You might not see her name in the bylines, but behind the scenes, Zoe Selesi has been shaping and growing Affinity into what it’s become today. As senior editor of our Arts & Culture site, Zoe has been leading the Arts & Culture staff and helping run the entire organization. She’s been at the forefront of many of Affinity’s newest initiatives — Music Mondays, team meet-ups, and K-Pop calendars — and is always looking for new ways to keep pushing Affinity to become better and better.
What we love most about Zoe, however, is her passion for serving the team. She works not for the bylines or recognition but because she’s committed to providing a platform for young writers to share their stories. Zoe has always been incredibly supportive and helpful to every team member, and she’s undoubtedly one of the hardest working and most valuable members of the Affinity team. That’s why we, the Affinity team, decided to select Zoe as our June Member of the Month — a long-overdue honor for our incredible teammate! We’re so excited to share more about her work, interests, and aspirations below:
Alice Ao: Let’s start off with a general question — tell us about your identity!
Zoe Selesi: I’m the Arts & Culture Senior Editor at Affinity. I’m Nigerian-American and British and I’m from Southern California! I’m a junior in college studying Magazine (Journalism) in New York.
AA: As the senior editor of our Arts & Culture site, you’re one of our most experienced members! What does your writing and editing process look like?
ZS: The editing process isn’t that exciting, but with writing, it depends on what I’m writing about. The typical set-up is headphones on with music either blasting or on the lowest volume when I’m concentrating and a thousand tabs open for research, especially if I’m writing an analysis of an album. I don’t particularly like taking breaks, so I write for a lot of hours and isolate myself if I can so I can really get in the zone.
With my analyses, I listen to the album that I’m reviewing or analyzing until I’m done with the article. It may sound crazy, but because I really only analyze or review Korean albums, I need to read the translation of the lyrics so I truly understand what I’m writing about and it makes me appreciate the songs even more. My first listen is based on the feel of the song as I’m not fluent in Korean yet. After reading the translation of the lyrics, I’m able to genuinely appreciate the track even more and understand what the artist was trying to convey to the listeners.
AA: What led you to join Affinity?
ZS: I’ve always enjoyed writing and thought it’d be a fresh experience. My friend, a former Affinity staff writer, got accepted and told our group of friends about it. At the time, I had never heard of Affinity Magazine, so I did a bit of research and decided to apply. I didn’t think I was that good at writing, so I didn’t even think I’d get accepted, but here I am three years later and I’m now the Arts & Culture Senior Editor.
AA: Here at Affinity, you’re our resident K-Pop expert! What initially drew you to K-Pop, and what speaks to you about it?
ZS: Oh, I could go on about this forever but to keep it short; my family friend introduced me to the world of Korean entertainment when I was 12 (I’m 20 now), and ever since I watched my first Korean drama and listened to my first Korean song, I’ve been hooked. I consume A LOT of Korean media and culture (I’m not joking lol), and I’ll even be studying abroad in Korea this upcoming academic year, so I’m definitely drawn to it.
Still, honestly, I struggle when answering questions about what speaks to me about Korean culture and entertainment or K-Pop specifically. I think it’s a mixture of different things, but my appreciation of the culture is the most significant factor. The culture itself is rich and the language is so beautiful, it’s poetic-like, which I love. It also goes beyond just the music, dramas or variety shows for me. Learning about the history of Korea and educating myself has been super fun and enriching.
AA: What are your proudest accomplishments — both in life and at Affinity?
ZS: Since being at Affinity, I’ve gone from being a staff writer to the K-pop editor then the Music editor and now I’m the Arts & Culture Senior Editor. I’m still in awe of all of the things I’ve done since I’ve been here and I’m forever grateful. Although these are all great accomplishments I’ve listed, honestly reading our readers’ comments on my articles and sending me kind words means the world to me. I’ve never been confident in my writing, but when I see readers’ praising my work and even giving me feedback, it makes everything worth it.
Besides Affinity, one accomplishment that comes to mind is being awarded a prestigious scholarship for my study abroad semester and getting into Yonsei University for my upcoming semester abroad. It was my first time being awarded a scholarship and I found out about the scholarship program less than two weeks to the deadline.
AA: How has Affinity helped you grow as a person, writer and editor?
ZS: Writing for Affinity allowed me to find my path for what I wanted to do in the future. I was kind of all over the place when it came to deciding what I’d study in college, but writing for Affinity Magazine showed me I could have a place in the media and entertainment industry. I entered college as a Public Relations major, but I made the switch to Magazine (Journalism) at the start of my sophomore year. I can say I’ve gotten better at writing and editing since I started Affinity, and being a journalism major has definitely helped.
AA: What’s the coolest opportunity you’ve had from Affinity?
ZS: Hmmm, there’s a few, but I’d have to say interviewing Ava Duvernay and Storm Reid for A Wrinkle In Time. The fact that this happened is still beyond me and I remember that day like it was yesterday. I always joke with my friends that Ava’s my best friend because of the few interactions I’ve had with her on Twitter and, of course, interviewing her. That’s definitely the coolest opportunity I’ve had since I’ve been with Affinity. I’ve also interviewed JUNOFLO, a Korean-American artist I’m a fan of, and attended the Black Panther European Premiere in London.
AA: Outside of Affinity, what else are you involved with?
ZS: On-campus, I’m a resident advisor and I’m a mentor for two mentorship programs. One is for my major, and the other is a professional mentorship program for women of colour. Outside of college, I work for an awesome start-up called CLLCTVE as their Digital Content Editor. I’m also building my website and I have a podcast with my friends called ‘The College Files’, which will come out hopefully one day.
AA: What are some causes and issues that you are especially passionate about?
ZS: Rather a cause but a movement. Black Lives Matter. All Black lives matter, today, tomorrow and here on after. I’ll continue to use the small platform I have to raise awareness and educate as many people as possible.
AA: What are your future plans and aspirations?
ZS: After I graduate college, I plan on going to graduate school in South Korea and getting a Masters’ in Global Economy & Strategy or Korean Studies if I get into the scholarship program. I recently made the decision, but I still have time to go as I’ll only be a junior in the fall. Besides thinking of graduate school, working in content strategy or writing for places like Billboard or Variety as a music journalist is the dream.
AA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
ZS: Not direct advice but rather some words from Kim Namjoon, leader of global Korean group BTS.
“Happiness is not something that you have to achieve; you can still feel happy during the process of achieving something.”
“I think that there’s no need to live your life based on the standard of others. Everyone says, “dream big”. But I don’t think you have to live so fiercely like that all the time.”
It may not have been advice he gave directly to me, Zoe Selesi, but it’s definitely advice I needed to hear.
AA: Now’s your turn to give some advice! As a college student, what advice would you give to current high schoolers and future college students?
ZS: May sound like generic advice, but remember to lean on the people around you when you need help. Whether that’s your co-workers, professors, TA’s or friends, they’re all people who are there for you. Don’t carry the burden by yourself and don’t allow others to use you as the ‘burden drop-off.’ It’s more than okay to say no. You have to take care of yourself before others. This is advice I’m still trying to follow because of my independent nature, but know you’re not alone even when it feels like it.
Want to work for Affinity like Zoe? Keep an eye out for applications, which will be posted soon!
All photos are courtesy of Zoe Selesi, including our featured image.