By Adrie Mendonez
If you could be an animal, what kind would you be? Melanie Sutrathada (pronounced soo-truh-THAH-duh) would undoubtedly be a Golden Retriever, she has told me on many occasions. In the few years that I’ve known this flawless-faced influencer, actress, and brand ambassador, I can say I wholeheartedly agree. She’s interested in everyone whose path she happens upon. She wants to know your favorite color, where you got those earrings, and obviously, what animal YOU would be. While many people ask your name and fail to listen to your answer, she asks questions that blow far past the exhausting “just being polite” small talk. On the contrary, Melanie has one thing most people don’t possess: a genuine curiosity in getting to know you, whoever you may be. And this rare quality puts the “nice girls finish last” phrase up for serious debate… because she is killin’ it.
In fact, she prefers the term “content creator” to influencer, which, in her opinion, carries a negative connotation and an air of entitlement to it. And the general public’s idea of being an influencer — that life is all taking pretty pictures and getting everything for free — is far from her truth. She hustles harder in one day than some do all week, in a colorful dress and heels, and always with a smile — I’ve seen it firsthand. She wakes early, about 6-7am, heads off to up to 6-8 events and meetings all over the city (commuting one hour from Brooklyn), and comes home to make sure she answers every email and social media comment with a personal touch — no form letters or one-word answers. Ever.
This is not to say that the aforementioned version of an influencer doesn’t exist; in fact, they do more often than not. From “brand burn books” (wherein an unnamed influencer posts, publicly naming brands that did not treat her the way she expected to be treated) to cliques that outright ignore or avoid others — taking the gifted items from brands without ever speaking to them directly (forget about thanking them), the stories she regaled to me would make a nice human being cringe in disgust. And while Melanie has been a victim of these mean-girl antics, she chooses to choose kindness over, well, punching them in the face, as one might think they deserve. She still walks over to greet a group of girls that are blatantly ignoring her; she pays for the iPhone of another influencer that she was publicly blamed for losing (I’ve heard the story — the girl lost her own damn phone) and shrugs it off when the check is cashed without an email or a text of gratitude. And she does these things for one reason: “Because it’s the nice fuckin’ thing to do!” she says passionately, throwing her hands in the air.
This, I gather, is how such a polite, patient, “nice girl” rises to the top, without stepping on people. Because Melanie’s kindness and gratitude extends to her business acumen as well. She goes above and beyond for the brands she works for, and she’s able to do so very passionately because she thoroughly vets brands that reach out to collaborate, and only accepts campaigns from brands that she really loves and believes in. In fact, with new beauty brands or any products that take time for results to show, she has a clause in her contract stating that she will try the product for X amount of weeks, and if she so chooses, she can opt out of the contract. This protects her relationships with her followers, and the responsibility she feels to be genuine and ensure that she is recommending quality products to them. On the other side of it, it builds a deeper relationship with the brand, as she can work wholeheartedly for a company whose products and values she truly believes in.
“When you really believe in the brand, the excitement in telling people about them shows through in a truly authentic way,” she explains, “and makes me want to go the extra mile for them.”
That extra mile entails never, ever missing a deadline on deliverables (which should be a given, in her opinion — though not uncommonly done in her profession), and making sure to add value in some special way, whether it’s including a few professional and artful shots of the products or throwing in an Instagram story or two of her talking about, using, or wearing the brand’s items (on top of what they contractually agreed upon). And sending a thank-you card — a long forgotten tradition in our generation — a hand-written, stamped, and snail-mailed thank-you card, every time, because she truly is grateful for every opportunity she receives. Even the ones she doesn’t feel are a good fit for her to campaign for receive a personalized email telling them how grateful she is that they thought of her as she gracefully declines the offer.
The thing about her organic way of relationship building, is that it isn’t a strategy, it’s a genuine respect for other human beings.
“People can tell when you’re being fake,” she says, with a look in her eye that she had specific people in mind. “When a person’s first question to you is ‘What do you do?’ it usually means ‘What can you do for me?’, don’t you think?” she asks me.
Ever the cynic, I reply, “More like, ‘how can I use you?’”
So, it’s true that people may think it’s a bit odd when Melanie shoots off queries like “What’s your spirit animal?” but no one can say they’re not simultaneously intrigued by her. Because… who asks that?! Well, Melanie Sutrathada, content creator, actress, brand ambassador, asks that… for no other reason than, well, she’s genuinely interested in you. Bump into her again in a month, and she’ll say, “Hi (your name here)! We met at that event last month! Your spirit animal is a Phoenix!” And that’s what builds sustainable relationships, and as a result, Melanie’s ever-growing brand… because she’s a nice fuckin’ human being!
Based in New York City, Adrie Mendonez is an editorial and personal stylist. She was recently featured in Resident Magazine‘s June 2018 issue and WWD (which spotlighted her expertise creating innovative integrative experiences as a curator and event producer). As style expert and writer, she has contributed to many publications, brands, influencers, and industry professionals alike. Her writing has appeared in Honeysuckle, The Loop Magazine, and numerous recognizable fashion and lifestyle blogs. Follow her on Instagram at @adriemendonez.