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Dear MJ: How Did You Get Here?

Advice, stories and memories from SI Swim’s editor in chief.

SI Swimsuit editor in chief MJ Day’s favorite part of open casting is getting to connect with each Swim Search hopeful, sharing stories, listening and lending advice. She was crushed that she hasn’t had the chance to do that in person this year, but here’s the next best thing! Every week MJ will be answering YOUR questions and giving out the best tips, tricks and advice she’s picked up during her long-time career with SI Swim. Have a question for MJ? Email her at dearmj@si.com All questions will be kept anonymous, so don’t hold back!

Dear MJ,

When was it that you found a passion in editorial? I saw you went to the University of Mary Washington (my fiancé’s daughter graduated from there, Go Eagles! 🦅 ) and studied political science. Often times we put so much pressure on 18-21 year olds to already know what they want to do when they grow up. Did you ever imagine you’d be where you are now with SI? Also, if you could give your 30-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?

xoxo

GO EAGLES!!!! I love that you are familiar with UMW! It’s such a wonderful institution and I credit much of it with getting me to where I am today! I was a rather lackluster political science student there, but it was that experience which took me overseas for the first time to study abroad. After a summer of cultural immersion, I realized life held a lot more opportunity for me than I could have ever imagined. I always had a passion for creating and the arts, even from the earliest days. I grew up in a loving, working-class environment hanging bedsheets in my room as a backdrop and shooting my friends in my grandmother’s accessories from the 50s with a Le Clic (remember those?) camera, but had very little exposure to the professional possibilities that existed in the field.

MJ Day on set

MJ breast pumping on set in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands in 2015, juggling professional self and motherhood.

I entered the workforce with no experience or ego and I learned, watched and absorbed information from the talented professionals that surrounded me. I was able to fine-tune my own position in the industry this way. I knew I wanted to work as a creative; I remember that while I was working as an intern at InStyle, I journaled that I wanted to run my own magazine one day. I promise you I wake up every day, pinching myself that I sit where I do today. I worked my butt off for it, I still work my butt off for it, because getting comfortable is never an option if you want to continue to succeed.

Hailey Clauson on set with MJ Days son.

Left: MJ Day with her son on his 1st birthday. Right: Hailey Clauson with MJ's son in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands in 2015.

My 30-year-old self needed a lot of advice. I was a new mom having to leave my baby for weeks at a time while we shot remotely, with a lot of bills to pay, a husband in med school that I was supporting on a barely liveable salary. I was frustrated with my situation and felt undervalued. Advocate for yourself. The job will never love you back, so prioritize yourself and your loved ones. Whatever your line of work is, you are your business. So take care of that. Be rational, realistic and be forgiving to yourself. Set goals while allowing yourself the flexibility to meet them. If you keep working towards those goals, they may look a little different and they will happen when the universe is ready, but you will get there! Also, if you think your 30s are when you are going to be feeling your best and most confident, wait until your 40s!

xx MJ