Life takes us in many directions. We must be open to receive the blessings. Many times, as we start something, we never know the outcome. The lesson, just start. For Siraad Dirshe, she moved to New York City to work in finance after graduating from Hamilton College. While she was working her full-time job, she decided to try her hand at freelance writing. “I pitched an idea for a story to a site and they surprisingly said yes. From there, I continued to freelance and had the opportunity to contribute to sites like Racked, Allure, Vogue and Teen Vogue. After about a year-and-half of freelance writing, I learned about a beauty editor roll at ESSENCE and the rest is kind of history,” she explains.
To work for a legendary brand such as ESSENCE, is a dream come true for many. Dirshe understands the importance and legacy of holding such a role. “It feels like a great honor and more importantly a great responsibility. Being in a position where I can impact how Black women are represented in media and even how they feel about themselves is something I do not take lightly. My goal is to make Black women feel like their most beautiful selves, inside and out. I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I can actually do that.”
Her interest in beauty stemmed from her grandmother. This realization came from a discussion that Dirshe participated in on the Black Girl in Om podcast. “I realized my infatuation really stems from my Nana. She not only sold Mary Kay but also was the type of woman to wear lipstick and keep a weekly hair appointment, despite being in her 70s. This for sure impacted me, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. My Nana mixed with an interest in skin care was the perfect combination to lead me to beauty writing.”
If you want to start freelancing or land a magazine job, Dirshe offers the following advice.
1. Be persistent (and kind of annoying) and don’t take it personal: It can be SO annoying when editors don’t get back to you, but you have to keep in mind they’re super busy. So keep following up. It took about six emails (to radio silence) before I got one editor to respond back to me, but that turned out to be one of my most fruitful relationships.
2. Build relationships with the editors/writes of your favorite sites (outside of just when you’re pitching): Like most things in life, relationships with editors are #majorkey. Reach out to a few of your favorite editors to ask for advice or comment on stories you really liked by them. While there may not be an immediate payoff, having a relationship means they’ll be more inclined to read your pitches and assign work when it comes up.
3. Trust the process even if you can’t see how things will totally work out: Again, I started writing on a whim not totally sure where it would go – I just knew I really enjoyed it and that it was fun. I also don’t have a traditional editor’s background. I didn’t intern or assist at a magazine, but I did work in public relations and marketing which turned out to be helpful in my current role. All that to say, there isn’t just one-way to get to a destination.
4. Create your own opportunities: If editors or people aren’t getting back to you, don’t give up but look at it as a chance to create your own thing. In today’s world there are endless opportunities to create content on your own. Start a YouTube channel, an Instagram account or even blog that you can then use as a portfolio when/if you do decide to apply to writing jobs.
As an editor, life can get hectic and stressful. Dirshe stays balanced by being “super intentional about shutting off work and having interests outside of just beauty,” she says. She likes to workout, travel, go to museums, and hang out with friends. In the future, she wants to continue to “tell, share, and amplify the stories of Black women in powerful and creative ways.”
Be Well. Write Well.