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Notable accomplishments // During tenure of being the First Lady of Milwaukie she successfully leveraged her social media presence to pass a Light Rail Bond measure. Pre-social media campaign polling showed 47% support. The bond measure passed with 54% yes votes, a 7 point sway from the first poll. Key services for the city were retained with the 5 million dollar bond measure passage.

Also as First Lady, on a diplomatic mission to China, she tobogganed down the Great Wall.

She was also one of the first in her industry to adopt Social Media as part of the marketing mix, utilizing this as on online PR tool. This spring boarded her into a career with Global Haircare company KEVIN.MURPHY. In her first six weeks on the job the blog, which she ran, shut down after it’s re-launch because of an overwhelming amount of traffic. The site simply crumbled under the weight of visitors, and was up and running again in 24 hours.

Z-logo-croppedMandy Zelinka

Age: 38

Years in the industry : 17

Notable accolades: Owned on of the biggest award winning salons in Portland (77), was the Digital Marketing Manager for KEVIN.MURPHY international and covered Melbourne Spring Fashion Week.

Why doesn’t most of Portland know about you?

I was ‘famous’ at a time before social media really existed like it does today, hehe. I was talking to a younger friend of mine the other day that said, ‘It sounds like you were at the top of your game during some sort of hair renaissance in Portland.’ Indeed. 1998 to about 2008 was an absolutely beautiful time to be doing hair in Portland – this city was crawling with icons. I owned one of the most prestigious salons in Portland – then the recession hit and wiped out so much of what was lovely in our industry. But, it has also made way for new things to pop-up – I am excited to see what all of these people moving here means for the industry. More experienced stylists from other states will certainly up the hair game here.

What is it like to live in two cities? As a Portland native you recently moved to Seattle, but still work in Portland. Tell me a little about that. 

When I had the opportunity to sit next to Kevin Murphy on a semi-regular basis I asked him one day what inspires him – considering he has been doing hair for decades I wanted so badly to know how that happens after so many years. “Well everything inspires me! I walk around town – everything I see can be inspiring.” That saddened me because I wanted to possess that so badly but I just could’ t find it for myself…until now. I just needed to change my scenery. It started when I met Jeremy and he changed my entire view on life.


Speaking of…you were a First Lady. Tell me about that. 

I am still very much amused by that. I can’t believe this scrappy little hairstylist from North East Portland was trusted to go as a Dignitary on a Eco-Summit to China. I went more just to see if they would throw me out once I got there. I went out and bought a whole new wardrobe chalked full of local designs so that I would ‘fit in’. Hairdressers are notorious for wearing all black and I thought that color would help – except that in Beijing everything is grey. The people all have black hair. They are all very thin – and here comes this curly haired tits ’n ass American in Red! Purple! It was kind of hysterical. Jeremy kept videoing people’s reactions to me.

In the past you have made a huge commitment to supporting your community and doing the right thing with local politics. Can you tell me a little bit about how that has impacted your life and what caused you to do the things you did that supported that commitment?

Looking back now it seems like such a small thing, but at the time I was legitimately scared I was going to have my house burned down or at the least have a brick thrown through my window or my beloved bike stolen. Towards the end of my stint as First Lady I outed a politician that was running for office. (You can read the Bike Portland article here) What started out as some innocent Facebook stalking ended up with realizing that I had information that could impact how people voted. It would also impact (should Scott Barbur have won) how my children would be able to navigate their futures. I like riding my bike, but when it comes to parenting what I realized is that you have to empower kids wherever you can within the guidelines of good parenting. Bike riding is one of childrens first way of experiencing freedom. They also have to learn how to navigate safety and time management – especially if they are using bikes as their main form of transportation to and from school. Via my Milwaukie Rules Facebook page I was able to get people to think and look at this issue from a different lens. Karin Power, his opponent, not only won but had an incredibly well funded campaign because of the Bike Portland article. She received multiple donations to her campaign from across the country since Bike Portland is the top bicycle blog in the nation. Then it spurred a couple in Portland to start a PAC (see Bike Portland post here:)

This all was not without consequence – there were multiple occasions where folks in town that did not like what I had done decided they were going to run to the press with false stories and try to make the Mayor and I look bad. Private investigators were allegedly hired by Scott Barbur to dig up dirt on us. (They found none.) It was scary. I certainly did not want made-up salacious articles ending up in the paper for my stepkids to read – the very kids I was out to protect. Most of the media has a very low credibility level these days – and most Politics is an exercise in futility. I can’t be a part of politics again on that level, it’s bad for my health, but I 100% understand more than ever (probably because of this) the need for powerful political people – especially progressive women. I am currently trying to figure out the best way for me to support that while staying out of hot water. I’d like to just enjoy my incredible life for awhile without such a heavy burden. I think that’s why I am so passionate about The Portland Campaign.

You owned your first house at 25, and owned one of the largest salons in Portland by the age of 27 as well as your second home in the same year. Can you tell me a little bit about that? That’s very impressive!
I never wanted to own a salon, and I actually never wanted to be a hairstylist. It was humiliating for me when I dropped out of college my first go of it.  One of my fellow students said to me, “Hehe – you are dropping out of school to do HAIR?” I felt so stupid. Now it’s almost cool NOT to go – but those were different times, and I grew up not knowing I had a choice other than continuing on to college after high school. I felt very lost and upset about it – so if I was going to have to be a hairstylist then I was going to be the best fucking hairstylist there was because there was no way I was going to feel that way ever again.
I do have a innate tendency to strive for the best in whatever I do, but man, I do not like feeling dumb or being second best. A lot of the blood that runs through my veins come from my grandpas. Grandpa Zelinka (my Czech/Russian side) stormed the beaches of Normandy and really should never have survived much less walk again. (He had schrapnel wounds so bad that he spent a year in the hospital before being released and was told he was never to walk ever again.) And my Grandpa Wunsch was a typical stubborn 100% German who came into America via a sled through Canada. He was also a third generation small business owner – so there’s that.

Tell me about a defining moment in your life and how it changed you.

The recession was really hard, but I think that divorce (with kids, even though they are my stepkids) was an incredibly defining moment. I have such an elevated level of respect for families that go through that. It’s heart wrenching, and as a step-parent you have no rights. None. It forced me to really grow up, because if I wanted to continue to see these little monsters I had no choice but to put any hard feelings aside for the greater good. That was probably the hardest thing I have ever done, and continue to work at because innately I am an aggressive ass kicker. I have had to really find different ways to win. Evolved, grown-up ways instead of street ways. Evolving is a process, man.

What would your advice to your younger self be?
“Mandy. Working the graveyard shift at a convenience store is a really DUMB idea. You got lucky.” To be fair, I used the graveyard shift to learn business and marketing. I figured, “I’ll sit here all night and not do anything and I’ll read all the business books I can while I do it.” I mean, it totally paid off, but..
What is been one of the hardest lessons to learn?
I never allowed room for things to happen. I never let the universe take over. I just took my agenda and rammed down everyone’s throat’s. But the problem with that is sometimes you’re trying to push square pegs into round holes and if you don’t allow a little room for things to happen and they never will.

What are some of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned?

Most of your 20s and 30s is learning how to get out of your own way.

Change, for me, is like divorce. You ask for – even encourage it, and you know in the end you will be better for it. But the process – not  a fan.

Putting happiness at the top of my goal list changed my life.

That being said, then prioritize goals by money, then keep a secondary list for causes.

The more I understand politics the less I understand.

T R I B E S. Finding my tribes throughout life has been one of the most important contributors to my success.

You absolutely have to keep some wiggle room in life to allow for things to happen.

You are who you hang around. Choose wisely.

Surround yourself with people you want to be like and you will become that.

Set goals yearly.

READ. I never enjoyed it, but boy have I learned so much that way I have now grown to love it.

Travel. You can’t afford no to.


Who would you name as some of your mentors?

DVF. She’s one classy broad. My girlfriends. I have spent many years cultivating my Tribe. They constantly inspire me with their lady balls.


What are some of the hardest lessons you have learned?

Knowing when to let go, and that it’s okay.

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