While Sabina she didn’t immediately know that she wanted to enter the beauty PR realm, an early tendency to pocket high school lunch money for makeup was a strong clue. After internships at Marie Claire and Gucci, Sabina spent nearly six years working for top NYC PR agencies representing brands such as Essie, NYX Cosmetics, and Dolce & Gabbana Beauty. In 2015 Sabina joined the PR department at MAKE UP FOR EVER.
Company: Make Up For Ever
Title: PR Manager
Education: BA University of Delaware, Journalism
Instagram: @sabinabean // @makeupforeverofficial
Twitter: @SabinaEllahi // makeupforeverus
How did you get started in PR?
I was a journalism major, so my intention was actually to go into traditional media. I wanted to go into hard news, but eventually settled on magazine editorial. My first internship was in the fashion closet at Marie Claire. I never thought about PR as a career until I saw the large number of agencies that repped the designers and brands I came into contact with while doing sample returns. It piqued my interest on exploring the other side.
I remember my journalism professors were a bit miffed that I was “selling” myself going into PR – but I convinced them otherwise. The following summer, I interned in the PR department at Gucci. There I learned the inner workings of the role and how to establish PR goals for a brand. I loved the notion of telling a brand’s story – whether through a seasonal collection, new launch, or brand initiative – and working with the press to get proper exposure. Part of the reason I loved journalism was because I loved storytelling. PR allowed me to continue to do that. I really got to immerse myself into a brand and become passionate about making sure the brand was represented in all the right ways.
What is the mood like in the office?
We recently wrapped an event for an exciting new collaboration with Charli XCX. That event was fun! Now that the announcement is out we’re all working to continue to amplify the noise and build buzz around this collaboration, a few weeks ahead of the product launch. Meanwhile, we’re already planning events for our fall launches.
After all these years in PR, it’s still challenging to remember to always be thinking ahead, because so many things happen in the present that require your attention. That being said, the thinking ahead part is what will ultimately set your programming up for success.
I loved the notion of telling a brand’s story – whether it’s through a seasonal collection, new launch, or brand initiative – and working with the press to get proper exposure.
What is a recent success story that makes you especially proud?
I secured a full page feature for a widely known mass brand in Vogue last year. I got a fact check, but I assumed it was just for a small blip of a mention within the article. Then the beauty director at the time (Sarah Brown) sent me the issue with a note and lo and behold: there were the lipsticks from the brand I worked with all over the page! It was like opening a present on my birthday.
What are you really good at?
Building relationships. It’s pivotal in PR to build and more importantly, maintain connections.
After all these years in PR, it’s still challenging to remember to always be thinking ahead, because so many things happen in the present that require your attention.
What’s been your most memorable moment in your career thus far?
I’ve built incredible relationships while working in this industry, both among my peers and with editors and bloggers – many of whom I now call my close friends. The humanizing aspect of building relationships within the professional realm (and this is not just in PR) tends to kind of get lost, but I always strive to maintain integrity and to be myself. After all, we’re all human – we have personal lives and stories that make us who we are.
Most glamorous moment in your career thus far?
I once had to get Chris Evans dress socks because he forgot to pack a pair for a fragrance press day we were having. I think this experience teeters between glamorous and not-at-all glamorous because on the one hand, I had to go buy someone socks. On the other hand, I spent the day with Captain America! That was fun. He was incredibly down to earth and easy to work with, which made the press day all the more enjoyable.
Least glamorous moment in your career thus far?
Peeling about 20,000 plastic wrappers off makeup products for backstage makeup kits before New York Fashion Week.
What’s the biggest challenge facing lifestyle communicators right now?
Almost all communication is digital now, which means sometimes messages can get lost in translation. There tends to be a lot of ambiguity within emails, texts – anything that happens digitally. I think it’s a cultural thing for women to dissect every word and punctuation (I sound like I’m talking about the problems of online dating – but that’s a conversation for another day). I still find that a simple phone call goes a long way. You’re able to communicate much more easily (and more quickly), and eliminate any issues of ambiguity. I hope that method doesn’t fade over time.
PR can be stressful and full of rejection – how do you deal?
I know this is said over and over again, but it really is true – PR isn’t ER. We’re not performing brain surgery! It’s easy to get stressed out and worn down because so many things are happening and there are levels of expectations for you to be performing your best at all times. When I start to feel overwhelmed, stressed or see rejection come my way, I always make sure I remove myself from my desk and disconnect for a little bit. Giving myself time to think, decompress, and process what is happening allows me to reassess the situation at hand and come back with a solution (or in rare cases, acceptance of the situation). It also helps to remind yourself that you’re only human – we’re not robots. 🙂
I always strive to maintain integrity and to be myself. After all, we’re all human – we have personal lives and stories that make us who we are.
What are three must-haves that are essential to your job?
- iPhone: Needs no explanation. It’s a powerful connectivity device. (Although I admit, sometimes I do long for the days of a flip phone because it was a simpler time).
- Instagram: A given for any publicist! I love how clean and streamlined the app is. I still get captivated when I see some of the photography on there.
- Feedly: I have hundreds of websites that I want to check out on a daily basis, but unfortunately, time isn’t on my side. Feedly is an essential for me as it aggregates all the content from news sites and blogs into a cohesive feed, allowing me to skim through topline news and content from all of the sites I like to follow. It makes the news I want to keep up with very digestible for me.
What do you wish more people understood about PR?
People tend to glamorize PR – I blame TV and movies for that. In PR, there’s a high level of strategic thinking that happens daily – whether it’s figuring out the phasing of a launch roll out, how a collaboration announcement is made, or more generally how we communicate the brand story. With social in the mix, you have to weave all those elements into the larger business objectives.
The landscape is always evolving. We have to constantly make sure we’re not just up to date with the trends, but working ahead of them.
Charli XCX, Make Up For Ever
PR trends are always changing – how do you keep up?
WWD is really the Holy Grail for me for when it comes to staying on top of industry trends. I was bummed when the daily editions went digital – but it makes sense in this climate. News rapidly travels in the internet age, and print simply doesn’t have the luxury of releasing news instantaneously.
On that note of instantaneous, shareable information – social platforms is also a crucial tool in our industry. Instagram and Snapchat gives me more intel than I’ve ever had access to about what’s going on across the industry – whether it’s events, new launches, even just the going ons within a publication. Talk about the era of sharing everything!
I also continue to maintain friendships with many of my peers in the business from past jobs. It’s like we all grew up together, starting from working as assistants to now working in mid and senior level positions. Since I’m so immersed in the world of color, it’s interesting to hear from my other peers about what trends are happening with skincare, hair and nails. The conversations we have helps me stay abreast of all the happenings in the entire world of the beauty business.
What would you tell someone who wants to be you when they grow up?
Stay hungry for knowledge – never stop thinking that there isn’t always something new to learn, no matter how far along you advance in your career. Because trust me, there is ALWAYS something new to learn.