ve had disgruntled readers come in screaming bloody murder, but I don’t mind a little bit of controversy, it keeps me on my toes!
In the magazine business, you’re only as great as your last issue, and this is something we strongly believe in. As such, we always do our best to keep things interesting and keep our audience hungry for more.
Introduce us to your team and their roles.
There’s pretty much a standard formula with set roles for staff members of a magazine, but it’s the unwritten talents which make them remarkable.
Our Creative Director, Hiba Qaddoumi is the wonder woman in charge of creating Living Well’s pages making sure that the layout does the contributor and the audience justice. Her interests in art, history, and travel can be seen throughout the magazine.
The magazine’s easy and communicable vibe is thanks to our editor Elspeth Dehnert’s cool and collected approach combined with an incredible eye for detail.
A third of our magazine is dedicated to fashion and our Fashion Editor, Tamara El-Nimer is the one who makes it happen every month. Her energy levels and her eclectic taste are what make the section such a hit.
Of course, we have dozens of people coming in and out and working on the magazine everyday: our writers, editors, and photographers all share the same vision and speak the same language and the tone and image of Living Well are a result of their collective efforts. We often explain to newcomers that there is no such thing as good writing or bad writing, it’s either Living Well writing or it isn’t.
People seem to have The Devil Wears Prada image when it comes to Editors in Chief, how true is that?
Ah, everyone’s seen movies about publishing but I can assure you it’s not always that glamorous! Don’t get me wrong, working at Living Well magazine I have had the pleasure of meeting with novelists, designers, journalists, and artists. I’ve traveled to exciting destinations, driven fast cars, tasted extraordinary dishes, argued with company leaders and female role models, attended the latest fashion shows, and generally rubbed shoulders with some pretty cool people across the board.
But to all the aspiring fashion editors/stylists out there, no we do not have a massive closet with racks and racks of runway fashion, I wish we did, I really do.
I can assure you no one ever gets what they want if they are as, well, unpleasant (for lack of a better word), as Miranda Priestly in the movie. As I mentioned earlier, creative people put a bit of themselves in everything they present, so throwing an idea out the window just because is not an option, nor would I ever want it to be. You have to be as great a listener as you are a decision maker, let everyone say their bit and should you decline, the person deserves an explanation why.
Three Middle Eastern talents you see making it big?
Our region is brimming with talent, we just need better PR. Lebanese fashion designer Krikor Jabotian, Jordanian artist Bader Mahasneh, and Egyptian author Nawal El Saadawi are all wonderful examples of people who are already making noteworthy strides in their respective fields.
What excites you the most about your work?
Every month we get the opportunity to create something new and wonderful, and every month we get to see the fruit of our harvest, if you ask me it doesn’t get more exciting than that.