The Business of Beauty with Amanda Elser

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Amanda Elser, beauty assistant at Seventeen Magazine (photo courtesy of Pinterest.com)

By Nicole Gartside

At seventeen years old, Amanda Elser wrote a letter to the editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine. “How do I get a job like yours?” the letter asked. Atoosa Robenstein, the editor-in-chief, wrote her back. She told young Amanda to follow her dreams, to get internships, to work hard, and to never give up. The teenager from Glen Mills, Pennsylvania kept the letter tucked away in her diary for years. But when Amanda walked into Ann Shocket’s office, current editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine, to interview for her first job there, Amanda had this letter in her purse. At the end of the interview, Ann asked Amanda what was the one thing she thought Ann should walk away knowing about her. That’s when I Amanda handed her the letter and said, “See? I’ve wanted to work here since I was seventeen.”

          Now twenty-three years old, Amanda is the beauty assistant at Seventeen magazine. She’s in charge of pitching, writing, and editing half of the magazine’s beauty articles each week, as well as weekly blog posts to Seventeen.com. Her ten-hour days are spent for the most part at her desk, researching products and trends, emailing PR companies, and editing pages. When asked what she does for fun, Amanda just laughs. “I don’t have time for hobbies,” she says. But when she does get a chance to get up and stretch her legs at work, it’s always for a good reason. She often has car services sent to pick her up and whisk her off to events for new perfumes or hair products. She’ll come back to the office with a new blowout and a bag full of goodies. She gets to visit photo shoots with celebrities and models, helping to style them with what she calls a “Seventeen vibe.” She’s hung out in the Seventeen beauty closet with celebrities and enjoyed impromptu jam sessions by world-renowned performers who just happened to pop in and say hi.

In many ways, Amanda’s job is every girl’s dream job. She gets to paint her nails with the newest colors and patterns just so she can blog about it. She lets Willow Smith try out color streaks in her hair and helps Lucy Hale put together a makeup look for her cover shoot. Amanda’s job involves swimming through a sea of beauty products, the sum total of which could probably feed a third world country. For a girl from Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, it was a lifestyle that took a little getting used to. Free products are nearly thrown at her. She jokes she finally had to clean out her bathroom after her boyfriend wouldn’t stop complaining. “I only have one shampoo in my shower right now, which is huge,” she said.

Amanda was always fascinated with the world of beauty. “There’s trends behind it,” she says of the beauty industry. “But also innovation and science.” While fashion designers dictate what’s “in” or “out,” Amanda loves how beauty is a constantly changing field, absorbing inspiration from the people, the companies, and new scientific discoveries that can be translated to products. Amanda has had a knack for spotting rising beauty trends and communicating them to a mass audience since writing a college fashionista guide for USA Today while studying at Penn State. She then went on to work as an associate editor for Stylecaster, writing up to seven beauty articles every day. Before working at Seventeen, Amanda also created a beauty intern position at Oprah magazine, also a member of the Hearst family. Though she started out as a regular intern for all areas in the magazine, she found her niche in the beauty department and created the position for herself. “I knew the industry and I knew what was in,” said Amanda about using her beauty intern experience at O to get her job at Seventeen. “She’s mature beyond her years,” said former Senior Beauty Editor, Tomoko Takeda. “She took on a lot more work than a typical beauty assistant.”

But one doesn’t need to know Amanda’s history to see that beauty is a passion of hers. Amanda’s neatly manicured hands are often tainted with splotches of BB creams or eye shadows that she was testing earlier in the day. She has so perfected the art of makeup that it almost looks like she’s not wearing any. Her base is so flawless it’s impossible to see where the makeup ends and where her real skin begins. The color contours of her eyes are done so daintily, they really could just be shadows from the light. Only her constant ins and outs of the beauty closet, the piles of products on her desk, and the small mirror that sits upright just beside her computer serve as indications that she applies makeup at all. It’s only the occasional red lip or smoky when she’s feeling adventurous or daring that stands out against the porcelain canvas of her face. “Amanda’s work style is driven by her passion for beauty,” says Seventeen photo assistant and friend of Amanda’s, Ricki Berger. “She lives what she’s doing and she’s good at it.” As a young woman surrounded by the inspirations and demands of teenage girls, Amanda has somehow managed to carve for herself a perfect, age-appropriate niche, never afraid to experiment with the younger trends, but always carrying and presenting herself in a mature manner.

It’s the silences that make Amanda’s demeanor so professional. In casual conversations with co-workers in the office, there’s laughing, pats on the back, sharing of gossip and weekend stories. “She’s a nice and fun girl and she diffused the stress and hectic-ness for me,” says Takeda of working with Amanda. Berger agrees, saying “She’s very upbeat and personable.” But when it comes time to get down to business, Amanda buttons herself up a little more. She’s an observer, standing silently while co-workers explain their vision, nodding in agreement, rarely opening her mouth. She watches make-up artists prepare models for shoots and set up the set, merely observing, pointing out a change here or nodding her approval there. But behind her eyes it’s not hard to see the wheels turning. When it comes to her job, Amanda is of few words. She’d rather let her projects speak for themselves. “She knows every beauty product imaginable and knows exactly what product would fit what story for the magazine,” says Berger.

Although Amanda’s job is one with a plethora of fun and freebies, it’s also one of constant rejection. She’ll pitch pages of stories to her editor only to have one idea accepted. Maybe not even that. She’ll spend her entire morning researching waterproof eye shadow, only to be told that the story was changed completely and now they want purple lip liner. Her position requires immense flexibility. When she is rejected or everything she was working on shifts underneath her feet, she has to be able to shrug and move on. And Amanda does. She rides out the change, always seeming to be one step ahead. “She definitely helped organize our department and keep it on track in terms of deadlines, scheduling and such,” said Takeda. Her knowledge of products and brands helps her to find just what she needs for a story right when it’s needed.

What’s in store for Amanda in the future? She hopes to go on to be a beauty director, maybe at Seventeen. But further down the road, she wants to freelance and work from home so she can raise kids. But whatever she ends up doing, Amanda says that working at Seventeen has been an experience that has changed her beauty routine. She says that this job taught her to start taking care of her skin and, ironically enough, serving the masses of teenage girls the hottest beauty trends they’ve been craving through her work at Seventeen has forced Amanda and her beauty style to grow up and mature beyond her years.

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