How I landed it: Milk Makeup co-founder Zanna Roberts Rassi
By Ruby Cotton
Content Producer / July 21 2021
An inside look into her (many) dream jobs and her advice for budding beauty journalists
By Ruby Cotton
Content Producer / July 21 2021
Zanna Roberts Rassi’s CV reads more like a bucket list than a resume.
The self-titled “multi-hyphenate” has worn so many of our dream career hats that the only difficult part of this deep dive interview into her working life was deciding which part to focus on.
To briefly summarise Rassi’s career history to date: she’s the current Fashion Editor-At-Large at Marie Claire, an E! News correspondent, a mum-of-two to twin girls and the co-founding visionary behind the boundary-pushing, fun and wildly successful beauty brand Milk Makeup; a once distant dream cooked up during her days working as a beauty editor (yes, she really held that title too).
From her pre-teen years spent “pour[ing] over the spreads in magazines, like Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan” to the invaluable business lessons she learnt in her first ever part-time job, Rassi spares no detail discussing how she went from a budding journalism student to a globally-successful beauty entrepreneur.
Speaking to BEAUTYcrew, here she shares her top tips for breaking into the beauty and media industry as well as the details of where and how the inspiration to build the brand responsible for that makeup-gripping primer stemmed from.
Take us back to where it all began. What was your first-ever job and what did it teach you?
A waitress! It taught me everything about people skills. Working under pressure. A customer coming first. Communication. And how to juggle multiple things at once...including plates!
Since moving on from your stint as a waitress, what is your current role today?
I’m still juggling! A total multi-hyphenate. I’m a broadcast journalist for E!, covering all things fashion and beauty, including celebrity interviews and all award red carpets [including] the Oscars, Emmys, Met Gala, GRAMMYs and NYFW. I’m a co-founder of Milk Makeup, where I focus on strategy, editorialising and amplifying. And I’m a mum of wonderful twin seven-year-old girls, Rumi and Juno.
Sounds like juggling is an understatement. Talk to us about the beauty arm of your career.
I was always 100 per cent beauty obsessed. I recognised the empowerment in playing with my appearance early on. Stealing my sister’s purple Rimmel lipstick and Harmony hairspray (early ‘90s kid!), I was mesmerised by the difference these things could make to your look.
Rewinding back to your high school days, did you have any idea of the career path you wanted to go down?
No, I had no idea! I wasn't pressured into deciding [either], which I’m grateful for. My parents encouraged me to discover, travel and experience everything! I travelled to Tokyo for four months, then Barcelona for another few months. I couch surfed in London and got lucky with some work experience on a magazine shoot.
What course did you study at University (if any)? Are there any other qualifications or experiences you had that you think were paramount in helping you get where you are today?
Journalism was my jam but I loved psychology and business. All of which play heavily into my roles now.
Working across Marie Claire as both a beauty editor and then the fashion editor-at-large, were there any major differences you noticed between the fashion and beauty industry?
When I was a beauty editor I was mainly a writer and as a fashion editor, I was mainly a stylist. In all honesty, in a [fashion] position, I missed the takeaway I was able to provide our readers in beauty. Hence the reason I turned to TV as an outlet to translate fashion for real people on real-life budgets! I found it more satisfying than putting fancy clothes on a supermodel.
Do you have any tips for aspiring journalists looking to break into the industry?
1. Find your voice and your aesthetic. What's your point of view and how is that unique? Learn how to edit words or a rack of clothes accordingly.
2. Test and learn! Everyone today can be their own editor with their own platform thanks to social media. For example, mine is always how to simplify style. I'm the queen of service and see everything through that lens. I like being real, humorous and often self-deprecating.
3. Start writing. Search out headlines in everything. What would make someone read this? It's YOUR job to discover 'the cool' in everything.
Has your career brought about many travel opportunities and (as soon as we’re allowed) are there any places you’d like to visit?
Yes, I’m so blessed to have travelled the world for work. I have shot TV shows on the Great Wall of China. Done fashion shoots in the Brazilian rainforest. Gone to Iceland for a beauty shoot. Flown to France to visit the specific vineyard and try the grapes that are in a skin care cream! Next is AUSTRALIA – I’m so pumped to FINALLY get there.
Fast forward to the present. What does an average work day look like for you?
No two days are the same. I WISH I could divide my roles by day but it's impossible! One day I’m on the Oscars red carpet. The next, I’m on a huge brand shoot, in meetings for Milk Makeup or homeschooling!
Before we start talking all things Milk Makeup, we’ve quickly got to ask; as an E! host, have you ever been star struck? And by who?
It’s bizarre as I orbit this world and have interviewed so many celebs! Weirdly, Prince William! LOL. I wasn't even working. It was at a social event and I shook his hand and was speechless.
Ok so, the brilliant beauty brand that is Milk Makeup – talk to us about it. Where did it all begin?
It all began at the iconic MILK Studios, the creative studio in downtown NYC that Milk Makeup Co-Founder [and Zanna’s husband], Mazdack Rassi, founded over two decades ago. Milk Makeup was born in 2016, founded by Mazdack Rassi – the pied piper who brought the band together – Dianna Ruth (product developer and COO), seasoned Milk Girl and creative director Georgie Greville, and myself.
When we created Milk Makeup, all four of the co-founders were new parents – working parents – with busy lives. [So] offering products that were easy-to-use and multi-functional was imperative and has [since] become one of our calling cards. Whether you’re on the go and getting ready with one hand, or whilst the kids are hanging off you and you're on a conference call, our products make it easy.
Widely recognised as trendsetters within the beauty industry, where do you look for inspiration?
Our community and culture have always been our inspiration. We see personal style and experimentation as the ultimate forms of self-expression. It’s not just about how you create your look; it’s what you do in it that matters. That’s why our tagline is #LiveYourLook.
We were inspired by and built to serve Milk Studios’ unique NYC community, championing inclusivity, product efficacy, as well as clean, vegan and cruelty-free formulas. We strive to create first-to-market products that are easy-to-use, safely formulated, and appeal to a diverse audience of all ages, races and genders.
While we are a large community, we are a tight-knit one, and our greatest satisfaction is seeing people around the globe use our products as tools to create and live their look. Dianna Ruth, our co-founder and the product development team are inspired by so many other industries… technology, food, medical, architecture!! Even the automotive industry for our Kush Mascara launch!*
*The Kush Mascara is packaged in a recyclable aluminum that’s only found in an Italian car factory. So yes, you could say it’s the Ferrari of mascaras.
What do you consider the most challenging part of your role at Milk?
So many ideas. Just not enough hours in the day!
And the best part?
I love working with our awesome teams on the editorialising of social and digital programming ideas. As I said – I’m the service queen and love to ideate franchises and content which make it easy to understand.
I also LOVE getting to meet and know our community, to hear from them over social, in reviews and comments.
What advice would you give to those looking to land a role working in a company like Milk?
Find the company whose values align with yours. Be willing, research, think outside the box and pitch good ideas. Be open to it all.