In another, pre-pandemic world, my time right now would be filled with the beginning bustle of the fall social season. We would be finalizing our plans to support local philanthropic events, and most likely dressing many of the chairs of Houston's Gala Scene.
Social season usually also means that I emerging from my version of hibernating/hiding from the dead of the summer heat and I get to see friends again. Amber Elliott is one of those people that I look forward to seeing in Houston's effort to squeeze as many social events into an evening as possible... and then some. I can always count on Amber to share a bourbon (or more, but who's counting) and a dry remark because she's always there, covering the city's chicest events for the Houston Chronicle.
Like so many others, I get a little thrill every time I or a client gets mentioned in one of Amber's stories. That's why I'm so excited to turn the tables and bring her Inside the Design Studio this week! If you've ever wondered what a social reporter does, look no further!
When did we meet?
I can’t recall exactly how or when I met you, which is consistent with most origin stories of my favorite relationships. What I can say if that you've become a fashion godfather of sorts – always swooping in at the last minute with a stunning, original creation for me to wear, often when I’ve forgotten to plan my black-tie outfits in advance. Oops! Over the years, your's and my mutual interests surrounding food, family, and gossip have intersected, too. You are a gift to Houston and me.
Excuse me while blush...While I'm doing that, why don't you tell people what you do.
I cover society for the Houston Chronicle, which means I attend luncheons, galas, and other events that benefit our city’s philanthropic community, then recap the scene online and in print. Though I’ve dabbled in other industries – public relations was another (oops! but my special events experience still comes in handy) – I’ve been carrying around a notebook and writing stories since I was seven years old. I wrote for my high school and college newspapers. My first journalism job was with the now-defunct Brilliant magazine in Austin. I lived in New York and switched my focus to styling positions at Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, Style.com, Hamptons Magazine, and WSJ by the Wall Street Journal before accepting my current gig, at the Chronicle.
God bless the broken road that brought me back to Texas.
What's your favorite thing and hardest thing about what you do?
The best part of the job is telling Houston telling stories – it’s an absolute privilege, and one that I don’t take lightly. Getting dressed up and eating out all the time doesn’t hurt.
The most challenging aspect is keeping up with the news cycle. Newsroom deadlines and churn are no joke.
How has the current situation with Covid-19 affected social events in Houston and what can we expect for the coming year?
Right now most of the social calendar has come to a complete halt. It isn’t safe for large groups to gather right now, though I worry incessantly about the non-profit organizations that rely on philanthropic support to survive. I’m hoping some of those are able to embrace limited in-person events or virtual hybrids in time to save their operation budgets and community outreach capabilities.
How did you get started doing what you do?
I drafted a letter to my now-editor from New York that read “Former Voguette for Houston Chronicle Society Opening” or something equally cheeky in the subject line asking for my job. She responded three days later and said that if I wanted to move back home and freelance, the job was mine. A month later, I was back in Texas. She handed me a stack of invitations at our first meeting and the rest is history. That was six years ago.
Do you think fashion will make a comeback when things normalize?
I do, with major changes. I think fast fashion and smaller brands without a clear aesthetic or customer will disappear. I think we’ll reduce the number of fashion shows and collections. And I think women especially will start dressing with a more distinct point of view. This period has really illuminated which items are the most “me.” What do I covet? What do I wear on repeat? What am I buying that feels like an investment in my personal style?
What is your most-used emoji?
The crying-laughing face 😂
What was the worst haircut you ever had?
I asked for a long, graduated bob from my jawline to collarbone. I got a short, choppy mess with layers starting at my eyebrows. Shudder.
Who was your childhood actor/actress crush?
What’s the most embarrassing fashion trend you used to rock?
Red and purple together with zebra accents. Quelle horror!
You have your own late-night talk show, whom do you invite as your first guest?
Oprah or Meghan Markle. Both?
If a movie was made of your life, what genre would it be, who would play you?
The Devil Wears Chanel starring Laura Harrier as me
You have to sing karaoke, what song do you pick?
Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood or Harder to Breathe by Maroon 5. I also do a killer Taylor Swift impersonation.
(Side note, when all this is over, we are going to a karaoke bar STAT)
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Be so good they can’t deny you” also, “This is Vogue. We send things back in better condition than we receive them.”
When you die, what do you want to be remembered for?
My willingness to follow God’s plan before anyone else’s, including my own. And a conviction to do what’s right. And for living, not just existing.
What would the title of your autobiography be?
“Neat, No Ice.”
What was the worst job you ever had?
Which band/artist-dead or alive would play at your funeral?
Max Richter (modern composer)
What’s your favorite place of all the places you’ve traveled that feels like home and is not where you currently live?
Park City, Utah
What’s one thing we don’t know about you?
I hate small talk more than anything on Earth
If you could hang out with any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
Moi, from Bergdorf Blondes. I have a strange feeling she’s me.
If you could choose any person from history to be your imaginary friend, who would it be and why?
Jesus. I talk to his dad all the time which is probably very confusing for people.
What is your favorite curse word?
F*ck, but dripping with Texas honey
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I’d love to own a restaurant. And by own I mean pay someone else to do all the work, i.e. decorate and serve everything to my liking.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A deck in Deer Valley, an ice-cold bourbon, my dog, a great love, and a warm breeze that reminds me how good God is.
What is your greatest fear?
Living by fear instead of faith ❤️❤️