As only a junior in high school, I never expected to be in Hearst Tower on a random Wednesday.
I always knew my grandfather had connections from his singing career with the most ridiculous people, but never considered how it might benefit me.
In July of 2021, he offered to give my number to a staff writer at Elle because he knew journalism interests me. At the time, I had no idea what the magazine was, but after I did some research and decided it was not a bad idea, I complied.
After months of not hearing, I lost hope and decided to move on and embrace other opportunities. Luckily for me, I heard from the staff writer, Rose Minutaglio, in September of 2021. We had a lengthy conversation about my position in Hawk Headlines and her position at Elle. At the end of the call, I took the opportunity to ask to shadow her for a day. Unfortunately, COVID-19 precautions were still in place, so I never got the chance to actually go.
Busy with life and other things, I lost touch with her for a while, until I reached out to tell her that I was in New York and thinking of her. Minutaglio answered back exactly three hours and forty-seven minutes later, offering to meet for a cup of coffee at Hearst Tower two days later. This is when I found out Minutaglio was promoted to senior editor within the time period we lost touch.
Realistically, I knew I would never be able to visit the city on such short notice as I am a sixteen-year-old with working parents and a job of my own, but I knew it was an opportunity I could not miss out on. After begging my mom to let me go, I called my older cousin, Giovanna Vertuccio, to see if she would want to accompany me in the city. I confirmed with Minutaglio the next night—twelve hours before I would have needed to be in the city—and bought my train tickets.
That night, I frantically searched my closet for an outfit, packed a bag and made sure everything was in order.
I got out of bed at exactly 6:30 A.M. on the day of the meeting and started getting ready, filled with anticipation. Vertuccio picked me up at 9:30 A.M., so we could make it to Stratford train station for the 10:41 A.M. train to Grand Central.
During that train ride, Minutaglio texted me asking for my full legal name and phone number.
“Elle magazine reception has my phone number,” I said to Vertuccio, before even responding to the text.
Nothing like this has ever happened to me, so I could not wrap my head around the situation and I was not even in the city yet.
We arrived in Grand Central at 12:19 P.M. and started our walk to Hearst Tower, the office headquarters of Elle. With a few stops along the way, it took us an hour and a half to walk the building. At first, we could not find the building. There was no way it was in that area. We were slightly out of the hustle and bustle of the city life and the buildings looked more like apartments. Until we walked a bit farther.
Vertuccio and I saw the most beautiful building. The bottom half was older, a vintage building. The top half was all glass. It was formed out of a triangle, prism technique rather than rectangles.
“That’s it,” we said at the same time.
As an eager teenager, walking into Hearst Tower was an experience I will never forget.
To start, we immediately went to the wrong door. One door was on the corner of 57th and Eighth and the other was on Eighth. We tried the corner door,so we walked around the building until we found the correct door. At this point, I was shaking. We felt embarrassed and judged by our mistakes. My nerves were quickly calmed when we were greeted by the sweetest New York security guard I have ever met. After speaking with security, I walked over to reception to check in. The receptionist confirmed my identity and called up to the Elle office.
“I just handed the Hearst receptionist my permit. That was embarrassing,” I told Vertuccio.
Even though I was slightly embarrassed because I was most likely the youngest person in the building, I recognized not many kids my age have this opportunity.
“Follow the escalators up and sit in the lounge,” said the receptionist. “She’ll be down in five minutes.”
The escalator was blocked by a security gate, so we could not figure out how to get in. Fortunately for us, the super nice security guard helped us through, no judgment or questions asked. He explained the only thing we needed to do was scan our visitor pass, but we figured it out and got in eventually, so it was okay.
The top of the escalator was the entrance to a huge lounge with an arrangement of different sized couches, tables, chairs, food and drinks. Vertuccio and I took a seat at a bar top and waited for Minutaglio.
“Rose Minutaglio” was across my phone screen. I answered almost immediately. After explaining where we were, she soon found us. I was full of pure joy. The day had actually arrived.
“Hi Hannah! Want to get a cup of coffee?”
I will never forget the first thing Minutaglio said to me.
Starstruck, I said yes. In hindsight, I probably should have declined the caffeine offer; I was already buzzing with excitement.
As we were finding a place to sit, I told Minutaglio all about handing my learners driver permit to the receptionist.
“Wait, how old are you?” said Minutaglio.
According to new people, I look older than I am. In Minutaglio’s eyes, I could be eighteen years old. Whether I took that as a compliment or a criticism, I could not decide. This conversation segued into what colleges I want to explore and how Minutaglio built herself up from a young girl living in Texas. I was in complete awe of her journey. Living in the city that never sleeps has always been my dream. While listening to Minutaglio, I decided working in this environment was exactly what I wanted to do with my life.
After the brief ten minute conversation, Minutaglio offered to take us up to see the Elle office.
The elevator was fascinating; it took us from level three to level twenty-four in seconds. Right off the elevator, there was a large door with “Elle” plastered on the side in the famous Elle font seen on the cover of all their magazines. When I walked into the office, the first thing I saw was two couches with framed Elle magazines above them.
To start, Minutaglio showed us her desk and the area where the editing takes place, which was to the right of the front room. She then walked us back into the front room to show us her article in the August 2022 Edition.
“Here. Take it home,” said Minutaglio.
Despite already having this edition, I took it home with me because the senior editor had held it in her hands.
We walked through the rest of the office rather quickly, but saw so much. We saw the beauty closet filled with products and clothes ready to be tested, piles of November 2022 magazines, the desks of different department heads and meetings in the conference rooms.
I was in such bliss, there were no questions coming to mind. I could barely speak, so I was glad I had my older cousin with me to ask questions and keep us engaged in the tout.
Excited to show us a bit more, Minutaglio then brought us up to the twenty-ninth floor to show us the Good Housekeeping testing rooms. Good Housekeeping reviews products, then releases the reviews in their magazine each month. We watched journalists testing vacuums, coffee makers, lotions and blenders, all in different designated rooms. We even watched the production of a Delish food video.
The view from the twenty-ninth floor was incredible, so Minutaglio offered to take a photo of Vertuccio and I. I was so happy Minutaglio recognized our fascination with the environment around us and helped us feel comfortable.
After we walked the circle that the Good Housekeeping floor was, the three of us went back into the elevator down to the third floor.
As she was walking us out, Minutaglio gave us both her card with all her information in case we were to ever find ourselves in the area again. She proudly gave us her card with her new title. I will never forget her smile.
Vertuccio and I left in a state of awe. I said goodbye to the very nice security guard and walked out of Hearst Tower, knowing I will probably never step foot in that building again, but I am going to try real hard to make it there one day.
If someone told me a mere two weeks ago that I was going to skip school and buy a jumbo street hot dog immediately after meeting the senior editor of Elle magazine, I would think the person was crazy, but here we are and I have my grandfather and his ridiculous connections to thank for it.
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Photos by Hannah Mudry.