Meet Hannah Rios: Former Intern at Refinery29

Recently, I had the pleasure of connecting with former Her Campus alum and Refinery29 intern Hannah Rios. Rios talks about her time at Her Campus in college, her time as an intern at Refinery29, and her love of Disney. She also shares an honest reflection on what it was really like to live in New York City and has lots of advice for young women pursuing careers in media. Meet Hannah Rios!

HCCU: Where did you go to college? What degree were you pursuing there? 

HR: I went to school at James Madison University in VA for a degree in Media Arts and Design. My concentration was cinematography but I always had a strong interest in journalism as well.

HCCU: How long were you in Her Campus in college, and what are your favorite memories from it?

HR: I found Her FCampus during my junior year in college through student org night. I was initially so shy about it but found it to be an amazing creative outlet for me and a fun way to share my voice. I was more on the quiet side through my earlier undergrad years and I was grateful for this organization for letting me openly talk about the things I was passionate about and put my words on such a public platform to fall on all of the right ears. I continued with the organization my senior year, but unfortunately didn't have as much time to put into it.  I was working three jobs— as an RA, a university hired videographer for the business department and starting up my own freelance company (Porch Media).

HCCU: Did your involvement in Her Campus give you a leg up in your career search or inform your career decisions in any way?

HR: Honestly, I don't know if HerCampus gave me a direct leg up. However, it definitely improved my confidence. This organization helped me feel better about coming up with exciting content ideas and working on my writing skills. As well as on a more personal note, making me feel like my creativity and voice was relevant in a time of extreme over-saturation in the online media space.

HCCU: You've interned in the recent past at the groundbreaking media company Refinery29. How was your experience as an intern there? What did your day typically look like? What did you learn?

HR: My time working as an intern at Refinery29 was very unique. I can honestly say that I probably had a completely different experience than many of my fellow interns because I was one of the only ones not working for a team, but for a person. I was the right hand of top video producer and lifestyle host Lucie Fink— and I worked directly on her most popular series “Try Living with Lucie.” Just like any job, it had its ups and downs. My day to day experience was very dependent on what types of episodes we had coming up and whether or not there was a shoot to get to.

Some days it was a lot of desk work— helping come up with ideas and logistically planning. Others, I was on the run constantly. Whether that was assisting on set, exploring the underground markets of Chinatown to find the perfect prop or traveling to photograph the 29Rooms exhibit in Brooklyn. There were always exciting things to do. My favorite times over the 5 months I was there were when I was working on set with all kinds of unique and lovely people— both in house and guests on the show. You meet amazing individuals and are able to build these valuable connections, which for me was a vital part of establishing myself in this crazy city right out of college. This internship really helped me sharpen all kinds of media skills from video editing to script-writing to research and all kinds of administrative aspects on the front-end of production

HCCU: What was your approach for securing an internship with Refinery29?

HR: To be honest, I want to say I just got lucky landing this job— because in a way I did. But I also know that I was in a pool of contenders, and it was my hard work and motivation that took me the extra mile. I reached out to my boss on a whim over email right when I had moved to New York City last summer and didn’t ask for a job, but rather asked what types of qualifications typically afforded applicants a position at a company like R29. I wasn’t schmoozing and I honestly just wanted advice because I had no idea how to even begin to break into the media industry in such a competitive city.

Luckily my inquiry received a positive return when two months later, out of the blue, I received an email from Lucie Fink asking me to submit a portfolio and CV for their consideration as her personal intern for fall 2018. She had taken a liking to my work and asked me to come into the Refinery office to interview. The final tiebreaker between myself and the other candidates came down to writing a full-length episode script, and I knew that I could do this if I really put some time into it. With my concentration in cinematography, I had taken many film courses and an in-depth scriptwriting class in my junior year of college. So I spent two days holed up in my apartment, completely focused and drilled out a 16-page script which after just 2 days in the hands of my interviewers, landed me the job. It came just in time honestly— and even though it sounds like an easy thing, it came with such intense pressure to succeed. I was working a part-time minimum wage retail job at the time and this internship was the only thing that gave me the financial backing to stay in New York.

HCCU: Having moved on from R29, what are you up to now? 

HR: Refinery29 gave me the footing I needed to confidently pursue a full-time job in this city. I enjoyed my time there, but I knew it was time for me to find something new so that I could continue to grow and learn. I got hired on full time at another media company in the city and am using my free time to work on other personal creative projects. I write a WordPress blog now about adjusting to city life from a small town in VA and all of my little adventures up here. I also recently started a Disney Instagram blog to share my love of Disney through my photography— my goal is that it can provide a little daily magic for people who may be having a rough time. It did that for me anyways! But those are just a few, I have a ton more projects up my sleeve.

HCCU: What's it like living in New York City? 

HR: Living in New York City is like living in an actual sitcom— no lie. I felt like a character right out of a TV show when I was holding up the line at the subway turnstile because I couldn’t get my card to swipe correctly and had to literally crawl on the ground under it because people were yelling “come on lady, let’s go!” I moved up here thinking this city was going to just hand me opportunities because it’s this “city of dreams.” I learned so quickly that I was completely wrong and probably a bit too naive, thus beginning the eight-month struggle to where I am now. I don’t want to sugar-coat it. Moving to New York City right out of college is incredibly challenging and you have to constantly work and motivate yourself to deal with the financial struggles, the challenges of finding a job and, of course, the freezing winters. But now that I’m in a place where I feel comfortable, I am starting to like it here. I think part of its appeal is that sense of struggle and perseverance— finding others in a similar boat and bonding over the good, the bad and the ugly.

HCCU: You're a huge Disney fan! If you could create your own Disney princess, who would she be? 

HR: Oh my gosh, amazing question. Well, she would probably be a lot of me, since that’s what I can relate to. I don’t think there were enough role models when I was growing up for living and dealing with anxiety and mental illness. I struggle with a pretty intense anxiety disorder that makes some of life’s simple things very challenging and I think that normalizing it and showing it in a way that’s not dark but hopeful— can be so beneficial for young people to relate to. So I would give her the qualities of someone with some of those challenges, and have her story be about how she overcomes some of them (even though they will always be there). I liked that about Rapunzel, when Tangled came out. Everyone always picks on women who are soft— whereas I think women who are soft can also be intelligent, and adventurous and strong. So let's just say, a soft, anxious, happy and adventurous princess who is also incredibly strong. Women need to know there is nothing wrong with experiencing emotions, it doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human!

HCCU: Do you have any advice for young women pursuing careers in the media industry?

HR: It’s hard to give advice because I’m still right there figuring it out myself. I still don’t know exactly what I want to do, I’m learning about my interests more each and every day. I guess what I’ll say is don’t rush the process. Take time experimenting in different roles, internships and companies. I thought at this point I would be living in Florida “working for the mouse” and have it all figured out. But things change and sometimes it’s necessary to stop holding your career to these strict stipulations and just let your interests and career grow and change as they will.

HCCU: Where can people find/connect with you (social media platforms)?

HR: The best way to connect with me is through my Disney Instagram page! I’ve recently made my personal Instagram private so that I can have a bit more of a personal life— but I am actively engaged on @han_inwonderland every single day and am happy to chat to people! People can also follow along on my NY adventures on my WordPress blog. I try to keep it as updated as possible! Ctrl+Click or tap to follow the link">


All photos courtesy of Hannah Rios