Catherine Rivera Chardon works the room at the Mile 22 premiere for Acceso Total

Doing it Her Way

A string of internships in the entertainment business has propelled Catherine Rivera Chardon to the stars.

By: Marissa Carney

She’s a Puerto Rican native, a dynamo with boundless drive and energy. Catherine Rivera Chardon came to Penn State Altoona in 2014 to pursue broadcast journalism and true to character, got involved on campus straight away, joining Student Government Association, Lion Ambassadors, and the women’s club lacrosse team.

Taking advantage of the 2+2 program, Rivera Chardon transferred to University Park and continued to hone her broadcasting skills, for example, co-hosting an entertainment show on the University’s CommRadio. Her long-term career goal was to work for an entertainment show on television, maybe even E! News one day.

In the summer of 2017, Rivera Chardon took an internship with Nascar at the Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania. She was able to attend press days, dabble in on-camera work, and get a feel for behind-the-scenes production. But while she enjoyed motorsports entertainment, she felt like music and film entertainment was where she really wanted to be.

Rivera Chardon works an event for Acceso Total.

Rivera Chardon works an event for Acceso Total.

Image: Catherine Rivera Chardon

She applied for more internships and was offered one for fall 2017 with Telemundo in Los Angeles, one of the largest Spanish-language networks in the country, and its entertainment show Acceso Total. “I am so glad I decided to take that internship. I remember questioning whether I should go because it was my senior year and my last football season, but I knew that if I didn’t, I would regret it.” So, it was off to Los Angeles for Rivera Chardon.

The internship turned out to be so much more than she could have hoped for, thanks in part to her own drive and determination. While working with the marketing department, she expressed her interest in also working with the production crew. She was able to meet with the Acceso Total producer and ask for opportunities to assist. Rivera Chardon mentioned that she knew the station would be at the upcoming Latin American Music Awards, and if the team needed help, even just picking up cables, to keep her in mind. “And next thing I knew the producer asked if I was interested in covering the VIP after-party red carpet. Obviously, I said yes!”

During rehearsal week for the awards ceremony, Rivera Chardon interviewed many of the VIPs including artists like Natalia Jimenez, Manuel Medrano, and Wisin. “I can’t put into words how much Wisin’s music means to me and to Latinos in general. I grew up listening to his music. The whole time I’m thinking, ‘What is happening,” Rivera Chardon says with a laugh. “Is this real?’” On the night of the event, she interviewed El Dasa and Angelica Vale, and Pepe Gamez among others.

Rivera Chardon interviews celebrities during the Mile 22 premiere for Acceso Total

Rivera Chardon interviews celebrities during the Mile 22 premiere for Acceso Total.

Image: Catherine Rivera Chardon

Another big moment came when talk show host Don Francisco, known as the Ellen DeGeneres of the Latin World, was a guest on Acceso Total. Rivera Chardon was asked to greet and assist him in the green room. “I am a huge fan. I grew up watching his show every Saturday with my grandmother, so I had to prepare mentally, keep it all in, and be chill. He was so generous answering my questions. I networked with him and talked with his PR person. It was a great experience.”

Rivera Chardon planned to return to University Park for the 2018 spring semester to finish her degree, but five days before its start, she received a call from E! News with an offer for a production internship. Although it would last the entire semester and delay graduation, there was no hesitation for Rivera Chardon. She switched her classes to World Campus and flew back to California for her dream internship.

“E! was unbelievable. I had a lot of expectations of it, and it fulfilled every single one,” she states. “Everyone there was so nice and so helpful. My supervisor there told me that whatever I put into the internship, I would get out of it, so I did everything that I could, and I networked as much as possible.”

Rivera Chardon was able to attend galas, premieres, and show recordings, work all aspects of production, and see everything that takes place behind the scenes. She also worked with different talent and even interviewed some of them. She saw Ryan Seacrest at the Academy Awards rehearsal, then shortly after met him in person while with an E! News producer at an interview at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. She says seeing how professional he is and watching him work with co-host Kelly Ripa taught her that this is what she wants to do, that she wants to be just like them.

Catherine Rivera Chardon poses by the E! News logo during her internship

Journalism student Catherine Rivera Chardon poses by the E! News logo during her internship with the program in May 2018.

Image: Catherine Rivera Chardon

“Something that stuck with me from working at E! is that it doesn’t matter what your background is. People there told me that talent comes from within.”

Once she completed her time at E!, Rivera Chardon returned to Telemundo for yet another summer internship, working in production for Acceso Total. She helped brainstorm ideas for the show, contacted and scheduled potential guests, and worked with stage managers and producers. She attended premieres, prepped the Green Room, and greeted celebrities. She interviewed Mila Kunis, Jason Statham, Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Ewan McGregor, and Ruby Rose. “Just being able to do all of that at 21 was unreal. The fact that I was trusted to do it is almost too much for me to think about.”

Further, Rivera Chardon was given opportunity to do several screen tests. “All of the producers would meet in the production room. They’d give me an idea, and I’d just talk on camera about it. Getting their feedback was worth a lot to me.” If you set your goals and work hard for them, things can happen. You just have to network and show people how hard you can work.”

Rivera Chardon returned to University Park in fall 2018 to complete her capstone courses and graduated in December. She then went home to Florida and began researching entertainment production jobs such as personal assistant and associate producer. Not willing to limiting herself, she is also looking into corporate communication jobs at companies high on her list of possible employment.

Her dreams are big, but she doesn’t forget where she got her start—at Penn State Altoona.

Catherine Rivera Chardon works the room at the Mile 22 premiere for Acceso Total

Penn State journalism graduate Catherine Rivera Chardon works the room at the Mile 22 premiere for Acceso Total, an entertainment show on the NBC Telemundo channel, last August.

Image: Catherine Rivera Chardon

“Penn State Altoona molded me and shaped me in preparation for University Park. I wouldn’t have been as successful at University Park or at my internships had I not gone to Altoona first.” Rivera Chardon loved the small class sizes at Penn State Altoona and the personal relationships she was able to garner with her professors. “It gave me the foundation I needed to succeed and was one of the best decisions of my life. It was perfect for what I needed until I was ready for the next big thing.”

And she’s once again ready for the next even bigger thing, whatever and wherever that is. It could be on or off screen or both. It could be at NBC or with VIACOM, or an up-and-coming company. As long as she’s doing something she likes, Rivera Chardon knows she will be okay.

“You have to create your own path in life, as corny as it sounds. When I started at Penn State Altoona, I thought, ‘I want to go into entertainment, but I have no contacts at all, I don’t know where to start.’ Now here I am four and a half years later, and I have all of the contacts that I could want because I worked hard and made it happen for myself. I’ve got goals, and I know what I want. The best is yet to come.”