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Fashion Intern Problems: 'MTV lied to me'

Having been mislead by The Hills, Antonio Pignone investigates the reality of interning when you're the product of a digital generation

These days, there seems to be no job too small for the weary fashion intern. When I began writing this article I took to social media and asked interns past and present to share their experiences. Within minutes my inbox was flooded with stories so ridiculous, I sent back replies asking if these anecdotes had been 'embellished'. The stories included being asked to go to an editor’s house to watch their dog for 8 hours and wandering the streets of East London at 11pm trying to find a shop that sold tampons for a Z-list celebrity. Let's be honest, if you’re an intern you will no doubt be asking yourself “what the hell am I doing?" at least once a week. 

I began interning just over three years ago and like every industry virgin I swiftly realised that the reality of the job bared no resemblance to the glamorous highflying fantasy I had played out in my head. It didn’t take long for me to feel as if I had been well and truly duped. Whenever anyone asked me how I was getting on in my new role, my answer always began with “well I’ve learnt that everything I’ve ever been told about being an intern was a lie!” Surprisingly, however, the lie I was referring to didn’t come from the fashion industry, or my new employer who had been forthright about her expectations from the very beginning. No, I had been lied to by MTV.




Being a teenager in the mid 2000s meant that my first interaction with the concept of interning came from the MTV reality show The Hills. The show, for those of you who don’t know, documented the lives of four privileged young girls living in Los Angeles, two of whom had taken on internships at a magazine. It didn’t take long for me to decide that as soon as I could I would get myself an internship. I mean, Lauren Conrad and Whitney Port always seemed to have such a lovely time scouting locations for a Teen Vogue fashion show, or casually having a chat with friends at some fancy party they were supposedly working on at the Roosevelt Hotel. No question, this looked like the best job in the world. Two years later and I found myself on Brick Lane frantically using Google Maps to find a PR company I had never heard of all the while carrying two full suitcases in the pouring rain and thinking “Lauren never had to put up with this shit." 

Now I realise that basing all of my expectations on a semi-scripted MTV reality show may have been a mistake, but it did get me thinking about what we as young people expect from internships and what happens when we’re met with the actual reality of the job. I realised that I couldn’t find a single article/website/blog/twitter account that’s sole purpose was to lift the lid on what it’s really like to be a fashion intern. The only substitute for MTV’s shiny glossy portrayal were self righteous think pieces vilifying the demonic fashion industries use of unpaid interns, most of which were written by middle aged men who had no first hand experience with being an intern. That’s when I had the idea of “Fashion Intern Problems”. I wanted to create a site that was a true representation of what it was to be a fashion intern, the good the bad and the ugly. Whilst I didn’t want to be responsible for another generation of wannabe interns turning up to their first day of work thinking they would be sent on cover shoots for their favourite magazine, I also didn’t want to over analyse internships to the point where all the fun and humour had been drained out of them.




So taking inspiration from blogs such as “London Grumblr” and “South London Gays” I decided to start “Fashion Intern Problems”, a blog that used GIFs to share the random, funny and sometimes unbelievable situations that almost every intern finds themselves in. It wasn’t about calling out the industry on their treatment of interns, neither was it a way of glamourising them, I just wanted to be honest, and finding humour in the every day life of someone working for free was my way of doing it. 

The blog, which has just celebrated its first birthday, has gone on to garner a response I didn’t think possible when I uploaded my first post from my Mum’s kitchen. Whenever I meet someone who has read “Fashion Intern Problems” the first thing they say is usually along the lines of “oh my god, that thing you posted about the other day? That totally happened to me!!!” This was exactly what I wanted, I wasn’t looking to be a critic nor did I have any interest in being an advocate of fashion internships, I just wanted to commentate on every single aspect of life as an intern while keeping my tongue firmly in my cheek. The truth is whether you like it or not, internships are an intrinsic part of the modern fashion industry and sometimes the best way to deal with them is to get home after a long day of coffee runs and never ending returns and laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.