Q&A with Alexis Rodriguez, Founder of The PR Closet
Meet Alexis Rodriguez. She’s the creator of The PR Closet, the Executive Director of Public Relations for Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, and she’s previously worked with other amazing companies like Sephora, Kate Spade Beauty and Diane von Furstenberg. We asked Alexis a few questions about her career, working in the PR industry, and what advice she had for college students. Check out what she had to say!
What inspired you to start the PR Closet?
On July 15th, 2011, I was asked to give the keynote presentation at Fashion Camp NYC, a day camp program for teens interested in the fashion industry. Fashion Camp NYC explores the “business” of fashion, teaching teens — ages 12 to 18 — how to turn their passion into a lucrative profession. Their educators include fashion executives, designers, product developers, stylists, bloggers, editors, and apparently publicists as well, which is where I came in.
The girls were genuinely interested in learning about PR, and more than that, how I got into PR and ultimately to where I am now. It was incredibly rewarding and a lot of the girls remained in touch with me, seeking out mentorship. I have always wanted to help young, aspiring publicists in a bigger way, and having worked for/with brands like DVF, Sephora, Givenchy, etc., I was always receiving e-mails asking me how I landed my job, so a blog seemed like a natural way to answer all these questions. Fashion Camp NYC was the catalyst for finally making it happen.
So, the blog was created to first and foremost serve as a go-to for young, aspiring beauty/fashion publicists so they can learn how to break into PR and ultimately succeed. I explain what PR actually is, the difference between beauty and fashion PR, where to start, what schools have great PR programs, etc. I also feature informative links, beauty/fashion publicist Spotlights, and post jobs and internships in beauty/fashion PR. I love paying it forward, and The PR Closet allows me to do that my way.
What advice do you have for college students trying to make it in the PR industry? Any tips for where to begin?
I think you need to be a people person, first and foremost, because this industry is all about making and maintaining relationships. You also need to be willing to work hard—long hours for little pay. You don’t make a ton of money in the beginning working in beauty and fashion PR, but as you work your way up, it pays off if you do a great job.
Internships—as you know—are crucial, as the best way to learn the ins and outs of any job is on the job, especially in this industry. I suggest that students start interning in high school, but you definitely need internships in college. And speaking of college, I always recommend a college education for any job, as the workforce is increasingly competitive, and most companies will not consider you without one. That said, I don’t think you necessarily need to major in PR, but it is important to take PR courses to understand the fundamentals. English, creative writing and speech courses are helpful as well.
Networking is also very important. When you are not working, you should be networking by joining PR-related clubs/organizations like PRSA, attending PR related events, and setting up exploratory interviews/meetings with people in the industry.
What would you say was your most memorable internship experience? Did you ever have an internship or job that you couldn’t stand?
I had four internships before I started working full time. I don’t think I can say one was better than the other, as I took something away from all of them and gained a collective knowledge of PR. One internship expanded my network of press; another strengthened my writing skills, while another challenged my creativity. And that is why you intern – to be a sponge and learn from the many who have done this before you. If I had to pick my most memorable, I’d say it was my first internship in beauty at DNA PR because it is where and when I fell in love with the industry.
I never had an internship I couldn’t stand—I loved them all. I think I have actually had more challenging clients than challenging positions.
Do you have a favorite moment from your career, maybe one when you realized you were in the right industry? If so, what happened?
One of my favorite moments was when I got to meet Hillary Clinton at an awards ceremony for NGO Vital Voices. I was meeting all of these women who were helping to shed light on global women’s issues, and I recognized how lucky I was to be working in an industry that, yes, is very glamorous, but also gives back in such a meaningful way. My career highlights overall would have to be the honor and privilege of working for the most powerful women in fashion and beauty.
What challenges or obstacles did you have to overcome when you were first starting out in the industry?
I faced the same challenges and obstacles that most people face when trying to break in to beauty and fashion, which was not knowing where to begin and not having any connections in the industry to leverage. I had to do it all on my own and hustle to find internships, work for no pay, carry three jobs at once to put myself through college…and the list goes on. I received no handouts, and quite frankly, I am thankful for that. I learned a lot about myself through the process, and the results were much more rewarding knowing that every position I landed and promotion I earned was a result of my efforts, personal drive, commitment and tenacity.
What was the biggest risk you had to take for your career? Was it worth it?
The biggest risk I took for my career was one I never saw coming… I worked for fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg back in 2003 when she was launching her beauty line, and focused on the launch for two years until she decided not to continue her beauty license. When that happened, I started looking for a new job because my role at DVF would soon be eliminated. One morning, Diane called me into her office and told me her head of PR was leaving and asked if I would want the job. I was shocked, told her I had no fashion experience or connections, and was basically talking her out of offering me the position. Her response taught me to give myself more credit, and she expressed no concern at all, and in fact, a lot of faith that I could do the job. So, I took the leap and became the PR Director for Diane von Furstenberg, overseeing PR for the fashion collection, licenses and Diane herself. It was a big risk on her part and mine, but risks often reap reward, and if an opportunity isn’t the least bit scary, it probably isn’t worth it.