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#inmyMM: How Ad Strategist Christine Medina Found Her Professional Calling

April 12, 2016 | Filed in: Woman of the Week

MM.LaFleur customer Christine Medina, 26, grew up in Haiti and moved to the U.S. at age 13. She always thought she’d become a nurse, but ultimately hit her stride as a strategist at a major advertising agency in New York—by way of a Belgian chocolate shop, naturally. Here, she talks about switching career paths, finding “professional” pants, and defying expectations.

I WORK as a strategic planner for the advertising agency Foote, Cone & Belding, in New York. My job is to gather research from studies and focus groups to help our ads resonate with our audience. One of my favorite accounts is “The Real Cost,” an FDA campaign focusing on teens at risk of becoming smokers. I look at teen behaviors in the digital space, and ensure that we’re not making the wrong assumptions about them.

I STARTED OUT thinking I would be a nurse, mostly because of expectations from my family. They sacrificed a lot to come to the U.S.—when we first arrived, there were eight of us in a two-bedroom apartment—so they wanted me to have a secure future. To them, that meant a job in medicine or law. I was on track to study nursing at Hunter College when I started working at a Belgian chocolate shop in midtown, Leonidas, just doing retail so I could pay for books. I don’t even like chocolate, but this place is great—it’s the only chocolate I’ll eat. I noticed that the company’s website seemed outdated, and they didn’t have any social media presence; when I mentioned it to the vice president, he said, “If you want to do it, you can.” So that’s how I got started in marketing. I wound up getting more clients after that, mostly small businesses, through referrals. I was doing it on the side at first, and then I realized I liked it so much that I left the nursing track entirely. At first, my family didn’t really understand, but they’re supportive now that they see I’m financially secure and really love my job.

I LIVE in Queens, in Howard Beach. I was born in the U.S., but I spent the first 13 years of my life in Haiti. We moved back here in 2002, and I had to learn English in just two months before I started school. Before that, I only spoke French and Creole, and the only English words I knew were “hello” and “thank you.” I taught myself by going to the library, and I learned phonetics from TV. [Ed. note: Christine has no accent. Literally zero.]

WHEN I WAS LITTLE, I wanted to be a ballerina. I’ve always found dance to be empowering.

dressing curves

Christine in charge, wearing the Radner camisole and Nakamura trouser.

I AM CONSCIOUS OF my curves. I’m tall, about 5’8”, and bigger in some places. Sometimes certain pants just don’t look professional on me. But I also want to embrace my curves. I’ve made sure over the years that I don’t buy clothing that makes me feel ashamed of my body. It just sucks to get dressed in the morning and not feel good for the rest of the day.

I WEAR clothes that are good quality. Right out of college, I just wore whatever I had. But once I started working at an agency, I realized that how you dress really does matter. First impressions are important. And based on that philosophy, I stopped buying clothes that were cheap, and started buying clothes that were well-made and would last a long time.

MY WARDROBE has two different sides. One of them is very feminine and elegant, with a lot of dresses. And the other is what my colleagues call the “strategist look,” which is relaxed pants, button-up shirts, maybe a blazer, and Converse sneakers—it’s a nerd uniform. I go back and forth between the two looks, depending on my mood and what I have going on.

MY GO-TO MM PIECE is the Rachel dress in Crackle. Every single time I wear it, someone says something. I’ll wear it to the office, especially if I know I’m going out to happy hour. It’s an awesome dress.

I DON’T KNOW how to play pool. I’ve tried, and I just really suck. It’s one of the few things that I’ve given up on completely.

I TREAT MYSELF by going to the movies. There’s just something about escaping into a movie theater right after work that I love.

I ADMIRE Michelle Obama. She’s doing amazing things and making a huge impact in our culture.

dress for work dressing curves dressing curves

Photos by Takahiro Ogawa.

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Charlotte Cowles is a New York-based writer​ ​and editor.​ ​Her work has been published in New York Magazine,​ Harper's Bazaar,​ and Art in America. She'd always rather be at book club. Read more of Charlotte's posts.

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