10 Questions With Mirel Zaman
How Refinery21’s Deputy Director of Lifestyle, Wellbeing, & Social Issues
Finds Balance Amid The Pandemic
Bianca Pineda: Throughout your career, you’ve really focused on reporting about health, wellness, and culture. How has your self-care and lifestyle routine changed since the pandemic started?
Mirel Zaman: I'm definitely cooking a ton more. I find that cooking after my workday helps me disconnect. My days last longer because it's harder for me to just shut down the computer and step away. My husband and I got really into K-dramas in part because they're amazing, but also because they have subtitles, so you really have to read it to know what's going on. You can't be on email at the same time.
Bianca Pineda: Writing about health and wellness is such a personal endeavor. That being said, is there any article that you’ve written in your career that taught you a lot about yourself?
Mirel Zaman: I’m working on this story... I got married two years ago and I changed my last name. I didn't think about it that hard and it’s been so complicated for me. I just did not expect to feel so much, like I was giving up my identity and like this made me a bad feminist. I have to think through my own feelings about it. That has definitely taught me a lot about myself.
Bianca Pineda: You started off as a senior Health & Wellness Editor for Refinery29 and recently became Deputy Director of Lifestyle, Wellbeing, & Social Issues. Impressive! As someone who’s about to start my first internship this summer, do you have any advice for moving up in a company?
Mirel Zaman: I always felt like I was very flexible and willing to pitch in. It helps to take on some extra duties that would be part of the next role you're hoping to move into. I err on the side of just put your head down and work really hard. But there's tremendous value in being able to recognize you are the talent. You don't always have to work yourself into the ground to prove that.
Bianca Pineda: In a world with so much content, how do you come up with fresh ideas these days? Where do you look for inspiration?
Mirel Zaman: In the morning, I'll go look at Google and find the real-time search trends and look at Twitter trends just to see what people are talking about. Lately, because of the pandemic, I go to the CDC and the FDA just to get a sense of what's going on. When coming up with ideas I try to think: Are we covering a variety of different topics and are we getting a variety of different perspectives?
Bianca Pineda: Having written across health, lifestyle, and social issues throughout your career, what has been your favorite subject to write about and why?
Mirel Zaman: I really enjoy writing about health. It's something that everybody ultimately is interested in. People want to live forever and feel good doing it. In 2009 after I graduated, I was writing about health but it was very condition-oriented, like osteoporosis or breast cancer. During my career, wellness became a thing. All of a sudden I was writing about wellbeing, meditation, mental health, and relationships. Wellness really does touch every area of someone's life.
Bianca Pineda: You’ve interviewed a very wide range of people, including actress Brittany Curran, the first person that tested the COVID-19 vaccine, and Dr. Naseem Rangala (among others). What are your secrets to nailing a great interview and making sure you ask the right questions?
Mirel Zaman: I really try to pay attention. It's so hard when the interview is on Zoom or over the phone, since I get distracted more easily. I have to focus on what they're saying. It helps make it more conversational. It also allows me to pick up on little things they're saying that we could take in that direction, like information I wouldn’t have asked about that I get just from letting them talk.
Bianca Pineda: In some of your articles, you dive into some really interesting and taboo subjects, such as period poop and masturbation. Was there any article in your career that you felt uncomfortable writing? How do you go about addressing topics that might be a bit awkward?
Mirel Zaman: I tend to be really frank. It's important to have frank, reputable information out there. I try to be conversational, just treating it as I would any other topic. If I'm going to write about getting the COVID vaccine, I’ll write it the same way I would about menopause or periods. If I want a little bit of distance, I’ll speak to experts so an article won’t be completely dependent on my own personal story.
Bianca Pineda: Is there any wellness tip or practice you’ve implemented that has changed your life?
Mirel Zaman: When I was in college, I never worked out. So starting to run was a really big deal for me and now I love it. It’s cheap and always availible. It's helped me with the pandemic and it's good for my mental health. I try to meditate every day. It’s helped me build in a little bit of pause between something happening and me reacting, so I can choose how I want to respond.
Bianca Pineda: So, as we’ve discussed before, you’re a Syracuse alumni -- Go orange! Was there any class that turned out to be really valuable to your career or life in the long run?
Mirel Zaman: My professor Bill Glavin taught me to never let work become my entire life. That’s why he turned down a high-paying editor-in-chief job to be a professor. It's important to have a life and have work be one part of it. I live a whole day before work
and I live a whole day after work. I think the times that work is just one thing in the middle is when I've been the happiest.
Bianca Pineda: What is one piece of advice that if you could you would offer your college-age self?
Mirel Zaman: I love it when people follow up. You don't have to be shy about sending a reminder email three days later, if that's what it takes. If someone does offer their time, please take them up on it. Don't let it fall off. You never know when you'll be working with that person. It’s a small industry. Especially for students, if you're going to be networking, follow through and stick after it.