Behind the BNOC

Behind the BNOC: Activities with Amy

Amy Ellis Winter’s reputation precedes her in many ways. Her relatively large social profile comes from her participation in many Oxford societies, such as Editor in Chief of That Oxford Girl, mentor for Zero Gravity, Director of Communications at the Oxford Union, and work in the Oxford fashion scene and journalism with The Oxford Blue and the Serenity Project. I met up with Amy over smoothies to chat about how these activities enriched her life– and the pros and cons of being high profile itself. 

We started with her dive into the Oxford fashion scene, where she went from modeling with a few companies before university to a larger level of impact.  Amy is social media manager for the Serenity Project, which aims to help at-risk women gain confidence through fashion. Recently, she modeled the designs of one of my favorite designers, Noemie Jouas. Modeling was something that she took on because it felt “out of reach”, something reserved for nepo babies and people with the money to do fashion, but the larger platform Oxford gave her allowed her to explore aspects of fashion beyond just the clothing itself. As Senior Lifestyle and Fashion Editor for The Oxford Blue, Amy explored her interest in how things were created and how it intersected with the environment and human rights. Under her editorship, the Blue shifted from a more style-based focus to an intersectional approach to fashion, connecting with political movements and the climate change crisis.

Amy also embraced her unique background in order to empower and inspire others around her. “I come from a state school background,” she noted, “a Crankstart scholar from a tiny town in North Wales. There were zero opportunities.” Her time at That Oxford Girl started with an application in her first year to be an ambassador, writing blog posts about her experiences at Oxford and building a community within the university. That Oxford Girl allows women of underrepresented backgrounds to share their voice, and as she stepped into the role of Editor in Chief this year, Amy took on more responsibility and was excited to see her hard work and experience pay off with every post published.

Yet it’s important to take these activities in moderation and maintain a balance while still finding fulfillment. Amy noted that she got “burnt out, very quickly” in her first year after taking on so many activities, learning to take some time in order to properly balance academic work with life. After all, it doesn’t take doing everything around campus to become well-known. Amy rightfully called out this column and the idea of a BNOC in general, saying that the only reason why the Union and student journalists seem to be more well-known is because they have a larger platform. Everyone at Oxford does something impressive, whether it’s societies, activism, or just doing your degree well, and the links we form throughout uni are massive and long-lasting.

During our chat, we reflected on how many of the events and opportunities that Oxford gives could both enrich and overwhelm people, especially with the state/private school divide. Private schoolers’ access to multiple opportunities over the years gives them more experience to know what they like and what activities to take on, while the comparative lack of activities for many state schoolers means that Oxford is where they need to play catch-up, in a sense. Amy felt this sense of urgency, as well: “When I first came to uni, I got this sense of, ‘I have only three years here, so I must throw myself into everything.’” For her, activities were not just for enjoyment, but also a way to create a network and build a career after Oxford. 

One thing everyone can agree on, though, is the need to do what you most enjoy. Amy originally started in an elected role in the Oxford Union, but quickly realized that the rigor of Union politics wasn’t for her. She found a more fulfilling role in the Director of Communications, where she enjoys the graphic design elements of running the Union’s social media. The benefit of Oxford’s many societies is that you can very quickly go between them or even between roles in them as you grow as a person and decide what you want to spend your time doing. I personally have certainly loved the clubs that I’ve found myself involved in, and the benefit of having so many is that you’re always welcome to turn up to a meeting of a society, no matter how much experience you’ve had.