#FCareer: Laura Hensley
July 27, 2016
Meet resident cool-girl and Toronto-based journalist Laura Hensley! With past experience at MTV and the National Post, we couldn't wait to chat with her to get her low down on making it big in the city and pushing through challenges to make her dreams come true. Check out some of her work in The Toronto Star, MTV Fora, and She Does The City.
Tell us about yourself!
When and how did your career path become clear to you?
I don't know if my career path is even clear to me now! I knew growing up that I loved clothing and writing, but I wasn't sure which profession to pursue. I decided fashion sounded more glamorous so I enrolled in Ryerson's School of Fashion. Despite the fact I was enjoying what I was studying, I still felt like I wanted to write and tell stories. After I graduated I took a year off and worked on building a portfolio so I could apply to a masters of journalism program. I didn't have too much newsroom reporting experience but thanks to an internship at MTV I had some arts and culture pieces under my belt. After applying to nearly every journalism school in the country, I once again returned to Ryerson and completed my master's degree. After interning at the National Post I knew that I loved being in a fast-paced newsroom environment and I had finally found my niche.
Was it what you’ve always wanted to do?
I've always wanted to write in one form or another, so journalism felt like a natural way to turn a hobby into a potential career. I love longform writing as well as news reporting, so there's definitely different avenues within journalism itself.
If not, what did you see yourself doing while you were growing up?
I always wanted to be the editor of a fashion magazine...maybe that will still happen!
Was your secondary school curriculum relevant to your current career?
High school was somewhat helpful for journalism, because I loved English classes and reading classic novels was really inspiring. My undergrad degree was helpful in a less straightforward way; fashion school taught me how to embrace creativity and to appreciate artistic mediums. My journalism professors taught me how to think critically and to never assume you know the full story—or even half of it. I think all of my formal educational experiences have been valuable in one way or another, and the skills I've developed through secondary institutions have undeniably shaped the person that I am.
What else would you be doing right now if it weren’t for [your current position] and why?
I would be a museum curator or an art historian. I think my passion for the arts stems from my background in fashion, as you really need to have an understanding of art history to appreciate modern design. Museums and galleries are such incredibly inspiring places and I would love to work on exhibitions — maybe even fashion exhibits!
What is a memorable challenge or moment that’s stuck with you so far?
I face challenges every day and I think that it's very important to be humble and learn from your mistakes. When I first applied to university, I didn't get into the fashion program right away — I had to apply for a second time. Although I was initially upset and felt defeated, it was a great learning opportunity for me to better myself and work towards a goal that was important to me. In journalism, the incredibly quick pace of breaking news can be really stressful and it can be hard to get everything right. I think admitting that you are only one person and will sometimes get things wrong is important. It makes you relatable.
Have you ever wanted to give up? What stopped you?
Sometimes I want to give up because journalism is so competitive and can be draining. But I love writing and I love hearing people's stories. On the days that I feel the most exhausted and defeated, I often think that I could be happier doing something less stressful, but it is then that I remember how lucky I am to live in a democratic society where I have the opportunity to write and report freely. There is so much happening in the world and so many important stories that need to be told. If I can make even the smallest dent in helping share people's experiences then I am satisfied.
What do you do just for you?
I take time to exercise. Fitness is really important to me because it is a way to decompress and just focus on myself. I love Barre classes and I also run and do yoga. Having a physical outlet is the only way I stay relatively sane!
How do you integrate work and life together?
I'm lucky I have wonderful friends I've known my entire life and a supportive family. I am surrounded by people who do wonderful things and I love learning what they are working on and they are (mostly) interested in what I'm doing, too. I think balance is important, so I try to always make time for my friends. Without a healthy personal life your work suffers, and it's really important for me to maintain my friendships.
Who were you in high school?
I was a bit of a class clown. I tried to be friends with everyone and so I was very social. I was involved in the drama group so that was a great creative outlet for me.
Favourite advice you’ve heard or like to give out?
The best advice I've heard is from my grandparents who always tell me "They can take everything away from you, but they can't take away your education." I'm not sure exactly who they mean by "they," but the sentiment is there. Education is so important and I think women in particular should learn as much as they can and as often as they can to really propel themselves into the world's workforce.
What’s next for you?
Hopefully a happy and long career!