Self-proclaimed rebel Anita Asante is no stranger to taking risks — she moved from her native London to NYC after landing a dream opportunity at AR New York. Now the Director of New Business at luxury agency Select World, she’s making a name for herself as a leading authority not only on client relationships, but on inclusivity and diversity in the workplace as well. Read on to learn more about Anita’s impressive career, her motivating feelings on morning workouts, and the food she wishes Americans could learn to make already.
Name: Anita Asante, Director of New Business at Select World
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Education: American History, Politics & Culture
What was your first job and how did you land it?
My older sister worked for Black Beauty & Hair magazine and she helped me land my first job at a beauty PR agency when I was 16 years old. Note: Please don’t think of it as nepotism — I worked really hard! My passion and dedication showed through when what started out as a 3-month probationary period soon evolved into a 4-year placement. I worked on my breaks from school and managed to build a really great rapport with journalists and clients alike, as well as my two bosses, who were and still are absolutely fabulous. This agency was also where I first got a taste of the ‘beauty world’ and all the wondrous things it had to offer — mainly products.
In school, you studied American political and cultural history. Tell us about choosing that degree and what you hoped to do with it.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been obsessed with different cultures. I genuinely believe my interest in cultural history stems from my Dad, who, growing up, would always randomly pack me, my mum, my brother, and sisters into a car, ferry, or plane and take us to great places in and out of the country. I remember having random weekends in Belgium, Basel, Strasburg to name a few and long vacations in Ghana. During these trips, I experienced a different way of life, which is why I was drawn to learning about different cultures/countries. In Sixth Form, I studied Classical Civilization (was obsessed with The Odyssey and still am) and when it came to picking out a university degree, I remember thinking that I would love to study something that incorporated another culture but was also a mix of history and politics. I then came across the concentration of American Political and Cultural History and was instantly drawn to the melting pot that it was, not even knowing that I would one day end up living here.
What I hoped to do with it? Nothing specifically. I knew it was a multifaceted degree and I could use it to my advantage and go into many different avenues. In England, our University system is quite different to America’s in the sense that we pick our degrees based on interest as opposed to an end career. Honestly, at 17 or 18 years old, I had no clue what profession I wanted to end up in, so I picked my degree for the culture.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been obsessed with different cultures.
You’re originally from London, but you now call NYC home. Much of your career has taken place here in the States. What led you to make that international move?
Adventure led me to make my international move. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I knew that I could always return home if I wanted to, so I thought, “Why not?” I was given a great opportunity and despite it not being the best in terms of timing, I thought, “It’s New York!” So I went for it.
What do you miss most about London? What’s your favorite thing about NYC?
Aside from my loved ones, family and friends obviously, what I miss the most has to be the “feels” of London. I hope this doesn’t make me sound shallow, but I miss the vibrancy and the street style. London fashion is wicked and I pretty much lived on Oxford Street on the weekends, so I was regularly exposed to it all while growing up. You never realise how the little things impact you subconsciously until it’s not on your doorstep anymore.
My favourite thing about NYC is the summer. The summer months in New York, hands down, have been some of the best moments I have had in life.
You’ve worked in new business for much of your career. What do you enjoy about it?
I get actual joy from meeting and speaking to new people. It’s a relationship industry, and I’m a firm believer that people pick up on your authenticity right from the offset. Because I genuinely enjoy what I do and believe Select World can make a great difference, it shines through.
It’s a relationship industry, and I’m a firm believer that people pick up on your authenticity right from the offset.
Select World is a beauty, fragrance, fashion, and luxury agency. Have you always wanted to work in this industry?
No, not at all — don’t get me wrong, I have had a vested interest in beauty for many, many years now, but it was never my intention to pursue a career specifically in beauty and fashion. It all just kind of happened, and quite organically as well — I have always held an interest in communications and advertising however, as the idea of consumerism and how we process things from a ‘want’ to a ‘need’ always intrigued me.
What’s unique about Select World? What’s the best part of working there?
In my opinion, I believe what sets Select World apart from all the other agencies is our global approach and perspective. Our company is full of people from all walks of life, backgrounds, and countries, which is one of the biggest assets to our agency. We truly approach luxury, beauty, and fashion with an all-encompassing eye and are able to offer to our clients/brand partners something just a little bit different.
How does your job challenge you in your day-to-day life? How does it inspire you?
It’s about offering more than just a sales tool to your clients. It’s about being a visionary and looking at the bigger picture. It’s saying to your prospective clients that you are able to bring added value to their business — taking it from one end of the spectrum to another and delivering on it. They may not always understand that part of the challenge. However, one of the things that attracted me to the role of business development and still keeps me going is being able to fully immerse myself in a client’s problem and provide the right solutions to transform their business.
It’s about being a visionary and looking at the bigger picture. It’s saying to your prospective clients that you are able to bring added value to their business — taking it from one end of the spectrum to another and delivering on it.
What skills do you think are necessary to work in new business? In an agency? In the beauty industry?
Passion. A true passion for what you do, for the industry you service, and a genuine spirit is what’s needed. Also, it’s important to be happy, give off good vibes and energy, and make people feel good.
You have a rigorous workout routine. Why is it important to you to stay fit? How do you balance fitness with a hectic work schedule?
It’s funny because I don’t actually don’t see it as rigorous. I just see it as a part of my life. In relation to my earlier response, I have always been a sporty person. I love being active, I enjoy being fit, I love sprinting and I truly feel at my best when I’ve just left the gym, a Barry’s Bootcamp class, or boxing in Central Park.
I don’t think I could get through a full working day if I didn’t work out, I feel so good when I have a great workout session (which normally takes place in the morning) and then I’m just ready to carpe diem the hell out of the day — with a protein shake in hand of course.
In what ways do you think America could improve in terms of inclusion in the workplace? (Obviously, there are a lot, so what’s your best strategy for combatting this?)
In terms of inclusion in the workplace, I truly appreciate all of the conversations that we are now having in the states. It’s as if the American workplace is having a political awakening.
Do you remember a time when going for a job interview you were always told that you should never talk about politics, race, or religion as it was just off limits, taboo almost? Fast-forward to today and it’s a welcome discussion in the office — it’s actually all anyone can talk about. It’s very refreshing and what’s needed!
Based on that, I would say that in the American workplace specifically, a way to combat it is to not be naïve or ignorant to the fact that exclusion issues still exist in the workplace for many, which is why we constantly talk about it. How great would it be to have a safe space where issues can be discussed and resolved without fear of repercussion? It all begins with an honest dialogue and then the true conversation can really begin.
Some examples in contemporary culture that I love which speak against exclusions on all levels include the trending hashtag #BlackWomenAtWork and the show Dear White People on Netflix.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Once you become consciously aware of how powerful your thoughts are, you realize everything in your life is exactly how you allow it to be.”
I am thankful for my parents who instilled in me from an early age that your thoughts become tangible things. So with that, I try to live my life by putting out as many positive vibrations and good thoughts into the atmosphere as possible.
What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?
Go to New York! (Dear Timing, You Suck. Kind Regards, Anita). Still, go to New York! And don’t cry on the plane. And please immerse yourself wholeheartedly in your first year and enjoy it. You won’t regret it.
Anita Asante is The Everygirl…
Favorite way to work out?
In the morning.
Manicure or pedicure?
So hard! I like my feet pretty but I also like my nails done… so it’ll have to be a manicure — ideally, both though.
Worst food in America?
I’ll be honest, I’ve been hard pressed to find a good Indian curry.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
I’m a little bit of a rebel so have to break the rules with this one. I have two!
- My Grandma — from what I heard she was a formidable and extremely sharp woman, even in her old age. I would have loved to have sat down and broken bread (well, not actually bread, maybe a piece of protein) with her.
- Michaela Coel — please just refer to her IG, witty captions and Chewing Gum. Enough said! Also, she’s from Ghana too so yes! We would definitely be friends.