Hildy Kuryk on the Met Gala, Politics and Vogue
- Written By:JustBobbi
- Photography:Anna-Lisa Yabsley
When it comes to combining the worlds of politics, fashion and communications, Hildy Kuryk is an expert. The former political pro worked with Barack Obama on the campaign trail and at the DNC before stepping into the fashion world in 2013. Working closely with Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, Hildy served as the Executive Director of Communications at the magazine. Her role at the fashion bible also included overseeing the PR & communications strategy around the Met Gala – an event she will be a part of for her sixth year come May 7. Recently, Hildy launched her own agency, Artemis Strategies, that works to help brands with everything from civic engagement to crafting the perfect message. Below, she talks career advice, her favorite Met Gala memory and starting her new business.
Tell us about your career journey – how did you make the move from politics to fashion?
After working in professional politics for almost 15 years and just completing the 2012 Presidential race, I was burnt out – it was like my brain didn’t function anymore and I couldn’t create original thoughts. My husband and I are both from New York and we moved back to the city in January of 2013. Once I returned, I did two things I had never done before. For one, I took three months off – did not do any work or even think about a job — and secondly, I saw a career coach. Both were life changing and affirming and opened my eyes and mind to the infinite possibilities of life after Washington.
The work with my career coach was impactful on so many levels – but one of the things we quickly figured out was that I was leaning toward a couple of paths: a career in finance in investor relations, a job as a chief of staff to a CEO, or a role in communications. With the help of the coach, I came to see how the skills I gained throughout my career thus far could be added value to those jobs. I also learned how to talk about myself and my skills so that I was appealing to decision makers in those various industries.
During my self-imposed job exile I had meetings with a lot of colleagues and supporters I had worked with on the campaign – one of them was with Anna Wintour. We had met in 2007 when I was working in New York for then Senator Obama and she began to support his campaign for President. We worked closely together over the following years and I came to value her advice as a mentor. She asked me to apply for the role of Communications Director and after a rigorous interview process across Vogue I was hired in April of 2013.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned working at Vogue?
Your opinion matters – so don’t be afraid to offer it – but know your audience and offer it constructively. Never silence your voice, but use it as an effective tool to advance your point of view.
What inspired you to start Artemis Strategies? What is the mission of your new agency and how does it combine the things you are most passionate about?
I am still amazed by how little the worlds of politics, nonprofits, and corporate life know about each other. There are these wild mystiques and misconceptions that are at times “crazy” and prevent collaboration and problem solving. I felt, given my unique set of experiences, I could serve as a bridge between the worlds of philanthropy, communications, media, and consumer facing businesses.
In short, I want to help consumer businesses develop and integrate their values systems throughout all aspects of their businesses with a goal of growing their businesses and retaining and recruiting staff. Now more than ever consumers are demanding that the places they spend their money and their time have values and stand for something – but how you do that in an authentic way isn’t always easy. I feel I have had a unique set of experiences that have given me good judgment when it comes to potentially sensitive matters, and the skill set to help clients navigate them.
On top of working with brands on social responsibility and civic engagement, you’re also working on your sixth Met Gala. What is it like being a part of that strategy?
It is always a little different which is what makes it exciting! Every year, every exhibition teaches me something new and stretches my brain in different directions. I really love it!
Do you have a favorite Met Gala memory?
There are so many incredible moments, but if I have to pick one it would be going to Beijing in January 2015 for a press conference in the Forbidden City announcing the China exhibition. I had never been to Asia before and it was magical to realize I was walking the footpaths that emperors had walked on over 500 years ago!
What advice do you have for those looking to make a big career change?
Try if you can to take a step back and really see your career and skills with a set of dispassionate eyes. Much easier said than done because we are inside our careers it is hard to see yourself doing anything else. But if you can gain some perspective you will see that your skills can translate to other industries that may be of interest; it is all about how you market yourself.
And what’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
Seems so far away now, but in high school I wanted to get summer jobs working at a camp or babysitting; but my older cousin told me that if I really wanted to stand out in terms of gaining coveted college internships I had to start working in office environments as early as I could. Not only would it prepare me for the future, but it would start building my resume and contact list; and additionally show that I was dedicated and knew how to handle myself in an adult environment. It paid huge dividends in my life, especially because I wasn’t exactly a stellar student so having a track record of work helped me stand out.