When living and working in New York, you meet a lot of people who say a lot of things. And when you’ve lived and worked here long enough, you realize that a lot of those people are full of it. Wading through the crowds looking for solid, successful, cool people with the chutzpah to back it up can be a full-time job. The stories of my own New York City profiling experiment could fill pages and pages of a rather eclectic novel, but the last chapter would end with my favorite diamonds in rough – and one particularly shiny one by the name of Melanie Altarescu.
For a country bumpkin Midwesterner like myself, Altarescu is the real deal – a bona fide New Yorker (alright, she’s from Chappaqua, but still) who juggles friends, family and work with grace and what I suspect is a no-sleep policy. As the Executive Director of Integrated Marketing at The New Yorker, she’s privy to all that makes this city tick – including, of course, a healthy dose of fashion and culture.
Julie Bensman: Let’s start off easy, what did you want to be when you were little? Is this your dream job?
Melanie Altarescu: I somehow always knew I’d work for a magazine brand, but I took a bit of a jungle gym path to get where I am now. My first job out of college was an NBC Page (like Kenneth from 30 Rock). I helped cover breaking news stories during an incredibly intense period of time — my first day on the news desk was 9/12/01, when, at my dad’s suggestion, I volunteered to come in and help out however I could. I ran scripts for Tom Brokaw as the news continued to break that week and didn’t look up for nearly four years.
When I finally did, I decided I wanted a change. I took a leap into marketing and ran events/PR at Molton Brown, which at the time was just setting up shop in the states. One day, I was over at Men’s Vogue pitching products to some of the beauty editors, and I was fortunate enough to meet the gal who ran the marketing department. We hit it off and she offered me a job on her team.
Since then, I’ve worked for Vanity Fair, Condé Nast Media Group, Town & Country, and now, The New Yorker. I direct a group of 12 incredibly talented, creative and driven individuals. We’re responsible for creating and executing marketing programs for our advertisers that span across all of our platforms: from the print magazine to tablet, smartphone to newyorker.com, plus events and social media.
JB: What does a typical day in the life of Melanie Altarescu look like? No, really, I’d like to know, because you are one of the hardest people to make plans with…
MA: Well, I like to work out in the mornings as often as I can. I love classes at Yoga Vida, Prana Power Yoga or Brooklyn Bodyburn. I also try to take the ferry [from Brooklyn] as often as possible. It’s a very pleasant way to commute and gives me some lovely quiet time to catch up on things I want to read.
Once I’m at my desk, it’s a constant flurry of meetings, phone calls and emails. The best part of my job is the variety: group brainstorms, one-on-one problem solving, creative meetings, idea pitches, etc. I have a short attention span, so it’s the perfect job for me. We move at the speed of light.
Evenings are for unwinding with friends, yummy meals (lots of kale), glasses of wine, long conversations and walks around my neighborhood.
JB: Describe your personal sense of style.
MA: Professional with a bit of an edge. It’s a look that says, “Oh hey, how are you?” while also saying, “Please do not attempt to mess with me. That would be a bad idea.”
JB: I like that look. Who are some of your favorite designers?
MA: Theory seems to do the trick for me. Helmut Lang, Vince and Maje are also great. I love L.K. Bennett heels (thank you, Kate Middleton — they’re the best). Oh, and bead bracelets and necklaces by Laurie Berg.
JB: What's the best style advice you've ever received?
MA: My former boss, Anjali Lewis of Vanity Fair, taught me that it’s ok to wear motorcycle boots to the office. Even with a dress. Maybe even better with a dress.
JB: Which items will you never leave home without?
MA: Sunglasses, headphones and the latest issue of The New Yorker.
JB: Of course. Where do you find inspiration every day?
MA: I’ve been very fortunate to work with a number of incredibly strong female executives over the course of my career. I endeavor to be a creative, tough and fair leader, thanks to the way they’ve inspired me. For creative professional inspiration, PSFK is an indispensable source for inventiveness and originality. Brain Pickings is really wonderful. The animal listicles on Buzzfeed are also just great.
JB: What's the next big thing I need to know about?
MA: Our Passport to the Arts event on May 4. It’s a daylong gallery crawl with all kinds of cool experiences layered in, including a stop on the roof of The McKittrick Hotel, home to Sleep No More. I couldn’t be more psyched about it.