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Erinn Westbrook, MTV VJ on Breaking into the Biz

Erinn Westbrook knows her career is headed in the right direction.

Last winter she met Snoop Dogg and the founder of TOMS Shoes. This week, she’s flying to Acapulco. That’s right, Mexico. All-expenses paid. What’s not to love about a job like that?

On top of her awesome job as an MTV Video Jockey (VJ), Erinn is a senior at Harvard University majoring in English, with a minor in Dramatic Arts. Her Campus chatted with Erinn about her career, what’s in store for MTV Spring Break this year, and her advice for anyone interested in a future career in the entertainment industry.
Her Campus: What exactly is your job as an MTV VJ?

Erinn Westbrook: A VJ at MTV is an on-air personality for the network. MTV definitely keeps me busy. I do most of my work for MTVU, which is an MTV channel geared towards college-aged kids. I do a lot of reporting on music, both popular and underground, and get to speak about issues pertinent to young people. Basically, I act as an informant to viewers, keeping the target audience updated on anything I think they may want to hear about, from news stories to popular trends to their favorite celebrities. This winter I shot a mini-series for MTVU called "Movers and Changers" at the New York Stock Exchange. I acted as a host for that show and got to interact with amazing people like Snoop Dogg and Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes. Pretty soon I'll be off to Acapulco for MTV's Spring break! Like I said, they keep me busy. I'm always doing something exciting.

HC: How, and when, did you get such an awesome position?

EW: I auditioned for this position last May. I got the opportunity to meet the senior casting director at MTV and she wanted to put me on tape after I spoke to her about my interest in media and entertainment, especially broadcast journalism. A week after my general audition, I got a call that the New York casting team really liked me and they wanted me to come back for another interview. I had to go through a pretty grueling audition process, but it was really fun! For the final audition I had to go into Times Square with a couple of the producers and do an actual shoot AND interview people. I was really nervous but mainly excited. After about two months of interviews and auditions, I found out that I was selected to be a new VJ. I'm still in awe of how everything turned out, especially considering there were literally hundreds of people I was up against.

HC: What was your first assignment, and how did it go?

EW: My first assignment was a pretty standard shoot in New York City. We shot at three locations: Bryant Park, Central Park and Times Square. I don't remember everything I was speaking about that day, but I do remember I had to announce that MTV and MTVU were searching for the next big entrepreneurs for the new mini-series "Movers & Changers" which is exactly the series I ended up hosting. I had no idea I was going to be doing that!

HC: What type of entertainment experience did you have before becoming a VJ?

EW: Before becoming a VJ, I had interned at many major networks. I had internships at Oxygen Media, CNBC, NBC Universal and Black Entertainment Television (BET) and so I had been exposed to broadcast journalism a lot! Being behind the scenes was great but I knew that one day I wanted to be in front of the camera. In terms of other experience within the entertainment field, I have always liked performing and so throughout my life I actively pursued that. Pretty Pretty Princess and dress up were my favorite childhood games. I loved pretending. I loved acting. I did a lot of acting in high school and my secondary field [minor] at Harvard is Dramatic Arts. I've only performed in one play here at Harvard, and I was "Dorothy" in the musical "The Wiz." It took a lot of time and energy but it was wonderful. Modeling was something that I also explored but pretty much by chance when I was "discovered" in NYC by a Seventeen magazine bookings editor. Modeling is performance in a different way. I have seized every opportunity to explore various "roles" I have been presented with within this field—from intern to model to VJ to actress. I don't think I'll ever get enough.

HC: Along with all of your entertainment experience, you’re a senior at Harvard! How do you balance school and VJing?

EW: My bosses at MTV are very aware that school is my number one priority. Therefore, I only have shoots on days I do not have class. I have organized my schedule so that I only have class 3-4 days a week and so MTV schedules me for shoots when it is convenient for me. My parents and I talked about this before the academic year began. They have been so supportive of me throughout this entire process and that means so much to me. But let's be real, they aren't paying $50,000 for me to be a VJ. They are paying for me to get my education. My academics have always been my top priority. A strong mind, a growing mind, an informed mind, is so important. I take being at school very seriously. I haven't allowed my media and entertainment endeavors to distract me from my education. My GPA has remained strong and that is something of which I am proud. I think one of my biggest fears was that I was going to be missing out on a lot of my senior year with my friends. Luckily, I don't feel I have missed that much. Most of the time, I can go to NY, shoot and come back to Boston all within a day. I knew I could make it all work!

HC: So, what’s happening with MTV Spring Break this year?

EW: This year the official MTV Spring Break will be the week of March 14 in Acapulco, Mexico and I am definitely excited about it! If you've ever watched MTV Spring Break you know you can expect to see a lot of wonderfully rambunctious college-aged kids simply enjoying life...and doing what they do. Celebrity guests will be stopping by of course and some sick performances will ensue. It's going to be an incredible time. There are quite a few celebrities who will be there but I can't actually disclose who exactly...you'll just have to come, or at least watch, to find out.

I actually won't know my exact assignment until a couple weeks prior to Spring Break. Everything I will be doing, of course, will be on-air. I know that I will be conducting some interviews and I'll also probably be introducing and hopefully hanging out with a lot of the celebrity guests. Maybe I'll even get to rally some of my friends who will be coming to Acapulco to participate in some of the festivities.

HC: What was your reaction when you heard that MTV is flying you out to the location for Spring Break?

EW: I mean, having an all-expense paid trip to Acapulco to do more on-camera work with MTV for my spring break was great news, of course. Better news came when a bunch of my friends decided to come too! Right now I am feeling like life could not be better.

HC: What is your most memorable experience as an MTV VJ?

EW: Every experience I've had with MTV has been memorable, seriously. One of the best parts of my job has been meeting and befriending such amazing people in an industry in which I've always wanted to be active. If I had to choose an experience that took my breath away, I guess I would have to cite my first time walking down the red carpet. Walking down the red carpet at the 2009 MTVU Woodie Awards is definitely one of my fondest memories. My stylist helped me choose an awesome dress and great shoes for the occasion and my hair and makeup was done—it was all so glitzy. I was interviewed by Alexa Chung and walked down the same red carpet as A-list celebrities. It was such a glamorous occasion! I felt like a starlet. Everything I've done with MTV has been a whirlwind and I am so incredibly grateful and happy. I've loved it all and I'm trying to just take it all in.

HC: What is something you have learned from your VJ career so far?

EW: The most important thing I have learned through this job has been finding out more about myself. I thought being on television and being in this industry is what I wanted and this job has absolutely reaffirmed that for me. I am very self-aware at this point. I think...no, I know, I am heading in the right direction.

HC: What are your plans for next year?

EW: I will definitely be continuing my work with MTV but I am in the process of figuring out whether I'll be doing more work for them in New York or Los Angeles and what exactly the work I will be doing will entail. Over J-term [winter break] I went to LA with my parents for lots of meetings and was able to select my representation. It was an incredibly successful trip and I left triple signed. I signed with my manager at Treadwell Entertainment, my agent at United Talent Agency and I will also be starting work with FORD models in LA (as soon as I officially move there which will most likely be in June). It's clear that I am going to be really busy but I am so incredibly excited. I cannot wait to embrace my new life. But I obviously couldn't picture moving on without MTV! The work I have been doing I have loved. I think I can have it all. Why not, right?

HC: What type of advice do you have for students interested in working in the entertainment industry?

EW: Just go for it. Seriously. That may sound pretty simple and obvious but believe it or not, a lot of people never do GO for it. I was raised to go after whatever I wanted in life and to work hard to make it happen. Who hasn't heard that phrase "Believe in yourself and anything is possible?" As corny or clichéd as that may sound, it's true and so necessary to remember. I work hard and I never stop trying. I think positively and I believe in myself. I go for everything I want and I give it my all.

Want to see Erinn in action? Check out this video of her hosting MTVU Movers and Changers.

Heather is a 2012 graduate of Syracuse University's Newhouse School with a degree in Magazine Journalism. Growing up in southern Vermont, she learned to appreciate the New England small-town life. During her time at SU she served as Editor-in-Chief of What the Health magazine on her college campus and was a member of the Syracuse chapter of ED2010. This summer Heather is exploring the world of digital entrepreneurship at the Tech Garden in Syracuse, NY where she is Co-Founder of Scrapsule.com. Aside from social media and home decor, she loves vintage jewelry, strawberry banana smoothies, running, and autumn in Vermont.
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