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Beyond the Box: Essence.com Beauty Editor Nicole Melton

ESSENCE.com beauty editor Nicole Melton is nothing less than inspirational. The Howard University alum shared some wisdom on how to get your dream job, along with her ultimate curly girl must haves. Dig in.

Who gives you ultimate curl inspiration? 

Nicole Melton: I’ve been inspired by so many naturals, it’s impossible to name just one.  I love celebs such as Tanika Ray and Adepero Oduye.  I also love bloggers such as CharyJay and Baroness Countess.  Overall, the entire natural hair community inspires me. These ladies have so much style, creativity and flair.

What are your top three curly girl must haves?

NM: Huetiful Hair Steamer, Curl Junkie Curl Rehab Hair Treatment and a satin bonnet.

Let’s rewind and go back to the beginning. What was your journalism launch pad that led to your current position? 

NM: I started in high school as editor-in-chief of my yearbook.  In college, I also worked on the yearbook staff and interned at WWD and Suede (awww, RIP Suede).  After graduation, I couldn’t find a job in magazines due to the economy —this was when Honey Mag, CosmoGirl, etc. were all folding and layoffs were rampant. I ended up as an accessories assistant buyer and merchandiser for five years before I said, ‘I need to follow my passion and I need to do it NOW.’ I knew all along I had a PASSION for editorial. I did my best at those retail jobs and am still so grateful for my “detour” and the amazing people I met along the way.

In Jan 2011, I finally made the terrifying decision to quit my corporate job and enrolled in grad school full-time, with no clue where my next paycheck would come from. But God stepped in and just one month later—ONE month later— I miraculously ran into the ESSENCE.com fashion editor Zandile Blay on the New York City subway which led to me landing a paid internship at ESSENCE.com in February 2011. That internship turned into a part-time freelance job in September, a full-time freelance job in January 2012, and, finally, a permanent job in March. My story still humbles me DAILY. God is so good and I absolutely love going to my job every single day. Go forth in your passion and purpose with prayer and focus. He will always open doors that will guide you to your destiny.

What three steps did you take to snag your dream job? 

NM: I know it sounds trite, but network, network, network. I had met Zandile five years earlier. I kept in touch over the years via email and she remembered me that day on the subway train.  Also, proofread your cover letter and resume. It’s a simple step, but I do think typos and errors are the quickest way your resume will end up in the reject pile.  Lastly, clean up your social media feeds.  There is no way I’m recommending someone for a job or internship who is posting all kinds of nonsense on Instagram or Twitter. Trust me, it’s happened. I’ve seen it before and it’s sad.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job? 

NM: There are three, actually.  I love being able to inspire women to look and feel beautiful.  Hair, skincare, and makeup is a large part of who we are and something we all work at every day in our own way. Whether you’re a ponytail and baseball cap kind of girl or you love to go all-out glam, hair and beauty is something we all can relate to in some way.

I also love giving new writers and photographers the chance to have their stories or work featured on the site. The thank you emails I get just warm my heart. I know what it’s like to want just one chance to write for a major website, so now that I am able to give that chance to others is humbling and a blessing.  Lastly, I love being a part of the Essence legacy. Essence has meant so much for so many Black women for decades and I’m honored to contribute to such a strong brand.

How important is your hair? 

NM: I’m a big advocate of letting women know that our true value does not come from our appearance, but it comes from Christ.  Today, if you asked me to do the Big Chop, I would do it and not care.  I’m always going to keep my hair healthy and presentable, but I know my light comes from God, not a twist-out.

What’s your daily muse? 

NM: I don’t think I have one. lol

Are there any undiscovered beauty treasures in NYC?

NM: If I had to name one, it would be my dermatologist’s office. Her name is Monica Schadlow at Sutton Place Dermatology. I battled adult acne from 2010 to 2012 and I’m finally back to maintaining normal skin.

What was it about “beauty” that lured you to that specific beat? 

NM: It was definitely my acne dilemma.  Nothing was working for a long time and I was very discouraged. It wasn’t until I began to really research skincare and discover the science behind sebaceous glands, hyper pigmentation and glycolic peels that I got really interested in skincare. I also went natural in 2010, so that journey brought me to the whole natural hair blogosphere, YouTube and product junkyism. lol.  Prior to 2010, I was completely obsessed with accessories, which is what I did for five years in my previous jobs.  I still LOVE a good “jewelry jam.” (Note: “Jam” is a Nicoleism that’s added to the end of things she loves. We also dig “salad jam.”) I’m truly blessed to be able to work in both fields in my career thus far.

We’d be surprised to find out that Essence.com is…

NM: Our team is really like a family.  I love my coworkers to pieces!   The media and entertainment industry can be really cut-throat, but I have not experienced that at Essence.com at all.  Also, there is a lot more that goes into our jobs than just writing posts for the site.  Writing is just one piece of our jobs. We all have to monitor the site traffic, do extensive photo research, build relationships with publicists and brands, attend planning and brainstorming meetings with other departments, learn to edit images in Photoshop and Lightroom, produce stories in our content management system, manage freelancers and manage social media.

Whew! That’s one hardworking gal!

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july 2013 summer issue

july 2013 summer issue

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