After graduating from Columbia University law school, Stephanie Groves spent a “hot minute” working in corporate law at New York City’s Rockefeller Center. Columbia has one of the world’s most prestigious law schools, with an average acceptance rate of about 20%.
But at the end of a long workday, Stephanie would find escape in lifestyle or fashion magazines. What began as a relaxation ritual turned into a nearly 15-year magazine editorial career that led her to the red carpet to interview celebs, to photo shoots to figure out styling effects such as the “eyeshadow crumble,” and to the mastheads of some of New York’s most well-known magazines, including Woman’s World.
Now back in the Indianapolis area, where she grew up, Stephanie officially begins her role as Indy Maven’s executive editor this week. When I sat down to interview her at Parlor Public House, I also learned that she went all docile and subservient for three months playing an extra in the 2004 Stepford Wives movie starring Nicole Kidman (which earned her a SAG card), did a little bit of work as a stunt double in L.A., has fostered over 30 dogs, and is a mom of a five-year-old. Is there anything she can’t do or hasn’t done? We’re about to find out.
After you decided that corporate law wasn’t your calling, you started doing some “cold” emailing and landed an internship at Working Mother. Was magazine work as great/glamorous as you’d thought it would be, or were there some unexpected adjustments?
It really was every bit as amazing as I thought it would be, and more! If I’m being honest, most of what I knew about New York City came from watching “Sex and the City,” so when I got a chance to live in the city and work in magazines, and to go to product launch events and private dinners, it felt like I was living a dream, Carrie Bradshaw-esque type of life. Even though I never worked at any of the really fabulous fashion magazines, it was an absolute blast.
Part of your work involved styling magazine covers and photo shoots and you worked along Luis Ernesto Santana, a well-known still-life photographer. What’s a good trick that you learned? Or a memorable mistake that you made?
I made TONS of mistakes for sure, but one of the good tricks that I still use for my personal photos is to cinch the back of my shirts/jackets/sweaters to make them look as fitted and tailored as possible. You can use metal spring clamps, binder clips, or even a jaw-style hair clip, and it will make all the difference in the world in your photos.
When you worked at Life & Style and freelanced for People magazine, you interviewed a lot of celebs on the red carpet. What was your least favorite question to ask them? Or what question makes you cringe now when you hear reporters ask it?
Oh geez, there are so many questions that I felt bad asking. As you know, you always have to save the cringeworthy question until the very end in case the person you’re interviewing gets upset and ends the interview, and usually the questions I was supposed to ask were about personal relationships or recent breakups. Almost no one ever answered them anyway.
Your two favorite red-carpet celebrities to interview were Bethenny Frankel (The Real Housewives of NYC) and John Leguizamo. Why were they so much fun to interact with?
Both of those people were a ball to interview because they’re incredibly intelligent, they tell it like it is, and they really don’t seem to give a shit what other people think.
Of all the magazines you worked at, where did you do your best work–the work you’re most proud of?
Wow, that’s a great question! This is totally a cop-out, but I feel like my best work might still be to come.
After you graduated from law school, you went to a big stadium “open call” for extras for THE Stepford Wives, and a casting agent singled you out. You spent three months working on a movie set and at a big mansion during filming AS ONE OF THE “WIVES.” Are you pretty visible in the movie? What was the biggest payoff of that experience?
I am not visible AT ALL, really. Every time I’m in a scene (and there aren’t that many), it’s a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” sort of thing. The whole experience was surreal. The funniest thing to me was that since I have hardly any boobs, the wardrobe person asked me to stuff my bra in every scene with two (!) sets of “chicken cutlets” so I could look more Stepford-appropriate. But, I did make some amazing friends on set, and I am still very close with a couple of the women today (hi, Julia and Sarah!) so that was the biggest payoff for me, by far. Julia even adopted one of the French Bulldogs that I fostered!
In 2015, you and your husband moved back to Indianapolis from New York City to be closer to family. You now have a 5-year-old daughter, Gigi, and a 17-year-old stepdaughter, Anna (who lives in Illinois). Was it hard to come back at first?
It was definitely an adjustment! For one thing, I hadn’t owned a car in years, so just driving again all the time felt a little crazy. I love NYC so much, but Indy is where I was born and raised, and almost all of my family is here, and I used to visit often. Even though I knew my way around the city, I have really enjoyed getting to know Indianapolis again as an adult, and to find things like my favorite local restaurants, women-owned businesses, and go-to boutiques.
You’ve developed a routine where you’re “Gigi’s mom” all day, until she goes to bed, and then you do your work. How do you find time for yourself? What is your relaxation ritual now?
Well, I don’t really find a lot of time for myself right now, but that’s okay. I want to try and spend as much time with my daughter as possible, because I know there will come a time when she doesn’t have much time for me (that makes me tear up just thinking about it). I was never a skincare person, but a dear friend of mine, Susan Yara, launched a decently affordable skincare line called Naturium that’s available at Target, and I have been using her Vitamin C Super Serum Plus and Plant Ceramide Rich Moisture Cream religiously ever since. The five minutes that I take every night to wash my face and put on that serum and cream are like a mini retreat for me. That, and the few minutes I get to poop in solitude.
You foster dogs, in addition to caring for humans. You’ve had five dogs living with you at one time in a New York apartment, and seven at one time in Indiana. People always ask you, “How can you give them up?” And you always tell them…
That it’s really freakin’ hard. People sometimes make me feel like I’m heartless because I can give them up, but trust me, it breaks my heart every. single. time. But, until I can win the lottery and buy tons of acreage for my own retirement home for rescue dogs, I can’t keep every dog that I foster. I just tell myself that every dog I adopt out to a new home means that I can take another foster in.
You earned a law degree at Columbia, and were a Wells Scholar at Indiana University. (Editor’s note: That basically means she was one of the state’s most accomplished high school student-leaders.)
But you mentioned that as a lifestyle writer, you still feel a little self-conscious, as if you aren’t doing the “important” long-form work. It doesn’t have to be either/or, right? I mean, proof: Your story, 8 Sex Toys to Get You Through Quarantine and Beyond, was by far one of Indy Maven’s most-read stories of all time.
Aw, thanks! Other than raising my daughter, I do feel self-conscious that I haven’t done anything “important” with my life, for sure. As I’m getting older I am definitely feeling the need to connect more with people in a real, meaningful way, and I think that my work with Indy Maven is great opportunity to do so. It is such a wonderful community, and I’m proud and grateful to have the chance to be more involved.
What are you looking forward to most in your new role at Indy Maven? Any changes we can expect?
I am excited to connect with so many amazing local women and to help share their stories and celebrate their successes. I know that we will definitely have some fun additions to the site, like perhaps more video content, and maybe a little website makeover, but Abby Gardner (the previous Executive Editor, and now Editor-at-Large) did such a fantastic job, so I don’t want to change too much right away.
And finally, setting aside all your accomplishments and adventures, is there anything you’re not really good at (yet) and would like to get better at or try?
I stink at a lot of things, especially all things tech-related, but I am particularly bad at golf and we just moved to a golf course. So, I think I’m going to have to quit griping about it and just suck it up and take some lessons.
Amanda Kingsbury is Indy Maven’s co-founder and contributing editor.
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