Meet Melissa Sansone, Vice President at SEEN. A longtime skincare junkie, Melissa’s career parallels her passion for all things beauty, from top products to the most inspiring brand founders. We got to know how Melissa landed her current role, plus some of her most memorable milestones along the way. Keep an eye out for a few of her beauty cabinet faves, too.
What attracted you to this industry and how did you get your start?
I've always been mesmerized by the talent this industry fosters, the creativity that is imagined and the incredible science that drives forward the formula innovation and opportunities for brands to bring coveted products to market. I have also struggled with skin issues my whole life – scouring aisles of products promising the desired clear complexion and radiance that were my battle weapons against years of puberty and hormonal changes. My skin journey, like so many others’, was the birth of my obsession with ingredients and the need to understand how beauty products could improve my skin for the better.
I was grateful (and lucky!) to land a PR assistant role in the beauty division at Paul Wilmot Communications right out of college after internships at Vogue and Lucky Magazine (RIP!), followed by a stint at fashion firm People’s Revolution. During my seven years there, I developed a strong foundation for what public relations actually was (not all glamour, not all free clothes… but HARD work and a keen sense of resourcefulness) and how to successfully build my relationships with media and clients, representing brands such as MAC Cosmetics, La Prairie, Perricone MD, Too Faced, BITE Beauty, Molton Brown and IMAN Cosmetics. From there I went on to work at another global PR agency leading up their beauty division, followed by three years in-house with Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare as their Global Director of PR & Communications. The mix of agency and brand side was invaluable and offered me such insight into the inner workings of how brands are built and brought to market.
What does your current role as Vice President of SEEN entail?
I currently lead up the US arm of the SEEN Group business, which includes servicing our client roster of beauty brands, developing brand strategy, recruiting new talent for our growing team and overseeing new business to build and diversify the agency’s brand portfolio. We are in a transformative moment, during a time when the cultural and consumer conversation around beauty and health has dramatically shifted. I feel overwhelming gratitude to be surrounded by such strong, creative, confident, smart women who are paving the path for the new way of communications, who champion courageous thinking and reflect on what we’ve done with both celebration and a challenge to shape our business mission and deeply consider how it must evolve to welcome new services, ways of working and thought leadership for our clients. Every day looks supremely different, which I feel very lucky for – this keeps me on my toes, pushing me to learn and seek avenues to develop the US arm of the agency as we entered into our fourth year.
Please share a few career highlights with us.
Scoring my very first beauty account, for me to own and lead, was a monumental moment as an Account Executive at Paul Wilmot Communications. It ended up being BITE Beauty, the gorgeous lip-focused brand, which I launched into the world with its amazing founder, Susanna Langmuir. The collection ultimately went on to be distributed nationwide by Sephora and bought by Kendo. Second to that was the day I got their Lipstick Lab a profile in The New York Times and experienced the proud publicist moment we all dream of!
Working at Paul Wilmot afforded me the opportunity to work many, many seasons at NY Fashion Week, both front of house and backstage. The moment that is singed in my mind was working the Oscar de la Renta show (though I cannot remember which season) and chasing after a rogue photographer backstage, only to bump into Oscar himself – who thanked me for my help in ‘wrangling the wild.’ He was equally gentle and powerful all at once. It was magical to have met such a visionary.
Traveling to London with Burberry Beauty was one of my most memorable experiences during my time at Coty. That powerhouse brand is exquisite, classic and was in its transformation period with Riccardo being ushered in. We had the chance to bring press and influencers to the global event, which was hosted over three days and wrapped with a house party hosted by Cara Delevingne whom I’ve always admired. It was definitely one of those “whoa, how did I get here?” moments.
Landing the in-house role at Dr Dennis Gross Skincare was a major career moment. I had been on the agency side for eight years hoping to jump to the brand side for some time. I was on a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway when I got the call from Kendra Kolb Butler that she would love to offer me the position. Absolutely a dream job for a skincare junkie and the next three years of my career offered me invaluable experience working alongside Dr Gross – one of the industry’s true changemakers. The Alpha Beta Peel is still my desert island product.
Winning a number of the new business accounts during my time at SEEN has been incredibly rewarding and thrilling as we continue to cement our place in the US market. The stand out for me was meeting Jess Richards and knowing from the second I left our new biz meeting that I just had to work with her – she was the type of business woman I aspired to be (dig those heels in and go get it!) and I wanted to tell her story to anyone who would listen. The other was Tatcha, which is a brand I’ve admired for years. Our team worked tirelessly on the pitch – the true definition of creativity, collaboration and kick-ass teamwork over many weeks. I found out we won it on my birthday while I was in Montauk with friends.
What are a couple of current projects you’re excited about?
The agency is currently creating a Trend Report which examines the current climate as it relates to the industry as a whole and a number of key findings from different categories, all rooted in strategic insights and creative thought leadership from our SEEN Works team. We have also just debuted Community by SEEN as a new arm of our agency business which builds and connects us with our own micro influencer community. Specifically from the US, our team is planning the highly anticipated US launch of MONDAY Haircare, a new Australian brand arriving in February with plans to shake up the category, marrying luxury formulation with affordability. We’re all very excited to debut the collection and build their roster of MONDAY Muses, a collective of women who are pioneers and leaders in largely male-dominated industries.
Any future goals and/or plans you’re working towards?
For the foreseeable future, my goal is to continue to build the SEEN US business and to support beauty changemakers and forward-thinking businesses. I am so lucky to be a part of this company and to lead alongside Jane Walsh, my insanely talented CEO who I learn from each day. The agency in this market is still in its infancy, and therefore ripe for opportunity and growth. We are constantly brainstorming, reading, absorbing and observing all the changes and shifts that are taking place in our industry and our daily aim is to originate ideas so inspiring they elevate perceptions of beauty. Ultimately, the goal is to be the agency the beauty world wants to work with.
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