On taking action, rescuing dogs, and relaxing at the dentist
I consider myself to be a busy person. A juggler. A multitasker. Or, at least, I did. That all changed when my phone rang and it was Maria Menounos on the other end. Special Correspondent with Access Hollywood, contributor to The Today Show, correspondent for NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, host of Hollywood Green, film producer, entrepreneur, author, humanitarian, and passionate animal issues advocate, Maria taught me a lot in a single hour. Like, for a truly busy person, there’s nothing more relaxing than a trip to the dentist.
MD: So, you’re a bit of an underachiever.
Don’t you ever get the urge to actually do
something with your life?
MM: I know!
MD: You’re originally from Greece?
MM: My parents are. I was born just outside of Boston.
MD: Is it true you didn’t speak English until the third grade?
MM: Well, it was probably more like the first grade when I
really started getting a grasp of it. My parents didn’t speak any
English. I taught them.
MD: I understand you worked as a janitor in nightclubs? Do
you think that explains your work ethic?
MM: Yeah, definitely. We did that as a family. My parents
couldn’t afford babysitters so they brought us with them to the
nightclubs. It was just out of necessity. From the time I was
old enough to hold a broom, that’s what I did. But I made it
fun. I would have little competitions to see how fast I could
put the trash bags in the trash barrels. I would bring my roller
skates and listen to Material Girl. I learned how to work hard
from a young age.
MD: What is it about a hectic schedule you gravitate
MM: I’ve always found I’m happiest when I’m
red-lining. Even though in the moment you’re
freaking out, you’re so excited about the accomplishments.
And for me, right now [in addition to
on-air work], I’m producing a feature film, writing
a book, and I just launched an eco-clothing line
called LIV GRN. Every minute of my day is jam
packed until midnight. I am so blessed to be able to do all
this—to be healthy enough to do all of this—and to have the
opportunities. I don’t know how long all of this will last, so
I might as well cram it all in and get the most out of it. You
never know what tomorrow brings. So if I want to pull my
hair out once every month or two, so be it.
MD: You sound pretty convivial for someone who’s redlining.
MM: I had a dentist appointment before this and it was like
a vacation. I got to sit in the dentist chair and watch TV. I was like, this is amazing! I never get to sit
down for two hours and watch TV.
MD: Ahh, the dentist. It’s like a facial for
MD: You remain the only journalist
to conduct an interview with the entire
Obama family. What did that interview
mean for you?
MM: It rounded off six months of interviews
with candidates and their kids. When
I finished the Obama interview, I remember
going to the airport, and my eyes were
welling up because they were really genuine
people. They were genuinely warm.
And the kids were absolutely darling. I
loved them. For me, it was just a really
nice end to months of these interviews.
MD: At 22, you were one of the youngest
people to host Entertainment Tonight.
What advice can you offer when it comes
to achieving dreams?
MM: My dad always used to say that
you could do whatever you put your mind
to. And growing up cleaning nightclubs, I
had nowhere to look but up. So I believed
him. If you put your mind to it, and stick
with it, and know that it’s not always going
to be easy…you’ll get there.
MD: Can you tell us about Take Action
MM: My motivation to start Take Action
Hollywood was a trip to South Africa. I did
a three-part series on the AIDS epidemic.
It was an emotional trip. I came back and
realized there was something bigger I could
do. So I co-founded Take Action Hollywood
with my business partner. Our mission is
to raise social awareness through the entertainment
industry—a pooling together of
the resources of Hollywood. To get people
talking and to contribute. I wanted it to be
an umbrella for many social causes. I didn’t
feel comfortable with it being about one
thing when I’m passionate about so much.
MD: What animal issues are closest to
MM: All of them! But pet adoption is the
biggest. I really try to encourage people to
rescue rather than purchase dogs. When I
first came to LA, I didn’t know there was
this huge pet overpopulation problem, but I
started volunteering at the Humane Society,
got a posse of dogs, and have been spreading
the word ever since. Dogs bring us so
much joy every single day. They deserve to
be treated well. Right now, with the economy,
there are so many beautiful dogs being
turned in [to shelters] because families are
MD: How many dogs do you have in
MM: I used to have five. I only have
four now, unfortunately. I lost my baby
Noelle in January. She was a quadriplegic
apricot Miniature Poodle. She was like my
infant. It was horrible, I’d never lost a dog.
Right now, the four I have at home are
Baby and Benjamin—they’re Bichons. I
have Athena, a Poodle. And Apollo is a
white German Shepherd; he was thrown
out of a moving car in front of the shelter.
It was tragic.
Athena’s is the real story though. I was
doing a segment about puppy mills for
the Today Show. As we pulled up to this
shelter that had rescued dogs from a local
puppy mill, I looked at my producer and
made a pact with him that I would not take
a dog home. So we decided we would do
all the interviews outside. And who walks
by me for her walk, but Athena! She was in
rough shape. She was at the puppy mill for
five years. She was a breeding female stuck in an over-crowded kennel. She just came
over and collapsed in my arms and… she
was my dog. I flew her from Pennsylvania
to California. She’s an incredible girl.
MD: In the movie of your dogs’ lives,
who would you cast to play each of them?
MM: Apollo is brave and courageous—
he has rescued my Bichons out of the pool.
So we’d need an action hero who is always
happy. Gerard Butler! He is gorgeous and
you can tell he’d be there in a moment to
Benjamin just wants to be on someone’s
lap. He’s very loyal and he doesn’t leave
my side. Maybe Seth Rogen.
Baby is… well, I guess I would play
Baby. She’s an independent tomboy, but
she also likes being in a princess dress.
And Athena is soulful and delicate and
has had so much pain in her life. Charlize
Theron would be Athena; she has the
MD: What do you tell people who might
otherwise not consider rescue?
MM: I always tell them the myths are
false. There are dogs out there that have
been dumped because of horrible circumstances…
people going into old age homes,
or having to downsize… these perfectly
wonderful animals that lived on a velvet
pillow are now in the big house. I have
beautiful babies that are rescues. Each of
my dogs is amazing. I have a special bond
with them all.