Published by Simon & Schuster on September 1st 2015
Funny and fearless, Tales from the Back Row is a keenly observed collection of personal essays about what it's really like to be a young woman working in the fashion industry.In Tales from the Back Row, Cosmopolitan.com editor Amy Odell takes readers behind the stage of New York's hottest fashion shows to meet the world's most influential models, designers, celebrities, editors, and photographers.But first, she has to push her way through the crowds outside, where we see the lengths people go to be noticed by the lurking paparazzi, and weave her way through the packed venue, from the very back row to the front. And as Amy climbs the ladder (with tips about how you can, too), she introduces an industry powered by larger-than-life characters: she meets the intimidating Anna Wintour and the surprisingly gracious Rachel Zoe, not to mention the hilarious Chelsea Handler, and more.As she describes the allure of Alexander Wang's ripped tights and Marchesa's Oscar-worthy dresses, Amy artfully layers in something else: ultimately this book is about how the fashion industry is an exaggerated mirror of human fallibility—reflecting our desperate desire to belong, to make a mark, to be included. For Amy is the first to admit that as much as she is embarrassed by the thrill she gets when she receives an invitation to an exclusive after-party, she can't help but RSVP "yes."
TALES FROM THE BACK ROW REVIEW
I couldn’t have been more excited when I received an email asking me if I’d like to review Tales From the Back Row, a book written by Cosmopolitan.com’s editor, Amy Odell. This book is a first hand account of how Amy rose from being the party reporter for New York Magazine to the editor of the largest community of women online.
The book is split into several snappy chapters detailing the different stages of her ascent and the people she met at each one. It starts with Bloggers, which as a blogger myself, I found incredibly interesting. I’m currently working as a social media intern in Paris and the big names that she mentions are people that are only even bigger today and it was quite cool seeing people I’ve been researching appearing in a book in front of my eyes. After Bloggers, we move onto Trendsetters where we learn about Amy’s hilarious antics when it comes to figuring out high fashion; then Designers where she reveals what happens when you write snarky pieces about important people. Next up we’ve got Celebrities, including anecdotes from her interactions with people such as Sarah Jessica Parker; and Editors, where she talks about her interview with the one and only Anna Wintour. Fun fact: Anna Wintour went to my secondary school where she rebelled strongly against the dress code (to be fair, it was brown and blue), and recently gave a talk at my university where she did nothing short of scare the s*** out of me (even at a distance). I can only imagine what it must’ve been like to be interviewed by her. Now back to the books – the next chapter is Models, where Amy talks about the infamous Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and her interaction with the ‘angels’. Then, it’s Everybody Else where she talks about some shoots she’s been featured in and then finally, You and Me, where she talks about what it’s like to find a wedding dress, probably the most important item in any woman’s wardrobe. As you can see, there’s a heck of a lot of content for one small book, and there’s even a quick recap at the end with 10 tips for people who want to work in fashion.
Now onto what I thought…
In general ‘tell all’ and non-fiction books about various industries, particularly the fashion industry, tend to be clichéd and rarely offer readers anything they haven’t heard or seen before – but not Tales From The Back Row. Amy Odell’s book is fresh and funny, very funny. I had seen a few reviews of this book around so I had high hopes for this book before I even sat down to read it, but this book was even better than I thought it would be. It’s rare that book that is ‘hyped’ actually ends up exceeding expectations but she’s only gone and done it…
Odell continuously reminds us throughout the book that she is not part of the world of high fashion and whilst I wouldn’t agree that she is completely an ‘outsider’, she does have a real human touch that (stereotypically) those in fashion don’t. She’s not afraid to admit that whilst she loves fashion, working at a place like Vogue and dressing in pricey designer clothes everyday isn’t for her and that’s a great thing. She’s not the sort of writer than reviews everything thrown at her favorably and I guess that’s what great about this book, because the same applies to her stories about the media and the fashion industry. Certain anecdotes she’s used don’t portray certain big names in the best light, but she was honest enough to include them and it’s great that she didn’t just fluff over these bits.
Of course, there are also stories about fantastic opportunities Amy has been fortunate enough to have thrown her way in this industry. She’s honest about the good things and the bad, talking about getting drunk with Chelsea Handler in between shopping for wedding dresses as well as getting beaten down by Harvey Weinstein. Whilst the fashion industry makes everything look effortless, everyone knows that it’s anything but, however it’s rare that someone really unpicks what goes on behind the scenes. If you want to know about the ups and all the downs you need to go through to get to the ups of the fashion industry, then this is the book for you.
What really comes across in the book is how hard Amy worked to get where she is today. This isn’t because Amy toots her own horn and goes on and on about how hard she’s working, it’s just something that becomes evident through her stories, her anecdotes, her thoughts and feelings. A career in fashion has never been a particular desire of mine and having read Amy’s account I’m even more sure that it’s not the right path for me. That’s not at all because the things she said were horrifying or anything like that, but simply because reading her personal account and her motivations made me realise that I, personally, don’t have the same aspirations, but others may feel differently. This is an absolute must-read for those interested in a career in fashion as it’s probably the most truthful account you’ll find out there.
Tales From The Back Row is the sort of story you can pick up and put down without losing track of what’s going on, but I’d be surprised if you found yourself wanting to put it down. It’s a fairly quick read, one that you could definitely make it through on a lazy Sunday, and yet there are so many stories packed into it. My only complaint is that there wasn’t more about how she landed her jobs at Buzzfeed and Cosmopolitan.com. The focus of the book is how Amy garnered a sufficient amount of success to really get the ball rolling but it’s a little sketchy on the details of her career once she’d ‘made it’. I would’ve loved to have heard more stories about life at Cosmo etc. but perhaps that’s for another day and another book! (Tales From the Front Row anyone? *wink wink* Amy).
Want to get your hands on a copy of Tales From the Back Row? It’s available here from The Book Depository.
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