BY KATHRYN KUNKLE
If you’re looking for inspiration around Fordham, journalism professor Luisita López Torregrosa may be the answer. As a young girl, Torregrosa dreamt of becoming a journalist, and she did everything in her power to make that dream come true. Over the span of her career, Torregrosa has traveled all over the world documenting her experience for publications such as the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue and the Washington Post Magazine.
I met with Torregrosa outside the Ram Café on a Tuesday afternoon. Quiet and reserved, the loudness of the café made for a distracting setting for an interview. We ventured into the lobby of Lowenstein, where we sat in a corner by a large window; quiet and cozy compared to the chaos of the cafeteria. As we spoke, I noticed that Torregrosa often gazed through the window, watching the people and cars go by. I would later learn of her curiosity about the world around her.
Torregrosa has a deeply-rooted passion for journalism. Growing up in Puerto Rico and Mexico City as the child of a doctor and a lawyer, Torregrosa’s only connection to writers was through her mother’s family. This greatly impacted her career; “journalism was in my blood…it has always been a part of me.” At the age of 12, Torregrosa conducted her first interview for English class.“By then, I already knew I wanted to be a journalist and a writer,” she explained. “There was never any doubt in my mind about that.”
Since she was a young girl, Torregrosa aspired to live in New York City. At 14, she moved to the United States to attend Linden Hall Academy, an all girls prep school outside Philadelphia. Studying abroad was Torregrosa’s mother’s idea; she almost attended a boarding school in Switzerland, but it “proved to be too far from Puerto Rico.” Torregrossa remembered her mother showing her the catalog for her new school and “that was it.” Before she knew it, she was on the plane to America to begin classes. Before her schooling began, she visited New York and immediately knew she would end up there. She stayed at the Waldorf Astoria and saw “My Fair Lady” on Broadway. “I loved the city, and Park Avenue and the theatre.”
Moving to a new country alone is a huge change for any 14-year-old. “My closest relative was 2,000 miles away,” Torregrosa recalled. However, she found a way to put a positive spin on this daunting experience. Instead of protesting the move, she made the most of the experience. Looking back, she is grateful for the opportunity she was given. “It was the greatest thing my mother ever did for me,” she said, adding, “it made me the independent person that I am today.”
After Linden Hall, she began college at Winthrop University at just 16 years old. Winthrop University in South Carolina was an all women’s college at the time; she double majored in English and journalism with a minor in philosophy.
At 19, she finished college and “took the train directly from South Carolina to New York City to start looking for a job.” She quickly realized that she couldn’t start her career in New York City, she needed more experience. “Don’t start thinking you have to start at the top, because you will not … you need experience, to start small and work your way up,” Lusita said. “No career is a straight shot to glory.” With New York as her end goal, she moved back to South Carolina to work for a newspaper called The State, where she began as a clerk.
Eventually, she was promoted to the copy desk, where she learned to be an editor. “I started as a copy editor and left 12 years later when I was the assistant managing editor,” Torregrosa explained. “I was one out of maybe three women in all of the United States with that high of a level at a major metropolitan newspaper… I made it on my own.”
However, Torregrosa recognizes the challenges that come with being a writer. “It takes determination and ambition and it also takes being able to live alone. The life of a writer is very, very hard… it’s the hardest work there is, and it’s only for people who really love doing it.” It is obvious that Torregrosa loves her work. When you write, she said, “you just lose sight of everything around you.”
Traveling also provides a different lens for her writing. Luisita lives a busy life; in this past year alone she has traveled to Spain, Puerto Rico and Mexico, and is “always on a deadline.” Despite all of her traveling, she doesn’t take vacations for fun, except her yearly trip to see her sisters for Christmas. She loves what she does, but traveling isn’t a vacation for Luisita, it’s her job. “I travel to write, I don’t write to travel,” she said.
When asked about her biggest success, Torregrosa replied, “I’ve always been myself.” She writes about her own passions and interests and states her truthful opinions. She explained that she never had to search for her own voice, as she found it within the page. Regarding her first ever magazine piece, she said, “I wrote that piece, and there’s my voice.”
Torregrosa is never satisfied, she is constantly planning, and deciding what story she wants to write next.“I am who I am, and my failures are my failures but I really see how much else I want to do. There’s so much more I want to do.” Torregrosa doesn’t spend her time lamenting the past, she thinks about what she wants to achieve in the future. “I have published two books, and I hope to start my third book.”
She said that in her career, “you fail constantly.” She explained that out of every five pieces she proposes, only one is accepted. She spends weeks researching and formulating every pitch, but when a piece is approved, the rest get put “on the way side.” She has learned to redefine failure; as she doesn’t focus on each failure itself, but how “every failure is what gets [her] to [her] success… what gets you to your success is trying.”
Luisita shows us that no matter whether you fail or succeed, it’s more important to focus on what you do have. When you experience failure, look back at what you have already accomplished and, most importantly, decide what comes next.
Featured image courtesy of Jon Björnson.