Bernadette Morra has a long-standing love affair with her work. Her career as a fashion editor and reporter has spanned over 25 years with an impressive tenure at The Star followed by 7 years as the editor-in-chief of FASHION magazine. Quitting her profession was never in her vocabulary after she had her twin sons, Matthew and Christopher, who are now 18-years old. “I just love what I do so much. I was at The Star for 20 years and I can honestly say that staying that long was an accident because I was so focused on what I was doing.” She also credits her generation for her career longevity. “It was the 90s when my boys were born and it was not socially acceptable to stay home once you had children. I’m part of a feminist generation that wasn’t going to let anything stop them from going to work and there was a lot of pressure to be a career woman.” The pressure was real (and many may think it unnecessary), however it gave her the opportunity to raise her sons and evolve her career without questioning work-life balance. Instead she simply accepted it with grace.
On being a ladyboss
Lesson No. 1 – Trim down your to-do list. “I always wanted kids and had to make changes as soon as I had them. The twice-yearly runway collections would usually require three to five weeks of travel twice a year, so I cut my schedule down to one week at a time and only attended the New York shows. I cooked like crazy before I left and stored everything in the freezer for my husband and the boys. I always came home and hardly any of it was eaten. I stopped that nonsense after a few years. I shouldn’t have stressed out so much about things like that and enjoyed my job and my family more but I know that’s difficult when you’re in the thick of it.”
Lesson No. 2 – You got this. You really got this. “I just used my own compass to get through being a working mom and made decisions as they arrived. I had supportive girlfriends to lean on but I certainly didn’t have Facebook or Instagram and parenting wasn’t a constant conversation. Today, everyone’s lives are an open book and I wonder if that makes it harder for younger moms. What I do know is life is short and you have to carve your own path. Don’t listen to anyone and don’t do something just because some false role model like a Kardashian is doing it.”
Lesson No. 3 – Find a workplace that fits. “I did find working at The Star I had a lot of autonomy and flexibility. I could get home in time for dinner and do the whole evening routine and then do 1 or 2 hours of work. Also, it helped to have an understanding boss who saw and respected my hard work and commitment even if I wasn’t always visible in the office. I always used to say, ‘just because you don’t see me doesn’t mean I’m not working’ all while maintaining a high standard. At the end of the day, if a person is really driven, it’s hard to stop them. Also, it helps to have a boss who is not a bully; a tough boss is someone who makes you better at what you do whereas a mean boss is someone who makes you feel bad because they feel threatened or jealous.”
Lesson No. 4 – Mom guilt will find you and that’s normal. “I have guilt but not the usual mom guilt. My guilt is more around my son who is developmentally challenged. It became evident in his first year; he just wasn’t reaching the same milestones as his twin brother. I was thrown into this whole world of occupational therapies and appointments which continued for years. I never felt I was doing enough for him and I know any mother in my situation would feel the same.”
Lesson No. 5 – It’s about work-life acceptance not work-life balance. “I believe you can have it all, however it means adjusting expectations and accepting what’s in front of you. For example, I probably didn’t read a book for 10 years and finally was able to join a book club 4 years ago…and that’s okay. When the boys were little, me-time was going to the grocery store, and I always made an appointment to get my nails done every two weeks to find time for myself. I also find scheduling helps. We had a standing date every Saturday morning with my dad for breakfast and I made the weekends family-focused as much as I could. When It didn’t work out because of travel or work, I didn’t judge myself for it.”
On life in modern media
Lesson No. 6 – Don’t be afraid of change. “I believe that career longevity is possible in any field, as long as you are open-minded, flexible and willing to learn, grow and change. I really don’t understand people who refuse to evolve. Living that kind of life might feel safe, I suppose. But it also must be quite boring. And the irony is, the less you grow and evolve, the less relevant you will be – and that definitely will not keep you safe.”
Lesson No. 7 – Print maybe dying but journalism should not. “The barrier to entry in digital is so low and as a result, there’s a spirit of entrepreneurship and expression that’s so compelling, however I’m glad that I experienced the rigours of working at a newspaper. The short lead times and quick turn-arounds prepared me for the digital world, where quantity is paramount. But a newsroom values accuracy above all else. That journalistic tenet is sadly lacking in today’s world.”
Lesson No. 8 – Cutting budgets doesn’t mean cutting creativity. “Stretch everything you have as far as it can go. In print, use fewer, bigger photos. Add more ‘air’ to layouts. Break digital pieces into smaller posts or repackage them with a fresh hook or angle. But don’t stretch your people. They are your most precious resource. Don’t just pile more work on them. Take the time to brainstorm how you can tap into their hidden talents and give them new opportunities to shine. This will help everyone, including you, keep a positive attitude.”
Lesson No. 9 – Digital should learn something from print. “I love the speed of the digital world, that’s what attracted me to newspapers in the first place. But in the race for eyeballs, deep storytelling is becoming increasingly rare. This is where brands and retailers have a huge opportunity to tell their own stories on their own platforms, and create deeper more meaningful relationships with their customers. This is a fascinating shift in the media world.”
ROOM TOUR A living room full of style
The living room is a chic collab between Bernadette and her husband Jimmy Molloy, a luxury real estate agent who shares her eye for detail. Couch, Elte.
Chairs, Neinkamper, and a custom honed marble fireplace.
“The funny thing about this piece by Michael Awad is that I wasn’t at this Comrags show he photographed. I was the editor of Fashion at the time and I should have been there but my son Matthew had violin lessons and I promised I would never miss one lesson. This is evidence of my devotion to my sons. You have to make choices and often that means putting your kids first.”
It was Jimmy who tracked down this vintage sign for the discontinued fragrance My Sin from Lanvin.“Being raised Catholic, ‘My Sin’ lit up and on display has a special resonance.”
A portrait of Cary Grant in the entrance way was featured at a TIFF exhibit featuring the work of little known hobby photographer Jack Pashkovsky.
MY FAVOURITE THINGS
“I received this award, the Golden Pencil Award, at The Star. It’s awarded to an editor by the staff photographers. It’s sort of like a congeniality award and it recognizes an editor who they like working and collaborating with. I’ve kept it all these years because it represents a career high and my commitment to my work, not just with words but with nurturing relationships too.”
This photo of Jimmy with Justin Trudeau was taken at a fundraiser in Toronto the summer before he was elected and finds a home on the living room shelf.
Bernadette’s moment with Madonna was taken at the TIFF premiere of her film W.E. “Madonna. She’s a big deal. Why wouldn’t I put this picture up?” Another awe struck celebrity moment was when she met Audrey Hepburn. “I met her in Paris at the opening of a museum retrospective of Hubert de Givenchy’s work. Yves Saint Laurent was there too. It was an epic night I will never forget.”
Another work by artist Michael Awad pieces together photos of covers from a Canadian magazine stand. It’s fitting Bernadette has this in her home as she celebrates a past in print while embracing the future. “I love the speed of the digital world, that’s what attracted me to newspapers in the first place.”