NJ Starz: Jessielyn Palumbo 

Hometown: Wayne

By: Steve Sears

Not much has eluded professional photographer, Jessielyn Palumbo, in her 29 years. 

She, like many, has had challenges, but the biggest one she stared right in the eye and met it head on. “I think maybe the biggest challenge faced would be when I opened my own business (Jessielyn Palumbo Studio LLC), because you never know how that’s going to go,” she says, “You’re always taking a leap of faith with opening your business. And so, for me that was probably the biggest challenge because you have to get clientele and get your business name out there and know how to focus on really expanding your business.”

“I took that leap of faith that worked out for me.”

Palumbo’s work has appeared in Maxim Magazine and in other publications, and has been seen on Bravo and FOX TV as well. Specializing in beauty, fashion, and pageant photography, her professional life is a busy and exciting one. 

Then there’s the personal, close-to-home stuff. May 2021 is a wonderful month for the former Wayne resident: she’s marrying her Wayne Hills High School sweetheart, Sean. “We met sophomore year in Spanish class, which was great,” she recalls. “I didn’t really know him before that. He was soccer captain and I was cheerleading captain. Totally different: he was into athletics and I was into the arts. And then we just met and we clicked. And then we ended up winning, I guess in our senior year, ‘Cutest Couple,” which is great, now that we’re getting married. We kind of grew up together, from 16 to 29 now.”

A continuation of her very nice life, which has also included being named Miss New Jersey USA 2016. More to come.

Palumbo says hers was a very enjoyable childhood. “I have two older sisters (Tanya and Carissa) who were very close to me. One was a year older than me, and one, three years older than me. So, we got along so well. Basically, they’re your best friends growing up, and we’re all a little different, too. My one sister is, I guess, a little classier,” she says with a laugh, “and the other sister is more like the big sis protector. We had a blast growing up in Wayne.” The Palumbo siblings, raised by their parents Robert and Dorothy, grew up in the shadow of William Paterson University. “We had a great time growing up because there were so many kids in the neighborhood, going outside and playing. And I’m still friends with those kids to this day; they’re going to my wedding next month. It’s like 20 years of friendship.”

While at Wayne Hills High School, Palumbo was a member of the National Honor Society and served as President of the National Arts Honor Society, apropos for her creative personality. Membership in the group and her activity therein would fuel her eventual career. From there, she moved on to the College of New Jersey in Trenton, from where she graduated Cum Laude in 2014. Palumbo received her BFA in Digital Arts, and a minor in Fine Arts while at TCNJ, and was inducted in the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society for her academic achievements, as was named to the Kappa Pi Art Honor Society.

Also in her graduating year, Palumbo was the only recipient chosen for the “Dean’s Purchase Award,” a grand achievement where a student’s art piece resides in the Dean’s private collection. She explains the process. “When you’re a senior, every senior Art major does a thesis. And within that senior thesis you have an exposition of your work, and basically the Dean of the college will go through all the work and techniques and pick his favorite, called the ‘Dean’s Purchase Award.’ So, he picked my photography work, which at the time was a Doppelganger series, meaning I had pageant girls with their crowns on interacting with themselves and whatever they do in real life. So, I had myself actually in there interacting with myself with a crown on, and then myself as a painter. I photoshopped them both interacting together.”

While at TCNJ, she interned with Fadil Berisha, a celebrity photographer, as well as with Maxim Magazine, with whom she worked as a photo editor after graduation. She lauds the internship method as a way of getting yourself and your talents noticed, but also as an obvious learning tool. “In general, any internship actually helps you get a grasp of real-life stuff,” she says. “You learn something in college, but to actually be in the working field you learn way more. Interning with Maxim, I actually learned more so the business side of things, and also with photography as well, learning copyright licensing, you have to make phone calls, connections, networking – all this is business and real-life stuff. I always recommend internships, because you don’t really understand how the job is, or if you actually want to do that job without experiencing it.”

Speaking of “crowns,” that’s a subject Palumbo is also familiar with, she a veteran in pageant competitions. In 2016, when she was 23, after claiming runner-up and semifinalist awards in prior Miss Teen and Miss New Jersey USA competitions, the crown and runway walk of the winner was finally hers alone. “I didn’t start doing pageants until I was 17. I started with the New Jersey Teen USA pageant, which is the teen version of the Miss major USA pageant,” In the Teen category, in 2010 she finished as 3rd runner up, and in 2011 1st runner up. She then moved up to the higher level, where she was 3rd runner-up in 2012 and a semi-finalist in 2015. “I never won until 2016. And it was a great experience because I had never done pageants before, but it really does kind of open your eyes to what you can really gain from pageants. For myself, I gained more confidence with going onstage in front of random people, and also with interview skills. You’re more comfortable speaking, which helps with college interviews and job interviews.”

She speaks about the “crowning” (pun intended) moment at the Parsippany Hilton, when outgoing Miss New Jersey USA 2015, Vanessa Oriolo, adorned her head with the glittering silver. “At the time, my director didn’t know if I was happy or not because I was competing so many times and – always not hearing my name called (as a winner) – when they called my name, my face was kind of blank.” When a microphone was placed in front of her and they asked how she felt about winning, Palumbo said, “Are you sure you called the right name?” She learned they had, and the tears of happiness started to fall. “They (the tears) were delayed, but they were there.”

Palumbo, who has also done modeling in the past, no longer models as often as she did, choosing instead to focus on photography. However, she uses her picture taking skill and past posing experience in the realm to help the women needing guidance. 

Along with her career, Palumbo has also done charitable work in various areas. She provides details. “With the (Metropolitan) USO, when I won the pageant, basically we would have a dress designer who would donate dresses to either military children or spouses of people in the military, or even service women themselves. Any dress for their prom or special occasion. What we do is put on a fashion show, and then after the fashion show, we would help personally, one on one, with these ladies and girls to find a dress, and we’d donate the dress to them.” 

Her grandparents on her mom’s side passed away with heart disease related illnesses, so she and her family have donated time in that area, and Palumbo has also advocated for Breast Cancer Awareness. “Just knowing people that have family members that have died from breast cancer encouraged me to help with breast cancer awareness,” she states.

Palumbo is a goal-setter, raising the bar to achieve higher. Speaking with her, you know no doubt she’ll attain what she desires. “(As for goals) I think I’m always business related,” she says. “I’m always setting goals for myself and you’re never fully there. A huge goal with me would be a photographer covering Vogue or Bazaar or anything like that. That’s my goal, career-wise.” And yes, there’s that dream photo shoot out there – somewhere, and with top name “someones.” “Oh definitely,” she says with a chuckle. “There’s probably tons. I obviously want to work more with celebrities I would say even going on more on location photoshoots, let’s say in Italy or Greece or something that’s an amazing location. But right now, I do everything down the Jersey Shore.”

That 117-mile Garden State coastline isn’t a bad place to be or work. And her ultimate goal is pretty good, too. “My ultimate goal is to have a beautiful family, a happy personal life.”

To learn more about Jessielyn Palumbo and to view her work, visit www.jessielynpalumbo.com.


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