Kevin Naulls attended the school of hard knocks at the University of Toronto (St. George Campus), where he studied English, History and Philosophy. His humble beginnings started with an internship with designer Pat McDonagh (which he did simultaneously with a night job at Sun Media), and sneaking into shows at “the tents.” Around that time, he began writing a blog that would eventually deal almost exclusively with contemporary menswear and dudes with beards named Dressed for Dinner, which led to more pictures of bearded men on the Internet.
After writing for Sharp, The Sharp Book for Men, Eye Weekly, the Toronto Sun, The Block, and more, and still working nights at Sun Media, he was offered a job as Associate Online Editor at Toronto Life, where he lives and breathes today (and sometimes allows him to sleep at a reasonable hour). He very much enjoys it.
Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
Like any idealistic young lad, I wanted to be a cartoonist, an actor, a lawyer, a criminologist and a philosopher. I gave up on those dreams long ago, but I still aspire to be a television comedy writer, and I’m writing spec scripts on the side. No, you can’t read them (not yet anyway).
Where would you like to be five years from now?
In five years? Well, I like the experience of working at Toronto Life – I am allowed to have a voice that is my own, and I’m learning new skills every day that I wouldn’t have (at least not as quickly) as a freelancer. But I’d love to be the next Mindy Kaling, because I like fashion shows, fashion shows at lunch.
Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
I didn’t sleep before I got my job at Toronto Life. I ran my blog, worked nights and freelanced for multiple publications. I don’t want to recommend an unhealthy lifestyle, but everyone wants these jobs, and having a take-on-all-comers attitude is a clear sign to employers that you’re willing to push yourself to your limits. And stories don’t just fall into your lap every day, so it is important to get into the habit of fighting for a scoop.
What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
What I read: Fantastic Man, V magazine, Interview, the New York Times, New York magazine, The Gentlewoman, Corduroy, The Awl, Gawker, Workwear magazine (when I can find it (send it to me! Or find me .PDFs!))
What I listen to: to ensure a person’s sexual issues are much more complicated than mine, I listen to the Savage Love podcast. To laugh out loud, I listen to Julie Klausner’s podcast How Was Your Week (I like to pretend she’s my girlfriend when I’m listening). I hate Slate’s Culture Gabfest—if I wanted to listen to lukewarm talk radio that is basically a roundtable of people with convoluted ideas about pop culture, I’d go to Trampoline Hall.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
“Talk is cheap, motherfucker.” – DMX
DMX may not have said it to me personally, but it resonated. I have no patience for people who do not speak for themselves in a critical way. I work in an industry where the emphasis is on brand building, and I refuse to pretend to care about something for free drinks and VIP experiences.
Everything should be broken down, illustrating positives and negatives, because no one will learn anything otherwise – you’d tell your children that some things are right, and some things are wrong, and while “right” and “wrong” are subjective, I’d rather someone speak openly and be slightly wrong than lie down and take it, spilling adjectives onto a page that do not rightly reflect the subject.
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
A couple of good friends once said “there are no rules on girls weekend,” and I tend to live my life that way. I’m not a cat though, so it isn’t all fancy free – I am professional, and stick to deadlines, even when I’m writing jokey captions or living in sewers. I promise to always love the people I love, even when they sing karaoke better than I do. And like Maestro, I always stick to my vision.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
I had the opportunity to interview Robert Geller, and what could have been a 15 minute interview turned into an hour and 15 minutes. Most of the time subjects are so media trained that they become resistant—there’s this wall that they hit, as if someone is tapping them on the shoulder (sometimes there is someone) telling them it is time to wrap it up. We chatted like old school chums, and his level of candidness helped me with my story immensely. I like when people aren’t in a rush. If it is going to be a media circus, it almost isn’t worth it. I don’t have 2 minute interviews and I feel as if no one really should.
Oh, and obviously chatting with Felicity Jones during TIFF. That was unforgettable, and I thank Alex Thompson from Joe Fresh for making that happen. It might mean nothing to everyone else, but I was a huge Worst Witch fan and we gabbed about it briefly, which made my night. I’m willing to fight for a story, but it is nice when meetings happen so easily, and the other party (celebrity or otherwise) is actually really nice about having a chat.
Worst interview you’ve ever had?
Interviewing Alicia Silverstone during TIFF. It lasted all of 30 seconds, and 20 seconds of it was her trying to sell me her book. It was incredibly disappointing to say the least.
What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
I love PR girls when they relax. So many are high strung, sporting impeccably bleached teeth and a perma-smile. Girls (and guys), I know it is your job to rep your clients (I know). Get off your game once in a while and have a bit of fun with the media you’re working with. Some of my best PR-media relationships are with those who know when to be professional, and know when it is cool to let loose a little bit.
Also, this is such a small matter because I know a lower case ‘i’ can look like an ‘l’, but my last name is NAULLS, not NAULIS. And I am a Mr., not a Ms. (which, again, usually just makes me laugh). My biggest pet peeve though is when someone follows up on an email the day of sending it. Yes, your email is the most urgent email I’ve received all day.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
My favourite PR person in the world is Steve Sane from Sane PR in the UK, but that has a lot to do with who he represents and how awesome everything is—not to mention his entire staff must work around the clock, because every single time I’ve asked for photos or information, it gets to me in mere moments. I’ve waited days in Toronto. The girls and guys in Toronto know who they are, because they continue to make my life easier by getting things to me on time, and not harassing me by phone. Not everything a PR person represents fits in at Toronto Life, and I’m sorry your job requires you to pitch me toilets, but please learn that I do what I can with what is given—sometimes a turd is just a turd (to be crass).
Everything. But really, I don’t care for people who insert French words into sentences because they’ve been to Paris once (or twenty times). I find that I read this a lot in fashion journalism, but a good editor will strike that out and recast it using the English word (or equivalent). I hate walking to the streetcar on a cold damp day, and I hate when I forget to pack my lunch in the morning. I also don’t like when people talk about their jobs all the time, but in this industry, there is so much one-upmanship, that someone is always doing something fabulous (well, guess what, sometimes I eat dinner in my underwear while I watch television on my laptop).
Brassy women and hilarious men (my friends), beards (hilarious beardos go to the top of the class), meta-jokes, plaid shirts, Happy Socks, Mark McNairy shoes, fried spaghetti sandwiches, Cruel Intentions, Home Movies (cartoon series), Archer, American Dad, Life and Times of Tim, ice water, dark denim, scotch on the rocks, a good IPA, 13 Going on 30 and Aaron Spelling,
I bet you think I’m reading Jonathan Franzen, but I’m not. I’m re-reading Tyler’s Cape by Darren Greer in hopes that my book club Literection (this is real) will re-emerge.
Best place on earth?
Any hotel with a gigantic king-size bed, and a mattress you can just sink in enough (while still being firm). The important part of this scenario is that I have zero obligations while I am there, so I can come and go as I please. This one time I was in New York, my phone died on the first night and I forgot my charger, and it was the best trip ever.
Dead: River Phoenix; alive: Brenda Strong.
These require no explanation.
Other than Cara Pifko, Tina Fey? Is this as obvious as Rory writing an entrance-to-Harvard essay on Hilary Clinton? Because I don’t care. She has the best comic timing, and everything she does is relatable, no matter who you are or what circle of friends you claim to be part of. I’d also have dinner with her, but with Tina Fey we’d also drink bourbon and shoot pellet guns at stop signs.
Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
I was playing Words With Friends pretty regularly with my colleague Fraser Abe (but we are both pretty good and just started to annoy each other—we kept the games going for a long time by only placing two letter words). Now I play Family Feud and Friends and Instagram pictures of my shoes and socks.
Pool or ocean?
Give me a lap pool to myself and I’m a kid in a candy store. I love just swimming and swimming without people bothering me (or fish, or sharks, or octopi). But really, I’ll swim anywhere, especially at night.
Voicemail or email?
Always email me, unless the matter is urgent (or be like me and annoy your friends by leaving not-so-urgent messages on a Saturday afternoon). But seriously, I prefer emails unless we’re close enough to have each others phone number for not-work shenanigans.