Zuri Hall’s tips for bagging your dream TV job
Fancy yourself the next big presenter? Emmy award-winning TV host and E! News correspondent Zuri Hall was on our shores recently. We caught up with her to talk about what it’s really like to work for the biggest entertainment network and what it takes to make it in the industry.
How did you get your job at E!?
I was working for MTV in New York at the time and E! was interested in getting me to guest host Fashion Police with the late Joan Rivers. I flew down to LA and had the most amazing experience with Joan before she passed. I guess I was on their radar after that, and a year later my agent told me that there was an opportunity to meet with E! and explore the possibility of something more long-term. It was a whirlwind couple of days, full of interviews with different VPs, and meetings with some of the studio crew and the other talent and hosts. Not too long after that, I was offered a position. I packed up and moved to LA – I’ve been with the network for a year and a half now!
What did you study at university?
I studied strategic communication at Ohio State University. I minored in theatre and was really into acting and the arts. I was nearing the end of my studies when I became interested in journalism and took a few classes, but I never looked at hosting as a career. When I was about to graduate in 2010, I didn’t know what to do with my life, so I started Googling jobs and randomly found a posting about being the face of a local TV station. It was in a neighbouring state three hours away, so I drove up and auditioned. It was elimination style, and I ended up making it to the final round and received a one-year paid contract. That was my first TV gig.
What exactly do you do on E! News?
What I love most about working for E! News is that every day is different. For the most part, I’m there Monday to Friday and we’re taping the weeknight show, which airs at 7pm and 11pm. We go through the stories of the day and decide what makes it onto the show and what our viewers care about. Then there are a lot of red carpet events, so in the evening I’m covering movie premieres and events. During awards season it’s even crazier because we first have rehearsals and then the awards show days last anything from 12 to 17 hours!
What was your first red carpet event?
My first big carpet was the MTV Video Music Awards 2015, which I covered a month or two after joining. I’ve always been someone who enjoys conversation and is curious by nature, so that comes naturally. But I learnt on the carpets how to get the answers and how to make someone feel comfortable enough to open up and how to not come out swinging. We normally have an idea of what we want from the stars, but if we hear about exciting news, like someone having a baby, then we try and get them to talk about it. E! gives us the freedom to take the interviews where we want to take them.
What’s the most difficult part of your job?
The most difficult part is the thing that I love most about it, which is that it’s all over the place! One day you’re on a red carpet, the next day you’re at a premiere, and the next you’re travelling. It’s helped me to up my organisation game and I’m much better with time management, so I’ve been able to adapt to the crazy schedules. Now if I’m home for more than a day and a half, I don’t know what to do with myself – I get so bored!
What’s the biggest career mistake you’ve made?
I’m shy by nature and as a kid I was very reserved. No matter what station or network I was at, I was shy and would only come alive on camera. The biggest mistake I’ve made is not being vocal enough. Sometimes you need to speak up for the opportunities and say, “Hey, I would love to cover that event,” or “I have a really good idea for an interview.” That’s something I definitely do now, if I’m really excited about an artist or a film. Sometimes people don’t know and it’s not on their radar.
What are your tips for getting into the industry?
You can’t just be a talking head. You can’t just be a pretty face and read words because it’s so much more than that. I pride myself on being a content creator. I’m constantly creating my own content and pitching ideas to create content at E!. You just really need to have a point of view. Anyone can host or be a presenter by doing what they’re told, but if you can think about, “How does this affect me? How do I feel about that film? Why does this matter to me?” then you’ll go far. People enjoy watching certain presenters because they engage with their take and style. So develop that and viewers will either gravitate towards you or they’ll completely disagree, but at least you’re getting some kind of reaction. And stay on top of celebrity know-how, especially if you want to be in entertainment. You have to eat, sleep, and breathe pop culture.