Kate Betts has recently written her memoir, My Paris Dream, which is largely about living and working in journalism in France. It’s quite an enchanting read-one I would recommend. Here, we asked her about the book. Thank ou very much Kate-and amidst Fashion week also!
Hello Kate, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
How did the book ‘My Paris Dream’ come to fore?
I wanted to tell my story so that young people coming out of college today and dreaming of fashion—or any career, really—can see that a career trajectory is never a linear path. There are zigs and zags. Mistakes, wrong turns, hard work, disappointments, fears, and triumphs. You learn the most from those difficult times. I wanted to show readers that my path was not easy and not obvious. I took a few spills. I learned from those – I learned the most important lesson which is that sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself.
Did you ever have a specific moment, when you identified yourself as a Francophile?
Yes, I knew the first time I set foot in Paris that I had to live there, that I had an affinity for the French people and culture.
What was it that initially attracted you to the world of Journalism?
As I describe in my book, it was seeing Barbara Walters reporting on Vietnam in the mid-Seventies on television. She was incredibly smart and authoritative and glamorous. It was an intoxicating combination. I also took several courses at Princeton that inspired me, and I wrote for the Daily Princetonian. I’m a reporter at heart and I guess I was lucky to discover that about myself very early on.
Could you please describe your duties at Fairchild publications, and (later) Vogue?
I was a reporter at Fairchild and later the Associate Bureau Chief. At Vogue I was initially a fashion writer and I rose to the position of Fashion News Director.
Do you think women can have style as well as substance?
Absolutely! Look at our First Lady, she is an incredible example of the power of style and substance together. I wrote a whole book about this too–Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style. It came out in 2011.
Who would be your fashion icon and why?
My mother and my grandmother because they had incredible style and presence. When I talk about style, I mean it as something that is much more than what you are wearing. Style is about how you hold yourself, how you speak, what you say, what you stand for.
How and why do you think popular culture has influenced publishing?
Celebrities have become the lifeblood of magazines, they’ve usurped models and that has certainly changed fashion magazines in a profound way. With models, the reader can still project themselves into the image. With celebrities that is more difficult to do.
For a day at the office, what can we find in your handbag?
Oh gosh, I always carry my phone obviously, and a wallet, a metrocard if I’m in NYC, lipstick, a hairbrush, and perfume. And I always carry a pen and something to write on, usually a notebook.
For anyone who wishes to follow in your footsteps, do you have any advice?
Don’t be afraid to be yourself. And work hard! 90% of success is hard work.
And finally, one random question: If you could time travel, would you rather visit the past, or the future?
The past for sure! I’m a student of history! My favorite period is between the two world wars, in France, preferably.