Globe-trotter: Business alum Shahbano Farid channeled an iconic movie character to win a chance to travel the world
Globe-trotter: Business alum Shahbano Farid channeled an iconic movie character to win a chance t... [View Image]
Monday, Sept. 15, 2014
“Legally Blonde,” the 2001 film about an idealistic sorority girl who decides to go to Harvard Law School, became a sleeper hit for MGM, raking in $141.7 million worldwide. Almost 15 years later, the film remains as beloved as ever with its themes of girl power, friendship and determination.
But lightning rarely strikes twice and subsequent sequels flopped. No one could capture the magic of the original. No one, that is, until Virginia Commonwealth University alumna Shahbano Farid came along. While she didn’t try to create a subpar sequel, she did manage to parlay the film’s inspiration into a life-changing event.
Back in February, Farid, then a School of Business student, was feeling a bit dejected, much like Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde.” While Farid’s boyfriend hadn’t left her to go to Harvard Law, she was miserable about not being able to find a job. Late one night, while working on a paper, she received an email from clothing store ASOS, promoting its Around the World internship competition. The prize consisted of an all-expenses-paid, six-week internship that included travel to six cities, an STA Travel tour in each city, a $3,000 stipend and a $1,000 ASOS gift card.
“The email read, ‘Hey students, want to travel the world this summer?!’ I thought to myself, ‘Uhh ... yeah?!’ I read into the email and looked into the fine print and realized this was a legit offer to globe-trot for free and become the Around the World intern,” she said. Farid loves traveling and felt she had a strong chance of winning the competition. Plus, even when miserable, she was able to channel some of Elle Woods’ optimism.
“I truly believed I could do it because I was so passionate,” Farid said. “The entry was supposed to be a one-page typed Word document explaining why [I] would make the best possible candidate. Instead of a paper I put hyperlinks to a video I made about myself in the document.”
In the two-minute video portraying a day in her life (inspired by Elle Woods’ video application to Harvard), Farid didn’t say why she would be the best candidate, she simply showed it. Although she didn’t hire a Coppola to direct her video — her best friend, a VCU fine arts major at the time, sufficed — Farid still beat out more than 9,000 other applicants for the job.
“I think the video stood out because you could tell I was being myself and not trying to hide my passion,” she said. It also had the same heart and humor as Elle’s video application, and made her just as memorable. When Farid flew to New York to meet her mentor, Erica Ginalski, and start her journey, Ginalski told her that the video was unforgettable and that she had sent it to everyone Farid would be working with throughout the internship.
“So imagine me going to every office around the world and the first thing people say is, ‘I know you! You’re the video girl!’ It was actually really cool and I loved it,” Farid said.
ASOS launched the fabulous, six-week internship this summer. For the inaugural intern, executives wanted someone outgoing, friendly and intelligent, as well as able to represent the United States appropriately, Ginalski said.
“We loved [Shahbano’s] vlog,” Ginalski said. “She put a lot of effort into it. It was humorous and showed her personality and ambition. She was a shoo-in for round one.”
After selecting the top 10, ASOS asked fans to choose the top five candidates by voting for their favorites. Farid credits the amazing support group of VCU peers, close friends and family — “and quite frankly anyone that voted” — for helping her reach the top five. She would not have made it to the interview round without them.
“The last day of voting I was in sixth place and not close to fifth,” she said. “That day, with the help of so many people, I reached fourth place getting over 1,500 votes that day alone. It humbles me to think that people actually believed in me enough to help even if they didn’t know me.
“I will never forget the night the two-week voting period ended. I was in the library and everyone on the second floor knew why I was soliciting the hallways so when it struck 12 and I was in the top five everyone got up and started clapping, giving me high-fives, screaming ‘congrats.’ Literally, it was a scene out of a movie. It was the most rewarding and humbling night of my life.”
The internship itself was a dream come true for Farid. Starting June 9, she spent a week in New York before flying to London. From there she went to Lille/Paris, Berlin, Shanghai and, finally, Sydney. Each city had its own tasks.
“In New York, I worked on expanding the U.S. market and met with partners for fall 2014,” she said. “In London, I did everything, simply because it was the headquarters. I met with the marketing department, showroom department, styling, photography, magazine, etc. Overall, I did a multitude of things including executing sophisticated marketing campaigns through mediums of social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“I learned so much about global branding and international marketing. I was in awe at how many things had to be altered for each country’s ASOS site. The language, wording, offensive tone is all different from one another. One thing that would be perceived as hilarious in England would be seen offensive in America and very odd in Australia. That was the coolest thing I could ever learn.”
Since her application video proved so successful, Farid decided to keep the video blog active to chronicle her amazing journey. It can be found at youtube.com/channel/UCryxXfvPEypL7_VxDuuJfeQ.
Before this experience, Farid didn’t quite know what she wanted to do after college, but now, she said, she’s more focused on her future. (Shades of Elle, who near the end of “Legally Blonde” realized, “If I’m going to be a partner in a law firm by the time I’m 30, I need a boyfriend who’s not such a complete bonehead.”) Farid would like to work in the beauty entertainment or fashion industry.
“After working with ASOS, I understand my passion lies where I get to connect with a mass audience and have a voice within a crowd. I like giving my opinion and I like hearing others’,” she said. “Also, I think in this industry it’s easier to be yourself and let it speak through the brand you’re working for, which is the best kind of job you can have.”
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