The first thing you notice about Catherine de Luna (C‘20) is her warm, inviting smile. It’s pretty difficult to exude anything but awkwardness on a Zoom call with someone you’ve never met, but somehow it doesn’t even faze her. It's immediately clear she’s the kind of person you want to be friends with: funny, nice, outspoken, thoughtful, and honest—she doesn’t mince words when it comes to describing what she believes, and she is incredibly passionate about everything she does.
Growing up in Orinda, California, she describes herself as a happy child, crediting her parents both for her bright upbringing and her passions: “I think as I’ve grown up I’ve realized that my parents did a really good job of pushing us to be ambitious and driven without forcing us in a particular direction...it’s probably a reason why I feel like I can pursue a career in the arts.”
At Penn, she’s managed to integrate that same passion in everything she has done, as president of the Wharton Undergraduate Media and Entertainment Club (UME), Vice President of Penn Sirens, being a copy editor for four years at the DP, and double–majoring in classics and cinema studies. She notes a short–lived fling with consulting, saying, “I remember there was a hot minute where I was like, ‘I want to be a consultant' when I actually had no idea what that meant. Why would I want to do that?" Aside from that, Catherine has remained steadfast in her love for the arts, in her academic, pre–professional, and extracurricular pursuits.
Catherine’s passion for classics started in a high school Latin class. She loves its interdisciplinary nature, noting, “I love the way language and history are basically coexisting, and you can’t have one without the other...There’s so many interesting pieces of current culture that are tied to the ancient world.” She connects her love of antiquated languages with her passion for the arts, positioning the two are powerful storytellers.
“Classics does the same thing [as cinema studies]," Catherine says, "[Both ask], 'How do we write a narrative?...What do we leave out?...How do we craft stories and make them interesting and make them durable?'”
Even with her impressive repertoire, Catherine emphasized that it took time before she really found her place socially and academically. While her passion for classics came relatively early, her interest in cinema studies came later. During her sophomore year, she realized the many ways to find a career in TV and film, noting that “even though Penn is super theory-based in terms of a lot of their cinema studies stuff, it’s been exponentially helpful in any job that I had or will have probably just because it’s a really great way to think about how narratives are framed.”
At the same time, she started to learn more about the entertainment industry through her involvement with UME. She vividly remembers glancing at a UME flyer during her freshman year SAC fair and thinking it seemed cool, eventually joining a year later. Eventually—and still to her surprise—she became president and spearheaded an impactful initiative to showcase careers in film and TV.
As president of UME, Catherine worked to showcase the arts as a viable career option, connecting prominent alumni in the entertainment world with members of the club. She’s described by those who nominated her as having “worked tirelessly to include more programming about creative careers for students and make those more visible during recruitment.” Through her interests in the entertainment industry, Catherine ended up becoming a college ambassador for Warner Brothers, which gave her the opportunity to meet Bradley Cooper in October 2018.
At the time, Cooper was doing press for A Star Is Born, and due to his close ties with his high school alma mater, Germantown Academy, he decided to do a special screening for the students at a nearby theater. Press was being handled by the PR company under Warner Brothers that Catherine worked for, and she was given the opportunity to help out at and attend the screening. "One of my Penn friends who also worked for the company and I rented a Zipcar and drove to Neshaminy, Pennsylvania, to this strange AMC theater that was a little run-down...doesn't seem like the sort of place he frequents." They got there, set up some posters, and Catherine prepared for the prestigious task of opening the rope as he revealed himself to the crowd. "I can't really explain it, but I was in the dark, and I couldn't see anything very well...he walked in wearing a baseball cap and I opened it, and he was a gleaming light of beauty as he walked past me. So that's my 'met Bradley Cooper story' but really I just fawned over him."
While her gig with Warner Brothers gave her a great celebrity anecdote, later that year, Catherine scored an internship with a talent agency in Los Angeles. It was a great experience that broke a lot of stereotypes about the entertainment industry for her, and she'll be returning there as a mailroom clerk in July, where she's excited to work her way through the ranks and eventually be able to produce any project she wants.
Even with her mission of rebranding careers in the arts at Penn being a defining point of her college career and beyond, Catherine remained humble throughout our interview, making it clear that it was the people she met who made her Penn experience worthwhile. Her face lit up every time she spoke about the people she’s met at Penn, noting the support system she found in the tightly–knit Classics department at Penn, how she loves to sing with her friends in Penn Sirens, and all of the fun she had in the copy department at the DP.
When asked about her proudest accomplishments, it wasn’t her honors thesis, the internship she scored, or meeting Bradley Cooper. Instead, she expressed pride in her ability to unabashedly follow her passions. “Honing in on what I wanted to do and doing it without caring what anyone else thought about it, or what other people were doing, and having people who supported me in that," she said.
Again, for Catherine it all comes back to people. For her, it’s not about the flashy titles she earned as President and Vice President of two different clubs or the job she’s continuing onto after graduation, or all of the amazing things she’s learned along the way.
“Something that I’m really proud of is to have people that I can count on, people that I can trust, and people that can make me laugh. Personally, that’s the biggest thing.”