A native New Yorker, Melissa Vale is no stranger to multitasking and staying busy, even at the very young age of 9, she was already modeling, acting and studying hard. Vale managed to navigate the high pressures of academics while working as a Ford model and performing in a lead role in a Broadway Neil Simon play. While attending and graduating from Chapin all-girls high school in Manhattan, she continued to pursue acting – working in commercials and theatrical performances on Broadway and on television.

Vale was then accepted into Princeton, where she majored in History. After graduating summa cum laude, Vale decided to go on to law school and earned her law degree from Harvard Law School. But creative arts and fashion always stayed close to her heart, and once she decided the traditional law firm life would not be the right path for her, she became a Journalist, writing articles on fashion and philanthropy, then covering events for outlets like the Huffington Post.

Today, Melissa Vale has 145K very engaged, real followers on Instagram that look to her “influence” for all things fashion, beauty, travel and accessible luxury. Her popular fashion and travel blog, themelissavale.com, delivers trend reports, outfit ideas, gift guides, life advice, and inspiration, as well as the best destinations to travel to in style!

Vale was recently asked to speak for a FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) class on the “business of influence.” It was quite the honor seeing as FIT is one of New York City’s premier public institutions, and is an internationally recognized college for design, fashion, art, communications, and business.

Hi Melissa, please tell us a little about yourself?

Sure! I am a digital content creator and a New Yorker! After graduating from Princeton and majoring in History, I went on to earn a law degree from Harvard Law School. But creative arts and fashion were always my passion. I decided not to practice law, and turned to real estate and I still do that today but my life is now driven by the digital world and events. I feel very humbled because now that I get to collaborate with fashion and beauty brands and share the products I love with my followers as a career!

Describe yourself in 3 words?

Funny, loyal, imaginative.

Where did you grow up?

NYC — Upper East Side, more specifically.

How did you get in the industry?

I starting building my social media presence in earnest in order to help my real estate business, as is strongly encouraged to do. But as it so happened, my #ootd (outfit of the day) posts, usually taken on my way to a real estate showing, did by far the best engagement wise, and were the most instrumental in my overall growth. And mind you, these were pictures taken by my husband with my iPhone 6. So a few months down the road I sat down with myself and said: imagine what I would be able to do here if I actually put any effort into this. And that’s how this all began.

Name one your strengths?

I really persevere and keep at it, and reinvent myself a bit if necessary — really you can’t get rid of me. I’m not saying I don’t get discouraged on bad days, because I most definitely do, but I let myself have my moment and then just get back in there. I think I’m stronger than I give myself credit for.

How’s a typical day in your life?

There really is no typical day in this kind of job, but it can consist of anything from showing an apartment early in the morning (that’s usually the most common time, right after parents drop off their kids at school), shooting blog and social content, planning out the content, editing, campaigns, administrative work (filling out invoices and following up on payments), engaging on my posts, and a lot of press and other work related events. I usually end the day either with cocktails with my friends or dinner out with my husband.

What is your own definition of happiness?

Learning to be kind with yourself. And a really great massage.

What part of your job do you find the most challenging?

Literally learning when to turn it off. It’s the biggest challenge I would say of any non “9 to 5 go to the office” type job.

What did you learn from your biggest failure? (if any)

“I love to “fail” because then I learn what NOT to do next time…as long as you get back up and try again. When I got hit by a car as a pedestrian, I literally had to teach myself how to walk again, so sometimes it can be as basic and putting one step in front of the other, which is a metaphor for me to keep on persevering”

Are there busy and quiet periods during the year as an influencer?

Definitely, but I think they’re pretty much the same as in any other business. The two weeks leading up to Christmas and after New Years are dead, late summer is dead, the 3 months starting with Labor Day and leading right up to the Holiday Season are pretty much insane.

Any advice to other influencers/entrepreneurs?

Your idea per se need not be original. What will be original — and why people will eventually follow you and trust you and buy from brands you support — is whatever you put into it that’s uniquely you, so be as comfortable as you can possibly be showing as much of your personality as you can. Which is easier than it sounds, but just push yourself.

I always say that 30 actors can play Hamlet — it’s the same exact text, but what will make one person a fan of one performance over another? What they like about what that particular actor puts into it, their overall quality, their “persona.” And who can even describe in words what that is a lot of the time? But we’ve all been there.

What kind of clients do you work with?

Loccitane, Philips Somneo, Estée Lauder, Chloe Wine, Macallan, Shein, Vital Proteins… it’s always growing!

What would say are the greatest lessons you learned so far?

Everyone has a different pace of growth, and you can’t be concerned with anyone’s but your own.

Now tell us about your popular fashion and travel blog themelissavale.com?

I call it a destination for accessible luxury because I seek out and curate brands and collections that best represent that message — whether it’s a heritage handbag company based in Berlin (that I literally discovered on IG), or where and when to get the best sales or resale/consignment items. Luxury and that experience are something I hope for everyone to attain on some level, and I have brands and tips and advice for anyone on any budget.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 year?

Doing what I’m doing, but on a bigger and better scale!! And hopefully leverage my social media presence into a business that can survive and thrive offline, as well.

What was the last book you read?

Small Fry, by Steve Jobs’s daughter. I’m big on memoirs and autobiographies in general.

What would be the dream holiday, and who would you go with?

Not the most original but I have yet to go to Paris or any of Italy with my husband, so it would have to be a trip that encompasses both destinations.

If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?

Oh wow, this is a tough one…I would love to have Julia Child teach me how to cook like her!

What is next for Melissa Vale in 2019?

Some travel (next up: LA) and some personal branding projects that I’m really excited about!

What do you do in your free time?

I read celebrity autobiographies!! And try to catch up with friends as much as I can!

What is your favorite healthy food?

Avocado — although I’m not sure it’s quite as healthy as people think.

And your favorite cheat food?

Spaghetti carbonara and pecan pie (I had to choose a sweet AND a savory)

What music do you like?

All 80s all the time.

What do you like to watch on Tv?

Real Time with Bill Maher, Barry, reruns of Three’s Company. I don’t watch TV to challenge myself — I do more than enough of that in real life!

Do you support any charities?

I’ve worked with a lot of soup kitchens and coat drives, especially during the holidays, but I’m looking to work with one or two charities more long term. My father died of lung cancer a few years ago, so I would really love to work long term with a cancer charity going forward.

What do you think of Social Media?

Well I better be supportive of it, since it’s given me my career! Sincerely, when used right, it can be such a powerful tool, and I’ll never get over how I can just instantly connect with people from the the most far flung parts of the world.

Where we can follow you?

IG: @melissadvale
Blog: themelissavale.com
FB: The Melissa Vale

Quote: “You can have it all, just not all at once.”

Holiday Destination: Cap Juluca, Anguilla at Christmas time.

Drink: Whispering Angel Rosé

Song: Van Halen’s cover of Dancing in the Street.

Sports Team: The Knicks, last place and all.

Movie: National Lampoon’s Vacation. I love a good comedy. Comedies and gangster movies.