Meet Nicole Frehsee Mazur, SEEN‘s new editor-in-chief! From her days interviewing celebrities at Rolling Stone to what she’s excited to bring to the SEEN brand, Nicole shares it all and more in 20 questions.
By Chelsie Dzbanski
Featured photo by Derrick Martinez
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your professional background. I’m currently the editor-in-chief of SEEN, but for most of my career, I’ve been a writer. My first official magazine gig was at Rolling Stone, where I was hired as an editorial assistant after an internship in 2006. I was in my early 20s — such a baby.
After four years at Rolling Stone, I moved to Denver and became a writer/editor at a local lifestyle magazine. Then I lived in Chicago, where I built a career freelancing for local and national publications — everything from O, the Oprah Magazine and Budget Travel to Maxim and Time Out Chicago. My husband and I moved back to Detroit, where we’re both from, in 2013, and last year, I was hired to edit a local baby magazine called Metro Detroit Baby and Beyond. It was an annual publication, and when the job was done, I wanted more! So when the opportunity to edit SEEN came along, I jumped on it.
On the personal side, I’m a mom to two very spirited little girls who keep me busy. In my rare downtime, I love to explore new restaurants, read memoirs, exercise and, of course, SLEEP.
2. How did you get started in the industry? I’d always loved writing but I never really thought about making a career of it — I just knew I’d someday have to get a job that didn’t involve math (my skills are pretty dire).
During college, I interned on Mitch Albom’s radio show. Part of my role entailed hunting for cool stories to feature and pre-interviewing guests before they went on air. Both those things thrilled me, and I guess I got the “journalism bug” (if there is such a thing). I went on to write for my college paper, The Michigan Daily, and then attended graduate school at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. From there I applied for an internship at Rolling Stone, which had forever been my favorite magazine. The rest, as they say, is history.
3. What is your favorite thing about your job? Learning about so many different subjects. When you write or edit a story, you almost have to become an “expert” on the topic at hand, and I feel like I’m always absorbing information and ideas.
4. Can you share some of your career highlights or moments you are most proud of thus far? Editing the baby magazine was a big accomplishment. I came up with the story lineup, assigned the writers and edited all the copy, so it felt very personal to me. I’m also really proud of a recent story I wrote for Rolling Stone on musicians and mental health. It was a heavily reported piece about the music industry’s mental-health crisis, a topic that hasn’t had enough light shed on it. I’ve gotten feedback from people in the industry who said that this is going to help artists.
5. What does a typical day/week look like for you? There’s really no typical anything in my life. Some days I’m meeting with writers or interviewing story subjects, others I’m tapping away at my keyboard, editing copy or researching future story ideas. One constant: I’m always home in time for dinner with my girls.
6. What was your biggest mistake or failure and what did you learn from it? When I was just starting out as a reporter, I used to ask a lot of yes-or-no questions in interviews. I think I was nervous and hesitant to press for answers. When I’d go back and transcribe my interviews, I’d realize that those questions didn’t yield many details, and I didn’t have much to work with. So I started to ask “why” or “how” questions instead — and I got better, richer, more nuanced answers. Now I’m a sucker for details, and I always go for the follow-up Q.
7. Working for Rolling Stone, you had the opportunity to interview major celebrities! Can you share a memorable or favorite interview? There are a lot of memorable ones. I interviewed Adele in the early days of her career, before a lot of people knew who she was. It was just the two of us, sitting in a hotel bar and shooting the shit about body image and boys. It was like talking to a girlfriend. I also spent like 18 straight hours with Adam Lambert — I traveled with him to Atlantic City on the American Idols tour in 2009. Again, we talked a lot about boys (sense a theme here)? I usually walked away from my interviews feeling like I’d made a new buddy, which was fun.
8. If you weren’t an editor/journalist what would you be instead? Something creative, people-focused and entrepreneurial that would allow me to be my own boss. Beyond that, I honestly have no clue. Let’s hope this writing thing works out!
9. As the new editor-in-chief for SEEN, what are you most excited about bringing to the brand? A fresh voice…or should I say, voices. I’ve worked with so many awesome, talented writers over the years and I’m looking forward to bringing them into the fold.
Now onto some fun…
10. What was your first job growing up? I babysat from the time I was in elementary school. As I got older, I worked as a lifeguard and a dance instructor at Joe Cornell. I was decent at everything except lifeguarding — let’s just say it’s good nobody needed saving on my watch.
11. What’s currently on your playlist? I’m constantly refining my Spotify lineup, and it’s always a mix of new stuff, old stuff I’ve recently discovered, and old stuff I love. Right now I’m listening to Lizzo and Harry Styles (new), John Prine (old stuff I’ve recently discovered) and my forever faves the Grateful Dead and Steely Dan. I listen to a lot of podcasts, too: This American Life and Heavyweight are my go-tos.
12. What was your favorite TV show as a kid? Too much screen time wasn’t a thing when I was growing up, so I watched everything. My faves are typical of kids who grew up in the 80s/90s: “Saved By the Bell,” “90210” (Dylan McKay forever!), “Growing Pains,” “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” I lived for the TGIF lineup as a kid: “Full House,” “Perfect Strangers,” etc. Am I dating myself?
13. Three things you can’t live without? I’m just gonna go with the totally #basic answer here and say coffee, the gym and WiFi. And, of course, my family and friends.
14. Dream vacation destination? So many! I love to travel and don’t get to do it as much as I’d like. My husband and I love France, so that’s always near the top of the list. We’ve been to Paris a few times and also the west coast, so I’m hoping to explore the south. I also want to go to Portugal. I’m down for any place with a beautiful beach.
Local Love Questions…
15. Your current favorite local spots for breakfast, lunch and dinner? For breakfast, Sunny’s in West Bloomfield. We take our kids all the time. Best omelets and pancakes. For lunch — although I rarely have time for it — I like the make-your-own salad at Mex. For dinner, I love San Morello, Forest and Mabel Gray (who doesn’t?), and Streetside Seafood in Birmingham for the coziest neighborhood vibe.
16. Your favorite place to shop locally in Metro Detroit? Rear Ends (they have locations in Bloomfield Hills and West Bloomfield). I never walk out empty-handed. It’s dangerous for me to go in there.
17. Your go-to for a good cup of coffee? My Nespresso machine. Every morning I have a hazelnut coffee with steamed oat milk. No coffee shop has compared yet, but I’m willing to give any local, independent spot a try.
18. Favorite thing to do on a weekend in Metro Detroit? My husband and I don’t take advantage of everything the area has to offer, a) because it’s hard with little kids and b) we’re kind of lazy. We’re much more active in the summer: We like to go to the zoo, or the pool, or put the kids in the stroller and go on a run on some wooded trails my husband discovered near our house. We love to go downtown at night (sans kids) for drinks and dinner and maybe some live music if someone good is playing.
19. What do you love about Detroit? I can’t really sum it up, but living away for 10 years really did make my heart grow fonder. It’s just a feeling I get when I’m here. It’s home.
20. Favorite quote or words to live by? I don’t have a mantra, but as I get older I realize more and more how precious and fragile life is. I’m just so thankful to be here, and I try to be mindful of that as I move through my day.