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Melanie Young: “Define your own success”

My mission is to help women realize the importance of investing in their self-heath and taking steps to reduce their risk for major illness. As a result of my own trajectory from public relations into running my media properties, writing and coaching, I have also become a voice for reinvention. Through my podcast, Fearless Fabulous […]

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My mission is to help women realize the importance of investing in their self-heath and taking steps to reduce their risk for major illness. As a result of my own trajectory from public relations into running my media properties, writing and coaching, I have also become a voice for reinvention. Through my podcast, Fearless Fabulous You (Women 4 Women Network and iHeart), I address topics on women’s health, reinvention and entrepreneurship and have many experts. I particularly enjoy spotlighting women who are “kitchen table entrepreneurs” and have started businesses from their home, born out of need or a hobby.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melanie Young, author of “Getting Things Off My Chest- A Survivor’s Guide To Staying Fearless & Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer” and host of radio shows, Fearless Fabulous You and The Connected Table LIVE! (iHeart/iHeart App).

Melanie Young is a motivational muse and master of reinvention who shares the message: “Live Life on Your Terms with Purpose and Passion” through her work as a speaker, author and podcast/radio show host.

After a long career running her eponymous culinary marketing and events agency with global wine and food clients and serving as the Founding Director of The James Beard Foundation Awards ( a.k.a. “the culinary Oscars”), she took a leap of faith in 2011 and reinvented her life. The “tipping point” was a breast cancer diagnosis in 2009. Young decided to re-focus and prioritize her health over business and become an advocate for self-care and positive reinvention in the face of a setback.

Young is author of “Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor’s Guide To Staying Fearless & Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer” and “Fearless, Fabulous You! Lessons on Living Life on Your Terms.” She hosts two weekly national radio shows; both are podcast permanently on iHeart, Spotify and other platforms. Fearless Fabulous You (the Women 4 Women Network) is a lifestyle show for women covering health topic and entrepreneurship. The Connected Table LIVE! and The Connected Table SIPS, both co-hosted with husband David Ransom, feature engaging conversations with global thought leaders in wine, spirits, food and hospitality.

She writes the show’s companion blog, The Connected Table and has published articles on wine, food, travel for Wine4Food, Wine Enthusiast, Jewish Week and The Epoch Times. Her articles on healthy living and nutrition have been published in Huffington Post Health, Greatist, Livestrong, and Breast Cancer Wellness.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I owned a boutique culinary marketing and events agency in New York City with many global wine and food clients for twenty years. During this time, I launched The James Beard Foundation Awards and served as Awards Director for sixteen years. I traveled extensively and lived a delicious life, but I was always stressed looking for new clients and managing the ups and downs of running my business. Honestly, I neglected my self-health. In July 2009, while on a business trip to Italy, I found a lump in my breast during a manual self-check. It turned out to be breast cancer. Like many diagnosed with this disease, I was blindsided.

Facing breast cancer and realizing the importance of putting your self-health first led me to where I am today. After completing treatment and feeling ready to start a new chapter of my life, I closed my agency. I decided I wanted to be a “voice” to inspire other women to invest in their self-health. I studied to become a certified health coach, wrote my first book, “Getting Things Off My Chest: A Survivor’s Guide To Staying Fearless & Fabulous in the Face of Breast Cancer” and, in 2014, launched my two podcasts.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

It’s a funny revelation. When I was running my agency in New York City, I dined out frequently and rarely cooked at home. I could have been the fifth friend in “Sex in the City!” My oven became storage for shoes, and my refrigerator held bottles of champagne and stored my fur hat and cashmere scarves in the summer. After my breast cancer treatment, with my renewed focused on wellness and nutrition, I taught myself to cook. We also moved out of the city to the country and live a quieter life centered around cooking at home and writing. Instead of relying on a traditional office. I switched to the remote live/work life and have done this since 2015. It frees me up to work on location from virtually anywhere.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve always been in charge running the show. Being a born and bred southerner, hospitality and friendliness run through my veins, and I enjoy being on stage and entertaining people. I was chatty and open and spoke my mind. I assumed people wanted to hear from me. However, many believe public relations consultants should remain behind the scenes. I remember being pushed out of a photo op or unseated from an event because I was the public relations consultant. I was stung by these moments. The lesson I learned is that public relations executives are valuable professionals and should not be treated like second class citizens at events. I still cringe when people disregard public relations professionals.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

My mission is to help women realize the importance of investing in their self-heath and taking steps to reduce their risk for major illness. As a result of my own trajectory from public relations into running my media properties, writing and coaching, I have also become a voice for reinvention. Through my podcast, Fearless Fabulous You (Women 4 Women Network and iHeart), I address topics on women’s health, reinvention and entrepreneurship and have many experts. I particularly enjoy spotlighting women who are “kitchen table entrepreneurs” and have started businesses from their home, born out of need or a hobby.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

In 2019, one of my magazine editors called me to share she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was scared and asked me to be her cancer mentor. I stood by her every step of the journey as her sounding board. A year later, she is still going through some emotional pain and is grateful to just be able to share things with me confidentially and with confidence. I have received similar calls from friends. I am always there to listen and offer support.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

We need to make healthy, fresh food accessible and affordable to all citizens. An inadequate diet and obesity are the root of many illnesses. Many people have an unhealthy diet because what is available to them is mainly processed food. Eliminating “food deserts” and food insecurity is important.

We need to ensure that affordable health care remains accessible to all. Many women neglect their health and do not get mammograms because they do not have insurance and cannot afford the exam, or they lack transportation to get to a testing facility. Others put family and career first. Early detection for breast cancer is important to help save lives.

Many women have been impacted by the pandemic and job loss. Creating affordable education, training, and funding programs to help women from all backgrounds to start small businesses is important.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I believe effective leadership is a combination of direction, delegation, motivation, listening

A leader needs vision to shape the company mission and map out a plan to achieve it.

A leader needs to establish a strong team of advisors and trusted doers to implement the plan. You cannot do everyone’s job and manage to grow.

A leader needs to motivate and lead by example. When you are charged up and feeling inspired, so will your team.

A leader needs to be a good listener. How can you fully understand your team or your target audiences without understanding what’s going on in their heads?

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Write a business plan that serves as your short and long-term road map. When I started my agency in 1989, I just hung out a shingle and started hustling clients with no plan. I was successful but did not have a long-term plan for growth or what’s next. That made it harder to weather the down times.

Get a master’s degree. Even with 25+ years’ experience in marketing and public relations, I have been told I need to have a master’s degree to teach. These days, many jobs require advanced degrees or certifications. I do not have a master’s degree, but I invested the time to become a certified health coach to support my work as a health and wellness advocate. I’d still like to get a master’s degree. I am big believer that there are endless opportunities to further your education at any age.

Nothing lasts forever. Clients and jobs come and go. Have a backup plan and an exit plan for what you want to do with the rest of your life and learn how to repurpose your “tool kit” of talents and skills. When I reinvented my career, I repurposed my gift for storytelling and writing and my natural inquisitiveness to create my radio shows.

What you say and how you treat people will be remembered more than what you achieve. Too often people focus on winning in business, but you can’t truly win by stepping on and over people. I have achieved many things but what touched me most is when a former employee or colleague reminds me of how I helped them in their career, shared advice and taught them.

Define your own success. Too often we try to live by standards other set for us. That can lead to the dreaded “imposter syndrome.” I experienced imposter syndrome for a time and was my worst self-critic. When I stopped comparing myself to others, listened to my voice within, and defined who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live on my terms, I shed a considerable amount of stress.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Great question. And tough to answer since I am passionate about several things. Most definitely, I’d like to see more education and mentorship for young women to teach then the value of their self-worth, to help them realize their potential and provide them the tools to succeed, including financial literacy and negotiating skills. I’d like to take what I do on my show, Fearless Fabulous You, spotlighting stories of inspiring women entrepreneurs, and expand it to a movement and training program to help women from all backgrounds start businesses, fine tune their branding and platform and secure venture capital through education, coaching and mentoring.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It is about learning to dance in the rain.”

(source: Vivian Greene). I have faced many “storms” in my life; many of us have or will in the future. You need to find the silver lining, reframe the situation and seek a new path and outlook. We need to re-channel fear into positive energy.

A specific example I share in my book is when I faced chemotherapy for breast cancer. A friend who had undergone similar treatment told me, “Stop looking at chemotherapy as poison entering your body; instead, look at it as cleansing your body from toxic cancer.” Talk about a reframe! For me this meant that every treatment, I dressed up, put on makeup and sat in that chemo chair like a queen, determined to feel and look fabulous.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Michelle Obama rocks. I respect the stand she took as First Lady to teach and promote the importance of embracing health, nutrition and exercise for kids since childhood obesity is epidemic. I admire her work to empower young women, support gender equality and champion diversity. Her bestselling book, “Becoming,” really pulled back the curtain on her fascinating life from growing up on the south side of Chicago to living in the White House “fishbowl’ and the choices she made for her family, her career and to support her husband’s decision to run for president.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @melaniefabulous

Twitter: @mightymelanie

Facebook: @fearlessfabulousmelanie

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you for sharing my story and for all you do to help spotlight individuals committed to positive change.

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