My Conversation With The Executive Editor of Marie Claire Magazine

Sunday, February 07, 2016

About a year ago I met with Executive Editor of Marie Claire magazine, Lea Goldman over cappuccinos, in the lobby of the Hearst Tower, as we chatted about our careers, the fashion world, and our mutual hometown of Lakewood, NJ. 

I had wanted to start a series of blog posts featuring empowering and interesting women, and Lea certainly fit the bill. I thought it was really cool that the daughter of a family friend had reached the top echelons of one of my favorite magazines, and I was thrilled for the opportunity to pick her brain.
Lea Goldman, Executive Editor, Marie Claire

The interview was never posted, and I'm not sure what happened to my 'Empowering Women Series' back then, but today I'm excited to finally share it with you, as it's never too late to implement an idea that's been brewing for a while. So go ahead and enjoy my conversation with Lea; it's been a long time coming!

Sharon: I think it's really interesting that you grew up in Lakewood and ended up working for Marie Claire magazine, and one of my dreams was to work at a glossy magazine, and I lived and raised my family in Lakewood. That's why I feel it's karmic that we should collaborate here and chat a little about the journey you've taken to get to the position you're currently at.

But first, can you tell us what your experience was like growing up in Lakewood? I have a feeling your Lakewood is not the same as people today perceive it to be.

Lea: The Lakewood of my childhood has changed in ways big and small. For starters, my school—Bezalel Hebrew Day—no longer exists (I believe the school was sold to another yeshiva). Naturally, that makes me sad. Many of my memories are of that school. (Thankfully, my parents, who still live in Lakewood, have kept every last picture.) From a fashion standpoint, Lakewood today is wildly different. Back then, being “tznius” meant a you owned a closet full of jean skirts and Keds in every shade. These days, religious fashion is way more sophisticated and on trend. I’m always impressed by how creative ultra-orthodox women in Lakewood (like you, Sharon!) are with the same “fast fashion” popular in my industry (Zara, H&M, ASOS, etc.) And yet no matter how different Lakewood is today, some things never change: Shoprite is still the epicenter of everything*, you couldn’t pay me to drive through downtown on a Friday, and Lakewood challahs will always, always rule.
Sharon: When you were younger did you have an idea of what you wanted to do? Being long time friends with your parents, I know that you come from a well educated and professional family. What were your thoughts about your future back then?

Lea: Initially I thought I’d be a lawyer, like my father. But I was always a writer. I knew my future would involve that in some way. After I graduated from Columbia University, I landed a job doing PR for Forbes Magazine. I figured, if I could just get my foot in the door somewhere in publishing, I’d somehow navigate to the editorial side of things. And that’s exactly what happened. I spent 10 years at Forbes working on their lists, including the “World’s Billionaires”, where I covered the Israelis. I broke the story about Lev Leviev, the Russian Jew who broke theDeBeers diamond cartel. I’m very proud of that story, in part because it involved traveling to the Ukraine where I got a pretty unique tour of the Jewish community there, which he's trying to revive. Amazing experience.

Sharon: That's awesome! So, how did you land your job at Marie Claire? Can you tell us a little about the process that led you to your current position?

Lea: After a decade of lists at Forbes, I was pretty burnt out and wanted to try something totally different. MarieClaire was, to be frank, the only fashion magazine I read regularly. It’s emphasis on long form features and international issues spoke to me. As it happened, the then-editor in chief, Joanna Coles, lived around the corner from me on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I’d see her occasionally and think, I should just ask her out for coffee. So I did. We hit it off, and she hired me. I think that was a risky thing to do—hire a business journalist for a fashion magazine. I learned many, many things from her (she’s now editor in chief of Cosmo), including the value people with unconventional backgrounds bring to an organization. Don't ever think, "Oh, they'd never hire me." In fact, you may be exactly what they want!
The cover of this month's Marie Claire
Sharon: So Marie Claire was one of the only fashion magazine that spoke to you? Can you elaborate?

Lea: I am proud to say we are a magazine that understands that a modern woman can be interested in fall fashion and beauty tips, while also being interested in politics and women's issues. There's no contradiction there. Women can be "girly" and smart and informed at the same time. Imagine that.
MC two years ago
Sharon: Your position at Marie Claire was Features and Special Projects Director*. Can you tell us what exactly you do at the magazine?

Lea: I oversee our award-winning features team. I'm also the founding editor of our @Work section, which we launched about 5 years ago. For years, decades even, women's magazines did not acknowledge working women, that a whole generation of women was earning its own money, making its own financial decisions, forging lifelong friendships at work, putting off having families because of their careers. We were the first to acknowledge it and devote pages every month to issues that are core to working women. Since then, these conversations have really become THE conversations, what with "Lean In" and whatnot. So I'm quite proud we were the first! I also edit our Big Girl in a Skinny World column, which is by the phenomenally talented plus-size blogger Nicolette Mason. And finally, I work on partnerships—for example, a couple of years ago, I spearheaded a really fun partnership between Marie Claire and the NFL. I've just returned from the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas where I helped produce a panel we did with Julia Louis-Dreyfus from Seinfeld. I wear many hats here. Every day is different!
The February 2016 MC @Work page (Bell sleeves are back!)
Sharon: So fun! And you, like so many of us, are a working mom. It seems we are all trying to find that sweet spot between personal success and being nurturers and available for our children. What are your feelings on ‘having it all’ and how do you find your balance?

Lea: Well, I don't have it all. Let me put that out right away. I have a family I love and a career I love, but the success of one often comes at the expense of the other. I also want to be clear about this: I don't just work because I have to (and I do), but also because I love to. I'm a woman who finds personal satisfaction from her career. I like making my own money. And I want my children to know that. Thankfully I have a husband who really is behind me 100%. That's really crucial. And because, as they say, you have to "see it to be it", I've taken more than a few pages out of my mom's playbook. She's worked for as long as I can remember. She practically coined the term "balancing act". From her I've learned some important rules: you can't be so hard on yourself, pizza is always a winning dinner, and a black pencil skirt is the working woman's best friend. Nobody rocks one better than my mom.

Sharon: So true. I love your mom! She was an inspiration to me while I was raising my kids and trying to find my own personal direction. She seems to be the epitome of that balance between a warm and charming wife and mom, and an intellectual and fierce business woman. And hell yes, she rocks that pencil skirt like no other.

Can we talk fashion? It seems to reflect the current trends and events going on in the world. Why do you think we are seeing an increase in the popularity of modesty in mainstream fashion? Do you think there’s an underlying energy driving the trend?

Lea: Your clothes are a reflection of who you are and what message you're trying to convey. I firmly believe that. While I would never critique someone for baring too much skin—trust me, I work at a fashion magazine, and see plenty—I think it can be an inadvertent distraction. I want  people to focus on my thoughts and words rather than on my body. Also, I think modest fashion reflects the growing influence women have at work, and the desire to telegraph sophistication, professionalism and confidence. I personally think nothing does that better than an impeccably well-tailored dress with bold accessories.

 Sharon: How do you personally feel about modesty in fashion?

Lea: I'm all about confidence. What makes you feel empowered? What makes you feel like a million bucks? Tugging at a skirt that keeps riding up doesn't exude confidence. Neither does a blouse that's straining to stay buttoned. But I don't judge. To each her own. My style is heavily influenced by my old school Lakewood upbringing: lots of black, lots of skirts.

Sharon: OK, now that we've covered the heavy stuff (no pun intended!), let’s have some fun. What would you say is your personal fashion aesthetic? Who are some of your fashion role models and designers?

Lea: I'm an equal opportunity shopper. I've recently discovered Jonathan Simkhai and Clover Canyon—both are vibrant, colorful, very graphic print oriented. So I guess I'm feeling color at the moment. I'm also big, BIG on Zara. I live there. I don't believe fashion is about spending a lot of money. Especially now that we are living in an age of chic, runway-influenced affordable fashion Here's some great advice Nina Garcia, MC's creative director, gave me once: if you're going to go cheap on shoes or bags, stick with neutral colors. That advice has served me well.
Zara clad model
Sharon: Can you share some personal information with us so we can get to know you a bit better?

Lea: I'm 38, live in Manhattan* with my husband and 2 boys, who are 5 and 6 months. I'm a Jersey girl to the core.

Sharon: What do you usually eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Lea: Since my second son was born, I've been working insanely hard to to lose the baby weight, so my menu these days is rather austere. Cottage cheese for breakfast, salad or sushi for lunch, some sort of chicken or fish for dinner. If I must have a snack, it'll be almonds, a skim latte or popcorn.

Sharon: It is insanely hard to lose weight! Good for you. What can you not live without?

Lea: My Nespresso Vertuoline. My husband and I are zealots about good coffee.

Sharon: And what do you do for fun?

Lea: Hang out with my family!

Sharon: Tell us something that is on your bucket list that you would like to accomplish in the near future.

Lea: I'd like to write a book!

Sharon: Oh, you should definitely go for that! I would read it for sure.

For all of the women reading this blog, whether they be working moms, career women, stay-at-home moms, or young girls dreaming of their futures, what advice would you share with them?

Lea: You don't get anything in this world without asking. Nobody will read your mind about what you want. Just ask! You'll be amazed by how many yeses you get!

Sharon: I love that! And what advice would you give to your younger self?

Lea: Skip the third slice. I promise you won't miss it.

Sharon: Ha! In your 40's it's more like skip the second slice...but Lakewood pizza is that good :)

Follow Lea on Twitter and Instagram.

*Since this interview, a few things have changed. For one, Lea, who at the time was the Features and Special Projects Director, got promoted to Executive Editor (go girl!), I moved out of Lakewood, Lea moved back to Jersey, and the Lakewood Shoprite was replaced by Gourmet Glatt. It just goes to show that a lot can change in a year!

Until next time,



Stay posted for more interviews like this here on the blog featuring exciting and empowering women, and let me know what you think about this post and posts like these by leaving a comment below, emailing me at, or commenting on my social media.

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