Originally Written for Introduction to Magazine Writing at Emerson College, taught by Ellen Howards
EMERSON COLONIAL BUILDING, 10TH FLOOR — On a Wednesday earlier this month, Lauren Dillow greeted me at the door of her suite. She was dressed in a green sweater that looked comfortable enough to sleep in, her signature pink bow was holding her hair back, round glasses perched on her nose. She seemed to exude soft femininity.
“It’s weird. Last year I was in the same suite, but in the first room,” she said, part introduction to the space and part ice-breaker. It was nicely cluttered: wilting flowers in decorative wine bottles; homemade collages hung on the walls; riding boots, heels, and sneakers by the bed; fairy lights softening the edges.
Lauren Dillow grew up in Dallas, Texas, moved to Massachusetts before high school, and came to Emerson as a creative writing major in 2017. She wasn’t positive where that would lead; only sure that Emerson was her first choice, she loved writing, and she loved fashion. “I wanted to come to Emerson because when I looked at their list of majors and minors, I could see myself in, like, half of them. After taking some [creative writing] classes and rethinking my life and path, I decided I should major in something more business-focused or transferrable, like publishing,” Dillow said.
Although she sounded uncertain of her major, Dillow’s had a chance to explore its uses since coming to Emerson. This past semester, she worked as a styling assistant for YourMag, a student-run and published lifestyle magazine. It gave her a hands-on look at how fashion and graphic design may fit into a publishing career, as well as getting an in-depth look at Emerson’s culture.
YourMag regularly tackles issues that matter to Emerson students including, in the past month, the problematic history of JK Rowling, identity within relationships, and the internal politics of appearance. And while Dillow had what is sometimes considered a “frivolous” role in in the fashion department, she is one to keep up with the political and cultural conversations happening within the college and the country.
Dillow engages in intense political debate, while still recognizing the unique type of burnout that comes with constantly defending your state of being. She also shops second hand as much as possible to reduce her waste. She maintains the intersectional beliefs that Emerson students tend to uphold. “In any way that I can, I try to be [environmentally and politically] conscious,” she said carefully. “I also try and stay aware of my privilege.”
Kassandra Moore, a friend who first met Dillow in a course called Power and Privilege, said, “Lauren is sarcastic, hilarious, and super nice. Also, she literally always looks good. She’s that perfect mix.”
Upon first glance, Dillow may seem to be just a fashionable, bookish, stow-away-in-the-library type student and person. Those who know her tend to disagree. When asked what Dillow’s biggest flaw was, Moore said, in a tone both good-heartedly jealous and obviously half-joking, “Lauren can do none of the work, doesn’t study, and will still do better than you in a class. She’s one of those truly smart-without-trying people.”
But perhaps even more counterintuitive to her pristine looks, Dillow loves spending time outdoors and grew up riding horses. She recognizes that this surprises most people. “I’m that horse girl,” she half-gushed, obviously not embarrassed by her hobby but also aware of the joke that it has become. “I’ve been riding horses my whole life” she said as she really got into the topic, “growing up in Texas, I started out western riding. When we moved here [to Massachusetts] I was eventing—dressage and cross country” she said and paused. “Now I do just normal jumping, I’m sort of a weenie so jumping at a full gallop terrified me,” Dillow laughed, showing some of the humor that friends have cited before getting reflective again, “I don’t push myself as hard as I used to, now I just enjoy my time”
Eventually, a suitemate popped her head in and asked Dillow to dinner with a cadence reserved for close friends. Dillow obliged willingly, seemingly eager to slip into another, more bubbly and unreserved, version of her personality—this one appearing just too late to be captured completely.