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Dawn 2022  •  05 April 2022  •  Arts & Lifestyle

In Conversation with Divya Venkataraman

By Ashley Sullivan
Content Warning: Discrimination
In Conversation with Divya Venkataraman

​Divya Venkataraman is a lawyer-turned-writer whose work has been published in Vogue Australia, GQ Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald, Time Out and SBS. With articles ranging from social action to arts, Divya currently covers culture, fashion and travel content across Vogue Australia, Vogue Living and GQ Australia. I was thrilled to chat with her and discuss her journey as a writer, the importance of uplifting diverse female voices, and her hopes for the future of journalism.

AS: Hi Divya, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Could you please tell us a bit about yourself?

DV: I’m a content editor at Vogue Australia, Vogue Living and GQ Australia. I spend my days writing and producing content. Creating content can sound a bit mysterious for people not in the media world, but it just involves pitching articles during morning meetings and writing them throughout the day. Some will be very short burn news, while others will be longer interview features. It’s not always in-depth features or glamorous reporting - there is definitely a mix of everything. I’m also involved in the technical side of things like uploading onto the websites, sourcing imagery, using design, and working with photoshop.

AS: You graduated with a degree in Law and Arts in 2018, and you’ve already made massive leaps and bounds in your career journey. What motivates you?

DV: The idea of wanting to do something that I’m genuinely interested in every day is my biggest motivator, and I saw what it was like not to be able to do that. Personally, working in mergers and acquisitions at a law firm was not a fulfilling space, so that experience allowed me to ask myself: ‘How do I make my day-to-day life something that I actually get excited for?’

AS: You’re working as a Content Editor for Vogue Australia, Vogue Living, and GQ Australia. How do you juggle coming up with new ideas, writing and editing without burnout?

DV: It’s a constant challenge to balance the pace of things, especially when so many news stories have 48-hour relevancy. The most useful tip is to find purpose in these things for yourself and not through external validation. Writing news stories about what a Kardashian wore is one aspect of the job, but you also get to do work that feels purposeful to you. You can balance creating entertaining quick bite-size content, and that can have its own space alongside longer, more in-depth pieces.

AS: What article have you written that meant a lot to you?

DV: I had a great time writing this piece last year about Bernardine Evaristo, the author of Girl, Woman, Other and the first black woman to win the Booker Prize. It was an amazing opportunity to interview someone I’ve admired for a long time, and my past self from two years ago would never have imagined having this interview.

AS: Talk us through your creative process.

DV: Chaos (laughs) I like to look at an idea from all angles, especially if it’s a feature or a conceptual piece, and write down all my thoughts. It’s a complete mess, and nothing is orderly, but I think having way too much material is comforting because then you can go in and strip it all back to the bones. Writing something is the first part of it, but it’s the editing where the real work happens. Especially in the digital world where you’re writing 3-4 stories per day, you don’t get the luxury of doing that all the time.

AS: As a journalism student, I’m self-admittedly guilty of glamorising the media world, particularly magazine jobs. From The Devil wears Prada to Sex and the City, how realistic are the media portrayals?

DV: Not accurate at all, but it’s kind of funny because I think everyone falls for those kinds of ideas, even though there is so much more to recommend beyond its ‘shininess’. Even though the job doesn’t have those superficial trappings, it has many more exciting things. In the fashion media space, you get to be a part of events and brand launches that allow you to meet interesting people in the industry. It’s a less talked about aspect of TV and film representations, but I think one of the most ‘glamorous’ parts of the job is being constantly surrounded by talented creatives.

AS: What is the most exciting opportunity your job has given you?

DV: I don’t know about exciting, but the weirdest one was while working at Time Out Sydney, and my boss asked if I would like to attend a dog wedding. I knew I couldn’t say no to an invitation, and it was the most bizarre, pink, very fancy affair. It wasn’t even one of the dog’s first weddings. There were all these dog influencers and many dog treats going around, but no human food apart from champagne. It was very strange but very fun.

AS: As we enter 2022, what are the most important stories to be told?

DV: I think the momentum that we received talking about race in a more open way is something we need to keep at the forefront of people’s minds, particularly through the way we report.

In the fashion space, I feel that it will become harder to tell pure fashion stories that don’t reveal how a particular piece or a particular show was made. I don’t think reporting can keep doing the same thing as before, which was focusing purely on aesthetics and not on the behind the scenes of fashion supply chains, labour issues and sustainability. I’m excited to see these elements continue to be woven into how we tell fashion stories.

AS: You’re also a member of Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement. Can you tell us about your involvement and what Sweatshop stands for?

DV: I got involved with them a few years ago, and it’s an incredible collective that focuses on uplifting the voices of writers of colour through literacy as freedom. They help writers be published and assist with their work being elevated to public recognition. They run workshops specifically for women of colour to receive valuable critical feedback, and they work with writers across all kinds of mediums.

AS: As a female writer of colour, how do you wish to see diverse female voices amplified in creative industries?

DV: I want to see their voices on their terms. All of the talent and abilities are there, but it often gets trotted out when it’s convenient for a mainstream audience. The future is embedding people into those conversations and keeping them there, not just pulling them in when there’s a race issue or a diversity issue. People of colour have a lot to say on a lot of different things, not just trauma, and having their perspective is always going to be useful.

AS: Journalism is an ever-changing industry notorious for job insecurity. Are you hopeful for its future?

DV: For sure! It’s an exciting place to be, and there’s so much that the coming generation can do. I don’t think it’s ever going to look like it did pre-financial crisis, and magazines don’t have the cachet they used to, but they’re still an important cultural tool.

I think it’s all about people making decisions in media that focus on what journalists do well instead of copying social media influencers and content creators. It will be interesting to see how journalism continues to renegotiate its space in a world dominated by social media platforms and engages with it while simultaneously carving out its own space.

AS: What are you working on now, and what are your plans for the future?

DV: Lots of things! I’m currently working on an essay about forgetting your first language and the loss and guilt connected with that. I love that we’re including more of the experiences of first-generation women and migrants in Vogue, and placing them into mainstream conversation.

I think a lot of this industry is about making it up as you go along, and the possibilities feel very open for the future.

AS: Where can we see your work?

DV: You can see it online at vogue.com and vogueliving.com, and GQ, as well as the print issues of Vogue coming out in the next few months.

You can find Divya on Instagram and Twitter @divyavnkt

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