Weekly Feature for Fashion & Beauty Fanatics: Q&A with Janene Mascarella of BELLA NYC
Janene Mascarella chose the name “MrsWrite” when she created her Twitter handle–and write she does. As a freelance journalist covering topics including beauty, travel, health and parenting for national publications, and as beauty director for BELLA NYC, Janene has made a flourishing career out of her passion for words. Here she gives tips for making it in the business, advice for PR pros, and discusses her affinity for covering multiple topics at a moment’s notice.
Q: Tell us a bit about your background in writing and where your love for beauty came from!
A: Ever since I was a little girl I was fascinated by beauty products—all the sparkly and glittery things that came in pretty little bottles. My eyes still light up when I hold new products in my hand. The love of writing also came to me at an early age so the fact that I get to write about beauty every day for a living makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
Q: You serve as beauty director for BELLA NYC magazine, and have also contributed to publications including Women’s Day, SELF and Family Circle. What is the process for getting published in such high-visability magazines?
A: I never saw getting published as an impossible thing or that you need to struggle to ‘get your foot in the door’. I knew I wanted to write for a magazine and just kind of walked right in. Part of being a writer is being able to take rejection, so I think I have been successful because I don’t let rejections break me. I remember when I cold-pitched Glamour magazine. The editor at the time, who was probably very busy, responded–to a pitch that I worked on for a whole day–with a curt two-word email, “No thanks.” OUCH. So I resisted the urge to hide in the closet and sent her another idea. It was a sale and my byline appeared in the magazine months later. Also, being easy to work with is key to this industry. When you’re flexible and open-minded, doors fly open.
Q: I know you also write about other topics including family, parenting and health—what is your favorite topic to cover?
A: The part of my job I love most is that I get to write about all types of topics–I wouldn’t trade that in for the world. Just when I’ve had it with writing about new mascaras, I get assigned a travel guide–most recently for USA TODAY. And when I’ve had my fill of travel, I get assigned a fun fitness essay, like the one published in the October issue of Cosmopolitan. And then out of the blue I get a feature assignment from Scholastic Parent & Child. I never know what’s coming in and that makes it kind of exhilarating.
Q: What are some of the best opportunities you’ve had as a beauty writer?
A: Honestly, my role at BELLA NYC is something I’m super proud of. I started writing for the publication beginning with the launch issue a few years ago. When magazines were folding and giving way to digital content, I wasn’t sure how this publication would survive, but this independent beauty and lifestyle title is still going strong! Every issue, it gets better and better. The BELLA NYC magazine team is an amazing and talented group. Courtenay C. Hall, BELLA’s CEO and editor-in-chief, really makes me feel like my work for the publication is appreciated. Also, BELLA has revamped and will reveal a rather snazzy redesign–it’s super chic, ultra luxe, and very NYC. I’m so excited for everyone to see it and I’m really proud to be a part of the BELLA NYC team.
Q: What are some of the most challenging aspects of being a freelance writer in the industry?
A: Freelancing is feast or famine. It’s often hard to control the workflow. I have some regular gigs to help me delegate my time but when an in-house assignment comes in–always when I’m already swamped–I can’t say no. So I have learned to work smarter but not necessarily harder.
Q: Any PR pet peeves, or any successful PR pitches you’ve seen that you can share with us?
A: I never understand why some journalists have such a standoffish relationship with PR pros. Without them, I’ve got nothing so I always see my relationship as a partnership. I cover a lot of topics so there is no ‘off topic’ for me. I say, if you have something interesting, send it along. Once I was contacted by a book publicist who asked what kind of topics I cover. She noticed I did not write about business after looking on my website, so she promised not to send those ideas over. I told her to send me anything ‘interesting’. Needless to say, she sent info on a new business book with an interesting slant. I pitched it to American Way magazine and scored the assignment. After that, I started writing other business and money topics for publications like CNN Money and AARP Bulletin. I’m glad she sent that ‘off topic’ idea in the first place because new opportunities presented themselves. One pet peeve: for a press release, please no fancy font or vibrant colors. Short and simple. And I never understand why a press release can be two-pages long, yet I can’t find the price of the product anywhere on the sheets. Facts first. Flowery language second.
Q: What are some tips for PR professionals who want to get in contact with you?
A: A short, friendly email, addressed to me, is all that it takes. I get frazzled sometimes so following up about two weeks later is totally fine.
For more beauty and fashion insight, check out the Cision Navigator profile on Vanessa K. Bush, Editor in Chief at Essence.
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