Style and beauty expert Jennifer Chan covers the latest trends
By Kamala Kirk / Photos by Chris Mortenson
Born in Las Vegas and raised in Houston, Jennifer Chan moved to California in 2002 to attend Pepperdine University, where she double majored in journalism and public relations with a minor in art.
“I started winning writing contests when I was in elementary school, and one day my third-grade teacher pulled me aside and made me promise that I would become a writer one day,” Chan says. “When I was 11 or 12, my brother told me that if I could find a way to combine my writing skills with my passion for fashion and beauty, that would be the right career path for me. It was then that I decided to become a fashion and beauty editor. In high school I was editor-in-chief of the yearbook, an anchor for our school’s broadcasting studio, and an intern at a fashion PR office after school.
I also wrote for local magazines to learn as much about the industry as possible at an early age, and seeing my name published was exhilirating. I went to Pepperdine for the great communications program and warm weather. It was a very tight-knit community and still feels like family after all these years.”
While attending Pepperdine, Chan had seven different internships. They were primarily editorial and public relations focused, and included InStyle Magazine, Neiman Marcus and Women’s Wear Daily.
“During my senior year of college, WWD dubbed me their junior editor and I covered LA Fashion Week and industry events for them,” Chan says. “I assisted at photo shoots, wrote trend stories, and corresponded with fashion publicists on behalf of the publication. I was mostly taking night classes so that I could intern full time during the day, and seeing my name in print in WWD before I had even graduated college was such a surreal moment. I was hooked on the editorial world from there on out.”
Chan was also the fashion editor for Pepperdine’s campus newspaper, The Graphic, where she had her own weekly column.
“It felt very Carrie Bradshaw,” Chan says. “I had full reign of what I wanted to write about, and often helped others tackle their style and beauty questions every week. I loved creating content for our school paper. I got the position after I wrote a feature story for my journalism class on the skyrocketing sales of Ugg boots, which were trending at the time. My professor ran my story on the front page of the campus paper and I was offered the fashion editor role.”
In 2005, Chan graduated from Pepperdine and moved to New York, where she immediately jumped into an intensive program at Columbia Journalism School that focused on magazine publishing. From there, she became the style assistant for Real Simple Magazine before joining the team at InStyle.com as the assistant editor.
“This was before the recession and before blogs and digital were commonplace,” Chan says. “Print was everything at the time. When I had the opportunity to go to the dot-com, my colleagues and friends thought I was crazy for leaving print and going online, but I thought it would give me a leg up, and I’m so glad I did because it really jumpstarted my digital media career before anyone else was doing it.”
During her time at InStyle, Chan created and launched the site’s “Look for Less” and “Where Can I Find?” sections, which provided readers with designer information as well as more affordable versions of high-end looks.
“Being right out of college, I wanted to get that celebrity look for less so I came up with the idea for that section, and pitched several others with a focus on celebrity style and online shopping,” Chan says. “I launched various features focused on celebrity style and I knew I had found my sweet spot. I inadvertently became a celebrity style expert for the magazine and website, which would later become my signature skill set that served me well at various media outlets throughout my career.”
Chan returned to Los Angeles in 2007 to further her career as a celebrity style expert in the editorial world. After moving back, she worked remotely for InStyle before becoming the West Coast editor for The Daily (now Daily Front Row).
“I was attending red carpet events and exclusive celebrity parties every single night,” Chan says. “From there, I helped launch Tyra Banks’ website with the talented team at Demand Media. I was her style and beauty correspondent, ghostwriter and social media lead. I started doing on-camera work and had a video series for her website that was all about street style and embracing all body shape, sizes and ethnicities. We were early adoptees of championing the inclusivity and diversity movement. It was very personal for me because as a young girl, I never saw anyone who looked like me in the media. I’ve always wanted to uplift underserved communities in the media, and being Asian, I felt we didn’t have that spotlight for so long. I really loved my time at Tyra because I got to contribute to a movement that’s now recognized in a much bigger way today.”
Upon discovering her passion for hosting and being on camera, Chan began doing segments for outlets including MSNBC and The BET Network. Then she was approached by E! News to become their senior fashion editor, and within 30 days she launched an entirely new beauty and fashion section for their website.
“Of course, E! is best known for their celebrity news coverage, but there was a big opportunity to focus on fashion and beauty coverage and attract a new audience,” Chan says. “They had ‘Fashion Police’ but I wanted to create something more approachable and inspiring. They brought me on to launch ‘The Trend’ and it was all about celebrity style and beauty trends. It was a really pivotal role in my career for bringing digital fashion, beauty and celebrity all into one place. It was an exciting place to be.”
After her time at E!, Chan moved on to become the senior editor to Kim and Kourtney Kardashian at Whalerock Industries, a digital media company.
“At that point I had been working in digital for a long time and I was excited to learn all about mobile apps,” Chan says. “I was surrounded by a team of the most talented people and a lot of us are still friends today. We worked together to create and launch these apps so the Kardashians could bring exclusive daily content to their subscribers, including the capability of going live, which was an entirely new concept at the time. It was a very collaborative process and a rewarding experience.”
Chan also started her blog “The Fabulous File” in 2007, which she later rebranded as “Jenn Chan Glam” in 2017.
“When I was at my different full-time jobs, I would come across brands and products I loved that didn’t fit into my editorial work, but I still wanted to feature them somewhere,” Chan says. “Having a blog is a natural extension of what I do as a writer and mine is all about fashion, beauty and travel. Back in the day, people didn’t put their names in their blog titles, but 10 years later I realized I was my own brand. Colleagues called me Jenn Chan Glam because I always dressed up for the office. After working for the Kardashians, I decided to eat, pray, love and moved to Paris. While there, I redesigned and relaunched my blog.”
Chan spent three months in Paris, followed by half a year in London. She blogged regularly and partnered with a fashion retailer, working with a photographer who captured her wearing the clothing from the brand in interesting locations.
“It was a creative break for me to liveabroad and do something fulfilling that I would never have had the time to do while working in an office,” Chan says. “Paris is my favorite city and from there I jumped around a lot. I love fashion and beauty, but I can’t live without travel. My interest in travel writing started when I was invited to cover events in places like Montreal and Costa Rica. I’ve been a freelance travel writer for eight years and I contribute to Lonely Planet, JustLuxe, and Travel + Leisure. I get to see the world and share my experiences. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
While living abroad, Chan was approached by Dermaflash to become their director of public relations. Not long after, she was on a plane to Chicago to start her next adventure.
“I’m someone who says ‘yes’ to the universe when it’s knocking on my door,” Chan says. “I moved to Chicago, not knowing anyone there besides my future coworkers. It was my first PR job, but having worked as an editor for so long was advantageous because I knew what worked and what didn’t. I traveled constantly, I was between LA, New York, Chicago and many other cities every week. I put the product into the hands of so many celebrities and their makeup artists, and during my time with the company we won seven industry awards, and achieved many milestones as a start-up skincare brand. I was really grateful for the opportunity and I learned a lot of new skills.”
After two years with Dermaflash, Chan missed the editorial world and the West Coast, so she returned to LA and moved to Playa Vista in 2018.
“I had always lived in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills because those areas are right in the middle of everything,” Chan says. “While I was still living in Chicago, a friend suggested that I check out Playa Vista because a lot of young professionals like myself live and work there. I looked it up on Instagram, booked an apartment viewing and made the move. I can’t say enough about the community because I love it so much. It’s so safe and clean, and I love that I can get to LAX in eight minutes. I wouldn’t have made it through the pandemic without all of the amazing walking trails. It’s like this little bubble in LA that feels a little too good to be true.”
Chan also spent a lot of time writing articles about the hurdles of being Asian-American during the pandemic.
“Some of my articles were very personal, informative, and hopefully inspiring, to help build support for the community,” Chan says. “It reminded me why I got into this long ago, to build morale and support for communities that aren’t always treated fairly or equally in the media. It was very meaningful to me and I grew as a writer, and also as a proud representative of the Asian-American community.”
Currently, Chan is fashion and beauty e-commerce writer and editor at Dotdash Meredith, where she covers shopping-oriented content for the company’s titles such as InStyle.
“I take a lot of pride in reviewing and writing about my favorite fashion and beauty discoveries, sifting through online sales and curating the best of what people should be buying online,” Chan says. “E-commerce is the way of the future in publishing, and I’ve had unique experiences that have all culminated to this point. I went from print to digital to mobile and now e-commerce. Live selling is next and it’s a big passion of mine. I like to do my part and shine a light on small businesses, female-founded companies, brands and products that are really deserving. I love to impact people through my work. There are stories I’ve written that have exploded in terms of sales, and that translates into changing people’s lives.”
In addition to doing freelance PR for clients such as skincare expert and social media personality Cassandra Bankson, Chan has been doing more on-air work, hosting TV segments for “Access Hollywood” and “KTLA,” among others. She recently co-hosted a live show with Shawn Johnson for Instagram, and hosts fashion shows and live events for retailers such as Bloomingdales.
“Being on air is my passion and I look forward to doing more of that this year,” Chan says. “It’s a dream come true because I always wanted to be on TV and connect with people. My family has videos of me as a little girl, holding a flashlight pretending that it was a microphone, hosting my own make-believe talk show. I’ve sacrificed holidays, missed birthdays and other things in my personal life because of my passion for what I do, but at the end of the day, my work is a labor of love. I love being able to inspire and uplift others. It’s full circle for me and goes back to why I always wanted to do this, to help everyone feel confident and empowered through fashion and beauty.”
Jenn Chan Glam