It is hard to resist those e-zine articles that begin with the “top picks” of a product category. After all, when you are plunking down your hard-earned dollars for a new blender, vacuum cleaner or planner, you want to be sure you are getting your money’s worth.
Fortunately, Raena Loper ’16 is on the case. As the new Weekend Updates Editor at Forbes, Loper is working hard to make sure her product assessments bring value to all consumers.
“I think a lot about inclusivity – in every sense – when preparing my articles, regardless of the product category I am reviewing,” she says. “I want to be sure that anyone who reads my pieces finds something that they can relate to.”
It is a sensibility that began when she enrolled as a Fashion Studies major at Montclair, and that deepened when she chose a second major in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies.
“I have always been interested in fashion and design,” she explains. “Montclair offered the Fashion Studies major and was so close to New York City. Plus, I was able to enroll through the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program, which meant I could spend the summer after high school graduation on campus. It was an amazing experience. The EOF team was so supportive right from the start.”
Loper’s worldview was already expanding when she took an elective in women’s studies. “As a woman of color, it was great to hear about other women’s experiences,” she says, recalling her decision to pursue dual degrees. “This was different from any other course – I was developing a new understanding of things that I had grown up observing and experiencing.”
Still, the fashion department, and particularly the sewing lab, offered Loper a second] home as well as a platform for developing her talent for plus-size design. In fact, Loper earned first honors in the department’s Independent Design competition three years in a row.
Loper also credits the Fashion Design program’s internship requirement for getting her career on the fast track. “An internship with O, The Oprah Magazine was posted, and I decided to go for it,” she says.
“Once at O, I drew on everything I learned in my classes as well as all the discipline instilled by my participation in EOF,” Loper continues. “It wasn’t easy – commuting, balancing schoolwork and internship. I was working as a student assistant for the fashion department as well. Fortunately, my professors and advisors were very supportive and encouraging.”
After that first internship, Loper’s resume became a who’s who of major fashion and media companies – Michael Kors, Yoox Net-A-Porter, InStyle, and eventually back to Hearst Magazines and O, The Oprah Magazine, this time as assistant styles editor. Gradually, Loper’s focus shifted from fashion and style to consumer products. “At O, I worked on Oprah’s Favorite Things, which meant writing about all kinds of products,” she says. “One week I would be reviewing rowing machines, and the next it would be laptops.”
Loper parlayed that experience to a job as Product and Reviews Updates Editor at Good Housekeeping magazine and finally to her current role as Weekend Updates Editor at Forbes. “I do hands-on research about the products that I write about, and I consider the diversity of the people who will be reading my articles,” she says. “When I am recommending a type of product, I look for options for every consumer.”
When possible, Loper is happy to share her experiences in hands-on product testing and her extensive knowledge of size-inclusive fashion with Montclair students. “I visited campus last year,” she says. “It was really nostalgic for me, and I think it is nice for students to meet people in industry who look like them, who came from similar backgrounds, and who are close to them in age. I can make a successful career look accessible to them.”
“There are so many success stories coming out of Montclair,” Loper adds. “I have a classmate who now works for Bravo, and another who is at Good Morning America. We were all EOF students. Our accomplishments demonstrate that the program really works.”