I had a good friend call me the other day to tell me that she landed a TV gig she’d been hoping to get for years. I’d been working on and off with this particular person for several years to perfect her on-camera skills. So when I received that call and heard the joy in her voice, it was great feeling to know that while I was not the reason she got the job, I was able to mentor her and help her achieve a goal. Its one of the true great feelings of contribution you can receive in life. So why do you ask did I help this person?
I was simply paying forward what had been done for me early in my career. I’ve had the great fortune of having great mentors in my life. Some were in sports, others in marketing and finances, in TV however, my first mentor was Nancy O’ Dell who is now the co-host of Entertainment Tonight. Hence why you see the photo of us above on the red carpet at the premiere of, “Me, Myself & Irene.” (And yes I had A LOT of hair at one time!).
It was the year 2000, I was part of the research department at Access Hollywood which is on the NBC Studios lot in Burbank, CA. Since our offices and studios were in separate buildings, I would frequently be asked to run over to the studio to help out. Every time I did, I always took an extra few minutes to sit in the green room with Nancy and pick her brain about the TV business. She used to tell me how she remembered being a one-man band news reporter in South Carolina and having to measure her on-camera height with the lighting equipment before she rolled on a take. No matter how outrageous the questions I would ask, she always had a good answer for me. She wasn’t just some beauty queen who was given a job, she had been through the trenches and earned her way to a national TV hosting job at just 28 years old.
Several years later when I was working on-air myself in West Virginia, Nancy was hired as the host of Nashville Star, a country music reality competition started a few years after American Idol. She invited me down to Tennessee to be backstage with her for a taping of the show. She showed me all the ropes of hosting, from the pre-production meeting in the trailer, to pre-show warm ups and of course the live national taping. It was a super cool experience and one I won’t soon forget.
As a side note, I distinctly remember being backstage that night with one of the competitors on the show. She was a young and frightened blond country music singer who was just hoping to get in the top 3. You may know her by now, Miranda Lambert.
I still consider Nancy a wonderful friend and mentor. She always had great charm and was very willing to give me any advice and opportunities if they crossed her path. At one point, she introduced me to her agent at the time, Ken Linder who is legendary in the TV agent biz.
I fully believe that she is one of the most successful hosts in TV today because of her willingness to help out people like me. The truth is, when you have someone like Nancy in your life that’s willing to go out of their way to help you, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity and be gracious to that person in return. After all, they see something in you that other people might not. And when the opportunity to help someone else pops up, do us all a favor and pay it forward by mentoring them.