Q&A: Phillip Picardi

The former editor of Out magazine on his new role, binge-watching TV, and what motivates him

Throughout his career in publishing, Phillip Picardi has gained a reputation as a prodigy. Dubbed by the New York Times the ‘future’ of media giant Condé Nast, Picardi went from an internship position to the chief content officer at Teen Vogue, helping transform the brand into a thoughtful hub of activism and awareness. Along the way, he became a favorite of Anna Wintour and helped launch the LGBTQ digital platform Them—all by the age of 26.

Now, at 27, Picardi has recently taken on an exciting role: the editor-in-chief of Out magazine. He recently caught up with Furthermore to discuss his professional path, the origins of his never-ending drive, and the work he’s most proud of.

Can you talk about the experience of helming Out?

Being able to throw [myself] into this full redesign and reimagination of what [Out] is and stands for now, 50 years after Stonewall, is really interesting. It’s also a humongous responsibility with the vast array of things we have to cover and how mindful of being inclusive we have to be. When we get it right, it’s extremely rewarding, but of course we don’t always get it right. Every day is a new challenge.

What motivates you?

Self-loathing? [Laughs]. I definitely come from a background where I never felt like I was good enough. A lot of what drives me is the fact that I haven’t worked through that yet. Nothing is ever enough for me and, as I approach my thirties, I’m trying my best to reset these ambitious expectations of mine. It’s exhausting to live a life that is predicated on the sense that you have to be exceptional in order to be worthy. That’s just what I was taught about myself, purely based on the fact that I am gay and more effeminate than other boys. Maybe one day I’ll be able to work on that, hopefully before I start having a family.

Are those feelings what led you on this career path?

That’s an interesting question, because I thought for a very long time I was going to be a lawyer. I even distinctly remember having a teddy bear as a kid and I named it Counsel Zach, because that was my dream. But when I came out of the closet, I felt I couldn’t be a lawyer because I was too feminine, so I decided that I should work in fashion because that’s what I knew gay guys did, from watching Will and Grace and Queer Eye. It’s what I decided to focus on even though I knew nothing about fashion and was never passionate about the way that I dressed. That was when I started reading magazines like Vogue, and I remember a big Jennifer Aniston profile/exposé in Vanity Fair when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were together. I was 14 and so captivated by the narrative in the profile, and that’s when I decided I wanted to work in magazines. It showed me you can use imagery to convey the mood and sensibility of a story and effectively inform how the public perceives a very complicated, fraught situation.

What are some of the most fulfilling stories you’ve worked on?

When I was at Teen Vogue, I was most proud of a video series we did called Ask a Native American Girl, where we invited indigenous youths to come to New York for one day. The model Daunnette Reyome recounted the (real, wrenching) background of Thanksgiving and included some really harrowing stories. It was widely picked up and it started a conversation around indigenous people. The other thing that really sticks with me is when we did two covers with Parkland survivors as well as other kids who had experienced gun violence in their communities. It was amazing to work on that project and bring awareness to that cause.

Working in media is famously stressful. How do you decompress after a busy week?

I watch a lot of television...bingeing a show is my go-to. Television is the only thing that puts my brain to rest and I often find that novels and books put me into hyperdrive, making me think harder.

Well, as an editor you’re probably reading all day too.

Yes, great point. I read all day, so now I just limit myself to reading books on the weekends.

What’s on your nightstand right now?

I’m currently reading the Emily Wilson translation of The Odyssey.

What’s your gym routine?

I usually run three to five miles and then do a brief weights circuit, with three exercises dedicated to one muscle group and two devoted to abs. I repeat it three times and try to race the clock at under 20 minutes.

Onyour Instagram you post cooking photos, what do you like to whip up?

Cooking is something my boyfriend and I like to do as a way to save money and spend more quality time together. I cook the food my grandmother and mother taught me while I was growing up: I make a mean olive oil–poached chicken, a delicious pesto that I use on everything from pasta to scrambled eggs, and I just taught myself how to make cacio e pepe. Occasionally, I challenge myself with eggplant Parmesan, which was my Grandma’s favorite.

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