I remember the first time I laid eyes on the preview issue of Missbehave Magazine on GDK’s kitchen table. At first glance, I knew that the moment the pages of that magazine were glued together, history was made. Not only did this magazine provide “girls like me” with fashion, commentary and a look at trends that we could relate to and get excited about but it also brought the women behind Mass Appeal Magazine to the foreground for us to obsess over.
Mary HK Choi began as an intern at Mass Appeal and soon became the Senior Editor—her name sitting nicely along some of the publishing industry’s heavy hitters, such as Sacha Jenkins of Ego Trip Magazine. Mary would then became a founding Editor-In-Chief of Missbehave Magazine (RIP), the around-the-way-girl version of Mass Appeal. The ever-changing mag world led Mary to land Senior Editor at Complex Magazine, where she continues to push herself creatively today.
If all of that wasn’t enough, MHKC is also a film critic and co-food critic with David Cho for theawl.com, a contributor to videogum.com, contributor to egotripland.com (coming soon) and—comic book writer! Stay tuned for more details on this latest endeavour! It will be nothing short of EPIC!
Journey into the woods with Complex April/May 2010 cover girl, Olivia Munn via an interview by Mary, where she informs us that, “Everytime you think ill of Olivia Munn, a baby unicorn gets cancer.”
Below, Mary gives us some insight into her work and personal life via some Q&A:
M.I.S.S.: What woman, besides your mom or grandmother, do you find inspirational?
Miss Info. Boom. Super queer and Stannish to say but whatever, she rules. And like, full disclosure, we’re actually friends and in human years not that far apart (it’s that she just happens to have accomplished way, way more and owns infinitely more Chanel than I’ll see IN. MY. LIFE. CRYINGFACE.) so I recognize the full-on weirdness to say, but from the moment I moved to New York and met her I’ve been smitten and inspired. Partly because she’s Korean and astonishingly good-looking in the way that many, many of us are but mostly because when I met her she was THE unadulterated coolest girl in the high school of scarily cool strangers I was meeting and she was NICE. Some elegant shit! And while much of my admiration comes from the fact that she is about her business in an absurd, impossible manner, a lot of why she inspires me is that she is soooooooooo fucking funny. Her brain is so fucking fast and twisted, I just want to EAT IT. OK, this response got officially weird so this ends here.
M.I.S.S.: How did you get your start?
I graduated college with a degree in fashion and never for a moment considered that I’d pursue anything else. And then I changed my mind. Just like that. It was like falling out of bed. Jarring as hell. At the time I was 22 and had signed an expensive-ass year lease on the UES. I had a cushy job lined up, had only just moved to New York with a gang of expectations and ambitions. But whatever, you can’t un-know what you know. So I started to obsess on this niggling, vainglorious suspicion that I wanted to write and work in magazines so I went with it.
No one would hire me for an entry-level position since I had no experience but even more aggravating is that nobody would hire me for an internship either because mainstream publishers were bent on only having interns who needed college credit. Then I saw an online ad for an editorial internship at Mass Appeal. I was the first to apply and showed up to my interview in Red Hook, Brooklyn, in an ecru Calvin Klein Collection suit and Prada flats. And a well-worn Italian leather attaché. It’s a marvel I wasn’t robbed since I 100% deserved it. That’s when I met Noah Callahan-Bever and Sacha Jenkins and a slew of other incredible, lovable, loyal, and deliriously talented people who I have the tremendous honor of working with to this day.
M.I.S.S.: What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on?
My heart still bleeds for Missbehave because of the amount of creative control we had and just how surreal it was to pull off seemingly impossible tasks through sheer “reallyfuckingwantingitbad” since we were all broke as hell. But I have to say I’m pretty ecstatic to be working at Complex now with a crew of people I’ve known and collaborated with over the last 8 years of my career. It’s a game changer to genuinely adore everyone you work with while having so much health insurance it’s coming out of your ears. I also got to interview Olivia Munn (the high priestess of Dork) for our next cover and had the chance to collaborate with my brother Mike Choi who is a comic book artist for Marvel and his fiancée Sonia Oback (who’s a colorist) for the artwork on the cover and feature. I’m really, really lucky. AND I love theawl.com which is where I cut my blogging teeth as it were. Those guys are so bonkers smart. They’ve read the whole Internet like twenty times. They’re grand champions of the future.
M.I.S.S.: Who do you want to work with?
My brother and I are independently publishing three graphic novels in the span of the next two years. I’m looking forward to this like you wouldn’t believe. Feel kinda bad about the fact that our parents still want us to go to law school though. Sorry guys.
M.I.S.S.: What part of writing is the most challenging and do you dislike the most?
I love writing. I’m constantly scribbling down things that crack me up, unusual names, overheard snippets of conversation in anthropologically fucked up places like Midtown or the LES on a Friday night (barf) because it’s all a constant source of inspiration. I love interviewing people because fameballs are so shiny and entertaining, as far as how they’re wired and how they’re cracked they are with power and have zero manners whatsoever because social constraints don’t apply to them. That’s fun. What I’ve discovered in trying to write fiction, however, is that it’s not fun at all. It’s like deciding to wake up in the morning and peeling your skin off for several hours a day and then poking at all the exposed nerves. It’s like dry socket of the everything. I find it near impossible to write in the presence of food because I’ll eat it all just to pad the feeling of drowning that you get from the insecurity of trying to make up a reality to present to people who know reality because they are LIVING IT EVERY SINGLE DAY. I hate it. I think I’m the worst suck ever at fiction. But I can’t help it. It’s what I’m meant to do next.
M.I.S.S.: Any advice for ladies who are just starting out in a career path similar to yours?
I cannot stress enough not to shit where you eat. I’ve said this a bunch in other interviews so it bears repeating. I’m not saying I haven’t traipsed down thorny paths with industry brethren here and there but as a female, and not to be all Victorian about it, if you are working in a predominantly male environment it doesn’t behoove you to chuck tang indiscriminately. Heads talk like a tweaking sewing circle and you don’t want your name to come in a mouthful of bad company. This applies until you’ve sufficiently proven yourself by the merit of your work. Once you’re established, sought-after, and expensive, do what you like but if you’re starting out don’t make the mistake of thinking this creates any lasting sense of intimacy. Besides, I live in New York, go gnaw on a banker if you’re feeling peckish it’s like a buffet of throwaway talent out there, just don’t fuck crew. When you’re in the creative field you never know where your next 1099 is coming from and burning a bridge based on a fleeting tangle just isn’t good business. If you actually FALL IN LOVE WITH SOMEONE WHO IS YOUR EX-MAN’S BUSINESS PARTNER, that’s a whole other kettle of fish and like three separate podcasts, because you’re fucked. Just kidding. Not really.
Keep up with Mary HK Choi via the links below:
- NYC: Model Casting Call
- Mary J. Blige Interview on TV One
- Women Making History: Gala Darling
- Women Making History: Annie of Cubannie Links
- Women Making History: Queen Andrea