Jeff Gremillion spends his workdays as the founding editor-in-chief for one of Houston’s toniest glossy magazines, Houston CityBook. While he dreamed of being a wordsmith from an early age, he had no idea the dream would involve creating luxury-lifestyle stories. When he was in third grade, he wrote a poem to include in his mother’s Valentine’s Day card, and that got him thinking he would grow up to write poetry.
When he told his parents about his poetic aspirations, his father was less than enthused.
“My practical dad said, ‘Poet means journalist.’ He wasn’t thrilled with the idea. He would probably rather see me become a lawyer, but at least journalism is a major in college,” Gremillion recalls.
Thus, he studied journalism at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and followed up with a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Along the way, he worked his way up the ladder at publications like Adweek, Gear Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, and The Independent Weekly.
Despite his desire to return to the Big Apple, where he had spent more than a decade in school and at his first jobs, the call to Houston proved inevitable.
“I had a good opportunity [in New York] and was three interviews in with a big magazine. Then I became aware of an opportunity in Houston with the Modern Luxury national magazine brand. They were looking for someone to start their Houston version. I applied for the job and got it,” Gremillion says.
There was just one hitch. He wasn’t really a fan of Houston.
“Even though I grew up close to Houston, it had been decades since I’d been here, and I didn’t have a favorable opinion. I figured I can give this thing a whirl for a few years, and if I don’t like it, I’ll go back to New York,” he admits. “It took about two weeks to decide it was a great fit—the work I wanted to do, and the city I wanted to live in.”
Gremillion came out as a gay man later in life, so he had only been out for a few years before moving to Houston in 2005. Fortunately, he found a group of friends who welcomed him in his newly adopted home.
“I gave myself permission from the beginning to be myself, and I feel like I was accepted from the beginning. I don’t remember it being a challenge. I remember finding a larger community of Houstonians, both gay and straight, who embraced me,” he says.
When Gremillion wasn’t rubbing elbows with Houston’s social elite (a requirement for any journalist working the luxury-lifestyle beat), he spent many nights socializing with friends in Houston’s Montrose area. That mingling in different worlds with a variety of people is something that he felt should be highlighted in his new Houston publication.
“I’ve never thought of any magazine I worked for to be a ‘gay’ magazine. I always wanted the magazines to be general-interest and appropriate for anyone. But if we’re going to cover nightlife or power couples, that includes both gay and straight couples. From a professional perspective, it’s about being inclusive and not overthinking it. Do we have black and brown faces? Do we have gay and straight people? Do we have diversity being represented? We’re not being holier-than-thou, we’re just being matter-of-fact about it. We’re [in a city that is] culturally rich, and if you’re going to honestly cover what is cool and fascinating, the gay community will be part of it,” he notes.
After more than a decade of helming Houston Modern Luxury, Gremillion longed for something different. The Modern Luxury editorial formula blends national generic content with stories that are created locally, and Gremillion felt there was an unfilled need. Though he was very proud of the magazine’s achievements, he couldn’t deny the pull toward something uniquely H-Town, and that brought forth the idea of Houston CityBook.
“Houston doesn’t need content from Los Angeles or New York. There’s plenty of interesting stuff happening here. It’s not that Houston is just as good as any city; it was that Houston is better,” he says. “We think of CityBook as Houston’s magazine. Our content is exclusively Houston, from the first page to the last. We use local talent, writers, models, photographers, stylists, and there’s a big network of creative people who work with us. They live in Houston, are inspired by Houston, and they’re producing work for other Houstonians.”
When he’s not busy telling the stories of what’s happening in the area, Gremillion serves as a board member at Avenue 360, an organization whose mission is partly rooted in providing compassionate care to people living with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones.