Each month, Affinity Magazine highlights one of our talented young staff members for their passion and dedication to sharing their stories. In May, the Affinity team voted to honor Helen Ehrlich, co-lead of our social media team and Arts & Culture writer, as Member of the Month.
Here at Affinity, we all know that Helen is one of the hardest working people on our staff. When she’s not interviewing artists or penning article after article, she’s busy managing the social media team and amplifying the voices of young people everywhere. Helen even has a partnership with Republic Records to continue sharing the stories of up-and-coming musicians.
“Helen has been really amazing because she’s connected to many PR people and also done a lot of amazing work politically and on social media,” politics writer Joanna Hou explains. “I would say that every time she did Democratic Debate roundtables with us she was amazing because she’d come from live-tweeting straight into the debate talks, and sometimes they’d last until one or two in the morning for her. Her dedication is amazing.”
Fellow social media co-lead, Fede Bongiorno, agrees. “She balances being a social media manager and being a staff writer so well,” he says. “Helen truly excels at both.”
We were lucky enough to sit down with Helen and learn more about her work inside and outside of Affinity — here’s a glimpse into her interests and aspirations.
Alice Ao: What’s your writing process like?
Helen Ehrlich: My writing process differs depending on what I’m writing. I have a background in writing and publishing poetry, so I really work to weave that style and imagery into my music articles, in particular.
Sometimes leading up to writing my first draft of a piece I have been taking notes the whole time leading up in my Moleskin journal that I use for my journalistic work. Other times I plot stories out primarily in my head beforehand.
All writing requires me to do a lot of research and editing. I go over things by reading my writing out loud, as I try to make sure that I have said everything that I feel is necessary to express.
AA: As a prolific staff writer and one of the co-leads of our social media team, storytelling must be one of your strong suits! What sparked your passion for storytelling?
HE: I have always felt compelled to tell stories. My family likes to joke about how I used to toddle around with little notebooks in my hands, scribbling “stories” with crayons before I could even read. I’ve always loved reading, so I think a great deal of my desire to tell stories stemmed from the connection I felt to the world of literature. I also was heavily involved in theater for most of my life, which really helped to encourage my passion for storytelling.
Whether I was making movies with my friends, writing about new worlds, participating in shows, or getting lost in books, I have always been drawn to stories.
AA: What can our readers expect to see from our social media team in 2020 and beyond?
HE: One of the most incredible things about social media is the way it’s constantly changing. Nothing is ever stagnant, and my partner Fede and I try to move with it.
We have had a lot of exciting things going on in the social media team recently, as we’ve relaunched our team of interns and released a popular game of “Affinity Mayhem.” One thing that I’m excited about is continuing live-tweeting debates as we get closer to the election, and covering breaking news. Readers can also look forward to Affinity exploring a lot of new areas of social media, including TikTok!
AA: As one of our top interviewers, you’ve gotten to interview so many different artists and creators! Who’s the coolest person you’ve ever interviewed for Affinity?
HE: That’s a hard question! I’m so grateful for each and every person who I have interviewed, as they each mean something different to me.
Simon XO was the first person I interviewed, so that will always be meaningful to me. Oh Wonder are icons — I remember listening to them in middle school, so getting to interview them was so incredibly surreal. Benee has absolutely blown up, so it’s incredible knowing that I got to interview her when she was just on the cusp of superstardom, especially since she has now been interviewed by Elton John, Ryland James and Mark Diamond are such passionate and artistic people, and it was touching speaking with them. I’m obsessed with Peach Tree Rascals’ music and it was a true joy getting to learn about the process and people behind it.
Megan Stott is one of the fastest rising starlets in Hollywood. Chelsea Cutler is such a huge star. Noah Kahan is the voice of modern popular folk music. Finn Matthews, Thomas Headon and Louie Blue are these young and fresh stars that are already everywhere. Amir Kelly is so kind, and I’m lucky to continue communicating with him from time to time today. No/Me instilled so much confidence in me as an interviewer. Tessa Violet is one of my favorite musicians online, and I had spent so much time as a fan of hers before getting to interview her. My time speaking with Tyler Brash was admittedly one of the most bewildering interviews I’ve ever experienced — he was quite nice to me, but his on-camera persona differed so little from who he was on the phone that it was almost jarring.
I must say, when I got the email to interview New Politics, my heart practically stopped. I had been a massive fan of theirs. I had actually been in an airport the week before I got the request and their song was playing. I’d turned to my sister and laughed about how wild I’d been about the song when I was younger. I had no idea what was coming, and that air of unpredictability is something that’s so special about journalism.
There are countless interviews that I haven’t mentioned, and I cherish them all so much. I make a point to continue following each person who I’ve written about, and it’s so wonderful to see how they all grow.
AA: What’s the coolest opportunity you’ve had from Affinity?
HE: The chance to receive music and albums early, get press releases and connect with such talented people has been so wonderful. However, one specific thing that has been one of my favorite aspects of writing for Affinity, and I think one of the coolest things I’ve been able to do is attend concerts and take photos in press pits.
Another thing that’s been very exciting during my time with Affinity has been having the tweets I’ve written featured in different articles and get noticed by different celebrities/organizations. One particularly exciting moment was when my tweet from the January Democratic Debate was featured on The Hill!
AA: What are your proudest accomplishments in life and at Affinity?
HE: I’m so happy with and excited about the work I have done about music at Affinity. Separate from this, a lot of the writing that’s made me feel really proud are my investigative and opinion pieces.
The article that I wrote about the way TikTok steals data and manipulates young users was really at the forefront of a huge issue that’s become incredibly well known. The op-eds and informational pieces that I write on the political site allow me to express things that I felt weren’t being discussed. Some are very personal for me, like my article about antisemitism.
The writing that I have done about music has been so exciting for me. I’ve been able to write about artists whose music I love. My interviews are probably one of the most evident representations of my work, but one of the other more tangible results of my work is landing as a cited source on websites, including Conan Gray’s Wikipedia pages.
AA: What’ve you learned from your time at Affinity? How has Affinity helped you grow as a person and writer?
HE: I have grown so much as a writer during my time at Affinity. I’ve expanded my areas of interest in so many ways, developing in new fields that I hadn’t considered delving into before. Something that I didn’t expect to gain from Affinity is the friends that I have been so happy to make along the way.
AA: Outside of Affinity, what else are you involved in?
HE: I’m involved in many clubs and organizations at my school, in both participatory and leadership roles. I’m very involved in leading my school’s Model United Nations club and school paper.
Outside of school and Affinity I really enjoy going to museums and going into the city with my friends. I also really love to ski. When I have time, I love watching different forms of comedy.
AA: You’re building so many connections in the music industry and interviewing so many amazing artists! What advice do you have for younger writers who are interested in working in the music industry?
HE: For me, writing was never about getting involved in the music industry, even though it found my love of music and me. A handful of Conan Gray articles started everything for me, so my main advice would be to follow what you truly care about and genuinely believe in what you’re writing.
It also doesn’t hurt to know about music. I used to be very involved in theatre and music when I was younger, so I try to use that in my writing. The results of my opera/classical and theatre vocal lessons can only be found in my reviews, not in any of my singing, I’m afraid.
AA: What are some causes and issues that you are especially passionate about?
HE: I’m really passionate about politics, so I like to be heavily involved in a number of ways. I’m always writing letters, joining organizations and trying to make sure that my voice is heard when it comes to things that I care about, like gun control, LGBTQ+ rights, climate change, net neutrality and many more topics.
Climate change is probably the area where I am in the best position of privilege to make personal change, though I do believe in a need for action at the highest levels. I have the option to live sustainability, so I like to try to do so by doing things like limiting my waste, avoiding fast fashion and not eating meat.
I’m also very invested in foreign policy, so I love following international events and news.
AA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
HE: My parents have this very simple saying that means a lot in the long run: “Work hard and be nice to people.”
All images are courtesy of Hannah Wood.