As the Editor-in-Chief of style bible, ELLE Australia, it’s clear that Justine Cullen knows a thing or two about style. The natural beauty and mum-of-three is also refreshingly down to earth and credits hard work and hunger to her success.
We were inspired to find out just what inner beauty means to her…
Throughout your career in publishing, how do you think the way women perceive themselves has evolved?
I work in an industry made up mostly of women and with lots of wonderful, successful women to look up to as role models. Because of that, for a long time I think many of us lived under the false idea that equality had been won and feminism wasn’t needed any longer. The last couple of years has been such a wake up call for all of us, with the reality of how far we actually are from achieving true gender parity and the #metoo movement well and truly opening our eyes. The silver lining to these horrors is of course that women are vastly more united and supportive of each other than ever before. We’ve become our own agents for change in very active and passionate ways and it feels like a glorious thing to be a part of.
Since launching ELLE, you’ve really created a title that is as much for the ‘thinking woman’ as it is about fashion, was this a conscious decision?
ELLE was originally created in post-war Paris by a founder who wanted to give this new generation of working, independent women a magazine that would open their appetites to all things in life and it always had a lot to say about the role of women in society. So it wasn’t so much my decision, but the inherited position of being a magazine that very much sits at the junction of fashion and culture – be that political and social culture or pop culture – is absolutely what always drew me to the magazine both as a reader and eventually, as an editor.
You have always led the way with your cover decisions, from Margaret Zhang being shot by Georges Antoni, to empowering your readers to be the cover star with the mirror cover – which has been your favourite and how do you come up with these ideas?
That’s like asking me to choose a favourite child, but I think the cover of Nicole Trunfio breastfeeding has to be the most special to me, because it went around the world and showed the incredible impact print can still have on the culture. It also really made it clear in Australia the sort of position we wanted to take for ELLE in this market.
The last few years has been about empowering women, how have you seen ‘millenial’ women evolve in this new era and do you find the younger generations are almost leading and demanding this change?
Absolutely. The generation thing is so interesting – the baby boomers did so much for the cause of feminism and my generation (X) grew up thinking we could have it all and are now really struggling in many cases as we realise that society as it stands now is nearly impossible for most working mothers. Millennials have a tough time, I think because they’re the transitional ones trying to make changes in a world that is mostly not set up to understand their values and needs. But the next generation are primed to be able to make real social change – and not just when it comes to gender equality. It’s so incredibly heartening to watch this younger generation grow up as such strong, compassionate, revolutionary human beings. I have sons and it blows my mind to see how they and their friends think and act about gender, sexuality, politics, the environment – it gives me hope.
What does inner beauty mean to you?
Inner beauty to me comes from knowing and being comfortable with who you are, living from a place of your own truth, acting with kindness and achieving some sort of contentment.
Can you give us an example of a time you’ve listened to your gut instinct?
Career decisions have always come very easily to me but I think I spent a lot of my life acting from a place of fear in my personal life. Last year I realised that you only get one life and I owed it to myself to do everything I could to try to be happy. It was terrifying and traumatic in so many ways, but as soon as I made the decision to go with my heart, everything fell into place and I have never been happier.
What do you do to get your daily GLOW on?
I laugh a lot these days. It makes up for my complete lack of exercise.
When I’m in the car I always… listen to podcasts. I have a long commute and I’ve learned to relish the alone time.
I always… take a probiotic, powdered magnesium and herbs from my naturopath… before I go to bed.
I do most of my thinking when I’m… awake at 4am. I don’t know why my brain likes to remind me of every single thing I need to do at that time every morning, but it does.
What does inner beauty mean to you? Join the conversation by heading to @TheBeautyChef