We can’t say enough great things about Belisa Silva, the Head of Content and Communications at GLOSSYBOX. She’s smart, an excellent writer, warm, welcoming, well read, and insightful. A self-proclaimed “theater geek,” Belisa decided to pursue Journalism in college as a way to combine her natural talents and curiosity. After college, Belisa worked at a small newspaper in New Jersey, but eventually made her way to New York City to interview with Condé Nast. Having spent time as an Editorial Assistant and Editor at Beauty Inc. and Women’s Wear Daily, respectively, Belisa is now at GLOSSYBOX, a monthly beauty subscription box.
Throughout her years of experience with journalism, beauty, and fashion, Belisa has great advice to share. She’s a believer in hard work, quieting distractions, and finding your own perspective. Regardless of whether you’re into journalism or the beauty industry, Belisa’s motivating words are sure to inspire.
Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?
Belisa Silva: Looking back as this someone now older and wiser, I realize how lucky you are to be young and discovering things about yourself and the world around you. It is amazing to be in that moment of your life where everything is fresh and new. You are defining the future of your life and the possibilities are endless! It seemed more scary than fun at the time, and I wish I had lived in the moment more. I also wish I would have taken on more that came my way with more zeal and positivity rather than fear.
CJ: You attended Lehigh University and majored in Journalism, English, and Spanish. How did you determine what to study?
BS: When I was in high school I was a big thespian, and I was really into theater and singing. I was Dolly in Hello, Dolly! my senior year, did the morning announcements, and I was choir president. I was your typical theater geek girl, but also very into culture, literature, and writing.
I went to college thinking I’d do musical theater. When I got there, though, it felt a little limiting. I had always been a good writer. My dad is a writer and English professor, so literature had been a part of my upbringing. I loved works like Hiawatha and The Tell-Tale Heart from a young age. In college journalism seemed really interesting to me because it was a good combination of my natural talents and my natural curiosity and affinity for getting to know people. I love to investigate things and find out an interesting backstory. It felt like an ‘aha’ moment when I declared the major, and as a journalist not a day went by that felt like work.
CJ: What did your post-grad journey look like?
BS: When I first graduated from college, I realized writing is one of those industries that everyone wants to be a part of. It’s very saturated market and hard to break into. You have to pay your dues a lot, which I did. That meant not making a lot of money and a lot of running around doing grunt work, which I also did.
Directly after college I started working for a small newspaper in New Jersey, which was a very hands on experience. It was a tiny team and we had a lot of pages to fill every day! I had to write eight stories a week about a town that had very little going on in the way of news. To create stories I would drive around town looking for things going on, and stalk the phone book, then Google names of residents to find interesting stories. This experience really tested my creativity and I met some incredible people. In fact, the article I’m most proud of writing to this day came to fruition during my years at the paper. It was about a local girl named Maggie Doyne, who had just graduated from high school, and afterwards moved to Nepal. During her time there she witnessed a lot of poverty and saw so many children in need, so decided to open an orphanage on her own. Maggie was looking for fundraising to complete building her children’s home, and from my article she was able to get more donations and has since started a school. She is still extremely inspiring to me.
My next job took me to New York City, a place I always felt I wanted to live. A good piece of advice to share, which I learned from my first interview at Condé Nast, is how important it is to be open to saying ‘yes.’ I met with a recruiter who asked what I was interested in as far as a job. I told her fashion and beauty and would love to work for a magazine like Vogue. She then asked if I would be interested in doing something less glamorous and covering the trade side of the industry, as opposed to the consumer side. I didn’t know what that meant at all. But, I said ‘Yes, I’ll do anything, I just want to be here!” She told me later that this was a huge reason I was hired. If I had been closed off to the idea, she wouldn’t have remembered me six months afterwards when a job as an Editorial Assistant for Jenny Fine, the Editor-in-Chief of Beauty Inc, opened up.
Jenny was the biggest influence in my entire career as far as writing goes. She demanded excellence and really pushed me to be better. In my first few years I questioned my abilities, and there was a lot of hard work. I emerged from that experience able to edit my own articles, which is one of the biggest lessons in journalism. A few years later when a job became available at Condé to be a market editor, Jenny recommended me for it. Those experiences had its challenges and there was self-doubt, but ultimately it was all worth it. New York is a tough place, as is editorial, but I put in the time and the work and it paid of. Working as an editor at Women’s Wear Daily was amazing, and I worked under Pete Born, who is a true journalistic legend, not to mention the kindest boss I ever had.
When I was at Women’s Wear Daily I interviewed the president of GLOSSYBOX, Elian Pres-Gurwits. He was head of the U.S. business at the age of 26 and spoke passionately about his company and his life experiences, including living and working all over the world. I was intrigued. At this time, GLOSSYBOX had a job opening and Elian thought that I had the right personality and background, so he offered me the position. Leaving editorial was tough because I really worked hard for it. I put in almost 10 years to be an editor, but I felt that it was time to stretch myself and it was time to say ‘yes’ again to something different. I didn’t know a lot about business, and I figured it was a good opportunity to push myself, travel and learn the ins and outs of the beauty industry.
CJ: What an amazing journey. When writing an article as a journalist, what is your process from start to finish?
BS: I first start by aggregating everything I know I need for the story and I put it all in one place. Then I go through and eliminate what’s repetitive or uninteresting, and come up with an overall feeling and theme for how I want people to feel about it. For example, with the Maggie Doyne piece, I wanted to highlight how young she was, and how in a blink of an eye, made the decision to help complete strangers by opening an orphanage.
I always want to get to the root of the story. Whenever I write anything, it’s important to me that I understand it 100 percent. I don’t like writing anything I don’t completely comprehend because I know it won’t translate to the reader. I want people to feel what I felt, so I have to understand my interview subject. I’ve interviewed amazing people, and for me it’s about getting to the essence of the person. I want to provide insight from my perspective. I live by the motto, “Show don’t tell.” Create an emotional experience for the reader.
CJ: Great advice! You are now Head of Content and Communications at GLOSSYBOX. What does your role entail?
BS: I handle all of our written assets that accompany each monthly box, as well as communications internally and public relations. I also oversee our partnerships.
In order to grow the business, I leverage existing relationships, and luckily I have a lot of relationships with people who I’ve met from the beauty industry. I try to pick a lot of people’s brains, because I know that I don’t have all of the answers. I like to ask my friends who work in various sectors for their expertise. All-in-all, I approach partnerships the way I approach journalism; aggregation and dividing and conquering. Since we have such a small team at GLOSSYBOX North America, my idea can become a new box in a matter of months. It’s such a rewarding experience.
CJ: What advice do you have for teenagers and young adults interested in working as a journalist or in the beauty industry?
BS: Be a sponge and be humble. Always listen. Model yourself after the people you want to be like. There’s a great word called propinquity, and it means that what you’re around you feed off of and become. You don’t have to be physically there, which does help, because it can also happen through your mindset. If you’re in the mindset of wanting to be a journalist and you start reading writers you admire, you’re going to get better and start writing in a more elevated way.
It’s also important to gather different perspectives so you can find your own way. You don’t want to imitate one person. When I reflect on my journalism career, I think back on a professor I had in college or a book I read or my first editor, and realize I incorporate elements of each into what I do now. Another piece of advice would be: don’t be afraid of hard work. Case-in-point, for my first internship at ABC’s 20/20 I commuted into New York City from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania three days a week, first thing in the morning on a train that took three hours. I made sure that no matter how exhausted I was from a full workload as well as an internship, I kept smile on my face and said ‘yes’ to everything I was asked. If I hadn’t been there and said ‘yes,’ I wouldn’t have had the opportunity for networking and eventually finding a job. Always remember, there’s no substitute for hard work.
Also, don’t be distracted. I can always tell if an intern is distracted, checking social media. It makes a difference when an intern is completely present. Quiet the distractions. Give 100%. Facebook will be there when you’re done with work.
CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?
BS: Self-doubt. Insecurity has always been my issue. I’m not the kind of person who thinks I’m the best. That’s just my natural thing – I’m very hard on myself. That’s something I’m working on, and I haven’t figured it out just yet and it is definitely a work in progress. Part of my role here means being confident and trusting myself. Sometimes I might overthink and over-analyze, and this is something that can make corporate growth more difficult. It’s important to remember that everyone has their own unique perspective and special qualities, which make them an asset.
CJ: What are your favorite books?
CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care greatly about?
BS: One thing recently that I’ve been reading about that makes me angry is disrespect for women. I’m such a supporter of women and hate seeing when they are marginalized. Another thing that gets under my skin is prejudice and blind hate. People you can’t reason with and people who twist religion to support hate – that drives me crazy.
I’m also hugely into animals. I have a cat at home who I found on the street. She was two weeks old when I found her and she was in really bad shape. I was on my way to Fashion Week and I saw her – she looked like a dirty little rat. I took her to an animal hospital on my way to a fashion show, picked her up after, and I’ve had her ever since! I honestly love all animals and often times wish I could open a farm and adopt every unwanted dog and cat in the world.
CJ: What is a memorable travel experience that you’ve had?
BS: When I first got hired at GLOSSYBOX I went to Berlin to meet the whole team. I spent a few days after by myself exploring the city. It was actually really cool to travel somewhere by myself. I wrote down everything I saw. As amazing as it was I felt a bit isolated because I didn’t know anyone in the country. Traveling solo was something I’ve never done. I decided to spend ta full day exploring and found myself at the Pergamon Museum that has unbelievable relics from antiquity, including the Pergamon Altar, a massive frieze built during the 2nd century BC. I came alive that day at the museum. The rest of the trip was amazing, and it was because I allowed myself to enjoy the moment rather than be stressed.
CJ: Any travel tips?
BS: I created a book that I took on every spring break and all vacations with my friends. I traveled with the same friends for college spring break all four years. We wrote down all the funny things we said and did, and now it’s this epic book with all these different time periods. All of the hilarity is captured in this book and nothing is forgotten.
CJ: How do you stay organized and manage your time?
BS: I have a creative brain so organization and time management don’t come naturally. I have to proactively work on it. I used to just write notes on everything, and would have post its everywhere with random notes to myself. I’ve learned to compile where I keep my notes and calendar so everything is in once place.
As far as time management, I think of the day in blocks. The morning is a time to connect with the team in Germany. After lunch I do my follow-up calls, and then late afternoon is my creative time for partnership outreach. Overall there are certain things I know I have to do, but I put it in my schedule at a time when I know I can get it cranked out. I manage my time based on what’s logical and then frame my day around when the best time to do what is. I have to force myself to organize. I’m a creature of chaos.
CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
BS: First of all, start a skin care regimen. Also, I would tell myself to lighten up a little and that things that seem like huge deals now have a way of working out in the end. I spent a lot of my twenties very stressed about where I was going to be in life and what I was going to do. It would’ve been nice to trust in myself more and realize even if something goes wrong, there is always something to learn from it.
I also wish I would’ve studied abroad during college. I started a magazine and worked on the newspaper and was part of choir, and I felt like I had so much to do. I could’ve put it aside and done one less major or minor. The experience would have been more worth it. I now realize the power of travel and seeing new cultures and wish I could have experienced it when I was younger. I was a little overambitious in some ways and a little afraid in other ways.
Images by Belisa Silva