Brooklyn-based journalist and public speaker Marjon Carlos, 36, is one of those women you’re instantly drawn to. We simultaneously want to hear her nuanced thoughts on the latest political debate, steal her wardrobe and tear up the town with her. Carlos entered journalism "through the side door" – she didn’t study the craft or intern and work her way up but instead pursued identity politics at university, honing her voice through the lens of academia. "I wanted to talk about fashion in larger terms: I wanted to discuss the implications of a trend on race, class and gender, and so that point of view helped me create a lane for myself," she tells me. This perspective took her from writing a personal blog to heading up Solange’s Saint Heron platform, before landing a gig at US Vogue as senior fashion writer.
She’s now freelance again, writing op-eds on everything from allyship to kitten heels via smart profiles on the likes of Lupita Nyong’o and Kimora Lee Simmons. The highlight of her career so far? "If I have made it a little easier for a young POC to make it in this industry, then I’m good," she says. "A lot of young black women at Vogue today thank me for opening that door for them, and it feels fulfilling. I went through a lot at that job, and to know it all wasn’t in vain is ultimately rewarding."
Fashion is in real flux right now and while positive progress is being made, it’s not happening at the pace it should. As a prominent and change-making voice in the industry, where does Carlos see the path to true evolution beginning? "I speak a lot about diversity in fashion and I fear that I may be going in circles on the topic because ultimately we’ll need to exact initiatives to change shit," Carlos says. "So I’ve been thinking deeply about what that looks like, and I think it’s no longer the onus of POCs in the biz to speak up, but rather white folks to step down and start giving up power. If fashion says it wants more inclusivity and diversity that means we’ll need more POCs as editors-in-chief or photographers, stylists, directors, writers writing cover stories, etc. That’s what that looks like. Are my white allies willing to do that, is the question. That’s the change I want to see."
Of course, there’s her personal style, too. Scroll through her Instagram feed and you’ll understand how she’s amassed nearly 15,000 followers: think Ganni tie-dye denim, mood-boosting colour blocking, maximalist prints galore and a demonstrable penchant for fantastic dresses. In short: Carlos is the coolest woman dominating our feed right now and, with a book on the horizon – "I’m really committed to new forms of storytelling that extend past journalism, and my book is just that" – we’ll soon be lucky enough to dive deeper into her brilliant mind. While we wait, though, we thought we’d get to know the journalist a little better. Here she answers our 29 questions, from her current crush to her favourite condiment, and who she thinks will save the world.
When was the last time you cried?
Just a few days ago. I was overwhelmed by a relationship gone bad and just let it out.
What music should we be streaming right now?
I’ll be honest in saying that I haven’t found a full body of work in several years that rocks me – I think today’s artists give us amazing singles but I haven’t been blown away by a whole album in a long time. With that said, I am listening more to a vibe: so I’ve got Steve Lacy, DaniLeigh, H.E.R., SiR, Ari Lennox, Summer Walker on heavy rotation. It’s easy, sexy, sensual, very LA music. But I’m really waiting for Rihanna to drop an album and ruin my life.
What’s your favourite meme?
My favourite memes are anything to do with NeNe Leakes, Rihanna or Oprah.
What does love mean?
I think love is the unconditional. It’s free of judgment and excuses. You simply feel for someone so greatly, in whatever form they are in, and are willing to do for them no matter what.
What would you last meal on Earth be?
Probably a Maine lobster with plenty of butter and a bottle of Sancerre to wash it all down OR fish tacos with rice, beans and guac.
The song that always gets you on the dance floor?
Barack Obama said that if you ever wanted to get a party started, play Aretha Franklin’s "Rock Steady". He wasn’t wrong.
Most underrated film?
Two Can Play That Game – it’s an iconic romcom that really gets to the heart of how we play games in this thing called love.
Who is gonna save the world?
Women of colour.
Who is your current crush?
Mahershala Ali and the dude who works at my bodega.
Describe yourself in three words…
I can’t tho.
Who is on your dream dinner party guest list, and what are you cooking for them?
Zadie Smith, Tracee Ellis Ross, Oprah, Jane Fonda, Rihanna, Meghan Markle, Anjelica Huston, Michelle Obama, AOC, Gabrielle Union and Toni Morrison. I would love to make them a huge pot of seafood gumbo with a side of cornbread.
Best hangover meal?
PROTEIN and a little hair of the dog.
What keeps you awake at night?
The future. It’s hard to remain optimistic these days or try to concoct a five-year plan when I read the headlines and see where my country is headed.
What is your most recent saved photo on Instagram?
This picture of civil rights leader Gloria Richardson coolly pushing a gun out of her face and giving a white police officer the illest side-eye. She was an icon and this is a forever mood.
Desert island beauty product?
My epi.logic Even Balance face toner, LESSE face oil and Pattern detangling brush.
Next holiday destination?
Either back to New Orleans or Jamaica. They are such magical places where I can really be myself.
The three headliners at your dream festival?
Sade, Fiona Apple, Rihanna.
Tell us a secret…
I stan Kourtney Kardashian.
Which creative making moves should we be following?
I’m biased but I have a really incredible, talented community of friends, so shout out to Pam Nasr, Mecca James Williams, Cynthia Cervantes, Lutfi Janania, Christopher John Rogers, DeVonn Francis, Dana Scruggs, Brian Grimotes and Mia Carucci.
If you could live in any decade from the past, which would it be and why?
Well, time travel is hard for black folks – we often must look to the future – but if I had to choose, it would be any time between 700-1400 AD Spain, when the Moors ruled.
Which fashion trend do you wish would die?
Mass consumption! We don’t need any more clothes – trust me on that!
What phrase, word or motto do you say the most?
"And that’s that on that" or "Can I be honest?" (which is rhetorical, because I am always honest).
Where can we find you on Saturday night?
Either at a long, rowdy dinner with friends or at home, reading.
Favourite place on Earth?
Dating apps are...
Trash. My therapist kept insisting I try them and I was like, "Listen, I need the in-person interaction. I need to have that 'I-peep-you-from-across-the-room' lightning bolt moment. I need to smell the other person’s pheromones and see how our bodies respond to one another. I need to see how this person treats others. Are they kind? Shy? Outgoing? Funny? Rude? I need to see it all up close. Dating apps flatten that experience.
What can’t you leave the house without?
My MAKE Marine Salve, phone, headphones, wallet and keys.
What beauty product can’t you live without?
My FENTY foundation makes my skin glow and my Diana Vreeland Empress of Fashion perfume differentiates me in a room full of people wearing Santal...
What’s the next fashion item you’ll be buying?
I have had my eyes on a pair of Simon Miller white boots and I also want to find the perfect pair of black mom jeans – I saw Kourtney Kardashian wearing a pair and I have been on the hunt ever since.