Interview with Melanie Dunea
Melanie Dunea is an American photographer and author who is best known for her iconic portraits of renowned chefs, celebrities, and influencers.
Her photography has been published and exhibited worldwide and she has been honored with awards from American Photography, PDN, Communication Arts, Society of Publication Design, International Photography and The Lucie Foundation.
She has published five books o date including: Precious, A Journey of Smiles, My Country, My Last Supper, and My Last Supper: The Next Course. Dunea received critical acclaim for her book series My Last Supper, which has transformed her into a distinguished figure in the culinary world and led to many impressive opportunities including a radio program on Martha Stewart Radio, hosting a My Last Supper web series, and the Yahoo Travel series titled “Photo Tripping”. She has also appeared on The Today Show, Charlie Rose, Rachael Ray, Top Chef, The Chew, VH1, The Big Buzz, NPR and the Splendid Table.
She is currently a global ambassador for the charity Operation Smile and serves on the Food Bank for NYC Marketing Advisory Committee.
Dunea lives in New York City and is represented by Creative Photographers inc.
Follow the journey at mylastsupper.com and melaniedunea.com; Also on Instagram and Twitter: @mylastsupper
You have a truly fascinating career. World-traveling author, reporter and photographer are some of your titles. How did you start off in your twenties and make it to this point?
When I was ten my grandfather told me that even though I wanted to be a newspaper reporter, I would need to learn how to take pictures as well. He was the political editor for the Des Moines register so I used to follow him around with a yellow legal pad and imitate what his did. Ever since then, I have been trying to tell and share the stories that I think are important and often that requires a lot of travel.
Do you think travel is an important priority for young women building their careers?
Travel is always good for the soul. It gives you a chance to exhale and reset and see and experience new wonders. It gives you so much perspective and insight to see how other people live. So any way you can move around is important, even if all you have time to do is walk around in your own town.
When did you know what you wanted to do as a career?
Becoming a photographer, author and journalist was never a conscious choice, it was my calling and there was no option.
Looking back, what was the most career-defining decision you made in your twenties? And would you do anything different knowing what you know now?
In my early twenties, I realized that I would not be able to make a success of myself living and working in Paris. I couldn’t keep up with the slang of my fellow photographers and looked like a very young American. I decided to move back to the States and that I needed to get a job at a photo studio in New York so I could learn studio photography. I am always sad that I left Paris but I could see the future and knew success for me was virtually impossible. I always comfort myself with the fact that i can move back!
What is something you’ve learned through your experiences that you wish you had known at the beginning of your career?
Patience. Sigh. I am still working on that. Also that when one door closes or something finishes not to mourn it’s loss too long, another opportunity will arise. Everything happens for a reason.
Your business dress code is different from most corporate offices. What do you wear to work and what is your fashion inspiration?
I change my “look” and what I wear according to who I am photographing. When I shoot in a corporate office my team and I wear more conservative clothes, when we shoot a rock and roller we can show up with ripped jeans. I think it is important to respect the people that you are meeting with and make them feel comfortable.
What do you always carry in your purse/work bag?
1 -5 lipsticks, a hair elastic, a phone charger, a notebook, pen, wallet, good luck charms, keys and phone.
What’s your secret for balancing a career with your personal life? Do you find it more challenging for women to balance everything than men?
Hmmm balance? Not my forte, let me know when you figure it out!
What do you think the greatest challenge is for women starting out in the workforce today? Any advice for how to overcome this challenge?
I would prefer this question to be about all people in the workforce! Walk in the door, be kind, be open, be friendly, listen, learn and know how lucky you are to be there! Also don’t be afraid to show some leg there is nothing wrong with being and showing you are a woman!
Here’s our signature question: If you could give a mentee three pieces of advice as she starts her career or is making a transition from one position to the next, what would they be?
1. Smile 2. Listen 3. Anything is possible so believe that and say YES.