Raising Your Voice's Volume with MTV's Taylor Trudon
Have you ever thought about how many voices you hear, read, and think about every single day? Have you ever thought about how many people hear yours? Taylor Trudon is in the business of just that as the Voices Editor at MTV News, where she amplifies the voices of teens across the country by providing a platform where their thoughts and ideas can be shared with millions. Her passion for the Internet and all its world-changing power has been the charging force behind her career and consequently, many young people's throughout the U.S. Her Twitter bio may say, "I'm just a girl, standing in front of the Internet, asking it to love her," but we're pretty sure the Internet is already obsessed with her. Read on to learn more about the queen of teen media and how you can raise your voice's volume online.
All About Taylor
Name: Taylor Trudon
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Education: University of Connecticut
Current job: Voices Editor at MTV News
What is your passion?
Social media and giving teens a voice. As an editor, my ultimate goals are to 1.) change the way the media talks about teens and the Internet and 2.) give teens and young people a platform and community where they feel like their voices are valued. At the end of the day, the message I want teens to know is that what they have to say matters. I want them to feel empowered, which is what MTV Voices aims to do.
How did you discover your love for digital journalism?
I'm pretty sure that I was writing as soon as I learned how to read. When I was a kid, I was constantly working on short stories and poetry. But it wasn't until I was in fifth grade that I considered journalism. I was over at my friend house, which is where I saw the movie "Almost Famous" for the first time. “Almost Famous" is inspired from Cameron Crowe's real-life experiences as a teen reporter for Rolling Stone and it was hugely influential for me. Aside from a stellar soundtrack and an incredible cast, I loved how it told the story of a 15-year-old journalist, showing that there are no age limits when it comes to storytelling.
Shortly after watching “Almost Famous,” I discovered the Internet. It’s been a Netflix indie rom-com (featuring a strong female lead) since then.
What was your first internship in media and how did you score the role?
I was Googling for scholarships in college when I came across an organization called New York Women in Communications, which empowers young women pursuing careers in the industry. I became a member, applied for their scholarship program and won. I was honored on stage at the Matrix Awards -- the Oscars of communications -- with 16 other recipients. It was there that I met Ann Shoket, who was editor-in-chief of Seventeen (which I read obsessively growing up) at the time. I basically told her that I wanted her job. Fast-forward a year later, I applied for a second scholarship through NYWICI and was the first-ever Hearst scholarship recipient, which automatically placed me at an internship of my choosing at the company. I was lucky enough to wind up as a features intern at Seventeen. At Seventeen, I did everything from help find hot guys for the annual Hot Guys Panel to tracking down a teen drug smuggler, who ended up sharing her story in the magazine. But the most exciting part about interning at Seventeen, was interviewing Ann Shoket for the Dream Bigger issue. Not only did she let me take over her editor's letter, but we did a photo shoot in her office where I sat with my feet up at her desk wearing her Louboutins. It was a magical day.
Tell us about your other internships in college. What did you learn from them?
In addition to Seventeen, I returned to Hearst to do a winter internship -- or winternship -- at O, The Opah Magazine during my senior year of college. At both internships, I learned how to take initiative, to not be afraid to ask questions and to do every task with enthusiasm. But mostly, to surround myself with people who are smarter than me -- and then listen.
How did you use college to discover who you are?
You know, I’m still discovering out who I am. College was fun. It gave me room to make mistakes. But the thing about college -- as great as it is -- is that it’s kind of like living in this magical bubble. Towards the end of senior year, I remember my classmates were so sad to leave school. But I was ready. Three months after graduation, I moved to New York and that’s where I felt like, “This is where I’m supposed to be.”
Moving to New York is like freshman year of college on steroids. It kicks you in the ass, but in the best way possible. New York isn’t for everybody -- it’s expensive and smells and is exhausting. To me, if you’re going to live here and succeed, you have to be working towards something. It forces you to think about what you really want and what’s important to you. But to me, this is home. It’s where my community is. I still make mistakes every day, but I’m lucky that I get to live in the greatest city in the world while figuring it all out.
How did you use college to kickstart your career?
College is where I learned the fundamentals of journalism, from basic copy editing skills to how to ask smart questions when you’re interviewing someone. Besides taking journalism courses, I was deeply involved in the student newspaper, where I was the commentary editor my senior year. I wrote a column every Friday. Off-campus, I was one of the first editors of HerCampus.com when it first launched. I blogged. I tweeted. I saved up all my money so I could do internships in New York City – and I made this all a priority. I was never not busy.
You had such a cool job as the Editor of HuffPost Teen, where you were managing content written by teenagers from across the country. When you left, they made a heartfelt video all saying thank you for all that you had done for them (aka a major tear jerker!). How did you create online relationships that were so meaningful?
That video is one of the most special gifts I have ever received. To be honest, I wasn’t the one who created the relationships -- the bloggers were. I've seen first-hand the friendships that have manifested from the Internet. Instead of being competitive, the teens I know are genuinely supportive of each other. They're each other's biggest cheerleaders. It's so refreshing and it makes my heart feel like gooey mac 'n' cheese. When I first started out in journalism, I knew I wanted to be a storyteller and reach people, but I never anticipated that a big part of my job would be helping others reach one another. There's no greater feeling than when a teen tells me they met their best friend through the HuffPost Teen "family" or had a life-changing opportunity open up to them because their story was published on MTV. It's the best.
Now you are the Voices Editor for MTV News. How did you make the decision to transition?
Being at HuffPost was such a fantastic, formative experience -- it was my first job out of college and I was there for nearly four years, working my way up from being an assistant blog editor to eventually overseeing the Teen vertical. For me, transitioning to MTV was the next step I needed to take to advance my career and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
Everyone I work with is so creative, collaborative and smart. Whether it's pop or hip-hop, they're experts in their respective beats. MTV is this iconic brand and even though the media landscape and culture as a whole has changed drastically over the decades, our identity and core values as a trustworthy news source have not. It's a really exciting time to work in media right now and especially to be part of MTV, where we're encouraged to think big.
What does your job at MTV News look like? Walk us through your average work day.
One of the best parts about working in media is that every day is different. A big chunk of my time is spent editing, packaging and publishing the amazing content that our MTV Voices community produces. They’re writing about feminism, mental health and Black Lives Matter, and in doing so, are helping to drive important conversations. Aside from overseeing Voices, you can find me tweeting, writing, and working on long-term projects. Multiple cups of coffee are usually involved.
What advice do you have for young women who want to pursue a career in your field?
Don't wait to land your dream internship in order to get started on your career. Make a Tumblr. Launch your own YouTube channel even if the only person who watches it is your mom. Don't be afraid to send cold emails to people you admire asking them to coffee. Pitch interesting stories to editors. Experiment and create with different platforms. Have an opinion. I always say that teens run the Internet, so use it to your advantage.
You are an absolute social media rockstar. (Seriously, follow Taylor on Twitter here.) How have you created your unique voice in such a crowded space?
Aw, thank you. I love tweeting about Taylor Swift, awkward moments, sh*t my mom says and just random, everyday observations. I'm a total fangirl and I'm not embarrassed of what I love -- and that's totally worked for me. Not only has it helped build genuine relationships with people both online and in-person, but it has provided me with amazing career opportunities. Because I'm so openly passionate about what I love, I've been lucky enough to have given a TEDxTeen talk, moderate a panel at VidCon and interview huge social media stars. Of course, none of this happened overnight, but it all stemmed from having this "I'm really obsessed with XYZ and I want to share it with you" enthusiasm.
You gave a TED talk at TEDxTeen earlier this year, called “It’s All About the Words.” Can you tell us about that experience?
It was a dream. It was also simultaneously the scariest and most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done. The theme was “Simply Irresistible,” and using simple solutions to address complex ideas or problems. For me, it was getting back to basics. We live in a social media saturated world where we communicate via texts, Snapchats and emojis. But at the end of the day, words are the most basic -- and original! -- form of expression. So my talk was about rising above the noise and amplifying your voice through the written word and storytelling.
At the end of my talk, I say, “Your words don't have to directly change the world in order to change someone else's.” And I truly believe that. Recently, I was at work when I got an email from a teen living in London who said that specific line has been her “driving force.” It made me tear up at my desk because that’s what it’s all about -- making those meaningful connections.
Public speaking isn’t always easy. How did you figure out what you wanted to say?
I wrote, wrote, wrote, deleted and then wrote some more. I practiced in front of my mom and in the shower. I knew that I had less than 20 minutes to say what I wanted to say, so it needed to be clear and impactful. I drew a lot from my personal experiences from when I was 16 and writing in my diary to the powerful writing I read every day by young writers.
What advice would you give to your college freshman self?
Just because pizza and grilled cheese is available literally every night in the dining hall, doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Study abroad -- you won’t think it’s important at the time, but you’ll wonder “what if” later. Oh, and you’re going to transfer colleges and at one point, it’s going to feel like The End Of The World. The good news? You’re going to accomplish everything you set out to do (and more), so don’t worry, babe. I gotchu.
Behind the Scenes
Favorite people or brands to follow on social media?
That’s like asking to pick a favorite child -- you can’t make me choose! Right now, I think Elizabeth Plank is killin’ it (check out her uh-mazing “Flip the Script” series on Mic) and Girl With No Job on Instagram. (Fun fact: GWNJ was my intern at HuffPost Teen, so I can say I knew her before she was ~famous~.)
I could fill up a novel of my favorite names and brands, but if you’re looking for some particularly awesome up-and-comers to follow, I’d definitely suggest checking out MTV’s list of 16 Rising Social Media Stars To Know In 2016 (*wink, wink*).
Favorite gif of all time?
The gif of Lauren Conrad shedding a perfect mascara-stained tear will always be #iconic, but I’m a sucker for a good T-Swift hair-flipping gif, too.
Favorite websites, blogs, or magazines to read?
There are honestly so many. How about writers? We just had a ton of brilliant voices recently join the MTV News fam, including Holly Anderson, Jessica Hopper, Amy Nicholson, Molly Lambert, Ana Marie Cox, Jaime Fuller, Meaghan Garvey, Ira Madison, Brian Phillips, Mark Lisanti and more. The amount of talent radiating from the site right now is ridiculous.
But most of all, it’s the ever-impressive teens and young people whose work I get to read every day on MTV Voices. I love them more than Hillary Clinton loves pantsuits.
Who was your first girl crush? Who is your current girl crush? Why?
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were probably my first girl crushes. They traveled the world, hung out with cute guys who had foreign accents and were real-life badass lady bosses running their own company.
Currently, I’m crushing pretty hard on rad teen feminists like Rowan Blanchard and Amandla Stenberg, who are slaying the game while very casually leading a revolution.
If there’s one thing about Taylor Trudon that we should know, what would it be?
Oh man, that’s tough. Maybe that I have a weakness for chocolate-covered almonds, Justin Trudeau and a perfect red lipstick? That’s technically three things, but they’re of equal importance.