20 Sense

20 SENSE: Bee-Shyuan Chang Shapiro, Writer for The New York Times


Nothing in fashion writing excites me quite like The New York Times Style sections (which come out every Thursday and Sunday) and their fashion themed issues of T Magazine. Having attempted to read every last word of both publications for the past few years, I’ve become well-acquainted (from afar) with the various writers on rotation, and one voice in particular has always been a favorite. Enter Bee-Shyuan Chang Shapiro, whose ability to harp on about fashion and its various avenues in a refreshing, intellectual tone is a rarity in the large pool of style writing out there today. The subject matter–interviewing a celebrity about their sartorial preferences, describing the scene at the Met Ball, or introducing a new beauty trend–becomes almost irrelevant, thanks to her meticulous and alluring way with words. And very often, I find myself newly interested in something I wouldn’t have thought twice about prior to reading. For someone who loves linguistics with the same enthusiasm as wanting to know whose running the show at Louis Vuitton, her articles create the perfect union. Naturally, I had to pick her brain on what advice she had for surviving the terrible 2-0’s, and how she ended up in her much coveted spot at The New York Times.


1. How old are you? 32  

2. Describe your trajectory since turning 20 up until now. It’s probably more like a zigging and zagging. I started out as a hedge fund attorney in Manhattan, worked for an art collector and then segued into writing. Not exactly a laser path! That said, I’ve certainly met a wide swath of people and it’s pretty amazing how they’ll occasionally intersect.

3. What surprised you most about your twenties? What went exactly as expected? How hard it was.  Chalk it up to my naivete, but a lot of the decade was just figuring out and weighing all my adult responsibilities.

4. Do you feel like you’ve found your niche or are you still searching? This is a trick question! While, yes, on the one hand, I do love writing–it’s incredibly satisfying when a piece I’m proud of goes into print–it’s dangerous, or at least unwise, to stay still. Especially in media, things are still in such flux and there are always new platforms or ways of telling a story to explore.

5. What did your twenties teach you about romantic love? Friendship?  I actually quit the law firm because I had no balance in my life. It was impossible to date or have a boyfriend when I was canceling on dinners all the time. And most of my friends, for better and worse, had to be lawyers (because they were the only ones that understood the schedule). For me, love, family and friendships come first.

6. Where do you get the most inspiration? How do you snap out of a creative rut? When I go traveling! It’s a great way to mind-shift. If I’m stuck in NYC for a while then usually a long run will do it.

7. If you had to create a twenties survival kit what would it include? Comfortable but hot high heels, an iPhone with an address book full of true friends, and coconut water.

8. What are the best parts of working as a journalist today? The worst? The mobility is fantastic. You can be working from a ski lodge in Park City or the beaches of Santa Monica and no one would know you’re “away.” But it’s a double-edged sword. The worst part is that there’s very little if any downtime. It can be an electronic leash in a sense.

9. What advice would you give to young people who want to make it as a journalist? Pay attention to the edits that come back to you. Especially if you’re working with a seasoned editor, there is so much to learn between the lines.

10. What publications do you enjoy reading the most? My usual lineup: The New York Times (of course), New York magazine’s website, National Geographic, Outside, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Daily Mail, InStyle, Glamour, Economist, The New Yorker. It’s pretty varied.

11. Do you have a writing “routine”? If so, what is it? Coffee and more coffee.

12. Best writing tip you’ve ever been given? This was put quite a bit more eloquently when I heard it, but essentially: You don’t have to be the best writer, you just have to keep at it. Tenacity is everything. Another bit comes from Woody Allen (courtesy of my husband) and I’m paraphrasing here: 80% of success is showing up.

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