EMU alum interviews big celebs
By Jerome Stuart Nichols | Life Editor
Added March 25, 2012 at 8:51 pm
The promise of a college education is that if you put in the hard work, you will get to live your dreams. For many, this has proven to be a challenge. But for Eastern Michigan University graduate and former Eastern Echo Life Editor Chris Azzopardi, it’s a promise that has been fulfilled.
“I can’t believe this is my life,” Azzopardi said in a phone interview.
Whether he can believe it or not, Azzopardi’s career and clout has been rising at a breakneck pace since his 2006 graduation from EMU. In that short time, he went from writing about diapers to interviewing celebrities like Lady Gaga.
Although his career has taken him far in six short years, Azzopardi is coming back to share his wisdom and experience with the students of EMU.
At 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 29, Azzopardi will be giving a talk entitled “From Here to Hollywood: How I Met Madonna with my EMU Degree.” During the talk, which will be held in 216 Pray-Harrold, he will share stories and experiences from the six years since his graduation. Following the talk, he will be available for a Q&A session.
Azzopardi’s career began before graduation with a job at Metro Parent magazine.
“That was my first job. I was writing at Metro Parent magazine, writing about diapers and fancy toilet seat covers,” Azzopardi said with a laugh.
Not satisfied with just the maternal side of journalism, he applied for a position at local LGBTQ entertainment magazine, Between the Lines.
“I applied to Between the Lines. They didn’t have an open position for me because they have a very small staff,” Azzopardi said. “So, they said come on board and you can be a freelancer.”
Although he graciously accepted the position to freelance, for him it was a way to get his foot in the door. Little did he know that the door would soon be flying off its hinges and welcoming him in.
“I ended up having lunch with them [Between the Lines] at Panera and the next thing I knew I was being hired as a staff writer,” he said. “I [started] that job three days after graduation in ’06. It all happened really fast. Ever since then it’s been whirlwind.”
From there he worked as a staff writer at Between the Lines until a new opportunity came his way.
“It kind of fell into my lap,” Azzopardi said. “They said ‘well hey since
you’re already doing entertainment [writing] for
us, why don’t you become the editor of the Syndicate’.”
He was referring to LGBTQ entertainment syndication service Q Syndicate, which had recently been acquired by Between the Lines.
In 2009, Azzopardi became the Editor of Q Syndicate and ushered in a few changes, including putting a spotlight on celebrity features.
“I had the idea, ‘well why don’t we turn it into something different? Why don’t we start putting celebrity features up there,’” said Azzopardi.
It was a new idea that paid off. The emphasis on celebrity features allowed Azzopardi to land some high profile interviews with celebrities like Jason Mraz, Lady Gaga, Cher, Kathy Griffin, Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Meryl Streep and Reba McIntire.
“Once word got out that we were giving a lot of press to these performers and movie stars, I started getting calls to do movie junkets,” Azzopardi said.
This new found success allowed him to travel all over the United Stated interviewing entertainers.
“I would travel to L.A., I traveled to Napa Valley, New York and D.C.,” Azzopardi said.
For him it was the jet setting that began to give him perspective on just how far he’d come.
“I never expected after leaving Eastern that [the travel] would become part of my job,” he said. “To go to Napa Valley, it felt like a dream, it was really exotic. I felt like, ‘is this happening to me?’ ”
Although his rise to prominence as an entertainment journalist has been swift, it has not been without its missteps including an unfortunate run in with Jenny McCarthy.
“I don’t want to share the Jenny McCarthy one, it’s too good,” he said with a laugh.
Although he didn’t want to go into details before his talk, he mentioned that it involved her calling him a rather unfortunate name and hanging up after only three minutes of conversation.
“Jenny McCarthy was a big stumbling block. I cried. But now that I’ve interviewed Beyoncé, I’m over her,” Azzopardi said in an email following our interview.
During his lecture, he plans to share the whole story of his interaction with Jenny McCarthy, among others.
He teased a bit more of the content saying, “I’ll talk about the question I wasn’t allowed to ask Beyoncé per her management, why I cut Gaga off in the middle of a question, my first celebrity interview at The Echo and why I ended up doing it with my editor.”
More than just a few salacious stories, Azzopardi also plans to share some wisdom with attendees in hopes that sharing his experiences will help some journalism students avoid the feeling of being lost.
“I loved the program and I loved writing, but I wasn’t quite sure what my future would hold for me. So when I’m there, I hope to at least steer them in the right direction.”
Even though his message is one of guidance, he suggested a slightly less academic take away message.
When asked what he thought students would learn from his talk he responded by saying, “That Madonna is kind of bitchy.”
You can find out the truth for yourself on Thursday.