Life after the Tassel
Getting into the entertainment industry can be difficult. How do you get your foot in the door? “Be the purple cow.”
Written by: Taylor Engle | Photos by: Ben Nguyen
The room is filled to capacity with bodies. Hundreds of aspiring interns, nervously clutching their resumes while they mutter indiscernibly, talk themselves up to speak to the recruiters. The NBC recruiters sit at their assigned booths, staring daggers at any fresh-faced college student headed their way, ready to size them up and see if they really have what it takes to intern at this network.
Somewhere in the midst of the madness and the perspiration is a young woman, a college junior who recently transferred to Cal State Fullerton. The words of communications professor Brent Foster, Ph.D., echo in her ear, “You have to stand out amongst the other cows. Be the purple cow.” She nods to herself, turning the pair of baby shoes around in her hand. She discreetly slips one of the shoes into her purse, tucks the other under her arm, and approaches the table.
“Hi,” she says, introducing herself to the NBC recruiter before her. “I’m Alana Garrett.” Garrett hands over her resume, explaining her dream to get into broadcasting and entertainment reporting, a dream she has been pursuing since she was a child. She can see the recruiter’s face begin to glaze over; he’s heard countless monologues just like this, probably within the last 30 minutes. Instinctively, she reveals the baby shoe.
“What is this for?” the recruiter asks, raising his eyebrows slightly.
“Hey, I’m just trying to get my foot in the door.”
It is this gusto, this unfaltering confidence, that has allowed Garrett to accomplish as much as she has at the age of 26. Garrett, a recent graduate of Cal State Fullerton, has completed numerous internships in Orange County, Los Angeles and Bakersfield, published a novel (and is currently working on her second) and is on the road to becoming a successful YouTuber. She set out to get into entertainment from a young age and she has never strayed from that path.
“Entertainment has always been interesting to me,” Garrett mused, smiling in reminiscence. “I’ve always known everything about celebrities and pop culture. My little sister and I used to play ‘talk show’ together; we’d record each other and pretend to talk on microphones about current events.”
Her fascination only grew when, at age 20, she began working as a seat-filler for award shows such as the “People’s Choice Awards,” where she met the cast of MTV’s “Awkward.” This inspired her to transfer from Bakersfield College to Cal State Fullerton to be closer to the action of Los Angeles.
With internship experience already under her belt from Bakersfield Life magazine, Garrett knew interning was the way to go to expand her knowledge and skill set of communications. Luckily, getting her “foot in the door” worked; the NBC recruiter kept in touch with her and invited her back for an interview with E!, her dream internship position. After a series of rigorous interviews, she was offered a paid internship, the first task being to attend the Emmys as a “fake celebrity” for the E! reporters to practice on.
“That was such an amazing experience,” said Garrett. “It was always a dream of mine to be on the red carpet, and I actually got to live that out.” Garrett quickly began tweeting and coding videos for E!, which gave her a lot of experience and allowed her to work with different departments at the network. This is where her knowledge of the entertainment industry came in handy: She was able to point out corrections to be made in the videos and other content being put out on social media, which allowed her to stand out among the other interns.
While some students may find it difficult to commute to Los Angeles five days a week and then get back to Orange County just in time for night classes, Garrett never complained. “Alana’s internship with E! during the course of the semester did not affect her work. She never gave excuses; she just did what she needed to do. She always seemed to have her priorities very much in order,” said communications professor Vanessa Diaz, Ph.D.
“I never forget Foster’s words, ‘Be the purple cow,’ coupled with my dad always telling me, ‘You have to be different; you have to stand out.’ That motivates me to stay positive and keep pushing.”
Diaz isn’t the only professor to be impressed by Garrett in the classroom. “As I recall, the first class I had with Alana, she sat in the back … wow, that’s a ‘first strike’ with me … how can you be proactive from the back row?” Foster said. “But I quickly learned that her seat choice had nothing to do with her desire to learn. She was hungry to engage in discussion, answer questions and receive feedback on her work. I feel like much of what I was saying resonated with her and she started to ‘invest’ in her future.”
Along with her experience at E!, Garrett has been an anchor for the “OC News,” intern for Muse, an online entertainment publication, videographer for nonprofit Stand Up For Kids, and self-published author of “Love Drunk,” a fictional romance novel.
“I started writing ‘Love Drunk’ as sort of a joke; the main character is based on one of my friends, so I was doing it for her,” Garrett said with a laugh. “I saw ‘Twilight’ and I was like … sorry to the fans out there, but this is ridiculous. They’re just staring at each other looking constipated. I can write that.” Her writing became more serious as she progressed and began showing it to co-workers and friends for feedback. This resulted in the completion of her first novel, which sold out at her book release party and earned her a few interviews for newspapers and a news show in Bakersfield.
“I want to have my own show where I can talk about random crap,” Garrett joked, referring to the YouTube convention she recently attended in Los Angeles. “There were all these YouTubers with their crazy fans, dying to watch this guy eat cereal and talk about his life. Why can’t I do that?”
Garrett is currently working on her second novel under the title “Post Grad B.S.” “This one is going to be funnier,” Garrett said with bright eyes, already excited about the project. “The harsh reality is that we’re not guaranteed jobs after graduation and most places are looking for people with three to five years of experience. How can you have that experience if you can never find the job in the first place? So I’m writing about the struggles that go along with that post-graduate slump. Ideally, it’ll become a Netflix comedy, too.”
While Garrett jokes about the post-graduate slump, it’s evident that she won’t be in it for long. She is back to school at Fullerton College, taking Spanish classes to add “bilingual” to her résumé. She is also in the process of securing yet another internship with Disney, a process that requires multiple interviews.
“I never forget Foster’s words, ‘Be the purple cow,’ coupled with my dad always telling me, ‘You have to be different; you have to stand out,’” Garrett remembered. “That motivates me to stay positive and keep pushing.”
Along with her classes, writing, internship pursuits, and waitressing, Garrett is considering getting into YouTube. Years ago this would have been unheard of, but recently YouTube has become a platform for a viable career and social media presence.
“I want to have my own show where I can talk about random crap,” Garrett joked, referring to the YouTube convention she recently attended in Los Angeles. “There were all these YouTubers with their crazy fans, dying to watch this guy eat cereal and talk about his life. Why can’t I do that?” Based on all she has accomplished thus far, seeing Garrett as a YouTube star with a colossal following would be a slow news day.
When asked about Garrett’s growth as a journalist, Diaz said, “She is always ready to record, document, film — she is a true journalist. She is ready to report at every moment.”
Garrett is also considering a return to Cal State Fullerton to pursue her master’s degree. “Foster suggested to me that I should think about teaching.” Garrett shrugs. “I don’t know if that would be the best option for me, but it’s worth looking into.”
When asked which career path Foster envisions for Garrett, he was adamant in his response. “Alana is best equipped to be a TV producer.” While Foster sees Garrett succeeding in “action” news such as foreign correspondence or reality television, he also believes she has the quality and demeanor of a “budding professor.”
While Garrett may have a few different paths she’s willing to travel down, there’s no denying that she will go down each with determination and complete dedication. “I wanted celebrities to be my friends,” Garrett reminisced when discussing her childhood make-believe games of playing talk-show host. A seemingly impossible dream for a young girl, but one that Garrett has already made dangerously close to her reality.