UMSL student dedicated to building career in media – even if it means skipping Super Bowl

by | Feb 12, 2018

Media studies major Parris Smith worked as an independent reporter at red carpet events during Super Bowl weekend.
Parris Smith, MSC

Media studies major Parris Smith edits her Power of Influence Awards interviews on her laptop in the Millennium Student Center. This was the second year that Smith spent Super Bowl weekend in the host city attending award shows and interviewing celebrities. (Photo by August Jennewein)

If offered an opportunity to attend the Super Bowl, most employees would probably make up any excuse to skip work and attend the game. In fact, year after year office attendance is noticeably thin on what has been dubbed as “Super Sick Monday.”

But Parris Smith isn’t like the estimated 14 million Americans who called in on Feb. 5. The diligent first-generation college student will do just about anything to secure her career. And yes, that includes giving up her ticket to the biggest game of the year just to make her Monday morning shift at KTVI (Channel 2).

In hindsight, the FOX 2 intern and University of Missouri–St. Louis media studies major is now a little “salty” that she didn’t ask for the day off, but ultimately, she’s thankful for the time she did have in Minneapolis during Super Bowl weekend.

For the second straight year, Smith enjoyed the Super Bowl experience thanks to her godfather, a well-connected celebrity talent representative. For 2018, her agenda consisted of star-studded parties hosted by Maxim and Rolling Stone as well as appearances at NFL Honors and the Power of Influence Awards Brunch.

The weekend wasn’t just about concerts and red carpet walks, though. Smith was on assignment as an independent reporter.

Prior to the NFL Honors and Power of Influence Awards ceremonies, Smith conducted red carpet interviews with honored guests like comedian Kevin Hart, BET’s Head of Programming Connie Orlando and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey for her YouTube channel.

Smith admits that she was mildly nervous prior to the interviews, but once the camera started rolling, she was in her element.

“Just being around all of these prestigious and very successful people – whether they are football players or Grammy-nominated singers – makes me want to work a lot harder just so that one day I could be one of the people getting awarded or being announced,” Smith said. “It makes you see things in a little bit different light. That’s hard work. That’s dedication. I want to work hard and be as dedicated to my craft so that I can get where they are. Maybe I won’t be a professional football player, but I want to reach that level of success.”

With an impressive portfolio, Smith, who will graduate in May, is well on her way to reaching that goal.

She credits the connections made through her godfather for helping her experience events like Super Bowl weekend, the NFL Draft and a party for retired boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, but Smith isn’t discounting her own talents.

“You know the saying, ‘It’s who you know not what you know.’ But I think it’s 70 percent of who you know and 30 percent of what you know,” she said. “Who you know will get you there, but what you know is going to keep you in that position. I really live by that.”

One such example is her fateful trip to the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Interested in sports management at the time, Smith attended the weeklong showcase as part of the Football Career Conference. As she received an inside look at the role of a sports agent, Smith quickly decided it wasn’t a path she wanted to follow.

Thankfully, that’s when she met Meisha Williams, an immediate friend who encouraged her to approach the experience from a different angle. Williams pressed Smith to simply start talking to people and recording the interviews.

Smith took a while to accept the idea, but it finally clicked a few months later when she decided to transfer to UMSL.

She’s loved being on camera ever since. So much so that she’s helped revive UMSL’s television program, The U TV, as vice president of the Student Electronic Media Professional Association. Leading the eight-person team, Smith produces commercials for campus organizations, hosts “UTV’s Hot 5” segment and covers events around St. Louis, including LouFest 2017.

On top of balancing her FOX 2 internship, academic schedule and U TV assignments, Smith is an event services assistant for the Millennium Student Center, vice president of the Advertising and Public Relations Club, member of the Associated Black Collegians and, most importantly, a mother.

Smith credits her supportive family, which is always willing to watch her daughter, for making these resume-building experiences possible.

“I look around my family and nobody has a degree, so they are all rooting for me to be the person to break that curse, chain or whatever it is that prohibits everybody from doing what they want to do,” she said. “They would rather me be doing this than anything that would stop me from being successful. My family is now expecting my brother and sister to go to college because I went to college. Being the person to set that mark and set that standard – that’s what motivates me.”

With graduation ahead, Smith dreams of being an entertainment journalist in a large market such as New York or Los Angeles, working for a media conglomerate like Viacom.

“I’m really putting my own foot forward,” Smith said. “People would tell me that I had to have a degree for a lot of the projects that I’ve worked on. I still haven’t gotten my degree, but I’ve pushed beyond the norm. When I graduate, employers will say that I need three years experience. I’ve got it. I did all of my experience through my undergrad, so nobody can tell me that I’m not qualified.”

Sara Bell

Sara Bell