Chris Rosa is bundled up in a dark gray sweater as he leisurely stretches out on a plush couch in his shared New York City apartment. He is tired and a little under the weather, but with the exception of an occasional sniffle, it’s difficult to tell. Any evidence of fatigue is suppressed under a permanent grin.
The glow in his face is rare for someone reaching his mid-twenties. It’s unusual to find at any age. It’s the kind of beaming smile that makes a passerby on the street stop and wonder what they’re doing wrong in life.
He speaks quickly and with enthusiasm about his new life in the city as Glamour magazine’s entertainment staff writer, and at times his mouth labors to keep pace with his brain. Like his smile, Rosa is an illumination. It’s hard to ignore a blinding light, and many people don’t.
“It’s really funny. It’s such a roundabout way that I got involved in [journalism],” Rosa said. “In eighth-grade, I read a book about sharks, and I was very into it. I wrote this extra credit paper without the teacher even telling me to. I was just very inspired to do it.”
After turning in the paper, Rosa’s teacher approached him about joining his middle school’s newspaper. He was uncertain at first but accepted after discovering he could drop physical education.
Rosa’s first two pieces were movie reviews on “The Grudge 2” and “Employee of the Month.” The reviews allowed him to combine his love for writing with his other passion: entertainment.
“I always knew I had a love for entertainment and Hollywood and the glitz and the glamour of it,” Rosa said. “But it wasn’t until I learned that I could write that I put two and two together. It wasn’t until around eighth-grade when I realized that I’m probably not talented enough or skinny enough to be an actor or singer, but maybe I could write about it and still be a part of that world in some way.”
Once Rosa had a taste for journalism, he went into it with full force. He joined his high school newspaper as a sophomore and climbed the ranks. He was named editor in chief for his senior year and interned at Lexington Chronicle, a local publication.
“And then in college, I knew I had to immediately get involved in student media. I knew that’s what I needed to do to get clips and the experience to put on my resume to get the internships that I wanted. I had an oddly clear trajectory of how it was going to work,” Rosa said.
He entered the University of South Carolina and joined both The Daily Gamecock newspaper and Garnet & Black magazine. Early on, he split his time between writing entertainment reviews and scouring the Internet for journalists to email.
“Early networking was just sending emails to people, and telling them how I was interested in getting to know them as a person and what they do,” Rosa said. “For me, the key to networking is to be authentic about it. Don’t be thirsty and feel like all these people need to see your business card. Take the time to build real meaningful connections.”
Rosa’s determination was rewarded when he was offered internships at TheCelebrityCafe.com, a celebrity news website, and Jasper Magazine, a Columbia-based art publication. They were stepping-stones for larger things to come.
“I learned everything I know about journalism, writing, and magazines through internships,” Rosa said. “They’re not only critical to making contacts that will land you a job, they’re the main way to learn how journalism actually works.”
The summer before his junior year, Rosa was accepted as an editorial intern at MTV. He spent four months in New York City writing and editing entertainment stories, and he was the face of a viral video called “‘Mean Girls’ in 30 Minutes.”
“I applied to hundreds of places, and that’s not an exaggeration,” Rosa said. “I had the philosophy that if you cast the net wide enough, if you apply high and low and take your ego out of it, you’ll get something. My advice in a nutshell about internships is: start from the bottom, don’t worry about getting paid, and apply everywhere within the realm of reason. I knew the key to journalism was experience, and internships were more important than anything else.”
During the school year, Rosa worked as the online editor for Garnet & Black. He continued his fervent search for internships, and yet again, he found himself back in New York City the following summer. He was working for VH1 and still exercising his entertainment-writing muscle, but this time, Rosa returned to South Carolina with more than what he had left with.
“They offered me a freelance position [writing] from college. I just wrote for them three to four times a week,” Rosa said.
As Rosa entered his senior year, he had once again climbed the ranks of another publication. He was selected as editor in chief of Garnet & Black.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, like, still to this day. But it was the most rewarding,” Rosa said.
As graduation neared, Rosa was contacted by VH1. A writer had left, a full-time position was now available, and they wanted him. He wanted them too.
“I already knew everyone that I was working with, so there were no first job jitters,” Rosa said. “The biggest thing I learned from that job was how the Internet worked, on top of sharpening my writing skills.”
Rosa remained with VH1 for a little over a year until he decided that he needed an adjustment. He had been “on autopilot” for quite some time, and at the age of 23, he sought instruction and growth in his writing. He decided to limit himself with job applications, only choosing positions that were the best fit. He applied to Glamour magazine, and after a lengthy hiring process, Rosa was their new entertainment staff writer.
“At Glamour, I’m learning to write for the Internet more, as well as my writing growing exponentially because the editor process is a little more intense. My writing is improving by leaps and bounds now. Everything I write gets edited and gets feedback without being detrimental. So I’m learning to write sharply, more concisely and with a better voice,” Rosa said.
Rosa’s typical day at Glamour starts early. He is always the first person in the office, and he immediately sets to work on finding the latest entertainment news. He compiles a list of the most newsworthy stories, decides on angles for each, and then pitches his ideas to his editor. Once she picks a few, Rosa has 30 to 40 minutes to write them, each with a minimum 300-word count.
“The goal is to be funny, personable, passionate—get in, tell the story and get out. On a busy day, I do about six of those. [On a] slow day, I do about two. I’m on that grind until about 1:30 or 2 p.m. After that, I transition to my features, my bigger stories,” Rosa said.
After Rosa leaves the office, depending on the weeknight, he’ll settle in at home to do more work. As an entertainment writer, he is responsible for covering television and award shows, and it’s essential for his commentary to be online 30 minutes after the show has ended.
“The hours aren’t the best. I have to watch a lot of TV, which involves working at night and bringing the work home with me. A lot of what you loved as a kid becomes your job. But if you really love it, it’s worth it. It’s not your typical nine to five job,” Rosa said.
Rosa occasionally interviews celebrities, and recently met with Drew Barrymore to discuss her new Netflix show, “The Santa Clarita Diet.”
“I always thought that I would get star-struck, but my professional mask came on and I was able to get through without fangirling. It’s like [I] go out of [my] body for a second, and
then I leave with the biggest high I’ve ever had,” Rosa said. “Talking to someone about the work they’re doing in movies is the coolest feeling ever. It’s not that I get to talk to celebrities. It’s that I get to talk to people about the way entertainment is made. I get just as excited talking to a screenwriter as I do talking to a famous actor.”
Rosa says that he is rarely without fault, and takes guidance from his greatest influence, Madonna. Without her advocacy for self-love, freedom of expression and self-empowerment, he says it would have been difficult to take risks and show his vulnerability in his writing. But unlike his role model, Rosa has no time to be a diva.
“Have no ego whatsoever. Be enthusiastic, be easygoing, be eager, be friendly to everyone, be a sponge, have a personality and have passion,” Rosa said. “You don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway to get a job in journalism. You have to be an eager beaver. No one wants to work for the best writer who’s a diva. Everyone wants to work with a good writer with a great attitude.”