Meet Anisa Tavangar, our newest issuu Trendspotter and the editor in chief of Hoot Magazine — a student-run fashion magazine at Columbia University dedicated to creating inclusive media. Today we talked to Anisa about all things Hoot, starting with how she began her role as editor in chief, Hoot’s current strides towards diversity and representation and her favorite publications from her issuu Trendspotters curation. Read on to learn more about Anisa and her journey with Hoot Magazine.
Q: Hi Anisa! Thanks for talking to us here at issuu today about Hoot Magazine. So, how did you become editor in chief of the publication?
ANISA TAVANGAR: I knew about the magazine, which was founded in 2009, before I started at Columbia. It wasn’t too big then, but my older sister, who was a senior at Barnard when I was a first year, told me to keep an eye out for their club meetings. I went to a general meeting my first semester where they briefly explained what the magazine does and who the editors were, and I was immediately hooked. I decided then that I would produce something for the magazine, hoping that I might eventually create a shoot for the print issue. It’s funny because if I was told at my first Hoot meeting that I would run the magazine by the end of the school year, I would never have believed it!
My first semester, I created a couple beauty stories for the magazine’s blog, did the makeup for a shoot in the print issue and, by my second semester, I was Hoot’s Beauty Director. Having these different roles allowed me to see the magazine from so many different angles, which showed me structurally what could be done to improve it. After one semester as Beauty Director, I sat down for coffee with the two editors in chief, both seniors, and they asked me if I would be willing to take over the whole thing. I took a couple days to decide, but in the end, I said “yes.” I was very excited, but also very scared about the challenge.
Q: What has been one of the most difficult challenges of taking on the role as editor in chief?
AT: I basically had no experience with any of my duties — overseeing the editorial board and 150+ contributors, writing grant proposals, sending cold emails to brands and PR companies, reaching out to strangers on campus we wanted to work with, keeping track of every detail of every shoot, making sure that all of our content gets in on time, communicating to the printer … I could go on! In my two years as editor in chief, I’ve had to accept and feel comfortable knowing I will face challenges from a baseline of cluelessness, and while I can turn to my editors for certain things, at the end of the day, it’s on me to make sure everything works out. But within that list of duties, getting things in on time is definitely the hardest. I know I can get tasks done on my own, but I can’t produce an entire magazine without our contributors. And working with people who don’t understand our deadlines are set months in advance can be tricky and cause a lot of late night headaches.
Q: Under your leadership, Hoot has made great strides towards representation, diversity and inclusiveness. What is Hoot’s primary goal as a publication?
AT: Yes! It’s my driving force! At our first editors meeting, after I took over the magazine, I remember being really straightforward about prioritizing inclusion and then getting some pushback. A couple of people worried that being direct about it and calling out the abundance of skinny blondes in past issues was problematic. I hesitated for a second in that meeting, wondering if I was crossing a line, but eventually stood firm, knowing that representation is my priority and absolutely needs to be discussed. If it makes a couple of people uncomfortable, that’s a sign there’s plenty of work to be done.
I am a very firm believer in the four stages of competence — unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and unconscious competence — and when I took over, we were in the stage of unconscious incompetence. I was trying to bring a consciousness about how we address, showcase and create spaces for different identities within the publication. The editorial board is very blunt about how we address diversity and openly discusses how we represent people of color, different body types, gender identities outside of the binary, even different majors and aesthetics on campus. We don’t want the magazine to seem like it’s for one type of person because it’s not. I think we’ve finally made it to the line between conscious competence and unconscious competence, but it’s always a challenge to push ourselves to go further. So, yes, we are a fashion magazine in what we show, but the priority is in how we deliver that to the audience through representation and inclusion.
Q: What are your three favorite publications in your issuu Trendspotters stack and why?
AT: Tom Tom Magazine is definitely first on this list. I am lucky to call its founder and editor in chief, Mindy Abovitz, a friend, and I have told so many people to check them out because I enthusiastically believe in what they do. Before I learned about Tom Tom, I never questioned the gender imbalance among drummers, but after discovering the magazine, I can’t look at a drummer without noticing it. Aside from the fact that it’s an incredibly impactful and badass feminist publication, it is so well done and the content is always interesting. I have never even attempted to be a drummer, but I still relate to their content and feel inspired by the women they showcase. It may be about female drummers, but it’s a magazine for everyone.
ONE Magazine is also up there. Nicole Gavrilles, who founded and runs the magazine, is a designer by education and trade and it really comes across in the publication. Every page is designed so beautifully and the quality of shoots that she publishes is incredibly high. I look towards ONE for inspiration on layout, styling and shoot direction because I really trust Nicole’s taste and talent.
Transform, the magazine coming out of the UN Women’s office, is also really exciting to me. It’s fascinating to read about the efforts being made to improve the condition of women and how this office is working with agencies and governments around the world to transform communities through gender equality. The stories they share are so meaningful and are a great reminder to feminist publishers like myself that striving towards gender equality is a long road that looks different in each locale. I love that issuu has such a range of publications and that I can get on the site and stumble into magazines like Transform.
Q: What is your best advice for publishers hoping to run a magazine like Hoot?
AT: Above anything else, become a good communicator. Create platforms for open dialogue among your editors and contributors to make sure that everyone has access to the people and information they need. For Hoot, this means weekly editor meetings, the last hour of which we reserve for office hours when contributors can sign up for 15-minute slots to talk to us about potential or upcoming projects and weekly emails to contributors as well as very active group chats among editors and shoot teams. We also rely on a Google Drive folder that has everything about the upcoming issue in it — spreadsheets with details about each shoot, files and folders with photographers, models, writers, and other contributors’ information and portfolios. This helps us select the right people for each project, or put contributors in touch with each other to collaborate. We use separate folders for each shoot where we put necessary documents and inspiration photos, and anything else going on for that issue. In addition to our documents with the status of each shoot, we talk everything out together. Each editor has a distinct role and freedom to create, but we work with each other to make sure the magazine as a whole is high quality, imaginative, not repetitive and cohesive. Communication makes a big difference, it just takes some time to figure out what works best for your team.