Being a fashion intern blows. You’re overworked and underpaid (i.e. not at all paid). You’re cooped up in some room or at some desk or, even worse, running errands in the heat of New York summer or the dead of New York winter, neither of which makes wearing those cute new shoes you purchased for your v glamorous internship a viable option. Your superior is a bitch (or bastard) and you never even see the important or famous or successful person for whom you’re supposedly interning. If you do see them, you’re too afraid to make eye contact. You don’t make any friends at work and your friends outside of work are annoyed at how much time you spend at work. When you’re not spending time at work, you’re bitching and moaning about work. You get annoying work-related emails or texts or phone calls when you’re not “supposed” to be working. And when it’s all said and done, you don’t even get a fucking job. Being a fashion intern fucking blows.
None of this is news to anyone, yet fashion interns keep turning around and suing their employers, most recently a whole bunch of interns working for Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen at The Row. The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit is Shahista Lalani (I hope she chose a new career path, because I can’t imagine any fashion house would hire her now) and Page Six has a slew of choice quotes from the Parsons grad. Lalani interned under the head technical designer for five months; a typical one-semester internship.
“She was very demanding. I was doing the work of three interns. I was talking to her all day, all night. E-mails at nighttime for the next day, like 10 p.m. at night,” Lalani says.
Demanding?! Heaven forbid an internship be demanding. And if the e-mails she was receiving at 10 p.m. do indeed correspond with the next day’s work, and not work she had to do right there and then, she lucked out.
“When we weren’t doing something, they’d be like, ‘Organize the buttons in the back by color code.’ You’re cleaning. You don’t get a set 15-minute break. You just go with their crazy flow. You just [got] caught up in the pressure,” she says.
You mean your employers told you to do something when you were sitting around doing nothing?! How dare they! Here’s another gem:
“You’re like an employee, except you’re not getting paid. They’re kind of mean to you. Other interns have cried. I’d see a lot of kids crying doing coffee runs, photocopying stuff.”
Yes, you are like an employee, except you’re not getting paid. That’s precisely what fashion internships are. They’re brutally demanding, often thankless experiences that help you build a resume as well as a backbone for an industry full of brutally demanding assholes. This is what you signed up for, honey. If organizing buttons was simply too much, you ought to have quit, rather than turn around and sue your employers THREE YEARS AFTER your internship. I’d like to know if Lalani has a job rn or if she’s just hard up for cash. And in the wise words of Kelly Cutrone, if you have to cry, go outside.
This is hardly the first time this has happened (Alexander Wang, Conde Nast, the list goes on), and it certainly won’t be the last. But I find it hard to believe that what Lalani or any of the other former interns now suing the Olsens had an internship experience at all different than what they had envisioned (hasn’t everyone seen The Devil Wears Prada by now?). I, for one, suffered through several fashion and editorial internships before I started, you know, making a living. I never suffered any nervous breaks and some of the more brutal and demeaning experiences (like the one where my boss asked I place his coffee on his desk at a certain angle) make for excellent dinner party anecdotes. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.