Catherine Rivera Chardon’s love affair with all things entertainment began when she was just a young girl growing up in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico. “My parents used to ride motorcycles every Sunday, so they would leave me with my grandparents,” she says. “And every single Sunday, my grandparents would take me to the movies. I saw all the movies that were in the theaters. And that’s where it all started.”
A Growing Affection
Rivera Chardon is a now a fifth-year senior at Penn State majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in theater. She credits knowing what she wanted to do with her future to her upbringing and the influence of her “very supportive” family. Her aunt was a major influence on her knowledge of the American world of entertainment and was the one who exposed her to the joys of watching celebrity interviews and red-carpet appearances.
Another instance that made something fall into place for Rivera Chardon in terms of realizing her future plans also occurred during her younger years. “I remember a time when I was younger, and there was this man who built a park called Wannado City in Sunrise, Florida where kids could try out different jobs,” she says. “I played the firefighter, I played the nurse, but something clicked when I got to play the weather girl — I knew I was good. I thought to myself, maybe this could be a thing.”
Rough and Rewarding Road
Rivera Chardon knew that in order to pursue her dreams of working in the entertainment industry, she would have to come to the continental United States for school. She mulled over a lot of college options in her mind, but eventually decided on Penn State because of its top-notch communications program. The Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications is the largest national accredited mass communication program in the U.S.
She did the two plus two program, beginning at Penn State’s campus in Altoona for two years before moving to University Park her junior year.
“When I came to University Park my junior year, there were so many things for me to do and so many options for me to be on the radio and in front of the camera,” Rivera Chardon says. “I wanted to be involved in everything.”
While her opportunities were endless and her future was bright, Rivera Chardon had to face one major hardship in particular before coming to Penn State.
During her sophomore year of high school, her mother passed away. She says that it impacted her life significantly, but going through the experience also made her a stronger and more mature individual. Rivera Chardon says that the passing of her mother was also one of the reasons she wanted to move to the U.S. from Puerto Rico. “I wanted a fresh start and my mom would not have wanted me to miss out on anything,” she says. “I do things like she used to do them — I learned a lot from her. I knew she would have wanted me to focus on my school and figure my life out, and being the first one in my family to go to school in the States, it helped me to learn to grow through this experience.”
Though Rivera Chardon’s road to success was not always easy, she never strayed from her goals. After her junior year, she decided to move to California and pursue real-life, hands-on experience working in her dream industry.
One internship experience Rivera Chardon had was as a communications, marketing and social media intern with NASCAR at Pocono Raceway. While there, she and a coworker created a YouTube show called “Pocono Raceway 4Rookies,” for which they wrote the scripts, shot and edited everything by themselves. “It had a great turnout on social media,” Rivera Chardon says. “It made me feel good about seeing myself on camera, and again I realized that this could be a thing.”
After feeling the inspirational spark similar to what she had experienced while playing the weather girl as a child, Rivera Chardon knew she wanted to be in California – United States’ hub for all things entertainment. She applied for fall internships at various companies and eventually secured a position as a marketing intern at NBCUniversal’s affiliate station, Telemundo 52. While there, she had incredible opportunities to prove her talent, including covering for the “Acceso Total” production intern during the Miss Latina Cosmopolitan 2017 red carpet. She even had the chance to interview a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado.
The spark inside her continued to burn as she moved onto an internship with E! and eventually another internship with Telemundo, this time on the production side. “Freshman year of college, I had a professor who told me to create a vision board, and at the time I didn’t believe in it,” Rivera Chardon says. “When I look back at it now, I have accomplished nearly everything on it. I put a picture of Ryan Seacrest on it, and flash forward a couple of years, I am seeing him on a red carpet and working with him on-set in California.”
Rivera Chardon even had the opportunity to be screen tested during her marketing internship with Telemundo. Although she had been doing all of her tasks in the marketing department, the production team continued to grab her to work with them because they saw her interest and potential. Soon she began to write news packages with the help of the “Acceso Total” producers and read them from a teleprompter on-screen.
“I was so nervous because I was a rookie working with professionals, but I wanted to show them that I could do it,” she recalls. “After the screen test, the producer grabbed my hand and said to me, ‘You have a talent. Don’t let it go to waste.’ I was given an opportunity I never thought I would have and was trusted to interview celebrities at such a young age. It was insane.”
“You Will Always Have Yourself”
Rivera Chardon wants to move back to a place like California or Miami, where she can continue to work with Telemundo, when she is done with her schooling. She knows that she would be surrounded by people who support and encourage her, and it reminds her of home. When considering her path in life, Rivera Chardon often looks to her inspiration, Lady Gaga. “Her story inspires me a lot,” Rivera Chardon says. “She was told throughout her life that she was never going to make it, but she has accomplished every single one of her dreams. Whenever I have moments of self-doubt, I think about what Lady Gaga once said – ‘Even if the whole world turns their back on you, you will always have yourself.’”
Catherine Rivera Chardon certainly pursues her goals and dreams with a level of motivation and zeal that is not commonly found in individuals her age. She lives by the mantra that “you should never underestimate your potential, because your passion and work ethic can get you far.”
“Coming to college, I was unaware of what I could accomplish,” she says. “I know now that I am responsible and work hard for what I want. I always go after my dreams regardless of what people say. I have been rejected so many times, but I’ve never given up.”