Workaholic // Noah Michelson

Noah Michelson came to New York City in 2003 to get his MFA in Poetry from New York University.  His poems have been featured in The New Republic, The Best American Erotic Poetry from 1800 to the Present, and other notable publications. Currently, he is an editor at The Huffington Post, running the #1 ranked LGBT news and culture site on the Internet, Gay Voices. We sat down with Noah to get a glimpse into his professional journey and personal passions — all of which contribute to his daily life as a Workaholic.

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Who are you?

I’m Noah Michelson. 

What do you do?

I’m the Editor of The Huffington Post Gay Voices. 

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Where is your workspace?

The Huffington Post Media Group shares three floors with AOL Inc. (our parent company) at Astor Place in New York City. The office includes a huge open plan newsroom, ping pong and Foosball tables, nap rooms and all the Starbucks coffee, Redbull and crazy design-your-own fountain sodas you can drink (Orange Coke! Diet cherry lemonade!).

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(nap pods!)

How did you get to where you are now?

I started working in media — queer media to be exact — in 2007 when I secured an unpaid internship at Out Magazine. I was 29 years old and all of the other interns were 19 or 20. I felt like such a grandpa, but I knew exactly what I wanted and refused to walk out of that office without a job. Thanks to some people quitting at the right time, a little luck and working my ass off, after four years I was overseeing all of Out Magazine’s digital properties and writing cover stories for the print magazine.  In September of 2011, I joined The Huffington Post to launch and edit Huff Post Gay Voices and I’ve been here ever since.

What made you turn to this direction?

I spent three years writing and teaching and it was my dream come true. And then I graduated and suddenly owed the government and Citibank thousands of dollars in loans and that… was a nightmare. Since poetry wasn’t going to pay the bills, I looked for another way that I could use language and actually make a living. 

Was this always your dream job?

Not at all. However naive, I really wanted to be a professional poet. Luckily, I stumbled into this industry and I realized that I love it and find it hugely challenging and gratifying.

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How much of the week is work, how much is play?

I work a lot. The Internet never sleeps and I always have one eye on my phone in case a story breaks or there’s something that needs to be covered. If I didn’t care about the things and the people I am covering as much as I do, I don’t think I could do this job. It would just feel like exerting too much energy without receiving enough in return. The issues and events that Gay Voices is reporting on are issues and events that also mean something to me personally and politically, I truly care and, in turn, it’s easier to work ridiculous hours.

How do you find your inspiration?

For me, it always comes down to the personal story. I think you can write about anything no matter how boring, technical or abstract, as long as you ground it with a personal story. Putting a person at the heart of everything you do helps people to relate or react. We’re compelled and repelled by him or her and what they have been through. I’m also inspired by people who are fearless, or more specifically those who might be totally afraid sometimes but still do what they feel they have to do and what they feel is ultimately right.

How important is your work and do you feel it defines you?

My work is incredibly important to me. I feel lucky to have the platform I have to speak to and about the queer community and feel privileged to have been given and trusted with this opportunity. Huff Post Gay Voices is housed within a large mainstream site and we’re reaching people (especially non-queer people) who might never otherwise happen upon these kinds of stories. I think in some ways it does define me but it’s also a very personal job, in that these issues are issues that affect me and matter immensely to me. 

What has been the most exciting thing you have done with your work, and what is a dream situation you’d like to find yourself in?

The most exciting thing that comes with my work is hearing from people who say that something they saw on the site made them change their minds. To be able to positively influence someone to rethink their approach to queer people or queer lives (even their own), to actually read their emails and hear them say something like “I  thought I was broken inside until I read your series on asexuality and realized there’s a name for what I am” or “I didn’t realize how hard it is for some people to transition and I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be transgender” makes everything worthwhile. 

How do you define your personal style, work and clothing, etc.

I started getting tattooed three years ago and now almost 50% of my body is covered. Most days I wear jeans, a t-shirt and high tops. I’m definitely one of the more casual people at work.  I’ve always hated dressing up and I’ve gone out of my way to find jobs that wouldn’t require it. I have a Tom of Finland tattoo on my left forearm and part of the reason I put it there was to remind myself to never be ashamed of my queerness and to never hide it and because I never wanted to even consider a job where I couldn’t be exactly who I am.

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Do you listen to music during your workday?

All day long. Lately I’ve been listening to V V Brown’s incredible new album, “Samson & Delilah,” Chvrches, Haim, The Smiths, Kate Bush, Liz Phair, Mid-’90s Janet Jackson, Cocteau Twins, Nine Inch Nails, and the Peter Cetera Pandora station (no shame!)

What’s something someone may not know about you?

Both the ocean and outer space really freak me out.

Anything else you would like to say or for us to know?

At our request, Noah has shared a select piece of his poetry with us.

Hiding The Body

You could seal it in the basement crawlspace safe behind
the water heater’s blank beige poker face or bury it 

in the backyard beneath the candy-striped swing set, 
its rusty tangled chains squeaking their disapproving 

tink-tink’s as you dig, sweating, or dump it down 
the 16th street sewer whose cover you’ve noticed never 

cleanly closes, whose crooked mouth looks like it would 
happily eat if fed and could your fifteen-year-old garbage 

disposal handle a kneecap?  Where does one buy industrial 
strength bleach wholesale in this city? Strangely, lately, 

these are the sorts of things you find yourself thinking about: 
Would he be missed? Would you miss him? Perhaps, 

just in case, you should stash a single yellow knuckle 
in the china cabinet under the dusty lid of the earthenware 

butter dish or leave his earlobes and testicles to wrinkle 
in the half-eaten jar of fruit cocktail at the back of your 

refrigerator, as, after all, it never hurts to have some 
small recognizable reminders of our failures and our 

successes.

Follow Noah on Twitter @noahmichelson. 

Elizabeth Baudouin

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