Alumni Feature: Q&A with Chris Gayomali
By Caitlin Antonios
Chris Gayomali is a senior editor at GQ and runs the culture desk covering politics, news, sports, relationships, tech, fitness, food, and more.
1. When did you graduate UCI and what was your major(s)?
I graduated in 2007 as an English major with an embarrassing sub-3.0 GPA. In retrospect it was a bad time to graduate, especially with a humanities degree, and especially with a global financial collapse looming that would take all the respectable jobs and flush them down the toilet.
2. What campus organizations were you a part of (if any) and outside of academics, what was the best part of being at UCI?
I did Mesa Court Housing and SPOP for two years (purple and teal). I think the best part about being at UCI is that Irvine as a town is so manicured and understimulating that I couldn’t wait to get out of there. (Kidding! Mostly.) Really though, I made all my best friends at UCI; even met my future fiancée in the dorms. It wasn’t any of our first choices but I can’t even imagine a better place to find your tribe.
3. After college, what challenges did you face transitioning into the professional world? How did you overcome them?
When I graduated I got this entry-level office job near John Wayne doing technical writing, and it was so brain-depleting that I left after a few months to move to New York. (I was fortunate and was able to move in with my parents up in Long Beach for a few months to save some money beforehand, so shout out to you, Mom and Dad!) At that point I didn’t have any real sort of plan or direction for where my career would take me, I just knew I wanted to eventually do something that would let me write. So I kept on inching toward this sort of nebulous goal while overdrawing from my checking account and going out with friends in Brooklyn too much. After about a year of working an administrative job, I decided to apply to grad school to (1) wait out the economic collapse for two years, and (2) build a professional network that I couldn’t conceivably build any other way. I’ll probably be a skeleton before I’m able to pay off my students loans but I got my first real journalism opportunity through a friend in the program. So: worth it.
4.What skills did you acquire while at UCI that helped you most in your professional career?
No lie, crushing out papers in the science library the night before they were due taught me how to write fast and on deadline. Not write well or even coherently, mind you. But my typing speed was flames.
5. What did you take for granted while you were in college that you miss or wish you took advantage of while at UCI?
If I did have access to a time machine and could help Young Chris from being less of an idiot, I’d tell him to take advantage of the library and read more with all the free time he has. Part of me still feels like I’m still catching up to my more literary peers.
6. What is one experience in college you wish you could go back and do over?
Eat at Pippin.
7. Describe your most memorable moment at UCI.
Man, now I’m all nostalgic! But I really loved finals weeks where everyone’s grooming standards lowered dramatically and we could spend all night “studying” together, which really meant a smoke break every 10 minutes and Del Taco runs.
8. What’s the best part about running the culture desk at GQ?
One wild part about my job is I get to edit all these brilliant writers I grew up reading. But the coolest part about working at a place like GQ is everyone is truly the BEST at what they do, and to have that much journalism talent and firepower concentrated under one roof only makes you want to get better. We’re always thinking critically about how to make masculinity less toxic and more inclusive, and I’m fortunate to be in a position where, in a small but hopefully meaningful way, we can help shape the next generation of young men to be better humans.
9. What would you say to students that want to get involved with journalism professionally?
First, and most importantly: Subscribe to GQ!!!
So I hope this doesn’t come across as overly prescriptive, and it most definitely won’t apply for everyone but: focus less on the actual mechanics of journalism (you can learn those as you go) and instead find an area of the world that interests you—a beat, basically. Learn as much as you can whether that’s hip hop, or immigration, or gerrymandering, and then force yourself to think critically about it. (I started off as a tech reporter.) Challenge yourself to come up with fresh angles. Become an “expert” on a topic and you’ll have a leg up on everyone.
10. What article are you most proud of? What were the challenges of writing it?
I’m the kind of writer who can’t really look at their old work without making a stinkface (for me at least, hating everything I’ve ever done is how I trick myself into getting better), but I did enjoy talking with Steven Yeun recently for GQ. It’s so rare you ever get a famous person so candid and thoughtful and generous enough to let you into their interior life like that. And it’s even rarer you get two non-white voices.