Watching the Oscars and seeing Meryl Streep coming back again with another breathtaking nomination made me feel the urge to revisit her classic film, The Devil Wears Prada. For those of you who have not seen the movie (you really should go watch it if you haven’t), The Devil Wears Prada tells the story of a recent college graduate, Andy Sachs, who goes to New York City and gets a job as Miranda Priestly’s co-assistant. Priestly is the editor of the most popular fashion magazine, Runway, and is notorious for being hard to deal with due to her high expectations and lack of sympathy. As the movie unfolds, Andy is able to gain Priestly’s respect and climb her way up to being Priestly’s assistant. However, at the end of the movie, Andy quits her job (a job that “millions of girls would kill for”) and decides to pursue her passion in journalism. Aside from the turbulent plot and the well-developed humour, the movie is really about discovering your identity and having the courage to hold onto that identity when outside forces are telling you otherwise.
University is a time when everyone is trying to develop their own personal brand and figure out who they are as individuals. Sometimes it is easy to fall into the trap of following the crowd and replacing our personal values with what everyone else’s values are. Some of the lessons and messages from The Devil Wears Prada that really resonated with me are:
1. Never lose sight of who you are.
There are a lot of noises in university and a lot of stereotypes. Science students are constantly trying to achieve the highest GPA to maximize their chances of getting into med school; commerce students are going full-out during March hiring in the hope of constructing the perfect resume; engineers are trying to stay alive while making concrete canoes float; and the arts students are trying to find ways to differentiate themselves from the rest. It’s easy to lose sight of who you are in university. People tend to be caught up in what others around them are doing, and sometimes it almost feels right to do the same thing as everyone else. But, you will never be happy if you just try to achieve what society deems to be successful and ignore your personal wants and interests.
2. “Floral? For Spring? Groundbreaking.”
Wearing florals for spring is definitely not groundbreaking. This is perhaps one of my favourite quotes from the movie. It’s said by Priestly during a discussion with some of her employees for possible spring collection ideas. Following the crowd is not groundbreaking. In order to stand out, you need to carve out your own path, and this can be extremely difficult. To be groundbreaking, you will have to sacrifice some feelings of security and belonging, because you are going to be different and not everyone appreciates diversity.
3. Don’t whine; do something instead.
I am a whiner and have always been a whiner. There is something that is almost therapeutic about whining. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not proud of it. Because at the end of the day, whining does nothing for me other than make my friends roll their eyes and force my mom to come up with an excuse to end the phone call. In the movie, Andy whines to Nigel, a top designer for Runway, about how Priestly is working her to death and showing no signs of appreciation. Instead of getting the sympathy she was looking for, Andy gets a wakeup call. Nigel makes her realize that whining gets her nowhere, only actions do. Not only does whining do nothing in terms of changing the state of things, it drowns you in negativity, to the point where you view everything in a negative light. So, stay away from whining.
4. “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your success.” – Zig Ziglar
This is a quote I recently came across and it’s something that is also highlighted in the movie. Andy is a recent university graduate who has a very impressive resume, therefore it is almost expected of her to perform well as a co-assistant. However, Andy struggles significantly during the start because she approaches her job with the attitude that it is temporary and that she will be moving on soon. When the job shows Andy that she will have to try much harder to be successful, her attitude changes. She begins to embrace the wold of fashion, doing readings on her own, constantly learning about fashion trends, and developing a better understanding of Priestly’s habits and temper. As a result, her job performance begins to improve. Eventually, she is able to gain Priestly’s confidence and even respect.
The Devil Wears Prada teaches important life lessons. The movie tells its audience to never deviate from your goals and to never conform to societal ideals. Obviously, these things are easier said than done, but why not give it a try?