Contributing Editor of Condé Nast Int., VOGUE, GQ and AD as well as a writer for newspaper like FAZ, Esma Annemon Dil tells stories that you will remember. Over the last years she has interviewed and learned from incredible people such as Iggy Pop, Anthony Bourdain, Susan Wojcicki, Jared Leto, Orlando Bloom, George Clooney, Pharrell Williams, Ronnie Wood, Karl Lagerfeld, Jennifer Lopez, Ashton Kutcher, Tom Ford, Demi Moore, Nicole Kidman, Marc Jacobs, Venus Williams, Donna Langley and many more.
In my mid-20s I changed careers from Strategy Consulting to journalism, at Stern magazine. There I met Christiane Arp, who mentored me, and offered me a role as Features Editor with German Vogue when she moved there to become editor-in-chief. Vogue’s more senior editors shared their incredible experience as writers and visual storytellers; within a few years I had the opportunity to meet the most talented people in design, art, music, entertainment and social activism. Life was good, so this was not an escape situation.
After five years with Vogue I longed for some real life adventure. It started with a trip to Beirut for FAZ, to write about how people spent the first Holidays after the hostile events of 2006. I was torn between a sabbatical in Lebanon and in California. Eventually I decided to go to L.A. to work on a book and as a freelancer for Condé Nast Int. (Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, AD) and the newspapers Süddeutsche Zeitung and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. After seven months I met my future husband in Los Angeles. A year later I was ready to move my hastily packed things from the storage through the panama canal to my new home, including a bag of garbage.
It wasn’t a very conscious process. I felt attracted to my idea of Los Angeles based on Joan Didion’s work and David Lynch’s film Mulholland Drive, but wasn’t committed to how much time I wanted to spend here or how my life would look. I applied for a journalist visa, gave up my apartment in Munich, packed three suitcases and left everything else in storage. I don’t think I even took any days off work, and stayed in the office until three hours before my flight. It didn’t seem like a life changing decision at the time, I had already moved internationally and given up career opportunities before, always out of an impulse to experience something different. My work contract was set to expire a month after my arrival, so I had organized a few assignments as a reporter, rented a car and hotel room for the first month and hoped that would give me enough time to figure things out.
Oh, of course. In the beginning I often wondered why I had left a pretty perfect life in Europe, but the challenges were valuable, helped me grow and made for good stories. I used to go jogging in the early evenings, and the gorgeous pink sunsets are almost unbearable to watch when you feel disconnected or misplaced. This was some months before the first iPhone came out and years before Uber or AirBnB, so just navigating this enormous city, finding short term rentals and working on the go were a struggle. In my first weeks I covered the Award Season and often got lost on the road. On the most important day I almost drove off a cliff with my rental car, got caught up in some trees, ripped up my dress and had no time to change before interviews and the big night out with nominees.
A few months later the used car I had purchased burned down in Topanga Canyon right in front of the fire station. My living situations seemed equally unstable: I had just left the apartment I shared with a stoned and broke 78 year old former Cecil Beaton model and moved in with an insane movie actress that was in free fall down from the B-List. There was no shoulder to cry on, I booked a massage when I needed a hug.
None, I was looking for alienation and strangeness.
I arrived in February 2007 and really appreciate the freedom to work on a variety of projects with a strong learning curve and hyphenate my job description. Within a few years I got an assignment by a production company to develop a TV concept, published a short story collection, re-designed a couple of houses, founded a design company and worked with a tech start-up. Some projects were more successful than others, but every experience helped me ask better questions as a journalist. There’s no ennui, the longer I live here the more curious and excited I feel to be part of L.A.’s growing art, architecture and tech scenes, and to be able to meet and interview some of the talented people they attract.
Things probably tend to get tougher faster when the stakes are high and there’s a lot of pressure to fulfill a specific expectation. I would have had a much harder time if I hadn’t structured the move as a vague sabbatical with some intend to return back home. That didn’t keep me from working or ambitious goals, but it felt good to appreciate my old friends and job as something to happily go back to. It kept things light while I was out of my comfort zone and made it easier to hang in there for a few weeks longer, instead of viewing a difficult day as the beginning of the rest of my life.