Wherever we are around the world, we are all facing the same unprecedented situation: staying home. Here, international ELLE editors share their musings and feelings as they adjust to a new normal established by a global pandemic.
I’ve never made a magazine from home before – at least, not since I was a kid, using Elmer’s glue and construction paper. But as we were finishing the final pages of this month’s issue, the coronavirus hit and the world changed. The ELLE Canada team had to relocate to our sofas, kitchen counters and dining tables. We had to sign off on files remotely, have video-conference calls and make the inevitable last-minute changes from a distance. I found it harder to adjust to all the changes than I thought I would.
I’ve been learning a lot about myself during this surreal time. I thought I was a diehard introvert, but my longing right now to be with friends and family is pro- found. I miss communal meals and group workout classes and the casual impromptu conversations that pop off among the ELLE team during a typical day at the office. I’ve also learned I’m not much of a team player when it comes to sharing the “good” snacks with my family. Reader, when they came for my BBQ Ringolos, they saw a side of me I’m not proud of.
Overnight, everything is different. By the time you read this, it will have changed again. At my house, we might be fighting over the canned pears at the back of the cupboard, my teenage daughter might be reduced to just three words in her vocabulary (“I’m bored, Mom.”) and my husband will probably be working from his car because “the Wi-Fi is better from the driveway.”
I make jokes as a coping mechanism, but I know how serious this is. There are times when I’m hit so hard with anxiety and sadness over what is happening that I’m completely overwhelmed. I’ve found that limiting my visits to news sites to just once a day has helped; I watch TED Talks or comedy flicks or write in a journal instead. For now, I don’t let myself think too far ahead and focus on one thing at a time.
ELLE is here to offer you a break from the noise and a little inspiration. I hope this issue will be an escape for you and that you and your family stay safe and healthy.” – Vanessa Craft, Editor-in-Chief, ELLE Canada
“The outbreak of the epidemic in China took place at the beginning of the Spring Festival celebration, a time for families to reunite and celebrate the New Year. However, most people changed their plans due to the unexpected outbreak of the virus. I’ve stayed at home with my family in Shanghai for nearly 20 days so far. It has been saddening to hear the news about the severe situation in Wuhan, where hospitals were overloaded with patients. What touched and impressed me is the fact that a great number of medical workers from all over the country went to Wuhan immediately. At that point, seeing the increasing number of cases of infection and deaths gave me feelings of worry and panic. However, the support and positive wishes from other countries, such as Japan, made us feel warm and appreciative. Once I got over the initial feeling of ups and downs, I gradually started to feel better and more accustomed to my new routines. There are three things that help me feel calm: yoga, calligraphy and reading. I soon realized that in a hectic life, it is still possible, and important, for one to find focus and find time to think and ponder.” – Nicole Xue, Editor-in-Chief, ELLE China
“These times are, for sure, very scary. What makes me feel better, though, is seeing how many people are being supportive of one another. In my apartment building, we’ve put up signs saying that if anyone feels sick, we’ll gladly pick up some grocer-ies or walk their dog for them. Also, I’m very touched to see how many families are rekindling their enjoyment of being together and playing together while also learning more about one another.” – Joanie Pietracupa Editor-in-Chief, ELLE Québec
“The ELLE Japan team is restless as none of us know when this situation will get better. Everyone is doing well, despite many changes in the work environment, and we are striving to create content that delivers ELLE’s positive messages every day. This year, sakura (cherry blossoms) began to bloom earlier in Tokyo than in any other region of Japan. We would like to share this beautiful beginning of a new season with readers worldwide.” – Kanako Sakai, Editor-in-chief, ELLE Japan
“I hope everyone in the world is soon able to cheer up so that the disaster we face doesn’t take away the courage, free will and humanity we have. Korea had some difficulties in its initial response, but fortunately the number of infections has been declining recently as most of the population tries to give up their daily lives so as not to harm others. We hope that the ELLE family and our readers around the world can over-come their fears and be brave and secure in their daily lives and deal with this situation calmly.” – Eunmi Chae, Editor-in-Chief, ELLE Korea
“The other day I saw the oddest thing: a van parked up at the side of the road, not far from where I live, with a queue of people next to it. I slowed the car down, wound down the window and looked closer. The man was selling vegetables from his allotment: potatoes, cucumbers and a few tomatoes, still green and unripe. It was nothing remarkable…and yet the queue of people fought to get every last item in their shopping bags. I turned to my husband, shook my head and said: ‘I wonder if this is what it felt like living through the war….’ For this is a war, but one where the enemy is unknowable and capricious. Our media is filled with alternate tales: those who have dropped dead on their kitchen floor because of corona, whilst others who simply brush it off as nothing more than a bad case of flu. Will it get us? We simply do not know. But the victims are getting close to home: first our household celebrities, then a friend of a friend, next a neighbour. We have no protection and so the simple act of scrubbing our hands (hand sanitizer being rarer than a snow leopard on Oxford St right now) is all we have. Our hands are chapped. We quiver when we have so much as a sniffle. We wonder not if we will get it, but when…
They say it takes an extraordinary time to reveal extraordinary behaviour and that has been the case here in the UK. We have first revealed ourselves to be a nation of hoarders, stockpiling, bread, pasta, tinned tomatoes…and bizarrely toilet paper. Our supermarket shelves are bare. A video from Facebook went viral last week of a tearful nurse who having worked a 48 hour shift then found she couldn’t find any food to eat. Our greed and panic has shamed us all. But it is no worse than the behaviour seen in our pubs and clubs. Just a few days ago, whilst the streets of London lay cold and empty, our pubs were still alive with the sound of merriment. Nothing, it appeared, stands between a Brit and their pint. Not even death.
But there have also been some incredible acts of kindness and humour too. Many streets here have set up Whatsapp groups to check in on neighbours. Social media is filled with offers of help- mental health counselling, invites to a virtual ‘house party’, personal trainers offering free online training to all… Our government too has revealed one of the most extraordinary lifelines for those who are no longer able to work: 80% of their salary to be paid until things get back to normal. Whatever normal means now. In some ways we have all become closer to our colleagues too. At Elle our daily Slack video conference call is a lifeline. It means we get dressed, look presentable, and peep into the lives of our colleagues as we watch the screen behind them. I feel I know more about many of them now than when we worked side by side.
It would be an untruth to say we are not scared. Britain’s death toll is racing along as the same rate as Italy’s was just a few weeks ago. The bon viveurs have been forced home as our pubs and clubs have been shuttered. Yesterday was Mother’s Day in the UK and the streets and parks were teaming. Our Prime Minister says complete lockdown is imminent if this behaviour continues.
And so we prepare for total lockdown. I have started gathering recipes for home made bread and yesterday turned over one of the flower beds in my garden to make room for my own potatoes and strawberries. But I am also hopeful. By my bedside is a picture book of Italy. I send myself to sleep by flicking through its pages, dreaming that one day I will return: to eat tinned tomatoes, pasta and hopefully to find some toilet paper.” – Farrah Storr, Editor-in-Chief, ELLE UK
“It is close to midnight on a Monday night. My five-year-old son is sound asleep, while I stay awake going through social media, reading my friends posts. Laughing a little, crying a little. It was a tough couple of days. Nerve racking actually. On Sunday morning we, the citizens of Zagreb, were awoken by an earthquake, the strongest in the last 140 years. “If I was watching a movie, and half way through the film about a terrible corona pandemic, they put in the earthquake scene, I wouldn’t rate it very highly on IMDB,” some guy wrote on Facebook, which made us laugh out loud. It did seem like a bad apocalypse movie for those 10 seconds of the earthquake. I grabbed my son, stood under the strongest wall in my apartment and thought: is it possible this is really happening, corona virus & an earthquake??!! Well, it did happen. My building stood strong, but many beautiful old buildings in the heart of the city were destroyed. And one families heart was destroyed as well, as a young girl lost her life in the earthquake. In tears, we watched emergency cars running through the city, women with new-born babies standing almost barefoot in front of the hospital, people afraid to go back into their homes because of other possible earthquakes, but also afraid to stay outside because of coronavirus. But people stood strong. Tonight, at eight o’clock in the evening we shared applause on our balconies, for all the good and brave people that surround us: the nurses in the hospitals taking care of corona patients, the military and firefighters who helped clear the city of earthquake rubble, our neighbouring countries Bosnia, Serbia, Slovenia, who applauded for us the night before, trying to cheer us up and give us their support. For Italy, for Spain, for France, for all the countries struggling through these tough times. But it is in a time like this, that people show how good, brave and selfless they can be. The earth is still shaking, every once in a while, in Zagreb, but the people are trying not to. We made it through war, we can handle this! While the doctors and nurses stand on the frontline, for many of us the fight continues from our homes: our living rooms become our offices, our kindergartens, our schools. And we shall overcome this, I am sure!” – Jasmina Rodic, Content Editor, ELLE Croatia
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.