A USC alumna is poised to land her own show with the Travel Channel. And she’s only 25 years old.
Christianne Rojo ’12 is one of the top five finalists for the Travel Channel’s 2015 “Travel Channel Star” competition. The contest is designed to discover a new face to host a five-part series on TravelChannel.com. Rojo sailed through several rounds of judging to the final round, after competing against more than 1,000 contestants from across the country.
Rojo, who graduated from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, said she missed working in front of the camera and wanted to try hosting. So she took a chance on a Santa Monica audition, thinking it would be good practice, and nothing more.
I really didn’t think I had a chance.
“I really didn’t think I had a chance. They made it seem like there was a lot of us, and they hadn’t decided yet,” Rojo said of making it into the top 15. “It was really shocking. I was like ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this is happening.”
What did the judges think?
In a panel review of her top five video entry, the judges praised her, saying, “She’s the best interviewer we’ve seen,” “She came in researched, she came in prepared, she came in willing to challenge him,” and “She’s also very insightful, and she has her own perspective on things.”
Trip Flip host Bert Kreisher said, “I emailed everyone in production and said she just blew me out of the water.”
Rojo said that she owes her comfort in front of the camera to her training at USC Annenberg, including her time with Annenberg TV News as a producer and a reporter.
“They really trained us, and they really took time to make sure that we would be the best that we could be, that we could do anything if we put our minds to it,” she said.
“It can sound cheesy when you tell somebody that, but to actually be in a classroom where your professors really believe in you — that was really great and always stuck with me,” said Rojo, who credited professors Stacy Scholder and Judy Muller with honing her broadcast and reporting skills.
Humble and thankful
As a native Californian and first-generation American born to Mexican parents, faith is a subject Rojo has explored in both her personal and professional life. In her submission video, Rojo described the experience of hearing an 80-year-old Mexican woman promise to crawl on her knees to a shrine miles away if her prayer were answered. That moment dovetailed with a class she took with Diane Winston.
“That totally sparked a passion that I had for some time in my life, in media and faith,” Rojo said. “I had always thought if I ever have a dream job, it would kind of combine the two.”
Rojo, who is fluent in English and Spanish, said at first she found favor with the judges because they believed the network should diversify.
“I thought that was really cool, but really important,” Rojo said. “Especially seeing it’s the Travel Channel and that they do cover other parts of the world.”
In the past several years, Rojo has studied for an M.A. in theology at Franciscan University and worked as a youth minister at St. Raphael’s in Santa Barbara. But Rojo said that she never forgot her passion for on-camera reporting, practicing in her downtime so as not to lose the skills she had learned at USC.
“I try to do teleprompter practicing,” Rojo said. “I’ll just practice speaking in front of the camera.”
Rojo said her friends and family rallied to promote her on social media. Travel Channel winners will be chosen by a combination of judges’ feedback and fans’ votes. Rojo, who is currently in fourth place, needs enough votes to land in the top two.
You can vote via Twitter with the phrase “Christie Rojo should be the next #travelchannelstar!” or on the Travel Channel website.
Voting ends Friday, June 26 at 8:59 p.m. PST.