Meet RoseMarie Terenzio: The woman behind the New York Times Best seller, Fairytale Interrupted, a memoir about her five years working for the late John F Kennedy Jr.
Growing up, I remember picking up my mom’s tabloid magazines that said JFK Jr. was a pampered, spoiled brat and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy was a “typical” society girl (read: anti-food with a vanilla personality). However, Fairytale Interrupted paints a different picture of the two than what the media portrayed. Told through the eyes of RoseMarie, her story introduces you to two amazing people who were intelligent, ambitious and truly in love.
Although reading about glamorous people is always interesting, the person who stood out to me was RoseMarie. Born in a blue collar neighborhood in the Bronx, RoseMarie’s family “never had two dimes to rub together” and worked her way up from nothing. Being JFK Jr.’s assistant from 1994 until his death in 1999, this is one of her many accomplishments on a growing list, which also includes producing an acclaimed play, starting her own PR firm, and writing a best selling novel.Genuine, easy going and full of energy, RoseMarie’s compelling fish out of water story is an inspiration.
In the interview below, learn more about RoseMarie and her journey, the best piece of advice JFK Jr. taught her and her secret to success for 20-somethings.
- How did you start working for JFK Jr? While working for Michael Berman at PR/NY public relations, JFK Jr. became a regular at my office causing a major stir. Unlike the other girls in the office, I didn’t swoon because to me it was no different from Christopher Reeve or any other celebrity calling for Michael. However, as time went by, we developed a friendship, and in 1994, when Michael sold our company to start the magazine with John, I went with them. My role was John’s assistant, and I worked with him from the beginning stages of looking for a publisher to when our magazine, George, folded in June 1999 (coincidentally, one month before his death). Per Fairytale Interrupted, “We were together almost every day. I was John’s gatekeeper, controlling access to someone who everyone wanted time with. As his loyal assistant and friend, I would have done anything for him. John gave me opportunities that changed my life forever, taking me on the most dramatic journey a girl in New York City could ever dream of - especially a girl like me”.
- What was the most important thing John taught you? Nothing is as good or as bad as it seems in the moment. Things pass.
- Why did you decide to write the book? I was approached many times to write a book about my experience. In 2008, after someone suggested I make a movie, I started to write. However, I thought it was better suited to be a book. I finished in 2011 and pitched it to a lot of publishing houses, but many turned it down. They said it wouldn’t sell. They wanted dirt. Finally, someone picked it up and I became an author.
- Most rewarding thing about writing Fairytale Interrupted? It was a turning point. When I finished in 2011 (three years later) I didn’t feel like the best part of my life was in the past. Working with JFK Jr. wasn’t going to be the greatest thing I was going to do.
- What have you done since? A number of things, but two of my biggest accomplishments were producing the play, Touch, and starting my own PR firm, RMT Management.
- Tell me more about Touch. I read the play while on vacation with a friend of mine who was an actress and was doing a reading of it, and it spoke to me. The script was about an astronomer whose wife of six happy years goes out to buy whipping cream and never comes back. I read it, and fell in love with it because it spoke directly to me about my own experience. The main character is trying to deal with the sudden loss of a loved one. I started knocking on theater people’s doors. However, getting people attached to it wasn’t easy and it took three years for it to go from script to reality. It was truly a labor of love. The best part about it was that my mom got to see it; she passed away soon after.
- Tell me more about your PR firm. What type of clients do you have? My company works with all types of clients from Nobu, to a childhood obesity expert, to fashion clients. Most recently, I have been doing a lot of crisis management working with clients like Stephanie Madoff Mack and Rielle Hunter. I really enjoy doing that type of PR, because it’s intense. You get to see the good and the bad of the media in a magnified way. It is a good opportunity for people to tell their story, to tell the truth. You see the extremes.
- Why did you decide to start RMT PR firm? While working at Me & Ro, I left for another opportunity,which didn’t pan out. I went back my boss Robin Renzi, Me & Ro’s designer, and asked her for suggestions. Robin suggested that I represent her. From there, I picked up another client, friend and famed fashion designer, Narciso Rodriguez and it spiraled from there. Other people started to call, and I was contracted out for numerous projects and clients and I began to get referrals.
- What do you like most about working for yourself? Freedom. You also are the decision maker. I can decide who I want to work with and who I don’t. Further, when you produce something, you feel more of a sense of accomplishment when you do it on your own. It feels great to yield the same results as a big corporate machine. On the flipside, when you work for yourself, you have to work a lot harder.
- Any advice to others in their career? Try different things. Try a bunch of things, but whatever you do, do something. I hate when people complain to me “I don’t know what I want”. I don’t know either, but the only way you will find out is by trying things on for size.
- Where did you learn how to start a successful business? I learned by doing. I didn’t have any kind of a plan; my business plan was to more business. Before I spent money, I had clients. I didn’t have an office space or website and kept everything bare bones to get it going. I didn’t put the cart before the horse like many others around me. You don’t need the smoke and mirrors, just the skill set. People care if you work hard and get results. There was a lot of growing pains and fear.
- What was the first year like? The first year was a lot of questioning to myself “Am I really doing this?” I ended up taking a lot of non-PR related jobs to make ends meet. I felt like it was two years before it was up and running.
- What do you think will be your next venture? I would love for the book to become a movie and write another book. In addition, I would love to write a give-and-take advice column for women, where they could ask me questions but I could ask them too. Everyone has something to learn from one another.
- Favorite spot in NYC? Gay Street in the West Village. It’s only one block long, but it’s another universe. It feels completely separate from the rest of New York, and could be anywhere in the world there. It could be London or Amsterdam or Paris.
Interview paraphrased and some of the content was taken from her book, Fairytale Interrupted.
Buy a copy of Fairytale Interrupted today.