University of Iowa - Journalism
DePaul University, Chicago - Film and Media Studies + Minor, Italian
You might have spotted Kelly—like we did—this past summer in Florida Georgia Line’s music video for their summer hit “Get Your Shine On.” Kelly Rizzo has had a host of gigs, ranging from food and music reporter to blogger to model. Now you can find Kelly introducing Chicagoans to chefs and delicious fare on “Food Junkie: Chicago.”
After college, Kelly followed in her family’s footsteps by pursuing a career in real estate. She was successful, but unfulfilled. After taking some time to refocus, Kelly knew she had to pursue her goals. This meant fusing her love of food, traveling and music, and beginning a career in media.
Although Kelly is busy producing and hosting “Food Junkie,” she makes sure to “do at least one fun or relaxing thing every day.” Kelly says, “I always take time to enjoy the day and unwind.”
My role among my friends is 'the good time girl,' so I always try to show others a good time and bring out the fun in any situation.
Can you talk about your first career in real estate?
I started doing real estate in 1999, and even though I am still involved, I'm doing it less. I started my blog in 2011 and started getting my music reporting gigs in the during summer/fall 2012. I made my completed reel in 2013 and landed my show this past spring.
My parents have been some of the top realtors in Chicago for 35 years, so it was a natural progression for me to join the business. I loved that I was my own boss and that my income was dependent on how hard I worked. I found out I was great in sales and I became very successful. Unfortunately, it wasn't fulfilling to me and I knew I had to go after my passions in life.
Why did you branch out into media?
After my divorce, I did some soul searching and realized I needed to pursue what I was passionate about. I love food and music so much, and it turned out I was able to convey that love on camera. I knew I wanted to work in television and become an expert in the fields that are important to me.
How did you discover your current job?
I was doing backstage music reporting in the country music world, and the executives from ArchLive TV took notice of my on-camera abilities. They knew I was a huge foodie from my blog. Along with my writing and production abilities, they knew I’d be the perfect fit to host and co-produce “Food Junkie: Chicago”—an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the Chicago food scene.
Besides trying lots of great food, what work do you do for the show?
I help come up with unique themes and ideas. I also co-write some of the episodes, but mainly, I’m the on-camera host and personality. I need to bring the Chicago food scene to life and make it fun and informative for the viewer!
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
I love being on camera. It’s such a blast! I love sharing my knowledge and bringing new concepts and information to the public. I’m also pretty goofy and I love that I get to be myself and show my personality.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
I’m a pretty stable and calm person, so I sleep pretty well! But I think, “What is the next step?” or “How do I take this to the next level?” as well as try to remember all the things I need to do the next day!
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Not really. I’m really good at enjoying life and my work is a blast and so much fun. It never feels like work. Occasionally, if I have a ton of events or obligations, I can get a bit stressed. But ever since I’ve started my “new” career, it’s been pretty smooth sailing.
Mainly, I make sure I do at least one fun or relaxing thing every day. Whether it’s going to dinner or grabbing drinks with a friend, watching a movie on my couch or getting a mani-pedi, I always take time to enjoy the day and unwind.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!”?
Not really. I never want to be complacent and think, “I’ve made it!” because then what? There have been exciting moments where I think, “Wow, this is actually happening,” but I still want to keep striving and not slow down.
What has made me very happy are the times I’ve made my parents proud. That’s what means the most to me. When I was in Michigan Avenue magazine and on live TV on FOX, those were big moments for me. I’m following in my mom’s footsteps, as she was a huge narrator, spokesmodel and broadcaster. She’s been so proud of everything I’ve done. My dad is usually very hard to impress, and even he has been very proud and excited about what I’ve done so far. This has really given me the greatest sense of satisfaction.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Always treat others the way you want to be treated. I do my best to treat others with compassion and respect.
Sometimes it’s hard, but I try not to judge others. It’s not my place to do so. I always try to help others when they need me, as well. My role among my friends is “the good time girl,” so I always try to show others a good time and bring out the fun in any situation.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
Mainly I think you just have to believe in yourself. I know now that this is the career for me. There have been some doubters along the way, but if you believe in yourself and know in your heart it’s right for you, don’t listen to the naysayers. My family and friends have always believed in me, and that’s all I needed to move forward.
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
Negative things will happen to you. It’s not what happens to you that will define you; it’s how you react to it and how you deal with it. Always stay positive. Know there are people who believe in you and someone above who is on your side no matter what.
And, because we dig a cool tattoo, can you talk about yours?
I absolutely love tattoos. I love them on myself and I love looking at them on others. I think they're creative and sexy and a way to express yourself. There are some that I maybe wouldn't get again necessarily, but I don't regret any of them. They all tell some story about my life at the time.
I have more than 10 tattoos (I've been tattooed about 20 times). I started getting them when I was 16, and the last one I got was three weeks ago!
Some notable ones: My Pearl Jam stick figure (I got this at 16 years old); several stars, the Italian Flag with my last name; several Italian sayings and words, including the town where my dad was born in Sicily, Ciminna; and Rinascimento, which means “rebirth” or “renaissance” in Italian); sheet music and more!
How did you land a spot in the Florida Georgia Line music video?
I did the Florida Georgia Line music video in Cancun during January 2013. I became friends with the boys after some Joe's Bar interviews and appearances, especially Brian Kelley. He wanted me for the video, so they called me up and said they were putting me on a plane to Cancun the next day! It was definitely the best job I've ever had!