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Evolve spotlight: Isabel Russo and Sally Amick-Russo

Evolve has been lucky to have Isabel Russo as a Communications and Media intern this summer! Isabel is a junior this fall at the University of Maryland. She's majoring in communications on a public relations track and minoring in both business and creative writing.

Isabel's can-do attitude, writing talent and determination to figure anything out have been an enormous help to us this summer!

A big source of inspiration? The example set by her mom (and friend of Linda), talented Beauty Copywriter Sally Amick-Russo. Read Isabel's interview with Sally to learn how she's navigated career and family life over the years, and her thoughts on the future!

Name: Sally Amick-Russo

What do you do + where do you do it? I am a Beauty Copywriter. I worked for The Estee Lauder Companies in New York for over 20 years, on a few different brands including Prescriptives, Estee Lauder and Beauty Bank. I started in the early 90’s and it was an amazing time to be in the industry and at such an influential company.

Fortunately, I forged many strong relationships with colleagues, and when I decided to go freelance and try to balance my work life with my family life, I was lucky to have enough contacts to continue working through it all.

Over the years, I continued writing and consulting for different prestige brands, most notably Laura Mercier and Make Up For Ever. Of course, right now I am on a pandemic-based break, but hope to get right back in the mix when things pick up again.

When did you discover an interest in your current job? I am the daughter of journalists and have always loved writing. It came naturally to me and I loved the idea of putting thoughts to paper. I was always really good at English -- and not really good at math. My current job is my past job and I am forever a Copywriter.

I do feel like it is becoming a lost art, but I will forge on. Words are and will always be powerful and clear, concise communication and brand identification is even more essential in this cluttered social-media 24/7 landscape.

What are the most important soft skills necessary for a career path like yours? These days are different than when I was writing full-time. We were doing memorable advertisements in all the top magazines -- Vogue, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar...and writing shared “advertorials” with subtle messaging. People were still reading magazines and advertisements. The September issues were legendary.

Now you only have a nano-second to catch someone’s attention--and it’s usually on their phone or computer screen. I think the most important thing you can do is be aware of the competition, what they are saying, how they are saying it and if it is working.

What is the most challenging part of your job and why? RIght now, it’s catching a reader’s attention. Making them stop and think about the words. We are all so actively inundated with words and messages and influencers and ads and real news and fake news and alerts and it never, ever stops. Our brains are not equipped to take it all in.

So if a Copywriter comes up with a fantastic stop-in-your-tracks headline or hardly registers. Our brains are too full of things that don’t necessarily need to be there.

The other challenge, at least in my industry, is an over-cluttered landscape. There are just so many beauty brands out there, it’s harder and harder to stand out.

What’s the professional accomplishment you’re most proud of? I think it is just being at such an amazing company for so long, and always trying to recreate and reinforce the message. Lauder was -- and always will be-- a company that valued and encouraged strong female input (I mean, we were the ones buying the lipstick).

I have a portfolio of stunningly beautiful and memorable ads that I somehow helped to create, and it makes me so proud to be part of that history. I had amazing bosses -- including Suzanne Kirtland who was (and is) a copy legend. She named Charlie and Jontue fragrances for Charles Revlon, and was very generous about teaching me the craft.

If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your career journey, what would it be? Find a mentor. Look for the women who came before you, and learn from them.

Surround yourself with greatness, and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty -- no job should be too small, because you are learning every day.

And always know your worth, because you should always strive to be an integral part of your company's success.

If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? If not, what would you change? I would not change a thing. My second job out of college was as an Editorial Assistant at The New York TImes, and my parents were thrilled. It was truly more of an Administrative Assistant job, but it was THE NEW YORK TIMES! I worked for former Executive Editor A.M Rosenthal, and that was big time!

It was impressive enough on my resume to lead to my wonderful interview and eventual long career at Estee Lauder. And I am now fortunate to be able to continue in a freelance capacity, working for many new and younger brands. I am also still in close touch with friends from Lauder and I tell them I hope to be back in those offices very soon!

In what ways have events or circumstances in your personal or family life impacted the trajectory of your career? Well, isn’t this the biggest challenge? You start a family and realize you want to be there for the big moments. You want to maintain the corner office, and still be home to see your baby’s first steps.

My husband has a job that involves a lot of travel, and I would have had massive guilt if we both were away throughout their childhood. So I was fortunate enough to do a work-home balance that allowed me more flexibility--and it was definitely the right move. I do sometimes jokingly remind my kids that I gave up a big career for them, but it was what was right for our family.

How has your career path evolved at midlife specifically? Well, now that “midlife” (and that’s being kind) has merged with “empty nest,” I am at the stage where I am figuring out my next chapter. I had some local consulting gigs lined up that were to begin in March, but then the world shut down and they were put on hold until further notice.

I have to decide whether I want to continue to commute into New York, or if the new work-from-home trend is what I will do instead. I may get in touch with some advertising firms in Red Bank or neighboring Monmouth County towns and see if I can help with branding or copy. I, like so many these days, am still figuring it all out.

What’s your life motto or mantra? It's fairly simple. Treat others how you wish to be treated. Be kind. Be helpful. It costs nothing to make someone else’s day...whether lending a hand or issuing a simple compliment. You have no idea what the person next to you is going through, and it’s just always easier to do the right thing.

I know it sounds simplistic, but the older I get, and the more the world becomes divisive...I just wish people would subscribe to this basic mantra: Be kind to one another. We are not here that long, but while we are here we can make an incredible difference.

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