On privilege

You don’t have to have connections or the right education to land that dream job or that juicy assignment. Hard work, good output, dedication, conviction … those things are the only requirements for success.

And yet, I read stories like the one about a woman named Lidey Heuck in Food Network magazine and in Food & Wine magazine. Lidey says she was just “lucky” that she landed her dream job of being Ina Garten’s assistant and social media manager.

To be sure, Lidey was as qualified as a fresh out of college graduate can be. She worked as a Copywriter Intern for Anthropologie, as a Development Intern for HBO, then at Bowdoin as a Social Media Intern. When she wasn’t interning for the summer, she was a visiting student at Trinity College in Dublin, taking a Kenyon Review writer’s workshop, or working on her novel at her family’s cabin on Lake Michigan.


Just lucky …

As if Lidey’s Bowdoin education and the connections she made there, as if having a mother who was a film critic and society reporter, as if having a journalist father who established the Pittsburgh Quarterly, as if attending Kenyon Review writing workshops and having access to your family’s cabin on Lake Michigan to work on a novel for the summer, as if hearing “through the grapevine” about plum job opportunities and then having a friend whose dad was lawyer to the wealthy hand deliver a letter for her … as if all those things were things that most people could access, and she was just lucky Ina liked her.

Yes, Lidey worked her butt off and I do think she was and is imminently qualified, but to say that an elite education, connections, and a certain kind of upbringing weren’t huge assets to her success would be to only tell part of the story.  There is reason Ina couldn’t find someone who seemed “quite right” after placing an ad in the The East Hampton Star.

If I sound jealous, I probably am.

I love Ina Garten–her laugh, her recipes, her incidental pretentiousness, her references to “good vanilla” and a “roast chicken for Jeffrey.” I love it all. I would have loved to have had the opportunity just to interview with her, I truly would. Of course, I never would have known that was an option since I don’t live in East Hampton or have access to that sort of grapevine.

But let’s face it, I wouldn’t have been right for that particular job anyway. I have my own sort of privilege, advantages others do not. This isn’t about me. It’s about the people who love good vanilla, read cookbooks for fun, and watch Food Network like it’s a gripping mini-series. People who work hard, people who have great ideas and plans, but who went to state school and have no connections.

Note: Lidey’s job working with Ina is kick ass, and from what I’ve read, she’s really good at it, so I don’t mean to take away from that. Just because she had advantages doesn’t mean she hasn’t worked hard and made good use of her interest and potential without harming anyone else in the process. 



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