Samantha Callendar

As Told By: Samantha Callendar

Last updated on: 2018

As Told By

Samantha Callendar has always had a passion for storytelling. As a digital contributor and beauty writer, her work can be seen in countless platforms including features in Essence, Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed and more. Keep reading to learn more about how Samantha keeps up with the latest beauty trends, her best tips for freelance writers and the challenges of being a woman of color working in the beauty industry.

1. Tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get your start in the beauty world?

I studied journalism in undergrad, and one of my first experiences was being a Senior Staff writer for our college newspaper. I covered the student government meetings on campus, and learned a lot about politics through student government. Though I did learn a lot about what influences collegiate policies and procedures, I was very bored with just going to meetings and reporting on what happened there. I wanted to do a bit more. So, I joined the campus magazine that focused on diversity and became a writer for the quarterly publication. Eventually, I became the Editor in Chief of the magazine and I loved writing stories and putting together a magazine. The internship that I held in undergrad was a digital one, and it was being the editorial assistant to the editor and founder of a lifestyle startup website. I didn’t have the money to take an unpaid internship in NYC, so a digital one was the next best thing and it turned out to be the best thing. I learned how to navigate the digital space, which was a relatively new the time. I learned how to write SEO focused content, was a pseudo publicist for the site (sending cold pitches to secure interview opportunities and acquire sponsored content), sourcing photos, creating an editorial calendar, learning how to schedule posts in publishing software the whole nine. I did that for about a summer, and even into my senior year of college. I really learned how to work for a digital magazine at a time when folks still weren’t sure of how to navigate the digital space. After graduation I got a contributing role at a music magazine and eventually went on to become a freelance entertainment journalist, interviewing celebrities, going to premieres, award shows, and music festivals. It was definitely an exciting time where I learned how to network and how to pitch myself to different magazines and websites.

I was freelancing for some entertainment and lifestyle sites, and at the same time was using social media to build a “presence” since I wasn’t located in a big city (I was living in Cincinnati, Ohio). I used Twitter a lot to engage with other media professionals and to connect with writers and editors in NYC. I had followed a writer at Essence magazine, and she and I became “digital friends”, always engaging with each other on social media. She ended up getting promoted to Associate Beauty Editor and asked me if I would be willing to do some contributing writing for Essence.com. I jumped at the chance because I always loved the magazine and I wanted to write for them. In my personal life, I always loved beauty and skincare so I was definitely willing to write about the community, which was growing rapidly because of beauty influencers on YouTube and Instagram.

I’ve been a beauty writer for going on three years now and I love every bit of it. I still do lifestyle and entertainment pieces for other sites as well as some freelancing work. I’m working on building my digital influence more, so these days I’ve been collaborating with brands to do sponsored content, going to different events on their behalf and being more of an overall lifestyle influencer. I just love sharing great content, products and information with folks. I love giving people tools and resources to live their best life through both editorial and social media content.

2. You have a background in journalism and an impressive writing portfolio, with features in Essence, Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed and more. Can you tell us more about how you built the connections that led to these amazing opportunities?

It was a combination of using Twitter and LinkedIn to engage and connect with media professionals, and also learning how to create a great pitch. I would follow the writers and editors from magazines that I loved or wanted to work with. I made sure to engage with them in a genuine way liking posts, retweeting, leaving positive comments, stuff like that. I also perfected my pitches. I have always freelanced, so I have to sell myself based off the articles I pitch. I learned how to make sure that not only do I give my resume and credentials, but I craft a pitch that doesn’t require them to ask too many follow up questions and give them everything they need in the pitch. Not only does that make for a complete pitch, but it also shows them that I don’t need to much direction, that I’m self-sufficient.  Self sufficiency is what a lot of magazines and publications look for with freelancers. Also, I make sure to be present at networking events and conferences. In the digital age we expect online connections to always work, and while sometimes they do, people also like to get to know you in person. I invest in conferences and professional organizations to make sure I put myself in circles to meet folks and get to know them personally.

3. Can you share a few tips of advice for other contributing writers and digital freelancers?

I would say the best thing is learning how to engage and network with people. Engagement on social media is a big part, and also engaging in real life as well. Another tip is to always be promoting yourself. That can be as simple as making sure you’re always posting your work across your social media platforms both old and new. I’ve gotten a lot of writing opportunities because people saw my post on Twitter or LinkedIn and they want me to write the same kind of content for them. How are people supposed to know what you’re capable of if you don’t share it? Make sure you’re always sharing links to your work and people will begin to keep you in mind for projects because they see the things you’ve done or are doing. Also, perfect your pitch. What a perfect pitch is could be a whole article in itself but essentially the things you need to have in it are who you are, what you’ve done, your story idea, a plan on how you’d execute building the story and why YOU are the person who needs to write this story. So many times I see writers send pitches and then get passed on, but will later see their idea on the site. You need to drive it home why you’re the perfect person to craft a story.

Samantha Callendar quote

4. What is one thing you have accomplished in your career that you’re extremely proud of?

I’m the most proud of a series I did back when I was a music contributor for Women’s History Month. During that month (in March), I interviewed a range of women celebrities and the focus of those interviews was empowerment and positivity and what that meant to them. I got great feedback from the celebs because they loved that the interview didn’t ask the basic questions of gossip or keep asking them basic questions about their projects it really shined a light on who they were as a person. A lot of the celebs I interviewed said it was refreshing. I also got a lot of great feedback from the readers because it said they showed their favorite celebs in a new light, and they felt they got to know them a little better. To me, the series were pieces that not only the celebrities remembered me because of (I interviewed several of them later for other magazines), but also that my audience loved and it helped me grow my following as well. I was really proud of that body of work.

5. How do you keep up with the latest beauty and hair trends?

I use Instagram and YouTube a lot to stay on top of the best trends. I indulge in watching a lot of tutorials and going down rabbit holes of beauty pages on Instagram. Also, I make sure to attend press events for new products, connecting with the marketing and PR teams at beauty companies, and keeping a close network of professionals in the corporate realm of beauty. I think a combination of all of that is how I stay on top of trend both on the corporate side and the consumer side of beauty.

I personally love supporting clean brands, indie brands and brands owned by women of color. A lot times, I give those brands their first national spotlight and it feels really good to be able to give those hard working business women that opportunity to be introduced to a national audience through the site.

I also am very social, so I often go to grand openings of makeup stores, beauty preview days and visit cosmetics and skincare companies to really engage with those brands on a more personal level.

6. What are some of the challenges and opportunities about being a woman of color working in the beauty industry?

One of the biggest challenges is sometimes the disconnect of companies not realizing or understanding that their product doesn’t work for or doesn’t appeal to women of color. Sometimes publicists will try to connect me to makeup artists and hairstylists for interviews, but none of their clients are women of color. Why would I introduce that type of hairstylist or makeup artist to my audience of women of color when they’ve never worked with black hair or black skin? Or sometimes they’ll want to host me at places like a tanning salon to try out the latest tanning technology and I’m thinking, “I’m black, why would I want to go try that out? My audience doesn’t care about that type of stuff either.” I also will get pitches for beauty products that just don’t work for black hair or makeup that doesn’t look great on black skin and I just don’t have a content fit for that.

It can also be a little challenging to not see too many folks of color represented in beauty campaigns or in advertising especially when I know black women and other women of color may use those products but you never seem them represented in that advertising. Either that, or you see only an “exotic” person of color in advertising. Sometimes there are missed opportunities for representation that I feel speaks volumes. I believe now companies are being called out more and are more aware of the lack and are working on it, but I still think there’s a lot of work to be done on how companies and brands make sure that they give women of color space in the beauty community. For a while we were very blatantly left out, even though data shows time and time again that black women have huge buying power in the beauty industry.

Samantha Callendar quote

7. What three products do you always keep in your makeup bag?

In my purse:

  1. Facial Mist It’s important to keep the skin hydrated, so I always keep a bottle of mist in my bag.
  2. Red Lipstick A red lip is so powerful, and my favorite right now my favorite is the Fenty Beauty Stunna Lipaint in Uncensored.
  3. Natural Oil Perfume Oil perfumes leave a scent that last a while, and I love to dab some on my wrists before going into an event or out with friends.

In my makeup bag:

  1. Blush Adding a touch of color on the cheeks to warm up my look. My favorite right now is Glossier’s cloud paint.
  2. Mascara I have small, round eyes so mascara opens them up. I love Benefit’s range of mascaras.
  3. Brow Pomade I fill in my brows because they’re so sparse, and I use the Dipbrow Pomade by Anastasia Beverly Hills.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Interested in learning more from professionals in the digital marketing and beauty industries? Check out the rest of our As Told By series.

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Ciera is a content creator, social media strategist and world traveler currently exploring Southern California. With more than five years of experience developing content, Ciera has combined her love for writing, traveling, photography and creativity into her lifestyle and travel blog, WorldWideStylista. In her free time, she loves going to the beach, cooking new vegetarian recipes and playing with puppies. To see more of Ciera, visit her blog at www.worldwidestylista.com.