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The Ten Spot's Kristen Gale on the huge fail that got her fired one summer in New York — and the success that followed

·3 min read
kristen-gale
kristen-gale

Like so many before her, Kristen Gale, chief executive and founder of beauty bar company The Ten Spot, once sought the glitz and glam of New York City. There, the philosophy grad turned PR intern thought she would be planning VIP parties and hobnobbing with the rich and famous. But that isn’t quite how it turned out. The Toronto-based entrepreneur relates the twists and turns of a summer of successes and failures in the Big Apple. As told to Rosemary Counter.

Even before I’d graduated, I was dreaming of leaving to move to New York City. This was 2000, I believe, and the city just seemed so sexy and amazing, pure glam-jam, especially in PR. I imagined I’d be throwing parties for Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, which I might have because I’d secured this dream internship with Lizzie Grubman, a socialite and PR legend in the city. I sent her my resumé and somehow got an interview and I thought I’d got so lucky.

Well, I was wrong. That turned out to be the summer she got wasted and backed her SUV into a crowd of people in the Hamptons. She got arrested, obviously, and her career was effectively over in that moment, as was my dream internship. So I had to find another internship at a different PR company, and it wasn’t glamorous at all. I’m talking boring press releases for dental journals, which I didn’t think PR people did. I’d really thought PR was just fabulous party planning.

I was basically the office gopher and my main task was dropping cheques in the mail. This was before online banking, so I’d have to physically deliver them, walking 10 or 12 New York blocks in a heatwave. This didn’t have to happen, because they didn’t really have to go every day, but there was often nothing else for me to do. I’d organized every drawer, every closet in the whole place.

One day, my boss asked me to deliver a personal cheque, which I guess pissed me off because I went back to my desk and sent a message to my friend via ICQ. I said, “Can you believe this place? He can take his own f***ing cheque to the f***ing bank” As soon as I sent it, the boss appeared and said, “Kristen, see me in my office.” I’d actually sent the message to him, and I was fired on the spot. It’s not easy to get fired from an unpaid internship, but I did it.

I was so sad and so mad at myself. It felt like the end of the world. I spent the afternoon walking and crying and shopping. I ended up walking into the Vice (Media Group) store, which was a Canadian brand I knew that was new to the city, and talking to the salesgirl about how my stupidity just got me fired. Then she said she actually needed an assistant, not in the store but at the magazine, though it would have to be an unpaid internship, which was no problem. I was already making nothing anyhow.

My gig soon turned into a paid job, and I ended up working for Vice for years. It all felt very fortuitous. If I hadn’t shot my mouth off, I wouldn’t have been fired, and I wouldn’t have gone to the store, and I wouldn’t have made friends with the salesgirl, and she wouldn’t have hired me. I don’t think the takeaway here is to tell off your boss, but that everything happens for a reason.

And then in another funny twist of fate, because Vice wasn’t paying me at first, I had to get a waitressing job on the side. I knew a friend-of-a-friend who owned a nightclub, which turned out to be the hottest club in New York City that summer, and was full of VIPs and celebrities. I ended up serving drinks to Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake anyhow. I even gave Snoop Dogg his birthday cake. After all that, I got my celebrity parties after all.

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