In the Limelight with Clarissa Burt interviews Melissa Vale: Instagram Fashion Influencer
It's Melissa and Clarissa. We are here In the Limelight everybody! I'm thrilled because I read this gal's bio and I was exhausted at the end of the first page. I don't know how much more a young person is supposed to fit into their life. I'm twice her age and I've done a lot of stuff, but I don't know if I've done quite as much as she has. Welcome to the show Melissa Vale, we're excited to hear your story because we take our show from the entrepreneurial end of women and their stories, their triumphs, some of the difficulties and stepping stones; all the stuff that makes up that wonderful world of entrepreneurialism. You started as a model with Ford then you went to Broadway. Wait a minute, what?
Melissa Vale: I was modeling and acting until I went to college. I did commercials and different things. I was nine years old and I was struggling with school. Sometimes, when it ended at 11 p.m., I would get home and start doing my homework.
Clarissa: You're a type-A personality and a superstar. I'm sure you got it all done with A’s straight across the board. Then you go to Princeton, you go for history and somewhere along the line, you have a devastating accident. Talk to us about that.
Melissa Vale: Yeah, I was legally crossing the street going to get my hair blown out. There's a slight hill where this happened and before I knew it, I was on the ground. A car had slammed into me and both my legs were broken. My right worse than my left. My right had to have 3, 6-hour operations. A hard cast was on my left because they set it. I wasn't allowed to walk and I was in a wheelchair for four months. I wasn't allowed to stand or put my feet on the ground even for a second.
Clarissa: Did this happen at Princeton?
Melissa Vale: No, this is in New York. I don't know why it happened. There should have been something said with the city that it's a dangerous street because there was actually a girl the week before or the week right after me, she had just graduated from Boston College, she was at a bar or something, walking across the street to go home, and she got killed by some car. There was something about this street. Something should have been brought to attention in a more city-wide level around that. My husband and I drive around the city a lot. What's so crazy is we will see people jaywalking, there are some hurrying up and looking both ways, then we'll see people that are just strolling and not even looking to see if something's coming.
Clarissa: I mean, come on. With the event of texting, people are getting hit right and left. It's a horrible thing to see, I'm sure.
Melissa Vale: I don't even mean texting though I mean–
Clarissa: Just oblivious?
Melissa Vale: Yes. Totally oblivious, it's bad. You're sitting there and you have to slam your brakes.
Clarissa: But you're good now?
Melissa Vale: Yeah but it's weird. People ask, “What is it like?” I can't even wrap my mind around it and I went through it. I can't even conceive that if I want to go brush my teeth, go to the bathroom or whatever, I couldn't go. It’s an odd thing and part of me wants to just forget it ever happened.
Clarissa: After this, you became a real estate agent for Douglas Elliman in New York City? That's a full-time job and a half. You decide you're also going to become an Influencer and now you've got like one hundred and fifty thousand followers on Instagram.
Melissa Vale: This is what happened though, I covered events and did interviews for outlets like The Huffington Post and things like that. I had to stop that when this happened because I couldn't do anything, couldn't go anywhere, so I decided to go for something a bit different once I recovered. Douglas Elliman has a two-week training program, most agencies don't and they do, which I like because it was such a non-structured profession. It was nice to have some semblance of a structure. They talk about social media promotion nonstop. There were two classes devoted to social media but even in the ones that weren't, it was always plugged in. I was doing that in earnest and there's some ratio of what's supposed to be promoted; your property or other properties versus your real-life and lifestyle. Everything was doing well, but those personal posts were doing so much better. It’s where I started to feel the majority of my growth in terms of following and engagement and picking up the most engaged followers. Which still surprises me. This is pretty late in the “influencer game” and when people would say, “It's too late to do that.” I always tell people, “It's not too late because no matter how many people are in it, the demand is still so high.”
Clarissa: When you started, did you decide you were going to be an influencer or was it like, “OK, I got this Instagram, I'm going to work, I'm going to take a picture, it's going to become the outfit of the day.” End of story?
Melissa Vale: No. Like I said, I was starting to use it to promote properties that I was either to promote selling or open houses. Not every post can be about promotion, so you build it with other things to set part of your brand and how you engage people in “this is what I'm doing in my life” or maybe what I was wearing when I was going to show a property or something. These were super casual pictures that my husband would take with my iPhone 6 with the crappiest quality. It's crazy to me to think those were getting more engagement than if I took a picture of a 15 million dollar property. At some point, a few months went by and I had to sit down with myself and say, “I know this is a business. I know people make a business of it, I don't live under a rock, but this is where the growth and the potential seem to be.” I regrouped because I saw where it was going then I said to myself, “Maybe I should do this in earnest and give it the good old college try.”
Clarissa: You didn’t plan on becoming a Super-Influencer on Instagram. You had a full-time job with Douglas Elliman selling real estate in New York City; a busy married lady. How do you fit it all in one day?
Melissa Vale: Gosh, I set a list. I never get everything done that I need to get done and I compartmentalize that. In terms of showing apartments, people often want me to show them right after they drop their kids off from school or something so that's often in a compartment. Then I can go about my other day producing the content, campaigns, appointments and everything else that I have to do. It just works. What's good about both of these industries is that it's either as much or as little as you make of it. Neither is it a 9 to 5 job. They're both very flexible. The downside to that is that you can work 24/7 on one or the other and you'll never get done what you want to get done and you have to accept that. It's the first thing you're going to feel, “Wow, I could be doing so much more.” You have to sleep and take care. I learned that early on actually because when I was first switching gears a bit, I would stay up all night engaging seeing the followers come in. Also the comments from people, I would do it at all sorts of hours. What was cool about this, and I still love, is that people from Australia–
Clarissa: It's live 24/7. There's always somebody there.
Melissa Vale: Yeah, I would get messages from different people who were interested in all different parts of the world. And that's amazing to me. I feel I'm not over that.
Clarissa: Do you get to everybody? Do you respond to all of them?
Melissa Vale: If they're asking. There'll be some comments that weird me out a little bit but if it's legitimate, I do what I have to say to people because it is really important to answer all your stuff. Feel free to DM if you have any questions about my stories or my posts or anything. Sometimes I feel if I don't get to it within 24, 48 hours, I might as well not do it. Not true. Even if it's a couple of weeks or so, better late than never.
Clarissa: I think most people understand you're busy, but just get back to them. It's the right move, right?
Melissa Vale: Right. At some point, get back to them. Even if it's not a question, they're just saying hi, whatever it is.
Clarissa: Let me ask you this next question: Did you ever come across a pair of shoes you didn't like? I see you and I have that in common as well. We love shoes. I know it's tough, but you can't buy them all.
Melissa Vale: It's funny because I'm tall, but unless I'm doing errands I rarely wear flats. The higher the better. Also, flats make my feet look big. I pretty much never wear flats unless I know I'm going on a marathon kind of walk.
Clarissa: I'm a ballerina girl straight through-and-through. I've got plenty of heels here when I need them but I'll put on a pair of ballerinas happily any day.
Melissa Vale: Ballerinas work for me, actually, because they're flattering. They make my feet look smaller.
Clarissa: Anybody that wants to start up now an account and try to become an influencer on Instagram. It's not too late, is what I understand. Be kind to the people that are following you and answer them. You don't have to get to them right away but do get to them because that's a kind and considerate thing to do. What about monetizing? Are you monetizing your account at all or is it just for the fun of it?
Melissa Vale: Yes, I went into this with the intention of that but you have to be prepared. It's going to vary by person but take at least a couple of years to be prepared for it not to be a moneymaking proposition. In any business you start, they say it takes an average of 3-4 years or 2-3 years before anyone starts to break even let alone make money. You have to approach it like any business that you would start. I'm sure there are stories of people who start making bank the first six months. but I'm sorry, that's not going to happen. Maybe if you blow up and go viral.
Clarissa: That’s rare. It’s like, “Not every model becomes a supermodel.” You can model, but a supermodel is something different. So where is everybody going to be able to find you?
Melissa Vale: @MelissaDVale on Instagram. www.TheMelissaVale.com is my blog and TheMelissaVale on Facebook.
Clarissa: Very cool. Leave us with one of the products you've tried lately that you are crazy about. That you want us all to go running to buy.
Melissa Vale: The Avon tinted moisturizers are amazing. They come in every shade you want. You dab it and a little goes a long way. I just put a little on my forehead, my cheeks, chin. It doubles as a bronzer and a highlighter so I get a very small glow because I don't want something that's going to look weird and it'll accentuate your cheekbones. It's amazing for the summer.
Clarissa: Love tinted moisturizers. Do you have to have an Avon-Lady or can you buy it now online?
Melissa Vale: You can buy it online, yeah. It's on my Instagram story right now. There’s a link to buy the tinted moisturizer. The tubes don't look that big but again, a little goes a long way and it will last a good while.
Clarissa: I'm going to make sure everybody's running over to Avon to buy that tinted moisturizer. I am so happy that you joined us so that we could get to know you better and I wish you continued success on your Instagram account, your blog and anywhere else that you said we could find you. Thanks for being with us In the Limelight, I appreciate your time. Bye-bye, Melissa.
Melissa Vale: Thank you. Bye-bye. ✧