Omar's colleagues remember him as "kind," "a force of positivity," "whip-smart," and "driven."

By Jillian Sederholm
June 08, 2021 at 03:12 PM EDT
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Omar Sanchez
Omar Sanchez joined EW in 2019 and quickly earned the respect of his colleagues.
| Credit: Omar Sanchez

The first time I remember meeting Omar Sanchez in the EW office, I walked away thinking, "This kid is gonna be way too much for me." He was wearing flashy red pants, had boundless energy, and a constant smile plastered on his face - pretty much my exact opposite. He projected the kind of sustained enthusiasm that made me suspicious there must be some catch and he was about to try to recruit me for something. But the catch was how wrong I was, and how quickly he won us all over with his youthful spirit and genuine interest and appreciation for everything and everyone around him.

As soon as he joined us in 2019, his positivity was contagious and brought a light to our newsroom. He was such a people person, the type who would be first in the room for a meeting and greet everyone with a lively "Good morning!" as they walked in. You had no choice but to want to match his energy, even when it felt like you needed at least four more espresso shots to catch up. I would often observe him and think, "Man, I wish I could be more like that." When he asked you how you were, it never felt like rhetorical politeness; he'd make eye contact and actually listen to your answer, always ready with a laugh and to tell you he'd checked out that show or movie or podcast you'd mentioned last time (the one person to listen to my constant pleas for everyone to watch A.P. Bio and then turn into more of a stan than me!).

Omar was my go-to "resident young person" whenever I encountered some new slang that made me feel like I was 100 years old and trying to learn a foreign language. He patiently explained terms like "yeet," "simp," and "horse girl" in ways my elderly-Millennial brain could comprehend. I thought I'd return the favor by explaining what we did to entertain ourselves before the creation of YouTube, but one of the things that delighted me most about Omar was I rarely needed to. I like to give some of my 1990s-born colleagues a hard time for not knowing every pop culture reference from before they were even potty-trained, but as one of the younger people in the office, Omar constantly surprised me with his references to plotlines from Cheers, old SNL sketches, and, most notably, the time he instantly recognized an eight-second instrumental in Pete Davidson's Netflix special as the opening beat of Eddie Murphy's 1985 song "Party All the Time."

"How the hell did you know that?" I asked him, stunned. "I'm a VH1 baby!" he replied, explaining he was glued to the network's I Love the '80s and '90s series as a kid, devouring every morsel about entertainment that came before his time. He had an appetite for wanting to know and experience more that he never lost.

Omar exuded such genuine appreciation for being able to do what he loved, always seeking opportunities to grow, offering to help out on things even when he didn't know anything about the topic. He cherished interviewing some of his favorite comics - Jerry Seinfeld, John Mulaney, Michelle Buteau - getting an exclusive from the stars of his beloved Scrubs, or calling a 71-year-old game show host a "supermarket daddy" after discussing fans with foot fetishes. But he was just as excited tackling something completely outside his wheelhouse and to be able to learn more about it. He was never afraid to pitch an out-there idea for a story and was always reliable when I needed someone to watch an interview clip to help come up with potential angles, always trying to find some interesting connection I wouldn't have even thought of.

One of the last conversations I had with Omar was when he called me on a Saturday afternoon to ask for some advice on how to improve as a writer since he was still fairly new to the field and having some self-doubts. I told him that technical skills and the fundamentals of journalism were all things that could be tackled with practice, but that being inquisitive, being passionate, and the desire to seek out that interesting nugget beyond the most obvious story were all harder skills to come by - and also the first things that came to mind when I thought about working with him.

When I think about the day we'll all finally be back in the office together, learning how to navigate being within six feet of one another again, all I can think about is the heartbreaking void of Omar not being there to greet us in the conference room before meetings or to watch a screener of a stand-up special together or to tell me if I'm using the word "cheugy" correctly. To quote one of his faves, J.D. on Scrubs: "The truth is, it is all your memories - the joyful ones and the heartbreaking ones - that make up who you are as a person." Even in the short time we were able to call him our colleague and our friend, Omar made a lasting impression that I know we will all carry with us in our memories when we are back together in the newsroom and beyond.

Read on to see how Omar impacted the lives of his EW (and Meredith-wide) family.

I had the pleasure of working with Omar not once, but twice. The first time we worked together was when he was an intern at The Hollywood Reporter, and he would join me and my fellow editors at the rollout table each week as we worked out how to put the print magazine online. Somehow, we came to learn that all of us enjoyed Gone Girl (both the book and the film), and Omar dubbed us the Gone Girl Book Club. The TV near the rollout table was always tuned to CNN, and after the 50th time of hearing Wolf Blitzer interrupt with a "breaking news alert," Omar started to make fun of it. Fast forward a bit and I was now at EW and thrilled to hear that he landed the editorial assistant position. My THR buddy was coming to EW! It took all of five minutes of him being in the office to Slack me with a Wolf Blitzer joke. That was quintessential Omar: Whether we were razzing each other about sports (our college teams both play in the Big 12 conference, and frequently play each other), or making jokes about CNN anchors, or sharing our big dreams, he was always bringing the joy. To know Omar was to know laughter, and goofiness, and - above all - pure kindness. I'll miss my friend. Gone Girl Book Club forever. -Lauren Huff

From his first day in the office, Omar was such a force of positivity. I remember so many fond memories of exchanging a smile and a quick catch-up in the kitchen. But my favorite Omar memory is over one of our shared passions - Harry Styles. When Styles released his latest album, Fine Line, Omar went to cover the release party, sharing so many fun stories and tidbits that we geeked out about the next day. It was the encapsulation of what made him a great teammate - showcasing his earnestness, his enthusiasm, his sense of fun, and his desire to get every detail right. I will miss that profusely. -Maureen Lenker

Look, it's not a news flash to say that many of us (myself included) have our grumpy days. But amazingly, Omar never did. Every morning, he seemed to roll off the Good Times truck and into his chair, where he cheerfully greeted anyone who walked within approximately 20.7 feet of his desk. My daily pastime was to yell OMAR! from my desk - partly because I loved saying Omar, and partly because I adored the guy who owned the name. I could always count on an effervescent response from the kid outside of [JD Heyman's] office who answered phones, booked appointments, fact-checked stories and interviewed the likes of Jerry Seinfeld and the daughter of PePe Le Pew's creator. Omar never cursed, either - a phenomenon I found foreign but refreshing, nonetheless. He brought joy to our crazy, mixed-up world. OMAR! I'll miss you. -Lynette Rice

Omar was one of a kind, bringing an amazing and, frankly, enviable level of enthusiasm and pride to his work at EW. Though I only edited a few of his stories during his time at the magazine (including this great interview with B.O.B.), he consistently looked for ways he could improve as a writer, interviewer, and fact checker. He also loved talking about music, and it was always a pleasure to deep dive with him on everything from Twenty One Pilots to Billie Eilish. I will miss having those conversations with him. -Alex Suskind

I work at Meredith's PEOPLE brand and served as more of a contributing editor at EW, so I wasn't a full-time colleague of Omar's - but he often made my day brighter and better anyway. In all the communications we had and times we were wrangling difficult scheduling challenges and changing priorities, he was professional, whip-smart, and funny. So often I get too busy with deadlines and workloads to stop and really savor or appreciate a co-worker's wit and intelligence, and in looking back now on some of our email communications and remembering our interactions, I wish I had done that more with Omar. He was always kind to me, always patient no matter what tedious question I was asking him, and he made me laugh. -Alicia Dennis

Whenever I got the chance to work with Omar, I knew that'd mean a certain level of dedication. He loved having deep conversations about getting a piece right, talking through angles and approaching his subjects with a unique combination of sensitivity and fun. I watched him grow as a reporter and a writer with each passing story, and it's devastating we can't keep watching him soar. He brought a rare, palpable enthusiasm to everything we did together. I'll always be grateful for that. -David Canfield (former EW staffer)

Omar was the first person I met on my first day at EW, and he made me feel immediately comfortable and welcome. Talking to him was so easy - he made you feel like an automatic best friend. Our desks used to be next to each other, and he was the absolute light of my life every day, even the bad ones. He was such a vibrant, bright presence no matter where he went, and I know everyone loved him. He was such a great writer, hard-working, and truly one of the most memorable people I've met. I feel very lucky to have known him. He will be very, very missed. -Meg Smitherman

Omar and I only overlapped at EW during his first few months on the job, but he remains a major presence in my memories of the office. Our desks were practically next to each other, and I can so vividly recall his sly smile curling up his cheek every time he overheard Lynette and I debating some ridiculous aspect of pop culture or Sam [Highfill] and I helping each other search for the perfect word to complete a headline. Most of the time, he politely pretended he couldn't hear us - but in an open floor plan you can hear everything, and he was never afraid to chime in if he had something useful (or funny) to add to the discourse. Even after we were no longer colleagues, we continued to touch base regularly, in part because of our shared love of Netflix's The Circle and Love Is Blind. Omar's observations were astute, his commentary witty, and his heart pure. I'll always remember his sly smile, and crack one of my own every time I hear that Circle "alert!" alarm and think of him. -Patrick Gomez

Omar was one of the friendliest, most open people I've ever met. He could talk to anyone about anything, and it never felt too small. In the past few days, as I thought about one of our last Slack conversations, I couldn't help but smile. Having both grown up in the early 2000s, we reminisced over Disney Channel computer games, the ones you can only find on archived sites these days, and he challenged me to beat his score in the Lilo and Stitch sandwich stacking game. I know that's probably not what Slack is supposed to be used for, but I had a blast. Whatever stress I was ruminating over in that moment, was gone. I felt like I was in middle school again. Don't get me wrong - Omar was a hard worker and ultra focused about his job. In his time at EW, I marveled at all the articles he wrote while helping out the team in so many other capacities (interviewing Jerry Seinfeld? I mean, come on, what a career highlight!). But he also kept you in the moment. He reminded me to have fun. And I want to remember him in that way. Kind, driven, and happy to revel in the small stuff. -Rachel Yang

Back in July of 2020, I came across this amazing headline on EW.com: "Supermarket Sweep host David Ruprecht says fans slide into his DMs for feet pics." Things got even better when I read the lede: "Okay zoomers, it's time to protect this supermarket daddy at all costs." It turns out, Omar was the wordsmith behind that piece, and I quickly sent him a note telling him how much the story made me laugh. He loved EW and pop culture and that came through in his writing. Rest in peace, Omar. -Kristen Baldwin

Omar is actually responsible for my Twitter handle. We'd first met to grab drinks months before either of us worked at EW because Omar DMed me a compliment on my writing, and was interested in comparing experiences. I was already impressed by his work, and how he was one of the top people reporting on podcasts, so I took him up on the offer. I forget how our conversation ended up on why I was still going by @MarcusJonesNY if I'd already lived in L.A. for a year, but as we were laughing about it, I was searching the app for alternatives and noticed whoever had @marcus_jones was suspended. Luckily enough (and sort of wanting to impress present company), I then reached out to some people who knew some people at Twitter, and the change was made within a week. My exchange with Omar after that, celebrating our small win, still makes me laugh. -Marcus Jones

My favorite memories of Omar have nothing to do with entertainment, or at least not the entertainment that most people at EW care about. If we were both being honest, our mutual true love was basketball. And that's a very rare thing at EW. My colleague Dan Snierson and I often joke that EW actually stands for "Ew, sports." So I can't tell you how welcomed Omar's slacks and kitchen run-in conversations about basketball were. We could talk about whatever wild game or moment happened in the previous night's NBA action, but mostly it always came back to our hometown teams. For me, it's the Boston Celtics and how quickly I could go from all-in to all-out on their championship chances, while for Omar, it was the Chicago Bulls and whether they could ever live up to the promise that we saw in their talented young players. I lost track of how many times I told him that my fellow University of Arizona alum Lauri Markannen had the potential to be a future star for the Bulls. I'm going to miss talking ball with Omar, and I'll be smiling and thinking of him when the Bulls finally return to the playoffs and we're getting crowd-pleasing dance moves from Benny the Bull or silky smooth threes from Lauri. But please just don't let it be against the Celtics! -Derek Lawrence

Omar had an infectious energy, a loud laugh, a warm and welcoming daily greeting that could make my less-than-stellar morning seem not so bad after all, an excitement for shows he loved that dared me to speak as passionately as him about the things I love. He was the first to tell me about upcoming comedy specials he had already watched, anxious to hear my thoughts about interviewing that comic; his love of Yellowstone was unexpected… and unmatched; his enthusiasm for The Circle extended beyond our debates about strategy to the point of him applying to be on the show. I have no doubt he would've made friends not by playing the game as a catfish but by just being himself. That's just who he was. That's who I'll miss. -Gerrad Hall

I'll never forget meeting Omar on his first day. He was so friendly and had the most amazing energy about him. Though he was the new guy in the office, he fit in immediately and it truly felt like he had been working at EW for years. Omar had plenty of responsibilities, but he was always the first one to volunteer to help out with anything as needed. He was eager to learn, and brought so much enthusiasm and passion to everything he did - whether he was interviewing one of his favorite stand-up comedians or disguising himself as the Weeknd in his "Blinding Lights" look for a Zoom happy hour. Omar was one of the good ones. I'll really miss him. -Rebecca Detken

Omar radiated warmth and kindness. He brightened every room he walked into and greeted everyone each day with a smile and kind word. In this new world of Zoom and Webex, he was the guy who always had a grin - always making an effort to engage with whomever was speaking. If you felt like you were talking to a void, you knew his smiling face would be there to focus on in a sea of boxes. His passion for our industry was palpable and infectious. His joy at working on a story or finding the perfect pop culture costume for a theme Zoom made others more joyful. He had such creativity and enthusiasm for our industry. -Brittany Kaplan

When I think of Omar Sanchez, I will always think of him smiling as he walked into the office or swiveling around in his chair and greeting everyone with a huge burst of energy and positivity each morning. "Hey guys, how's it going!? Good morning!" His energy was contagious and pure. His cheer was not there to impress others. It was simply part of who he was. He craved that extra interaction or joke whenever he could connect more with his colleagues and make them laugh. I will also remember Omar's consistent desire to learn and improve as a journalist. He was grateful for any piece of advice or feedback and welcomed it with an eagerness to tackle his next assignment with that knowledge. In a year full of transition and challenges for everyone, Omar was a consistent kind presence and bright light. He will be severely missed and there will be a big hole left when we finally return to the office. I'm so grateful that I got to know Omar even for a short time.  -Carolyn Cutrone

Whether it was exploring the literary themes of The Talented Mr. Ripley with a skillset that rivaled an English scholar or carrying a thought-provoking discussion with Jerry Seinfeld about his distinguished career, Omar had a passion for his work that was palpable. With a deep appreciation for a variety of subjects, and an eagerness to always learn more, he could craft pieces on pop culture, music, film, and TV with a fluidity that's seldom found. Not to mention his engaging and personable on-camera presence. Looking back at one of the last pieces he wrote, capturing the grief following the passing of Prince Philip, the quote featured in the headline, "It won't be the same without you," now has an added resonance and can be said of an industry now deprived of his work. -Justine Browning

In all my interactions with Omar, he was so enthusiastic and a pleasure to talk with. He once did an interview with John Mulaney and beforehand I spoke with Omar about potential questions and revealed what a fan I was. Later that day, he sent me part of the transcript where he asked John to say hi to me. He didn't have to do that, but it was so thoughtful and made my day. It came naturally for Omar to spread positivity in the office. -Erica Bonkowski

It's always been difficult for me to talk to - or about - Omar without dissolving into a huge grin or a fit of laughter within minutes, as he brought (and continues to bring) so much joy into my life. 2020 was a difficult year for everyone, yet from different time zones (I'm in New York, while Omar worked in California), Omar always made me and many others feel loved, supported, and happy. When my birthday approached in October, and I couldn't see any friends or family due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Omar mailed me a stuffed SpongeBob SquarePants (a nod to our shared childhood obsession) and sang "Happy Birthday" to me on FaceTime. That act of kindness was hardly unusual for Omar, who loved everyone around him so fiercely and selflessly. As he and I were reflecting on our hopes and dreams as journalists, Omar once said to me that he wanted his work to be "about going above and beyond and telling young people who used to be me (scared and shy) that the world is really okay if they can just express themselves." I hope everyone who is lucky enough to read his writing feels Omar's love and deep thoughtfulness behind it - I know I do, every day. -Morgan Smith

Omar's family has set up a GoFundMe page for his memorial. If you can, please donate.

Here's a selection of Omar's stories:

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