Tags: creative director
I actually heard about Ashley long before I met her. It was Nikky who was telling me all about the great friend she made in San Francisco, and how they crossed the finish line hand in hand. So, with my upcoming move to the land of sea and sand, I had already made a mental note to meet up with this girl and do something for imatiothiki. Once again, I was shocked to hear that yes runners hated running at first, and this one has done the whole 40k marathon and thought to myself: ‘there is still hope Nileta’. So, yes, this is the fabulous Ms Ashley Lane in her JLT apartment, being totally hilarious and one of the few people I got to meet who made me feel so relaxed and comfortable from the minute I set foot into their apartment.
Was it challenging to work for a magazine that emphasizes on looks and body image in a country where many women are covered?
I think for most journalists or editors, especially Western, it is a bit difficult, because it is different. You have to be culturally aware and obviously you don’t want to offend anyone, but at the same time you want to deliver the best product, so it is all about finding the happy medium. We were lucky when I was editor of SHAPE Middle East, because we were given the go ahead to show women with their mid section, shoulders and arms.
That must be hard, because you have to be innovative and put out there something that is going to be eye-catching, but at the same time you have to be low-key because of the culture.
Absolutely and there’s also limitation in the words we use. So, for example, on the front cover we can’t use the word ‘sexy’, which is used quite a bit in women’s lifestyle magazines.
It is about words as well?
Yes and it is difficult, because you look at the magazines from the US and the UK and that is an eye catching word. If you have something that says: ‘sexier legs now’, women would want to pick that up, so we have to find other ways around that.
So what would you say?
Maybe something like ‘toned legs today’.
How long have you been in Dubai?
What’s the best and worst thing about living in Dubai?
Best thing is the ability to travel to places that you wouldn’t have the ability to do so easily if you were living in the States. You have the Far East on your doorstep, you are living in the Middle East and it is really easy to get back to Europe, so it almost feels like you are in the center of the world. The cons of living here would have to do with the fact that I am very much a winter person. I am not a sun, sand and surf person. I need seasons, and truthfully, I do miss Europe… But if I had to choose one thing, it would be the weather. This time of year is great, it’s really nice, but I love knitted sweaters and hats and scarves and gloves and hot chocolate and going on a long country walk when it’s freezing out. But you obviously don’t get that here.
And you are from the States?
I grew up in the States, but moved to London about 3 months after University. I have always wanted to move to England, so I signed up with an international recruitment agency who helped me find a job as a secondary English teacher. But that wasn’t what I wanted to do, I realized, and teaching is not something you want to be doing unless you absolutely love it. That’s when I met my husband, and he was already into publishing and suggested I get into publishing as well. That’s how my career pretty much started.
Upon coming to Dubai, you became an editor for B2B magazine and then became the editor of SHAPE. Was this change challenging for you?
I used to be in a business magazine and the writing I had to do for that one was completely different to the writing I had to do for the other. So it was just getting used to the new writing style. And obviously it is the visual aspect of it as well. It is a Women’s magazine and it is supposed to be light and airy and you have to be careful what kind of photos you chose. It’s a whole different thing.
What are the challenges when it comes to putting women out there on the cover and perhaps setting them as role models? A lot of times there’s excessive air brushing done by magazines, setting a false example for women who usually suffer from low self esteem because of what is ‘praised’ by the media.
It is true that the media is so saturated with airbrushed images and I do think that is most certainly an issue. When young girls are looking at these images and they are so overloaded all the time by advertisements that tell them how they should look, what they should be and this and that. Working on a woman’s consumer magazine, it is difficult to find that balance, because in the back of my mind, personally, I am always thinking: ‘ you need to be careful on how you present your magazine’, because someone’s idea of what a perfect body is, or a perfect face, or the perfect hair, might not necessarily be someone else’s. You can’t fit everyone into a mold. You just can’t do that. That said, we do want to create a quality product that is going to sell. In terms of air brushing, I don’t mind air brushing to make the skin look a bit smoother. But I would never, ever ever ever tell tell someone at the photo desk:’ you need to cut someone in half, because they are too fat’, I just wouldn’t do that at all.’
Were you always into fitness and working out?
The fitness aspect came quite easily. When I got to college I was sick of always being the fat friend. I used to weigh 25 pounds more than I do now. So, when I got to College I wanted to feel good about myself. So my friend suggested I start running in order to lose weight. It was really difficult at first. I hated running, especially in High School when you had to do the physical test and you had to run a mile. Eventually I really started getting into it. One day, I remember my grandparents coming to visit me in college and my grandmother just looked at me and said: ‘you look amazing’ and I just thought, hearing that makes me feel good, it clears my head, so why don’t I just keep on doing it? But it wasn’t until I moved to England that I ran my first race. It took a good 4-5 years to build up, to feeling confident enough and strong enough to run a race.
So, in the UK you did the 10k?
Actually my first race was a half marathon! Now that I look back on that, I don’t know why I chose to do it that way, but I just did. I ran a couple 5ks and 10ks after that, but the half marathon just made everything seem easy. And the day before I moved out to Dubai I ran the London Marathon!
The whole thing?
The whole thing! I have to say that was the most difficult physical activity I have ever done and probably will do in my entire life. It was difficult. Thank God for the crowds, otherwise I wouldn’t have made it.
Personally I run a lot on the treadmill a lot, but that’s so much easier!
Yes, it’s not the same thing as running outside. But you want to know a secret? I hate running on the treadmill. It doesn’t challenge me as much and I get very bored very easily. I like to be able to look around and let my mind sort of wander. If I am on the treadmill that doesn’t happen at all because you’ll windup falling off! I have actually fell off the treadmill! It could happen to anyone you know!
Have you run a full marathon since that time in London?
No, but I did run the Nike Women’s Marathon San Francisco with Nikky. We actually did the half. That was probably the best race that I have ever run.
Nikki said that the finish line was amazing! She actually cried at the end of the race!
Yes, it was incredible and I didn’t cry! Even after the marathon, I thought I would cry and I am a very emotional person. I cry very easily. I don’t know what went wrong!
Maybe you were dehydrated?
Probably! But it was really nice and we literally held hands when we crossed the finish line. It was fantastic and it was all women. That’s I think what made it so inspirational, having women of all different ages running for all different reasons, obviously many ran in memory of loved ones whom they had lost to cancer. Actually I did cry, in the middle of the race! There was this woman with ‘Missing you everyday daddy’ on the back of her shirt. I just lost it!
You have to address the need of so many different types of women and so many different cultures. That must be really challenging, because for example maybe I believe a cocktail dress is the thing to wear, but that could be something really kitsch for some woman coming from India.
It’s challenging, but it also offers up quite a bit of content. And you don’t feel like you are doing the same thing day in and day out. You get stories from women who are coming from all over the world and with so many different backgrounds, and that’s one of the perks of making a women’s magazine in this kind of environment. The fashion and the beauty aspect, we do tend to focus more on Western style. However, during Ramadan time, we will most definitely focus on Middle Eastern style.
How about your personal style? Do you mostly go for the sneakers style?
It depends. My style is very much like my concentration: It is all over the place! I am really good at multitasking and it’s pretty convenient for my job as well, since in publishing you have so many things at the same time. But when it comes to my style, I could be in heels and a dress one day and then the next in trainers and jeans. The one thing that I always look for in my style is comfort and there will also have to be some sort of feminine element to it. So it’s comfortable and feminine looking.
My friends would tell me: ‘take it easy on the gold in Dubai’, because the style here is much flashier and shinier I guess. Has your style changed since you moved here?
I have become more fashion aware, but my style is very simple and especially with the jewelry I go with something very small. But I always wear red lipstick. I love red lipstick!
Is this where all the fashion money goes?
Fashion wise it would go on makeup and beauty products, shoes and handbags. The rest of the stuff can easily be replaced. I am conscious about what kind of clothes I wear, the company it comes from. I will try to do a lot of research on the company and what the ethics are.
What’s the hardest thing about your job? The most challenging?
Meeting deadline. Not because you are unorganized, but because you have so many people you rely on; for an interview or for getting them in the studio, not to mention making sure that it is the best it can possibly be. The week before is insanity, and it’s long hours, not all the time, but you will be in the office a lot more than normal ensuring that everything is 100% perfect, stellar.
You can find Ashley Lane on instagram.
A few comments on the things pictured and said above:
Ashley and her husband are true book worms. When they moved out here, they had much more boxes filled with books and much less with their own stuff. She used to treat her books badly, but since she met her husband she will think twice before lending anything out and cracking the book’s spine. / The cat’s name is Bernard. He actually responds when you call him and fetches. Yes, he acts like a dog. / The Obama family was bought by her husband on a trip. They included the dog. Haha. / Right behind the Obama family is Ashley’s New Jersey license plates. Her friends are going to make fun of that. / The painting she’s holding was done by a good friend of hers who couldn’t make it to her London wedding, and painted something inspired from the wedding photos. / The mermaid Nikes are actually Tiffany Blue and they were limited edition. Her friends joke that she has sold her soul to the brand, since she’s such a big fan.