Women in Journalism member Ashlee Elizabeth-Lolo has had her first commission for the national press published today in this week’s issue of HELLO! magazine – and been paid a fee of £400. 

The 25-year-old writer from Birmingham successfully pitched to HELLO! editor-in-chief Rosie Nixon as part of Women in Journalism’s new Editor Under the Spotlight series, which profiles women at the top of the media business while providing work opportunities for our members.

Rosie invited Women in Journalism members who had never previously written for the title to pitch her an interview with an inspirational UK-based BAME woman doing something extraordinary for her community. And that’s exactly what Ashlee’s pitch delivered.

Rosie said: “Her passion and knowledge about her subject, Emb Hashmi, a British Pakistani woman with an incredible life story, shone through. She sold her compelling story so well in the pitch, I instantly knew it was something our audience would be inspired by too.”

She added: “I’m so glad that we are able to shine the spotlight on a budding journalist like Ashlee and help her with a byline in a national magazine. She should feel really proud of this feature and she has been a delight for the team to work with.”

Ashlee interviewed Emb, also from Birmingham, who has devoted her life to helping women and girls lift themselves and their families out of poverty here in the UK and around the world by setting up the Rising Girl charity.

Emb is no stranger to extreme hardship herself, having survived not only childhood cancer but domestic abuse. Writing became her solace and Emb went on to become a journalist. A work trip to Pakistan where she met girls risking life and limb to get an education inspired her to make a documentary about their plight to raise awareness. It went viral and led to the creation of Emb’s charity of the same name, Rising Girl.

Ashlee says the Editor Under the Spotlight commission couldn’t have come at a better time for her. For the past two years, she has been writing stage plays based on cultural identity and aspects of her Black British Caribbean ethnicity.  “I had one play open in Birmingham and two set for London and then lockdown happened. Work opportunities seemed to dry up overnight,” she says.

“Then a friend sent me a link to the Editor Under the Spotlight commission for HELLO! and I knew I had to write about Emb. I thought there was no way I’d land the commission but then Rosie said yes.”

Ashlee said the experience was “amazing”: “The team were so welcoming and encouraging and while there was a quick turnaround to get the interview done and written up, I learned so much in a short period of time. I had to find a new style of writing and tone I wouldn’t otherwise have discovered and I really appreciate that chance to develop a new skill,” she said.

She added: “It was an honour to tell Emb’s story not only because of the amazing things she is doing for so many girls but because it’s so important that the overwhelmingly white media shares stories of strong and successful BAME women.

“She also helped me to become a journalist. I first met her while working at a local newspaper, where she took me under her wing and taught me how to write. I’m so pleased I’ve been able to repay her by sharing her amazing story with HELLO! readers and Women in Journalism.”

Eleanor Mills, chair of Women In Journalism, said: “At WIJ we are all about helping young journalists prosper in the profession. I’d like to congratulate Ashlee for her lovely article and thank Rosie Nixon at HELLO! for extending the opportunity and Laura Whitcombe from WIJ whose idea it was to set up this excellent scheme.

“New entries to our profession need all the encouragement and support we can give them. I hope some other editors will be inspired to join in too.”

If you are an editor and would like to feature in our Editor Under the Spotlight series, please email us at wijpitchtome@gmail.com.