The Edit: In Conversation with L’Oréal Blackett, Journalist and Broadcaster

What does it mean to be influential in today’s digital world? Is success only measured by how you’re perceived online? And if you have influence, how do you use it for good?

In the midst of lockdown and eager to find out the answers to these questions, journalist and broadcaster L’Oréal Blackett, created her own podcast, The Edit, which delves into the world of influencer culture. Unpacking the truth behind the likes, shares and hashtags, L’Oréal is using her voice to find out what it’s really like to have a personal brand, exploring the impact of having a popular presence online and how this has affected the individuals and brands dominating our social media feeds. 

Having worked for the likes of the BBC, Bustle and Body Confidential, in a variety of reporting and broadcasting roles, alongside a number of gigs as an ambassador and presenter for businesses including Bumble, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, L’Oréal is by some people’s definition an “influencer”.  However, like many women in journalism, she sometimes struggles with the idea of curating her own brand. Hence the creation of The Edit, a way to better understand the realities and expectations of influencer culture and the role that we all play in this shifting digital narrative. 

Born and bred in Manchester, L’Oréal knew from a young age that she wanted to work in the media, “I was just set on it, it was either that or be a dancer”, she tells me over zoom, seemingly the most popular medium for conducting interviews, podcasts and webinars under lockdown. Taking a traditional route into the industry, she studied Broadcast Journalism at the University of Leeds before landing a placement aged 21 at MediaCity, the BBC’s Salfordian home, and as they say, the rest is history.

Well not quite, because to gloss over L’Oréal’s various career achievements, which include an editorship at Body Confidential, would diminish the hard work and determination that she, and many other women working in journalism – an industry dominated by white males – have put in over the years.

According to a report written for Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism by Suzanne Franks, a professor of Journalism at City University London, women substantially outnumber men in media training but very few secure senior jobs and the pay gap between female and male journalists remains considerable. In another study by Reuters, released in 2016, it was reported that journalists were 94% white. Whilst publications such as gal-dem, Black Ballad, FEM Zine and Yellowzine have sought to make media and its reporting more diverse, recent events show just how much work still needs to be done in order to create a more representative media landscape. 

For L’Oréal, a regular contributor to online platform Bustle, the roadblocks to success were apparent very early on. “It took me a while to really understand that media is a business before anything else,” she says. “From the SEO, to the clicks and links and everything like that, as much as some media organisations want to show themselves as quite radical, or tell the kind of taboo stories, you know the reality is they’re quite scared – scared of offending their core audience.”

Just a few weeks earlier, L’Oréal had written a piece for Bustle, who she credits as one of a number of platforms giving writers such as herself, a space to write about her own experiences and those of other women of colour, about the lack of mental health provision for black women and why it is imperative that this is put on the agenda. Exploring the narrative that Black women are stronger than others, L’Oréal sought to show that this doesn’t tell the whole story and that provision, access and representation with regards to mental health services is simply not where it needs to be to positively help and support women of colour. 

 L’Oréal explains that she feels now is the time to delve deeper into these subjects, which, in the past, she didn’t feel she could because the conversation wasn’t yet open enough. “Obviously the industry has changed. I would still write about mental health but in a broad way, but as a  journalist it now feels like the right time to talk about something that does resonate with me but also with a lot of people,” she explains. “It’s great when I’m working with Bustle or other womens’ magazines, they’re open to sharing a wealth of stories, so I feel empowered by that. I feel comfortable writing about those things.  I’m pleased to be able to speak about something that can be quite difficult in the black community.”

Part of the reason L’Oréal remains hopeful – in spite of both the racism and sexism she has faced in the industry – is because of her strong relationship with her family, who have always supported her dream to be journalist or fashion editor. “Maybe it’s a weird naivety in me but sometimes I feel I will always succeed, it’s been drummed into my head from my parents,” she says with a smile. “I never thought I couldn’t do something, but I did realize soon enough that it might be slightly more difficult. I wouldn’t say I’m thick skinned but I am so determined.” This dedication to her craft is supported wholeheartedly by her family who she credits for always inspiring and uplifting her, especially during the earlier phases of lockdown – a time that gave her the chance to press pause and consider her next steps.

Despite her year not getting off to the start that she had planned, the arrival of lockdown set off something inside of L’Oréal, who after taking some time out to focus on her health and wellbeing, through running and outdoor workouts, began to consider new ways to channel her media skills, which eventually resulted in the creation of The Edit podcast. 

“Not to diminish what the virus is at all, but lockdown has grounded me and made me think about what I do. I think of ideas all the time and I don’t know where to put it sometimes,” she says taking a sip of her freshly brewed coffee. “You like talking so just do the podcast. I started there and just focused on one project. I centered in on the things I want to do and the podcast has been a natural fit and also a great distraction; what a time to explore another facet of yourself that you’ve never had time to do.”

Applying what she had learnt from her time in broadcasting, L’Oréal began to ask, what does it mean to have an influence in today’s digital world, speaking to guests such as Haçienda legend DJ Paulette, designer of positive vibes Zara Khalique and tech entrepreneur Melissa Snover about their experiences of influence, the sacrifices they have taken to keep up appearances and what it means to have a voice in today’s society. The podcast has also led the esteemed journalist to examine her own online presence and the side effects of time spent online.

“Instagram is a minefield, especially when it’s so image-led. I struggle with that. I love fashion, music, all of it, but I love to write and read, but I don’t always know how to marry it,” explains L’Oréal. “With the podcast, that’s me being me, you have to be yourself. That’s what a personal brand should be.”

Having seen the good, the bad and the ugly side of social media it seems like L’Oréal is already understanding what it means to have a significant degree of influence and has made sure to use it to challenge stereotypes and ask the difficult questions that need to be answered in these particularly polarized times. Meanwhile, she advises those looking to pursue a career in media to use Instagram and other platforms on their own terms. “There’s so many more opportunities for journalists now thanks to social media. Go get more than you ever could, whether it’s talking on panels, speaking, doing courses – you can supplement your income using it,” she concludes. “So don’t be afraid, don’t be controlled by how everyone else is using it, don’t let it be a negative thing, because it doesn’t have to be.”


You can read more of L’Oréal’s articles here and listen to the latest episode of The Edit here.

Interview: Jenna Campbell

Images: Courtesy of L’Oréal Blackett

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Community Matters: In Conversation with Yas Banks, Graphic Designer and Podcaster

Image by Sophia Carey 

A University of Salford Graduate in Graphic Design, Yas Banks is a 21-year-old freelance designer from Wigan. Since graduating in 2019, she has been flexing her creative muscle as a freelancer and hosting the podcast Proper Talk , alongside friend and fellow Salford Univeristy graduate Jaheed Hussain.

Taking every opportunity that she can to learn more about her craft, Yas is also making sure to pass on the knowledge she has acquired since graduation and is helping those fresh out of university, who are just beginning to scope out roles in the creative world.

Having recently gone solo with the podcast, we wanted to speak with Yas about her first year as a freelancer, the realties of the working world and her advice for anyone needing a bit of encouragement when it comes to finding their place amongst other designers and creatives.

Affable and always brimming with ideas, this is a must-read for anyone interested in a career in graphic design and for those feeling a little lost in professionally and personally of late.

First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from and what you do?

I’m Yas. I’m 21. From Wigan. I’m a graphic designer and podcaster.

Image by Holly White

When did you first know you wanted to be a graphic designer?

Growing up, I had my heart set on becoming a fashion designer. I had an A5 sketchpad filled with drawings of my own clothes, drawing outfits together. That was my goal. In primary school, we had the opportunity to design and make our own slippers in an art lesson one week as a Christmas activity. I still to this day have this slipper – yes it isn’t wearable at all but it’s still a fond memory I have. 

That was until I got to high school and discovered something called graphic products, fell in love with the process and the opportunity it gave. I remember as part of my exam for GCSE, I learnt about the likes of Margaret Calvert & Jock Kinneir who are most famous for designing road signs and became completely in awe that the likes of design carried out such an important role in people’s day to day lives. This is when I found out this was my ‘calling’ in life – ha. 

How did you find the first six months after graduation?

Tough. I’ll be honest. Between graduating in July and starting back up in October, I’m not ashamed to say I had a solid two months off away from absolutely everything – having lived my life in education from the age of 4… I needed some time to think. That shift of every single day in education to suddenly in the ‘real world’, searching for a job… being an adult… having that responsibility held around you is weird. The security of education was gone! 

That’s what I feared, the lack of being secure… getting up to go sit somewhere with that comfort bubble over you of knowing what you’re doing in a certain place. I knew I was getting the train to see recognisable faces; knowing exactly due to a timetable I was doing. There was no fear of the unknown. No anxiety inducing situations. And leaving that environment was a weird adjustment.

However, I took every opportunity whilst still being a student to attend as many events as possible, connect with people, build a network. Which I am so glad I did as I now wasn’t this odd, new graduate trying to get my foot in the door not knowing anyone.

I got bored though, of having too much me time… deciding after picking up the odd freelance jobs during September that I wanted to explore what it would be like to be freelance. Straight from graduation, I’m aware I seem deluded but I wanted to take the risk. I wanted to see what it was like to be my own boss, not be scared of pushing myself out of my comfort zone and meet amazing people along the way.

What opportunities did you take up in those first few months?

Keeping a close network with the university I went to (University of Salford) I jumped in as a mentor on their amazing mentor scheme to help out the current final year students (big shoutout to Lily Duignan for being ace, I’ve now made a friend for life out of this). 

Furthering this relationship with the university, I took part in the Design Manchester x Extinction Rebellion takeover day. From designing assets for the screens around the university to leading my own badge-making workshop. All students from eight different universities came together in union through the power of design to listen, learn and take action for matters about Climate Change. It was an ace day to be involved with, seeing everyone grow in passion through the day and getting mega hands on with everything that was highlighted. 

From this day, I have just about wrapped on a mad publication of summary from the day highlighting everything amazing that occurred into one place for everyone involved to refer back to and see the magic of collaboration! It’s jam-packed full of amazing imagery, artwork and words. Keep an eye out for that release as it’s very nearly ready to go. I love working on editorial design, like this, with loads of content as it allows me to be as creatively free as I’d like for people to enjoy.

At the same time as being involved with Design Manchester events; I had the privilege of working alongside Ear to the Ground as my first major freelance job, working in-house on campaigns for the likes of I Saw it First, Arsenal, Beats and internal marketing work. Working in-house amongst a fab team of people gave me a sense of what it was like day-to-day to come into a studio environment, even as my own boss, and quickly adapting to their way of working, was such a great opportunity for my first freelance role. 

I’ve joined the amazing PechaKucha team too. Being involved helping out where I can; designing the PoochaKucha event programme, helping out with workshops and working with the amazing team. 

What have you learned about working as a graphic designer since graduation?

Ironically, I’ve learnt that learning doesn’t stop. And I know everyone says this but it’s true. Every day is a learning curve, you will make mistakes but that’s okay, you won’t know how to do things, you will frantically Google how to do things. Skillshare has become my best mate at the moment especially diving into the world of After Effects a bit more.

What support did you receive after university?

I worked with the Design Manchester team through the end of my third year at university starting with an amazing project alongside Peel L&P, in which a handful of us designed murals to go up near Harbour City, with the focus on wellbeing and mindfulness. This project helped connect me with the team, with John Owens at the forefront of the project. The support given through the project pushed onto post-university, acting as a huge mentor figure giving me crucial advice on things like my CV to Portfolio, as he receives countless amounts a day. He’s given me guidance on so much when I was lacking motivation in struggling to find a job.

That’s something that isn’t spoken about, the frustration of working your arse off through education, high school to get to college, college to get to university, university to graduate and get a job. But then that job isn’t always there straight away and the fight still continues, of course it does, it isn’t handed to you on a plate ‘because you got a degree’ but the frustration of rejection is a real thing.

John helped me channel this and not let it get me down and lose my motivation, I’ve had down moments about it, anxiety was raised because I felt there was an expectation to get a job or else it wouldn’t have been worth it. But just know, that isn’t the case. Everyone knows how hard it is, especially during the current pandemic, but as long as you keep going, don’t let this define you, it isn’t failure — it’s a learning curve!

What would your advice be for those just starting out in the industry?

Don’t compare yourself to others. This is easier said than done, as you’ll be seeing your peers getting jobs or internships and thinking ‘wait, am I doing enough?’ and ‘why aren’t I being offered those opportunities?’ It’s an awful feeling, I get it. But that’s normal. Everyone will be thinking it, but don’t get tied up in these thoughts. You’ve got to take things at your own pace.

In these situations, you’ve gotta keep your head down and focus on you. And this goes for those you don’t know but are inspired by – it’s more than likely they’ve been doing what you’re just starting for a long time. You’ll get there – you’ve got to put the work in.  Imposter syndrome is real – I get it, everyone does. But it’s about channeling those feelings and working as hard you possibly can to get where you want to be and be your own biggest inspiration! 

What have been some of the highlights of the past year?

I think I’ve named quite a few already, haha! Some other things I’ve done which are mind-blowing for me… designing our Degree Show branding, graduating, having the best summer… turning 21 at a festival with ace humans, attending some inspiring events, connecting with the best people, being on the Creative Boom podcast (WOW!), being able to actually take a step away from education and realising that (okay apart from the current situation) the real world is actually quite exciting, yes utterly bloody terrifying too, but equally as exciting. 

Oh and of course, starting my own podcast! 

And any challenges?

Rejection from jobs. Anxiety about money. This has been a bane of my life. Especially being hit in a sudden pandemic, work drying out. Luckily I don’t have rent or a mortgage to pay, but I still have bills to pay and it’s a constant worry. 

Feeling like I’m back at square one. Learning doesn’t stop just because education stops – this hasn’t been a challenge as such but the feeling of being the newbie, a fresh graduate, there’s a connotation about it… new, fresh. Ok in some instances, it looks good as we have new ideas and have to start somewhere but from a personal thought it does feel that we could get looked down on as we don’t have experience so what the hell are we talking about. It’s a challenge I’ve faced and began to overcome after speaking to others in the industry, and I know there will be loads of graduates feeling the same too.

Can you tell us a bit about your Podcast and the inspiration behind it?

Proper Talk spiralled after featuring on Creative Boom – seeing the positive outlook from other creatives in the industry when briefly discussing topics that we face as graduates in the industry inspired an idea. I noticed that, yes there are amazing articles out there.

Proper Talk is from the perspective of a graduate navigating the working world as a new designer. It’s support for emerging designers. A platform to share tips and advice that I’ve learnt and continue to learn along the way, with conversations with guests in the industry too! Giving graduates a voice. 

Bits of advice I’ve welcomed and engaged with from people who have also been in my shoes at some point but there’s nothing from recent graduates to spare that advice of ‘in the now’ issues that people are concerned about. I know I won’t be a ‘graduate’ forever but for now I am a recent graduate. 

For others thinking about launching their own podcast or side hustle, what do you think are the foundations for starting your own venture?

Research. You’ll have a starting point as the reason you want to start a podcast or form a ‘side hustle’, but it’s important to delve further into it. Find your niche and that slot in the market, so you’re not repeating content that’s already out there.

Using your voice successfully. Figure out what you’d like people to get out of it, if that’s just entertainment, a sense of escapism, information, that’ll help to give you a distinct direction on forming the narrative behind the project. Know what you’re doing! It’s a lot of work to build up a platform, especially using a slightly different avenue in the form of your own actual voice.

What has been the best advice you have received over the past few years?

This is difficult to choose but there was a time nearing the end of college where my mental health took a major spiral. It was hard. I despised college. Loved my friends, hated the work! I went mute, lost faith in myself. It wasn’t good. But my family noticed this, helped me out and during that time I was gifted a wooden plaque that’s still on my wall today, in god awful typesetting I may add but it’s the message and meaning behind it that matters. It reads:

“You are braver than you think, stronger than you look, more talented than you know and twice as brilliant as the brightest star!”


How to find out more about Yas and her work:

Instagram: @yas.banks

Podcast: Proper Talk


Interview: Jenna Campbell

Getting to Know Vic Wright: Sculptor and Artist

I enjoy the sense of kindness, openness and community that comes with living in the north, whether that be neighbourly, professionally or in friendship.

Vic Wright

This week we’ve been talking to artist and sculptor Vic Wright. Based in the North West of England, Vic’s work focuses on the creation of unusual art forms and shapes. The space-like qualities of her work is not just intriguing and unique, but beguiling; transporting us to other realms and universes. Here we find out about her process, how the north has shaped her output, and why podcasts might just be the perfect lockdown accompaniment.

  • Could you tell us about what your work entails?

Typically my work takes the form of casts, which are formed when a liquid material is poured into a mould and allowed to solidify. Using a base of cement different materials such as metal powders and pigments are added. When drying this results in different textures, colours and surfaces.  

  • What inspires your work? Has this changed over time?

I’ve found influence in how nature displays beauty in difference. l’m interested in using industrial materials to try to create delicate tactile results, which is a common thread throughout my work both past and present. 

  • How would you describe the work that you create?

I would say l have an explorative approach to my work. I’m trying to capture the differences between contrasting elements to create a visual language between materials. My work evokes the natural world, only amplified, distorted and moulded to give new context.

  • What is the theme of your most recent collection of work? Is it different from previous work or a continuation of a theme?

For this new series of work l have expanded on the theme of naturalistic forms. 

Referencing the visual textures of rock strata and organic mineral particles, my intent was to explore surface and texture in sculptural form. With deeper exploration into my materials such as cement filigree and hand grown crystals l wanted to expand into a coming together of contrasting elements and generate more intricate detail. 

  • Which artists do you look up to? 

There are lots of artists l could have add to this list, for the simple reason that they or their  artwork has impacted me in some way. Edward Kienholz, Barbara Hepworth, Eva Hesse, Joseph Beuys, Rachael Whiteread, to name but a few. 

  • How long have you been an artist and sculptor, was it always something you wanted to do?

From studying sculpture at University, making a living as an artist has been something l have always dreamt of doing. Throughout the years l have practised in various degrees, and even given up on the idea at points. But in the last couple of years l’ve taken the step to go full time in my practice and see where the future takes me. 

  • What are some of the challenges of your profession?

Transporting or shipping larger delicate pieces can be a challenge at times. Some of the added elements can be very fine and fragile. But fingers crossed no major incidents so far.

  • Where is home for you?

Home is Heaton Moor, Stockport. It is also where l work as l have a home studio, which fits in nicely around my daughters school hours.

  • What do you like about the North of England?

I enjoy the sense of kindness, openness and community that comes with living in the north, whether that be neighbourly, professionally or in friendship. It’s not to say that those qualities can’t be found elsewhere, but it seems to be in more abundance here.

  • How has being based in the north shaped your creative output?

Being based in the north has undoubtedly shaped my creative output in every respect. I lived in London for 18 years and having the studio space, time as well as means wasn’t something l could obtain whilst living there. We moved back to the North 3 years ago and settled in Heaton Moor. A move that has allowed me to get back to my practice, and explore the joy and passion of making again.  

  • Have you got any suggestions for people spending time at home at the moment, books, shows, podcasts or hobbies they could pick up?

I’m a huge fan of podcasts and spend most of my working day listening to them. Particular favourites of mine are ‘Table Manners’ with Jesse and Lenny Ware, ‘The Adam Buxton podcast’, “Desert Island discs’, ‘Talk Art’ with Russell Tovey and Robert Diament and a new one l’ve been listening to is ‘The Creative Boom Podcast’ by a fellow creative woman from the north ,Katy Cowan.

View Vic’s work and exhibitions here.


WORDS: JENNA CAMPBELL

PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY: COURTESY OF LAUARA HUTCHINSON