I’m Justine Cullen And This Is How I Nail Life

I’m Justine Cullen And This Is How I Nail Life

We talk 4am wake up calls, Inbox Zero-induced anxiety, and pineapple on pizza with ELLE’s Editor-in-Chief.

BY Nicky Champ, 10 min READ

Ahead of our 9 to Thrive expo, we chatted to main stage speaker and possibly the most down-to-earth woman in magazine land, Justine Cullen. We covered everything from valuable career lessons to her stance on pineapple on pizza. If you haven’t yet snapped up your 9 to Thrive ticket, you’ll want to after reading this just to see Justine alone.  

If you’ve missed our other interviews, catch up with Instagram funny woman Celeste Barber here, and Hippie Lane’s Taline Gabriel here

Name: Justine Cullen 

Reach: 31.5k followers 

Age: 41

My tribe: Sons Milo, 12, Iggy, 11 and Scout, 4

Where I live: Avalon Beach, Sydney 

Current gig: Editor-In-Chief of ELLE magazine

Tech I use: iPhone 7 Plus, Macbook

Apps I can’t live without: Instagram, Feedly, Podcasts, Uber, Skyscanner, Headspace

Motto I live by: Whatever gets you through the night!

My first email address was: [email protected] – I wish I’d kept it.

What I was doing before this…

Catching up on countless emails after a week out of the office for school holidays.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The Sleepcycle alarm, sometime between 4.50 and 5.20am. That’s the price you pay for living in paradise and attempting that BS-dream of ‘having it all’. 

Do you ever achieve Inbox Zero? Or is it mission impossible? 

Not exactly zero but I occasionally get down to Inbox Minimal Anxiety.

I never have anything unread though – those people with the little red bubble reading 4,502 make me feel ill.

Have you ever felt like an imposter? When?

Doesn’t every woman, completely unnecessarily? I have the most imposter syndrome around other mothers in the school yard – so intimidating – but I’ve been doing my job for long enough that at work I’m pretty confident most of the time. Saying that, few months ago I moderated a panel of female CEOs for the Salesforce world tour where the talk tracks were topics like ‘Ethics in AI’ – not quite my wheelhouse – and that was a real fake-it-til-you-make-it experience. But a little fear is never a bad thing. 

How did you grow your audience to 30K+ followers?

I put no effort into Instagram whatsoever – what you see is definitely what you get with me i.e. work stuff plus a sort of Lord of the Flies-style home life – but maybe that realness in an editor (which might be considered unusual) helps.

 You must get asked this a lot, but if you could polish your crystal ball one more time… Where is the future of media headed? How will ELLE keep up?

The way we absorb media is changing, and already has changed, but the need for curation and story-telling is still there, so as long as we’re staying on top of giving our audience great content when, where and how they need it, the essential role of a brand like ELLE stays pretty much the same. I’m excited to see where the future takes us and how we can keep evolving.

What’s the next wave of social media going to look like? Have we hit peak marble surfaces on Instagram yet? 

When I look at my tween sons and what they’re interested in on social, it’s less of a one sided dialogue, in terms of an image you want to portray to the world, and more of a conversation and putting all of yourself and your innermost thoughts out there, so to me the most interesting area right now is live video on all the various platforms. I have lots of personal style bloggers who I follow and love on Instagram, but I’d be happy to not see any new ones appear from here on in.

Open places offices are the best /worst thing that happened to the workplace because … 

I still have an old school office, which I would hate to give up because I have way too many private conversations in my job. However, when we did the ELLE x Twitter Takeover last year we were set up in an open plan office and I loved it. After about two days in, the team had to ask me to shut up because I was so easily distracted/distracting. No-one loved me in open plan except me.

Have you ever been fired? If so, how did that go down?

Not yet. But this is publishing, there’s always time.

What does your workspace look like? 

Let’s just say I’m a big believer in ‘a cluttered desk is a sign of genius’. 

Where’s the weirdest place your work has taken you?

I was once flown to Brussels to have a pair of jeans tailored to my body. It’s those moments that have you amazed that you get paid for this. But those moments are balanced out by a lot of decidedly unglamorous things too.

What’s the most valuable career lesson you’ve learned?

I had wanted to launch ELLE in Australia for years. Finally we heard that they were considering an Australian edition but I’d just gotten married and was hoping to have another baby so the timing was all wrong for me. Like many women do, I went back and forth for months trying to work out if I should have a baby or hold out for the job of my dreams. One day, someone I trusted in the industry told me I was crazy, and that I couldn’t put my life on hold for a job that may or may not materialise. In the end, I fell pregnant, had the baby, and finally got the job when he was 12 weeks old – they’d taken that long to launch it. How terrifying that I might have never had him if I’d waited. It was a real lesson in just moving forward, leaning in, not trying to plan everything out but just working it all out as you go.

What’s your best timesaving shortcut or life hack?

Everything in a mother’s life is a shortcut.

How much time do you spend on social media every week?

Maybe an hour a day in one minute intervals? That’s probably a gross underestimation but I refuse to acknowledge otherwise.

What do you do to forget about work/recharge?

Pinot Noir.

Current Netflix binge / Podcasts I’m listening to / books I’m reading:

I’m not reading anything right now, but Esther Perel’s podcast is a fascinating look at relationships and I’m loving The Handmaid’s Tale.

Do you have a fitness routine? What do you do?

I’ve been so busy lately that I cancel on my trainer every week, but, ever so comically, I do keep a 12kg and 8kg kettlebell in the office and if I get in early enough I do a few sets of swings and lifts. I take my heels off first.

 What’s the last thing you do before going to bed?

Check social media and Feedly.

 How many hours sleep per night do you get?

Five or six. My nights are a mess, I do not wear it as a badge of honour.

What’s a misconception about you or one thing no one else knows? 

People think fashion magazine editors are fancy divas. Maybe most of them are, but I’m very in touch with my inner bogan. I like pineapple on a pizza. Dreadfully uncool.

Justine is joining us at 9 to Thrive in August, for more info and to grab your ticket, head to our 9 to Thrive page now.


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