Melanie Mignucci grew up an ocean away from her family’s home in Puerto Rico. But, today, as a 25-year-old editor, Mignucci stays close to her roots. At Bustle, she’s in charge of creating a space for important conversations around mental health and identity, an opportunity she’s used to spark conversation about Puerto Rico, its people, and its diaspora.
But Mignucci’s work isn’t the only part of her influenced by her father’s DNA. She confesses it was her Boricua grandmother who inspired her minimal, yet elegant approach to style and beauty. It’s also a philosophy she learned from her father, whom she recalls dressing head to toe every day, even right off a plane.
The New York City-based writer and editor spoke with the Emperifollá team about why style is a form of self-care, the trials of living with eczema, and growing up in a half-Jewish, half-Boricua household.
Growing up, my dad would always, even as an 8-year-old, he’d be like, “Why are you wearing sneakers? You should be wearing heels, we are going out to a nice thing.” I’d be an 8-year-old in heels and a pashmina. I pushed back on that a lot growing up because I didn’t want to be the 8-year-old in these little heels. I think my dad’s sense of the importance of being put together… He’d always be in a suit jacket coming off the airplane. I think that now as an adult, that’s impressed upon me a lot more– the value of putting your best foot forward.
I can’t point it to one source in particular but something I really love about today’s style landscape is that there is so much emphasis on plainly putting yourself together in a way that suits your routine. Now it’s so much ingrained in your self-care routine.
I think about fashion and when I’m putting things together as an adult to express who I am to the world. It’s a combination of things. I don’t have a ton of closet space. I share a dresser and a closet with my boyfriend. My office is pretty casual and I can totally take advantage of that and wear athleisure to work every single day if I wanted to. But I think working in an office that is more casual has made me more inspired to step it up a bit, especially at the start of the week– on a Monday– I will make sure I wear trousers and a button down shirt. I’ve been getting a lot more into white button-down shirts. It’s easy for me to look put together, even on the weekends. I wish I could wear heels day to day more because I am so short. I also am sensitive to the environment around me because I walk 2 miles to the subway every day so I can’t be wearing heels. But, even if I’m wearing what my dad lovingly calls the “loafers chanclas,” it’s all about finding a balance between those.
Sustainability is something that’s really important to me — I very rarely buy new clothes, and almost always thrift or raid my closet at my parents’ house if I need something “new.” Fast fashion has such an awful impact on the environment, but also I’m much happier wearing something of high quality to death than buying something to wear to just the one party.
I always think that anyone is beautiful as long as you’re kind and confident. You’ll figure it out from there. Old photos of my grandmother on my dad’s side inspire me. She just had this beautiful skin, very clean. She always wore… I don’t even know if it was perfume or just the way she smelled, but a little bit powdery. I never got a chance to ask her because she passed away three years ago. Even when she broke her femur and had dementia, she wasn’t super present but she still always had her hair put together. But it was always very natural for her. I never saw the work that went into her being so put together but she always had that natural sense about her.
I set my alarm for 7:30. I wake up at 8:10. It’s so bad. It is the least Capricorn thing about me. I have pretty bad eczema so I moisturize very intensively from head to toe like a baby. As for the face, if I woke up by some miracle at 8:05, I’ll do a cat-eye. If it’s at 8:10, it’s just Glossier’s stretch concealer under and over my eyes. I do Boy Brow, I like to keep my brows put together. I’m very blessed I never went through a bad over-plucking phase.
Eczema is a huge part of my identity. It’s not super cute, not super sexy. But I’ve had eczema since I was a kid all over my body. It went away for a couple of years, then came back in college. I had Lyme Disease at the time so I think the stress of that just brought it all over my hands, which is a very public place. I was always hiding my hands because it was uncomfortable too.
In terms of my routine to deal with it, I mostly stay as moisturized as possible. I avoid anything that can dry my skin. Any time I’m at the beach, even if it’s super cold, I’ll dunk myself. My dad always said salt water is good for eczema.
I use a prescribed cream when it gets really bad. Super sexy! I try to use stuff that’s natural or mostly natural, that doesn’t have irritants because I don’t want to risk a flare-up because it’s so uncomfortable. I don’t use any extra stuff on my face. I don’t experiment a ton with moisturizers or creams or products because I don’t want something to irritate my face. It’s just that simple.
When you have sensitive skin, you have to do the tried and true. It’s a bummer sometimes because there’s so much stuff I want to try. But it’s like, “Am I really going to spend $30 to give myself a rash?”
On Her Career
I worked starting from when I was in high school at my local library. I was a shelver in the children’s section. I was definitely the bookish, nerdy, Matilda-ish kid. I always thought I wanted to write books and write fiction. I went to Bard College. I also double-majored in Spanish. I didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. My mom doesn’t speak Spanish so it was a struggle for my dad to teach it to me and my sister. I always say that I use what I learned in my Spanish degree every single day compared to what I learned in my creative writing degree because I knew how to write– I still hope I know how to write. But what I ended up learning and practicing more with Spanish was that I would read these texts on colonialism. My minor is Latin American studies, so I really grounded myself in that history and learned all this theory about decolonization and that’s something I bring to my work a lot.
As an associate editor at Bustle, I run coverage of health, mental health, social justice, and identity. That can be anything from looking at the news of the day and figuring out how we want to approach it from a Bustle angle or ideating packages or series. The news is really fast-paced, it requires a lot of creative, on-the-ground thinking, but because we cover so much content, I really have this opportunity to look out for angles that are what people aren’t talking about, that are shedding light on issues that don’t get coverage, in that we can approach as inclusive a way as possible. That’s something I’m really proud to bring to my job every day.
When it comes to working on essays and broader packages, this is really where I also use my perspective as a Latinx woman to further bring this perspective of inclusivity, but also, as an editor, be able to account for the places where someone might be feeling othered or might be feeling like they can’t express everything that they want to express for “a mainstream audience.” And my job is to say, “That’s okay. We want that. We want to bring this out. We want to share this.”
I grew up in Connecticut, but I always had the knowledge that I was different, I came from a different culture. I have a lot of empathy for people in situations where you feel like you might not be able to show 100% of yourself. I want to make space for people to be able to do that, as an editor.
– As told to Frances Solá-Santiago. Photographed by Maridelis Morales Rosado. Video by Stephanie Stoddard Cortés.