Talented. Driven. Dedicated. Kind. These are some of the words that come to mind when describing Penn State School of Visual Arts senior B.F.A. student Natalie Leonard. From a young age, Leonard dreamed of working at a magazine. When she arrived at Penn State, she set out to make this dream come true. From her multiple internship experiences in New York City with Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine, fashion designer Alexander Wang, Esquire, and Harper’s Bazaar, to creating her own digital magazine, POND, Leonard is making the most of her Penn State SoVA experience.
“Natalie is an exemplary photo student whose many activities and achievements remind me of a perpetual motion machine with a human face,” said Steven Rubin, SoVA professor and faculty mentor. “As her impressive accomplishments clearly demonstrate, Natalie is not someone to wait until the summer after her junior or senior years to pursue an internship in her career field; rather, she has successfully pursued a steady stream of high-caliber internships at prominent media publications and with celebrated fashion designers throughout her Penn State career. But not content to simply follow the well-trodden path of renowned media publications, Natalie remains someone who feels compelled to blaze her own path, to create new media made by and belonging to her own generation—as evident in her co-founding POND magazine.”
According to Rubin, Natalie has been a driving force in reviving the Photo Club after years of dormancy. “As club president, she has collaborated with her peers in SoVA and across the University in transforming the club into a vibrant and active organization, holding exhibitions on and off campus while generating considerable buzz about the expressive power of the photographic medium. The photography program takes great pride in being inspired by one of our own!”
Natalie said her internships provided valuable on-the-job training. “Even when I didn’t know what I was doing, I had to figure it out. I was expected to interact professionally with editors, celebrities, and staff, and from this I learned valuable communication skills. But, I think it is super important to remember to always work hard, be kind, and be present, not just in the workspace but in every aspect of life.”
Even though her internships were in similar industries, Leonard took away different experiences from each one. In her freshman year she began her first internship at Interview, working within the fashion and publishing world. Natalie credits this internship experience as the catalyst for a lot of her interests, including the creation of POND, an online publication of thoughts, music, and art collaboratively compiled and curated by a group of college students living on opposite ends of the world. “Through my internship at Interview, I was able to see and understand processes a bit, and it was just the push I needed to start my own publication,” Leonard said. She and POND co-founder Dillon Gray began reaching out to creative friends, as well as artists and bands that they followed online. “Our publication quickly became a platform for young artists, writers, and musicians to share their work and get feedback from other creators. One thing led to another and this idea for a small zine transformed into a digital publication updated daily.”
With her first internship and the creation of POND under her belt, Natalie moved on to her work with Alexander Wang during the summer after her sophomore year, which provided her hands-on experience on set, including, styling, photographing, and ensuring things ran smoothly for the team. “It was by far my most challenging internship, but the most rewarding.”
To round off her junior year, she interned with two publications, splitting her time as an editorial intern with Esquire, and as a photo intern with Harper’s Bazaar. Esquire was Natalie’s first internship outside of photography. While she reached her ultimate goal of interning at Harper’s Bazaar, one of the most popular women’s fashion magazines today, Leonard said that she “appreciates each experience for different reasons.” Being able to see an entire process, from creating a mood board, to shooting on set, to post production, to final print, was invaluable to her learning experience. “I am constantly using what I have learned from my internships and channeling that into the studio,” she said.
Natalie said she appreciates her experience in SoVA. “It enabled me to come into my own as a photographer, but still have the opportunity to explore my interests outside of photography, which I think has been really beneficial to my work. The intimacy of SoVA is something I think every college strives for. The classes are small, the students are supportive and curious about what their classmates are working on, and you know the conversations with professors won’t end after graduation. It’s a place I feel comfortable, creative, and myself, giving me the confidence to apply to internships in the first place. I know I will always appreciate my time here.”
After graduation Natalie plans to move to New York City to pursue a professional career in photography in one form or another, as well as continue her work with POND.
Photo caption: Natalie with Dillon Gray, the co-founder of POND Magazine, in New York City.