Growing up, Melissa Sapini knew she wanted to work in entertainment journalism, and since starting at Suffolk University, she’s had the chance to try out that career—along with many other experiences.
Sapini, 20, is currently a sophomore at the Suffolk, and along with working for Suffolk University News, she’s also reported for Dirty Water TV, which airs on the New England Sports Network. She joked it was her participation in the Miss Mass USA and Miss Mass Teen USA pageants that kicked off this new career. During her junior year at North Attleborough High School, while taking part in the Miss Mass Teen USA pageant, her coach was a reporter for NESN. Meeting her, Sapini said, showed her exactly where she wanted to work.
“I don’t know how I’m going to get there, but I just knew I wanted to do it,” she said.
While a freshman at Suffolk, Sapini was working at the school’s news studio and spoke with the manager, a cameraman for TD Bank North Garden and friends with a producer at NESN. He even offered to put in a good word, should she want to reach out.
“I never ended up doing that,” she said with a laugh.
Time passed, and in March of 2022, Sapini was in another pageant where she met with the producer from NESN. The two began talking and the next day, Sapini received details on her first assignment for Dirty Water TV, an interview for a new restaurant in Boston. Sapini said the experience was an amazing opportunity, in part because at 19, she was among the youngest reporters to work for NESN.
“I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was until I was actually doing it,” she said.
Since then, Sapini has done a number of assignments for Dirty Water TV, including an interview with Jack Hendler, co-owner of Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers, a feature on The Lobster Bar in Newport, R.I., sports coverage and much more.
“I feel like I’ve dabbled into like a lot of different things,” she said. “So, it’s basically just nightlife in Boston, you know, events and restaurant openings, popular restaurants. It’s just been pretty cool.”
A Boston education
Sapini said her work with NESN has been strong preparation for an eventual move to Los Angeles to work for E News, a lifelong goal. She’s been part of the industry since age 6, when she began modeling and then acting since she was 13. It’s in this field that she’s at her most confident and can let her personality shine through.
Sapini is also an avid consumer of E News’ content and felt this would be the career for her. This factored into her choice of colleges, as she wanted to go to one with a strong broadcast journalism program. Suffolk had always been on her mind—not only for its programs, but because it offered her the chance to live in Boston. Along with Suffolk, Sapini looked at many other schools, including Emerson. She even looked at colleges in California, since it aligned with her goal of moving out west
“I knew that there were certain jobs that I wanted to do. I had some goals in mind that I want to do in downtown (Boston),” she said. “So, it really was just trying to figure out how to achieve those goals but also stay in a location where I can do that.”
Sapini said that being in Boston has offered all sorts of opportunities, and not just professionally. Prior to moving to the city, she hadn’t had much experience there, and said life in Boston has been very different to what she had in North Attleborough. Getting to walk in areas she had learned about through her high school classes—such as the Freedom Trail—has been amazing.
“It’s really a ‘full circle’ moment,” she said. “I would just say every single day, being able to live there and just being close to everything.”
When asked about her favorite Boston spots, Sapini said the North End and its many food choices has been a regular destination. But beyond that has been the Lit Boutique, a women’s clothing store with a location on Boston’s Newbury Street. Sapini has been doing photoshoots for the store since moving to Boston and loves getting to work for a brand that she’s a big fan of.
“Everything is so new and you just never know what opportunities you can get,” she said. “You don’t know who you’re going to run into. It’s really cool.”
On the stage and screen
Along with being in broadcast TV and a regular modeling gig, Sapini has continued her pageant work with the Miss Massachusetts USA and Miss Massachusetts Teen USA competitions. While she didn’t place high enough to move on to Miss USA 2023, Sapini enjoyed being a part of the shows and the different people she’s met. Each time she’s placed higher than before, getting closer to being part of the Miss Universe pageant. She said she’s improved each time, whether it’s in her confidence to succeed or becoming more well-spoken, which also helps with TV work.
“For me, it’s really just being able to use that platform to not only be passionate about my platform when I’m in pageantry—which is being able to advocate for high quality and diverse reading materials within Boston public schools—but to also be able to advocate for my career goals and hopefully being able to one day, you know, achieve that,” she said.
Perhaps one of the biggest milestones of the last two years was being part of a commercial in October 2021 for Six Flags New England, located in Agawam, Mass. This happened through Dynasty International Models in Boston and took place during Sapini’s freshman year of college. Being part of the commercial—which featured Sapini and others enjoying the park’s rides and games—meant she was being seen on a global scale. This included making a TikTok dance video, something Sapini joked wasn’t her strongest skillset.
“I don’t know how I got the job in the first place,” she said. “I guess they liked it and it worked out.”
Arriving at the park, she realized the entire place had been closed for the commercial and found her wardrobe already laid out. Seeing the cast she’d work with, plus many extras in the background, made her aware of the scale of this commercial. When mistakes were made, the process had to start from the beginning, including resetting all the rides which extras were on.
All told, the filming ran from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. for a commercial approximately 30 seconds long, along with posters of stills from the commercial that were used in posters and marketing materials. While stressful, Sapini said it was a lot of fun.
“It just makes you realize how much goes into making one small and fast commercial,” she said.
A balancing act
Between modeling, her work for NESN and school, Sapini has a very full plate. It’s not a new experience, since in high school she had a similar workload, balancing classes, sports, pageant work and more. She said that it’s a lifestyle she’s adapted to and what keeps her going is knowing her friends and family have her back every step of the way. Her mother and grandmother are both immigrants from Haiti and gave her a life where she’s been able to pursue her dreams.
“My faith right there, that just keep me going and even when things get hard, just being able to understand my priorities and give myself a break,” she said.
With so much responsibility comes a lot of stress, said Sapini, and she’s learned the importance of giving herself time to recharge amidst all that she does. It’s a challenge at times, juggling so much, and she said having the self-awareness to take a step back has been important.
In the next few years, Sapini said the focus will be on finishing her time at Suffolk and continuing to work for NESN and Dirty Water TV. After college, she may remain in Boston or be off to California with hopes to intern with E News.
“I’m not completely sure because everything’s so stressful—going to school, having a job, but I’m able to manage it,” she said. “I think it will definitely pay off in the end and I think that’s what’s that’s what makes it a little better for me.”