Las Vegas PR executive, mentor heads nonprofit

Vegas Voices is a weekly series highlighting notable Las Vegans.

Raised in Long Island, just outside of Queens, Michelle St. Angelo says she was “sort of an adventurous kid.” That spirit of adventure inspired her to attend Indiana University in Bloomington while most of her friends attended schools closer to home.

“It had space and greenery and all this stuff that I wasn’t used to — it totally opened my eyes to the fact that there’s this whole life outside the East Coast where things are more affordable and people are nicer. And it gave me the courage to explore more.”

After working briefly in Manhattan after graduation, that same spirit brought her to Las Vegas in 2004, where she got an entry-level job in public relations. Today, the 37-year-old is vice president of hospitality and lifestyle PR for Allied Global Marketing and vice-chairwoman of the United Way of Southern Nevada’s Women’s Leadership Council — the youngest to ascend to that role in the organization’s history. She guides and updates about 120 members on funding programs and signature events, such as the nonprofit’s upcoming Suit Drive.

From 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 2, the organization will be collecting new or gently used professional attire, accessories, handbags and jewelry at NV Energy’s offices at 6226 W. Sahara Ave. Donated items will benefit Southern Nevada organizations with back-to-work programs for women including Dress for Success of Southern Nevada, Goodwill Career Connections, HopeLink of Southern Nevada, S.A.F.E. House, SafeNest, The Shade Tree and the Work Opportunities Readiness Center of HELP of Southern Nevada.

Review-Journal: When you came to Las Vegas, how did you see the environment toward professional women?

Michelle St. Angelo: Coming from New York and working in Manhattan, working in environments where women are leaders, if there’s a glass ceiling, I’m oblivious to it. I’ve also been lucky to work in an industry that, quite frankly, is pretty female-dominated. So I don’t even think I was ever held back by the notion that perhaps I wouldn’t ascend to the roles in life that I wanted. My dad was a baseball coach, so I feel like I grew up with the mindset of an athlete on what it takes to be a champion. That mindset was always about getting to where you want to go and not paying attention to the obstacles.

So what drew you to mentoring young women?

I believe that more women in leadership roles is better for the world. I believe for a more conscious, more kind capitalism, for a more thriving economy and more thriving society, it’s necessary to have more females in power. I certainly see less frequency of women in leadership roles. And what I stand for is changing that and getting more women in high-power positions.

What are the biggest gender-specific career challenges young women face, and how do you help them overcome them?

I think women struggle at times with going after the life we want, versus the life we should have. I went through that in my life, so I like to draw on that experience to connect with women who might be at that fork in the road. My approach with young women in my industry is to help them listen to the voice within and figure out how they can have it all.

In public relations, your job is to promote your clients, present their case to the world, or as some call it, be a cheerleader for your client. Do you see the role that way? And if so, do you enjoy it?

Funny story: We didn’t have a cheer squad at my high school, but we had a dance team and I was captain. So I think inherently I am a cheerleader. As someone who wants to be a powerful woman, and once I got the bug to be a businesswoman, I used to degrade the value of that girl that I once was. Saying your job is to be a cheerleader almost makes you say, “Is that a respectable job?” But what I’ve now discovered is there is such value in that, especially now. With all of the political turmoil, with all of the anger, I think there’s no more important job than to be positive about things and find the joy in life. I have the best job in the world. I get to promote all the things you can do for fun in this awesome city. And there’s value in that.

What is the goal of the Suit Drive?

There is a particular confidence-building aspect to (wearing) something that you feel good in — especially women who may have been down on their luck. We collect new or gently used professional items: suits, dresses, handbags, jewelry, all of that. And then we donate them to back-to-work programs for women through several organizations. So to me, what’s important for a woman who might not have access to a nice handbag or jewelry is not so much about what the other person might think when you walk in with a nice handbag, as much as it’s about how you feel when you put that outfit on and you have that handbag. I believe that a confident woman who is proud of who she is, when she walks into that interview, she’s much more likely to land that job. And that’s why it’s important.

Getting to know: Michelle St. Angelo

Currently obsessed with?

Purple Carrot, the plant-based meal delivery service. I get it almost every week. It saves me so much time food shopping and figuring out what to cook, and ignites my creativity in the kitchen.

Newest Vegas discovery?

Hugo’s Cellar. I can’t believe I went almost 14 years here before finally discovering it.

Place you always take visitors?

The Spa at Red Rock Resort (my visitors like to be pampered).

Currently reading?

“Atlas Shrugged,” by Ayn Rand. I’ve been on a kick lately where I’m trying to read all the classic novels that I somehow never read in school.

Piece of art that truly moved you?

George Balanchine’s “Serenade” always brings me to tears. I’ve been lucky to see it performed a few times by Nevada Ballet Theatre.

Favorite possession/hand-me-down?

My grandmother’s wedding ring, which I had made into a cocktail ring. I wear it almost every day.

Contact Al Mancini at Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter.

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