TURNER Q&A: Jenn Chan — Fashion, Beauty, Travel and Beyond
Fashion, beauty and style. Entertainment, media and travel. Is there anything Jenn Chan can’t do? The Los Angeles-based writer, editor, on-air personality, influencer and red carpet expert definitely covers a lot of bases. You’ve likely seen her name in such outlets as E! Online, InStyle.com, IPSY, The Kardashians, ELLE.com, The Daily, Fashionista.com and many others. Jenn took a little time out from her action-packed schedule to answer a few burning questions …
As a content creator, what have been the biggest challenges in the past 12 months?
Jenn Chan: I’ve realized that almost everything I do as a content creator is very social. I’m used to going to events! I was usually going to two or three events every night, Monday through Thursday, for the past 10 years. That has been a giant adjustment — just not having that social interaction. Brands have to get really creative with how they’re going introduce new launches and collections to us and still make it exciting. I’ve been really impressed actually. Yesterday, I did a dance class with Beyonce’s dance captain. Today, I’m doing a painting class to talk about a new hair color brand. As we all get used to this new normal, everyone’s been a lot more creative.
Another adjustment for me is just creating the photos and the videos — all of it. I live alone, so now I’ve invested in all kinds of lights and tripods and gear. I’m learning how to be my own producer, editor, photographer, on-camera talent. Everything. It’s not the same at all. There are times when I think, “Oh, it’d be so much better if I was in a great location.” But in a way it’s really simplified everything.
I’m also an on-air host and I recently did a national segment, but it was from a Skype! It’s not the same as in a studio where you have the energy of the production; the cameras and lights and all of that. I’m also used to doing live events where I host fashion shows and I talk about trends and I really connect with consumers as an expert and an authority in style and beauty. That’s my favorite hat I wear. So, I haven’t done that in a long time! I’m a natural extrovert, so all of it has been a little trying. But I’m a very adaptable person.
How can PR pros like us help to make your life in the new normal easier?
Jenn Chan: Staying in touch! I know all of us are going through the motions somewhat with everything that’s going on in the world, but TURNER and all the other firms I work with have done a great job. Telling me about the latest and the greatest helps me generate new ideas and roundups that I can then pitch out. I’m constantly over here trying to generate ideas. Hearing from firms regularly and knowing if you have new clients or exciting launches helps me come up with them.
Also, being patient and kind is key. I can’t tell you how many times that people follow up with “How’d you like? How’d you like it?” And I say, “I haven’t received it yet!” Just be patient with us. A lot of us are getting inundated with packages and boxes. We need time to see what is relevant — and not everything is relevant.
Our work has slowed down a lot, too. It’s not the same as it was before, with constant outlets to place things. We’re all trying to do our best.
You’ve been doing some traveling during the past year. What has your overall experience been like?
Jenn Chan: I’ve had all good experiences so far. I felt kind of like a pioneer when I went to Mexico this summer. Now, everyone’s going to Tulum, but I ventured out of the country before that. It was still safe at that point, but it felt a little like uncharted territory then. I did a story about what it was like to leave the country during Covid. Overall, it was perfectly fine. I documented all of the precautions that Mexico was doing.
I’m turning trips down right now because it’s winter. I feel like I can’t be outside, I can’t feel that same sense of safety right now. This summer, it was like “Oh, I’m so spread out, I have the entire pool to myself and no one’s around.” Now, I’m getting invitations to the Midwest or places where I know it’s going to be cold. So, I know in that situation I’ll have to be indoors a lot with people I don’t know. I just turned down a trip yesterday. Living in LA right now, we’re the epicenter and we actually have a mandate not to go 120 miles outside of LA County.
There’s a big moral dilemma with people in my position — not only journalists, but also influencers. People are really looking to you as somewhat of a role model. You have to make judgement calls that balance what’s right for you and your platform and also your livelihood. This is work, after all. But I’m very cautious of all sides of the spectrum of how people are handling Covid.
In the summer, I felt like, “It’s OK, guys.” In Mexico, they were at 10 percent capacity at my resort. There’s almost literally no one here. I felt safer in Mexico than I did in LA where everyone’s on top of each other. But now that it’s winter and you don’t have that same outdoor option everywhere. Also, paying attention to what the doctors are saying, we obviously got hit hard with Thanksgiving and Christmas travel. I don’t want to contribute to that.
Right now, my plan is just to hunker down and keep it safe until spring probably. I’m hoping things will be a little more open and outdoors by then — and of course, more people will be vaccinated by then and we can move into the next phase.
Moving on to fashion — how has the past year changed fashion?
Jenn Chan: Obviously, we’ve all embraced cozy, comfy athleisure. Brands like Vuori have exploded in the last year because their joggers and their hoodies are so incredible that you never want to take them off. I was just at a store and a woman struck up a conversation with me. She was really hip and stylish, and we started talking about how we don’t wear heels anymore. I have towers of heels and now all I want to wear is the cutest sneaker I can find. I’m excited that we’re embracing the comfy side of things. I like that a lot of brands are taking the sweatsuit and athleisure wear and adding a puffed sleeve or a little more detail to it. They’re making sure that your joggers are tailored so that you can still look cute.
At the same time, I do think that as we come out of this, we are all going to wear the most fabulous clothes when we can. It’s like the Roaring Twenties. Back in the day after the pandemic of 1918, people wanted to get dressed up in the most fabulous outfits because they couldn’t for so long. We’re about to go into something similar — a super-indulgent realm of fashion with rich fabrics and ornate jewels. We’ll get rid of our tie-dyed sweats, even though we’re embracing them right now. We still have a couple more months of cozy, though.
You’re a red-carpet veteran. What do you think the future of events is going to look like?
Jenn Chan: So much of my career has been red carpet. I was the senior fashion editor for E! Entertainment for three years so I was spearheading all of that coverage. Post-Covid, I think the big red-carpet events will be back. But I think that the everyday events will slow down. For journalists, PR and influencers, it was almost like we needed things to slow down. There were too many events going on, just endless “keeping up with the Joneses” madness for weeks on end. Going to five events in one night is not healthy for anyone! It was maddening. Now, I’ve been talking to a lot of my friends who are influencers and we agreed that we might not have the stamina to do the small talk and banter. I’m like, “Can you just send me the mailer and some bullet points?”
It will be much more economical for brands, too. They can put together a Zoom call to tell me what’s what and then we can all move on in 30 minutes. Looking ahead, I hope we can refocus and put our resources and energy into things that are more meaningful and not so cluttered. I’m very sympathetic to the brands who have smaller budgets and thought that they could never keep up with the bigger fish — you know, taking a bunch of journalists to Bali to talk about a new sunscreen or something. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out with a more even playing field.
Diversity and representation have been major topics of conversation in the past year – in travel, fashion, media and beyond. What progress would you like to see made in the coming years?
Jenn Chan: I think there’s been major progress, especially since this past summer when we had the BLM movement. I’ve seen so many colleagues of color get promoted to prominent positions. Not only at media outlets, but at beauty companies and in other industries, which is terrific and a step in the right direction. I hope we can continue this streak where it’s no longer a movement, but simply the way things should have always been. Even during the holidays, consumers were much more deliberate about where they were spending their money, and who they were supporting. I hope to see more of that.
With travel, I’d love to see more voices represented. There have been countless trips where I’ve been the only minority in the group. Actually, I was on a trip with two other women of color, and they brought it up. I was like, “Oh my god, you’re right! This is the first time!” It’s unusual — and it’s sad that in 2021 that’s still the case. So, I hope that the industry is more cognizant of who we’re selecting to go on trips, so that more voices are represented. Overall, it’s important to be more sensitive and inclusive. That’s always been a big passion for me. I worked for Tyra Banks at one point and she was all about empowering inner-outer beauty, all shapes, all colors. That’s something that I take with me in every role that I have.
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