Wonderful Women Interview with Features Director at Marie Claire, Andrea Thompson
Andrea Thompson is features director at Marie Claire where she oversees the features content for the brand (which has an audience over 6 million women a month).
She also looks after Marie Claire’s @work franchise including the annual Future Shapers Awards and careers supplements.
She has 16 years journalism experience as an editor and writer across print, TV and digital media, and has held senior staff positions at the Daily Mail and Grazia, and freelanced for The Sunday Times, Guardian, Mail on Sunday and Channel 4.
As well being responsible for the feature that won Marie Claire its only ever Amnesty Media Award, her years as an undercover investigative reporter saw her land a number of front page newspaper scoops from exposing child-populated sweat shops in India for Channel 4 to unravelling the dubious business dealings of property tycoon Donald Trump for the Daily Mail ( a whole decade before took up residence at the White House.)
When not chasing stories, she is planning events for Ladies and Gentleman, the award-winning cocktail bar she co-owns with her partner in Kentish Town and trying to keep up with her two energetic young sons.
Twitter and Instagram :@andreacanwrite.
I was honoured to meet and hang out with Andrea at Future Shapers Live recently where she chaired a panel I sat on discussing how I built a personal brand.
I’ve also written about juggling motherhood and my career for Marie Claire HERE.
Go read about Andrea’s life and career and be inspired!
Describe a typical day for you?
I get up at 6.30am or 7am, depending on whether I’m woken up by my sons James (aged 5) or Alexander (aged 2) or I’m left to sleep until my alarm goes off. I sleepwalk to the espresso machine and fix myself a strong coffee then get the kids some breakfast. Depending on our schedules my other half William or I will drop them at nursery and school at 8.50am before racing for my train at 9am. Its always a mad rush.
The Marie Claire office is in London’s Blackfriars and I’m so lucky my commute is just 20 minutes. It makes juggling a full time job with kids actually possible. I often squeeze in a quick coffee meeting with a new writer or PR near the office before heading to my desk. I prefer doing my meetings first thing before the unpredictability of the day takes over.
Once at my desk, I go through emails following up leads and pitches for stories from journalists, publishers and PRs, then go through the papers and my favourite news websites and social media for trends and potential stories for the magazine and website. Then following a morning conference with the team, the bulk of my day is spent commissioning and editing a really varied range of stories for the latest issue of Marie Claire or any reactive news stories for the website.
I’m head of Features here but there are also always loads of big meaty ongoing projects going on at any one time. So I could be sourcing and booking speakers for our Marie Claire careers events such as Future Shapers Live (I’m always on the hunt for inspirational women!) or working on any campaigns we have in the pipeline which involve charity or commercial partnerships.
I’m lucky enough to have a gym below my building and weekday lunchtimes are the only time in the week I get to myself to work out so I go and do a half hour class such as body combat or Power Plate. I used to do competitive athletics when I was younger and have always been really active. Not doing exercise just isn’t an option for me. Its always been part of my life. Its strange but I often have some of my best ideas during my work out time and come back for the afternoon really energized and grab a healthy lunch from Leon to eat at my desk.
My afternoon might include a visuals ideas meeting with the picture team where we chat through concepts for features. We often end up in fits of giggles trying to work out visuals for the sex features such as Does your partner need a Porn Detox? Or Sex tips from LGBT couples.
After work, if I’m not speaking at an event or going to the press launch of a new book or product, then I literally sprint to catch my train so I can be back to pick the kids up from childcare at 6pm as William works a lot in the evenings (he’s in the drinks business).
After an early dinner with the kids its ‘dancing hour’ from 7pm to 8pm where we play music really loud and dance stupidly round the house together. It’s a family tradition and it makes me so happy to see them throwing some moves round the kitchen! Then the kids have their story and milk and go to bed at 8.30pm. That’s when I pour myself a glass of red wine and scroll through my through social media or do an hour of House of Cards (I’m addicted!) before flopping into bed at 11pm.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
I’m so lucky that to work at a publication that represents values that chime with my own. Its always an achievement bringing global stories about the exploitation of vulnerable women and children to a new audience and of course putting strong women on the pages with inspirational stories. The feedback I get from readers is so positive.
It was also an achievement to oversee a feature that won Marie Claire its only ever Amnesty Award for a report on the rape of women in the Congo. When I was younger I also did a series of dangerous but thrilling undercover investigative jobs for the Daily Mail and Channel 4. I travelled the world doing really risky undercover journalism to expose everything from sweat shops using kids to make UK clothes in India to film directors sexually exploiting young actresses at the Cannes film festival. It was always an achievement to bring murky worlds out into the open.
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
My phone, wallet, diary, Yves Saint Lauren mascara, Guerlain blusher and Chanel lipstick and Cowshed face moisturizer. And always one of my kids dirty socks that they’ve removed and tucked in there for me to take to work (they think that’s hilarious!)
What are your ambitions in life?
To raise well adjusted happy kids while having a fulfilling career and relationship. And to do this whilst still having fun. Life is too short to be serious all the time. Always making time for our weekly date night and regularly going out with my good girlfriends for a dance is so important.
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
That you should trust your inner instinct when it comes to work decisions rather than doing what you think you should.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I have no idea. But hopefully healthy and still learning new stuff on a regular basis.
What advice would you give a budding journalist of a glossy magazine?
Think about what makes you unique. What is your story? Everyone has one so start with a topic you know well, write about it and get published. I once said this to a work experience girl who came in and was keen to become a journalist. She wrote about losing her mum and we published it almost word for word. It was one of the best pieces on grief I’ve ever read. She’s now doing a stellar job as a features editor for leading website.
What’s the best advice you’ve received on motherhood you’d like to share?
Do it your way and fit the kids into your life rather than the other way around. Works for me.
Finally, happiness is…
A walk on Hampstead Heath with the family when the sun’s out followed by cream tea by the lawn at Kenwood House. Bliss.
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