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The Start of My Career: An Internship With Oprah Winfrey

July 23, 2012

In his career as a producer and talent agent, Jorge Insua (@JorgeInsua) has worked for the #1 talk show on English-language television (The Oprah Winfrey Show), the #1 talk show on Spanish-language television (The Cristina Show), and the #1 talent agency in the world (Creative Artists Agency, the Los Angeles shop known for representing the entertainment industry’s greatest innovators). Presently, Insua is president of marketing and development of Cristina Saralegui Enterprises (CSE) the global entertainment empire helmed by Cuban television icon Cristina Saralegui.

JORGEandOprah19871 The Start of My Career: An Internship With Oprah Winfrey

Jorge as intern with Oprah Winfrey, 1987

1. How did you get started in the industry? How can someone who is interested in your work get started?

I started out as an intern right out of college with “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” I moved from Cleveland, OH after graduating from John Carroll University to Chicago for my internship. (He interviewed the talk show host as part of a senior project — after pursuing her publicist relentlessly for seven months. Winfrey was so impressed with his perseverance, she offered him an internship.) For six months I got “paid in experience” and did EVERYTHING that was asked of me WITH A SMILE ON MY FACE. I got coffee, would have to go up to the 11th floor of the WLS building (the ABC affiliate in Chicago) to do Diet Coke runs for all of the producers, I answered phones, and got everyone’s lunches. As a result, I became the intern who never went home. At the end of my 6 month internship, I was hired by Oprah to work for Harpo Inc. and stayed for 7 years working my way up the production ladder.

I would totally suggest that anyone interested in a career in broadcasting start by getting an internship. Not only does it show you the intricacies of the business but it may also show you that what you think you wanted to do in the business, may actually not be for you.

2. What do you think is the future of your industry?

I think there will always be jobs in broadcasting–whether it be in television, cable or the web.

3. What do you look for when you hire an intern or entry-level candidate?

You want someone with a good attitude. Someone who knows they are there to learn and pay their dues. Someone who is a go-getter and someone who is eager to learn.

4. What is one thing an intern can do to make a favorable impression?

Do everything that is asked of you with a smile on your face. No one wants to be around someone who is constantly complaining. I always knew that my “job” as an intern was to make the jobs of those around me easier without drawing too much attention to myself. If anything, the kind of attention you want to attract is that you are a team player, that you will go the extra mile, that no job is beneath you. People are totally observing you and seeing what kind of person you are. You want to make yourself so indispensable that at the end of your internship, they will want to hire you.

5. Can you share a positive internship story, and a horror story? No names needed…

JorgeInsua headshot The Start of My Career: An Internship With Oprah Winfrey

He's come a long way, but still credits his internship with Oprah as the beginning of his career

Well I think the positive is obvious. I was hired by Oprah, put on her payroll and spent the next seven years working my way up the production ladder from receptionist, to mail room, to production assistant, assistant audience coordinator, audience coordinator, associate producer and finally producer!

My worst intern horror story has got to be one afternoon going to get lunch for the producers at McDonalds in the dead of winter in Chicago. I had to walk 8 blocks in the snow to get everyone their lunch. And, of course, people couldn’t just order off the menu–people had special requests (Big Mac with no lettuce, cheese burger with extra cheese, filet o fish with extra sauce–you get the picture.) I got everyone’s food and walked the 8 blocks back in the snow. As I was giving everyone their orders, there was one producer who did not get her hot apple pie (they had forgotten to put it in the bag.) So, I asked the producer, “would you like me to go back and get your pie?” Thinking in a million years would she make me walk BACK in this weather…guess what she said? “That would be great! Thank you Jorge.”

And, so I had to go back out and get that damn apple pie. I never forgot that. And, because the world works the way that it does…fast forward 15 years and I am now a motion picture talent agent at Creative Artists Agency (CAA–the largest talent agency in the world) and who ends up sending me an email to see if I could help her son who was interested in a career in acting??? You guessed it…the apple pie producer. I’m proud to say I took the high road and did what I could for her son.

People love their apple pie icon wink The Start of My Career: An Internship With Oprah Winfrey  Amazing journey Jorge, hope you keep that photo on your desk! Interns, leave your favorite internship stories in the comments below.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

jennifer brandabur July 23, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Love this! Especially that photo of you with Oprah…that's the man I met in Paris all those years ago. :)

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shisinga jeffrey July 24, 2012 at 11:57 am

lovely, and interesting. thank you for such an inspirational experience.

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Alexis July 25, 2012 at 11:27 pm

Very inspiring story. I am currently on my second internship and I would echo all the advice jorge has given :)

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Nnenna Bambaataa July 25, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Ha ha! Thanks for sharing! This was great!

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Marchette July 27, 2012 at 5:50 am

Thanks! I have an internship interview this afternoon….Reading your post has given me well needed advice! Kudos for your sponcership and teamplayer attitude! I am inspired to do the same within my contribution of “paying my dues”!

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Miss Ashley S. Simmons July 27, 2012 at 5:38 pm

I currently pose a strong instrest in pursuing a paid great Internship; however, I have been currently intwinded in several what appears to be misguided paths in securing a Internship. Lately I have found one; I plan on paying my 35.00 application fee on Monday. Is there anyone who coud help direct me in pursing a fall 2013 Intership. I was going to wait until my very last semester to begin my Internship, but I've experienced a pretty rough summer session; therefore, I could use a huge brake in the oridinary field of Social Work practice

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Christine Minster November 3, 2012 at 1:50 am

Hi, thanks for sharing your thinking in The Start of My Career: An Internship With Oprah Winfrey. This is really a very nice blog.

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Karen DeCecco December 1, 2012 at 8:47 am

I am producing a show Heart Of Philly! The show presently airs on an access cable network in Philadelphia. I am looking for Interns for shooting and editing! The local networks have taken my ideas…but are not willing to hire me and have my show on their network! I am open to new ideas! I would love to have my show on the OWN network!! Footage is on Youtube!!

Thank You,
Karen

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Myldred Lee April 5, 2013 at 2:25 pm

I would LOVE to do an internship with Oprah, I've studied her for years and would like first hand experience which is enough payment in my eyes. I would also like to have my own show and entertainment franchises like Oprah but above all touch other as she has done. Is there any way to know if she had internships or even externships available? I didn't see any options for it on the site. All I want is the opportunity and chance to learn.

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Synthia April 9, 2013 at 9:37 am

Awesome! O, The Oprah Magazine is currently seeking fashion interns. Learn more and apply here. Check back often, new internships are posted daily!

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