Cheyenne Darcy Amaya and her classmates didn’t get an in-person graduation in 2020—and now they enter a contracting job market. Photo by Chitose Suzuki
Cheyenne Darcy Amaya (’20) landed enviable internships and earned a prized master’s degree, but is now negotiating a listless job market
By Emma Guillén
As a first-generation college student, Cheyenne Darcy Amaya is used to jumping into new situations—often without help. Raised by a single mother in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., she chose the small Southern Vermont College for her undergraduate degree. After two years, she switched to Syracuse University—against her parents’ wishes and without their knowledge. When she visited graduate schools, including COM, she did it alone and without her parents’ support.
“I’ve always been a go-getter,” says Darcy Amaya (’20), “putting myself in situations that pulled me out of my comfort zone.”
Now, despite just earning a master’s degree in journalism from COM, she’s facing a new challenge: a job market withered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis has already derailed one of her carefully laid résumé-building plans: a hard-earned internship at CNN was cut short by the lockdowns.
COMtalk spoke with Darcy Amaya about her academic journey, being a queer-identifying Latinx woman in the communications industry and how she’s jump-starting a career in these unsettling and uncertain times.
COMtalk: Have you always envisioned yourself in a communications career?
Darcy Amaya: I’ve known that I wanted to be in journalism for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I would watch this one Latina reporter in New York named Lisa Reyes, and she truly inspired me. I think that fueled a fire in me.
The idea of listening to people’s stories and making sure they’re heard is so important, because certain voices do get lost. And I think, especially in situations like the one we’re in right now, it’s extremely important to know what’s happening in the world.
How did you arrive at Boston University for graduate school?
When I visited BU, I visited alone, because my family wasn’t really supporting the choice of leaving Syracuse. I think a lot of that comes from their fears. For my family, who are immigrants, I’ve often seen that their life was a matter of survival and being okay with what’s comfortable. But had I listened to what my family said, my life would be completely different.
I knew I wanted another experience and I thought Boston was the most incredible place to find stories: you go to a coffee shop and there’s a story, you’re on the T and there’s a story, you go to a baseball game and there’s a story—and it might not even be in the stadium.
I had always known that I wanted to get a master’s degree. Only a small percent of Latinas get one. I also realized these degrees aren’t just mine—I feel like they’re for the people behind me who weren’t able to ever get them.
Tell us about your experience landing the production internship at The Rachel Maddow Show.
During my interview, I talked about how I watch Rachel Maddow all the time, and that as a queer-identifying Latinx woman, seeing her be who she is on TV really resonated with me.
I was offered two internships, the one at the Maddow Show and another one at WCVB. My mom thought I should choose WCVB and stay in Boston. But I was thinking about Maddow, who I’ve watched and admired for so long. She’s inspirational. I sat down and made a pros and cons list, which I do a lot, and I knew what choice to make.
That semester, I traveled back and forth from Boston to New York, which was insane. But I did it because there was nothing better to me than following my dream. I never imagined I would be at 30 Rock at the age of 22.
What did a typical day look like at the studio? And what did you learn that has stuck with you?
I was always in the control room making sure the director had his scripts, seeing if other shows were on commercial breaks, and fact-checking live. And I would see Rachel every day. We had hour-long meetings and she would tell us, “This is what I want to talk about here,” and “This is what I want to do in that block.” She would look at me, and I felt validated.
I learned about network booking, which is the process of booking the guests on the show. The idea of communicating with Hillary Clinton’s people or, when they were running [in the Democratic presidential primary], Elizabeth Warren’s and Pete Buttigieg’s publicists was so cool to me. I would shadow the bookers during my internship, and if I had never been at the Maddow Show, I never would have known a job like that existed.
This past semester, fresh off of interning at NBC, you landed internships at The View and CNN. What are you working on?
Once the coronavirus hit, CNN unfortunately had to suspend our internship. But while I was there, I helped my boss look at what all the political candidates were doing, what rallies they had, what events were coming up and especially what networks they were appearing on. I also helped with booking. I played a key role in bringing on guests, making sure we were staying on top of the news and representing every candidate fairly.
At The View, I’ve been able to shadow a producer during some big productions, and see behind the scenes of the rehearsals. I’ve also been able to meet the people who put the promos and cold opens together. I help make sure that when cohosts and celebrities arrive, their dressing rooms look great. I make sure that the photos and music that are used have been paid for to avoid any lawsuits. I make sure that when you look up The View on social media, the captions are correct and the videos are formatted well.
“People are talking about a recession, and that scares me, because journalism jobs are scarce, and they’re the jobs that are quick to lay people off.”
—Cheyenne Darcy Amaya
It sounds like your intention was to become a broadcast journalist. Could you see yourself pivoting and pursuing a career in production?
For so long I was like, I’m going to be a reporter. At BU, professors would tell me to think about the producing route. Even on The Wire [BUTV10’s news show] you couldn’t be on-air before learning what it was like to be behind the camera. In order to be in this field, you have to value the roles in every position.
When someone’s on-air, someone’s making them look good: Someone is fixing their hair, someone is making sure their makeup is on point. There’s a crew angling the shot and producers making sure their scripts are correct. Before starting grad school, I thought the person in front of the camera was the best. But at BU and during my time at these internships, I began to realize how important the people behind the scenes are.
My goal is to either become a network booker or a production assistant, and someday a producer.
Out of all your internship experiences, what has been the most memorable?
When the internship at CNN ended abruptly, my heart broke because I was super excited to be there. I loved my boss. I really started to bond with the women on the floor, because there you didn’t feel like an intern, you felt like a full-time employee. I was on the executive floor where a lot of the big hosts sit.
I never was bored, I would even stay late just because I loved the work so much. Even with the coronavirus, I was looking up interesting stories. I was thinking about the students affected. And then I started to think about supermarkets, people in stores looking for food. I thought about the cruise line people and how they were stuck. My brain kept thinking about who was impacted by these stories, and my boss was giving me the green light to look for those stories.
At the end of everything, she said I have good editorial skills and I know what to look for and that it’ll bring me far, and I really valued that.
How are you feeling amidst all of the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic?
People are talking about a recession, and that scares me, because journalism jobs are scarce, and they’re the jobs that are quick to lay people off. And there’s talk of a hiring freeze, so I feel a lot of fear. I was ready to start applying to jobs and ready to start my career; 2020 felt like the year where people were going in the direction of our dreams. And then everything came to a halt. I want to believe this pause was necessary, but I just don’t know how to process it.
To those who want to follow in your footsteps, what advice would you give them?
I would tell them to be confident in who they are, because that goes a long way. It can be easy to compare yourself to someone else. We always see people’s wins, but we don’t see their losses. We don’t know how hard it was for certain people to get to where they are. I look at a lot of reporters, and their journeys didn’t start at the top. Nobody in my family is in news, and I didn’t let that deter me.
When I think back to those situations with my family, they didn’t believe that I could survive at Syracuse, they didn’t think Boston was the right choice, and they didn’t think I should have taken the job at Maddow. But because I believed in myself enough, I jumped. I took the leap of faith. You have to know what your dreams are, and the only person who can get you there is you.
How have you been tackling your job search right now? Have you been given any helpful advice?
One of my professors encouraged us to keep going even though we are in odd times. But it feels as though everything is on pause, including people’s minds on the job market. I have applied to many jobs online, but have not heard back as of yet. If I had an interview, I think I would ask how they’ve handled COVID-19 with their employees since many workplaces handled the situation differently. I think one thing that does make me stand out is that I have very recent work experience and I was working in two locations, so my circumstances before COVID showed that I hustle. That would be the kind of energy I would bring to the job.
It’s hard to stand out when everyone is in a fog and applications are online. But I try to remain hopeful because, one day, we will resume again.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.