The fabulous Taryn Southern is one of the most respected TV show hosts and red carpet journalists in Hollywood today. Taryn has hosted shows and flagship award show red carpets for outlets including ABC, NBC, DirecTV, and CBS produced by companies such as Dick Clark Productions and Reveille. However, her real passion lies in bridging the gap between online entertainment and traditional entertainment. A lot of the hosting she’s done recently has involved interacting with fans in real time through Twitter and Facebook. Here she speaks with me about making it as a TV show host and becoming a red carpet queen!
1. How did you start your career in the celebrity and entertainment world and how did you get to where you are now?
Fortunately, I attended school in Miami, which allowed me a lot of opportunities for interviews at smaller film premieres, fashion shows, and major entertainment and sporting events such as the MTV Movie Awards and the NCAA championships. I would usually call a publicist and explain that I was with a local media outlet, and that I would like to secure a spot on the red carpet or an interview with__x__ celebrity. Because I wasn’t dealing with the NYC/LA hustle, people were generally very friendly and gave me the time of day. I would then find an aspiring DP on campus and invite them to come do the shoot with me, so that we would both have something for our reels. By the time I was done with my second year of school, I had interviews with celebs like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Shaquille O’Neil, Nicole Ritchie, and Roberto Cavalli on my college reel. This was enough to get me noticed by an agent in LA. He saw my reel, thought I had been doing professional hosting for at least a year, and signed me. The rest? A lot of auditions, networking, and timing. I’ve since hosted several pilots for MTV and the ION network, red carpets for the American Music Awards, Golden Globes, and Young Hollywood Awards, as well as worked consistently for online/cellular outlets like Cosmopolitan Magazine, Heavy.com, MSN, MySpace, Lockerz, and AT&T U-Verse.
2. What skills does a celebrity journalist need to be successful at their job?
Thick skin, knowledge of the industry, and the ability to think on your toes. Thick skin because you often have to deal with difficult egos – either from the publicist, agent, celebrity, or all three! Knowledge of the industry is a MUST – if you don’t know what’s going on in a celebrity’s personal life, and you ask an offensive or sensitive question, your interview is over – and this is a poor reflection on you and the outlet you are working for. And finally, the ability to think on your feet. Sometimes you’ll be on a red carpet and have no idea who a certain celebrity is that you are interviewing — but you should still be able to hold a conversation and ask interesting questions. I do a lot of live broadcasts, so many times I’m asked to fill dead air time. When this happens during major award shows, I’ll read up on the nominees and their work so that I have enough to talk about for several minutes. Doing your homework is imperative.
3. How has journalism changed in the past five years (social media, twitter, facebook) you’ve been doing this?
Journalism is much more interactive than it was five years ago. Fans and readers now have the ability to react in real time. I often interact with fans during live shows (if the outlet allows) to find out what they would like me to ask celebs. I also try to keep a blog regularly – www.taryntogo.com – so that people can see what happens before, after, and behind the scenes of anything I do in the entertainment industry. Celebrities are doing the same now as well – so it’s important for journalists to stay on top of the curve by being active in social media.
4. What’s the best and worst thing about being involved in the celebrity journalism industry?
Best? Meeting lots of interesting people and being able to attend the gift suites and post-parties for big award shows or events. Worst? Waiting for celebs to arrive on the red carpet, especially if it’s freezing cold outside. That, and dealing with angry publicists.
5. What advice do you give to any budding celebrity journalism / presenters out there wanting to start their careers?
If you want to be on camera, put together a GREAT reel. This is your ticket to getting a good agent. If you don’t have access to celebrities in your hometown, figure out your own unique take on events happening in your area (i.e. A County Eating Contest). Don’t be afraid to show your personality. Be funny. If irreverence is your thing, be irreverent! Uniqueness is rewarded. If you’d rather stay behind camera, be smart and persistent. Start a blog where people can go to read your interviews. Earn a following. Be active on social profiles like Twitter and Facebook. Don’t be afraid to put yourself and your writing out in the world!
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Got a question for Taryn?
Email it to me at james at jamesswanwick.com.