By Heather Fiore
Jet setting around the world. Sitting along runways as models walk by in the world’s most famous designers’ newest trends. Walking the ancient streets of Milan for a glamorous photo shoot. Being one of the most dedicated fashionistas New York City has seen. Envious yet?
Welcome to the new life of Kristy Eléna.
Rider alumna Eléna took her degree and used it to snag a $100,000 gig blogging for Sunglass Hut. She entered and won the highly competitive contest and is now Sunglass Hut’s Full Time Fabulous Fashion Blogger for the entire year.
“I think the part that excites me the most is being able to attend all of the Fashion Weeks in different countries,” she said. “I love runway shows and was lucky enough to be invited to some during Milan Fashion Week this past September, thanks to my personal blog. But to have the opportunity to go to this many shows all around the world, then come home and share them with my readers is beyond exciting.”
Since she was an infant, Eléna has been living an eccentric lifestyle. She was born in New York City but moved to Southern California and grew up in her father’s photography lab, where her passions began. By the age of 7, she learned the art of photography. She observed and quickly mastered photographic printing, hand retouching and hand coloring and by the age of 8, managed to execute her first photo exhibit.
Her parents have always been avid travelers and have exposed Eléna to all aspects of the world and its cultures. After moving all over the United States, Eléna convinced her parents to move to Greece, staying true to her roots. They lived on the island of Corfu for four years, which allowed Eléna to acclimate to the Mediterranean and explore Europe to the fullest with various excursions.
After moving back to the United States, Eléna attended most of high school and college in New Jersey. She graduated from Rider in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a concentration in Radio and TV.
“I loved my experience at Rider and felt it very much contributed to the success of my future,” Eléna said. “I worked at the TV studio so I was always able to spend hours video editing and had access to excellent equipment. My professors were always ready and willing to answer my questions and to encourage me when I wanted to go the extra mile.”
After graduating, she ventured to New York City where she became a video producer and editor while freelancing as a fashion stylist and creative director.
Aside from loving photography and art, Eléna always had a passion for journalism and TV production at Rider. Dr. Barry Janes, a communication professor, observed her ability to go above and beyond.
“She was a very good student,” Janes said. “I also remember her having a really positive attitude. She definitely had the drive and the talent to succeed.”
Because of this unstoppable drive, Eléna went on to win the Sunglass Hut blogging contest. Although many bloggers fight to define themselves as journalists, Eléna doesn’t want to.
As the winner of the contest, Eléna finds the battle between bloggers and journalists ungrounded.
“Bloggers are not exclusively journalists and are therefore not in direct competition with the journalism world,” she said. “Blogging is a new medium of communication that serves a different purpose and employs different methods. To frown upon blogging is silly, as the majority of bloggers do what they do out of sheer passion for their subject matter, which is a beautiful thing and not something to be looked down on.”
Eléna’s blog, Vogue Gone Rogue, was the jumping off point of her success. It features a variety of fashion posts, videos and pictures created by Eléna herself.
“I always loved fashion growing up but hadn’t considered it as a career until I moved to New York City,” Eléna said. “Design has always been important to me, but being in New York made me realize exactly how fashion interacts with the world and I found that to be very inspiring.”
Eléna’s friend informed her of the contest in September and she immediately decided to participate. It was a journey through four elimination processes, all of which she embarked on wholeheartedly.
“Creating posts, interacting with readers, the ebb and flow of the entire blogging process is something I wanted to do professionally,” Eléna said. “The fact that it was for Sunglass Hut made it intriguing as sunglasses have always been an important accessory to me.”
First, Eléna and the other applicants were asked to submit a one-minute video that detailed why they thought they could be Sunglass Hut’s Ultimate Fashion Blogger. Then, she was interviewed by Linsey Careers, the designated recruiter from Sunglass Hut for the contest. In early November, the videos were released and viewers voted on which one they thought was the best; Eléna was chosen as one of the 10 finalists.
Each of the finalists had a couple of days to work with the Megaplayer’s technicians and design team to customize his or her own personal contest blogs. On Dec. 1, each of the 10 finalists’ blogs went live.
“We blogged every day in an attempt to show our style, multimedia chops, writing ability, fashion knowledge and community building skills,” Eléna said. “The winner was officially announced on Jan. 12. I had been notified a few days before by telephone, which was very exciting because I was told I had won by a room full of people including many of the judges.”
After Eléna was chosen, she was awarded the impressive package. In addition to the $100,000, Eléna will be given a $1,000 monthly styling allowance, a rent-free furnished luxury apartment in New York City to stay in, invites to international Fashion Weeks and VIP passes to fashion events.
Although Eléna has experienced Fashion Week before, this time it’ll be an entirely different experience.
“Being able to blog professionally on this level is something I’ve never had the opportunity to do before and it’s one of the first blogger jobs of its kind,” she said. “I’m very excited to be doing something I love so much for a company I truly respect.”