Freelance Journalist, Los Angeles
Bachelor of Communication Studies in Journalism
She has her dream job, says communication studies alumna Leena Tailor who is now a freelance journalist in LA, with her work appearing in Variety, Billboard, Vogue, ET Canada, InStyle, Glamour, Rolling Stone, Huff Post and Entertainment Tonight.
“I’ve been based in Los Angeles for the last 12 years and am freelancing for print and web outlets across America, Canada and New Zealand. I primarily cover entertainment, celebrity interviews, lifestyle and travel. I grew up obsessed with music and television, and now I get to interview my favourite artists, visit the sets of shows I watch, travel and enjoy incredible pinch-me experiences – and call it work.
“I also love the stories I’ve done with fellow Kiwis in Los Angeles. There are so many of them doing great things here, particularly in the entertainment industry, and there are many aspects of their journeys which I relate to as this can be a difficult town to live and work in. It takes hard work, persistence and a thick skin, and I think a lot of us credit New Zealand for helping develop the work ethic it takes to succeed here. I love sharing these stories with people back home because they show that with commitment and hard work, big dreams are possible.”
While life as a freelancer certainly has its challenges, Leena says she is proud of what she has achieved in her career so far.
“I cover everything from red carpet events and junkets to human interest pieces and news, particularly if it’s related to New Zealand. I’ve also done interviews and features to raise awareness for important causes or health conditions like Lyme disease, breast cancer and depression, and I’m proud to help people share these stories and generate discussion and fundraising for such topics. I also love that the stories I’ve done for my own fun are the ones that have won or been nominated for writing awards – it’s a great reminder that doing a job you love means you do the job well.”
Valuable practical experience
For Leena, the first step towards the exciting career she has now was enrolling in AUT’s Bachelor of Communication Studies, a qualification she completed in 2003.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after high school but I was good at English and had become interested in media. I considered a media studies course in Waikato but preferred staying in Auckland. I also liked the idea that AUT’s communications degree offered practical experience and insight into various mediums and aspects of the media.”
The practical experience in different areas of the media is what she enjoyed most about her studies.
“It’s how I learn best and it’s what gives you a true feel for what various media careers might entail. For example, one group assignment involved putting together a news broadcast, which was fun but also helped me realise my passion lay more with writing than broadcast journalism. However, it gave me valuable insight for when I interview those who work in television today.
“I also did one assignment that involved profiling a radio personality by hanging out with him in the studio during his show, and a newspaper internship at the local paper I grew up with. It was fun to get out there and become immersed in the industry.”
Advice for other students
Leena has some great advice for other students who are dreaming of a career in the media.
“Enjoy experiencing the different fields you’ll cover in the degree, and don’t worry if it takes a while to narrow down which one you might want to develop into a career. If you get a chance, learn shorthand because even in this digital age it’s actually really useful and I wish I had kept it up.”
Don’t be deterred if you feel you’re not the right personality or fit for your ideal occupation, she adds.
“During my time at AUT, I was often surrounded by big, extrovert personalities, which is what one might expect from those pursuing media and communications careers. Yet, here I was – quiet, shy and suffering crippling social anxiety at a time when anxiety wasn’t the hot topic it is today nor something I myself had much understanding of.
“I often felt like I didn’t fit into the course or the media industry because of this. Even in Hollywood, sometimes my heartbeat feels like an earthquake before I make my voice heard at a press conference or fight to ask a question on a red carpet. However, ultimately, I’m proof that you can succeed in any occupation you’re passionate about, even if you face more challenges along the way.”