Maria Menounos ’00 is five feet, eight inches of sheer dynamic energy and success. In her newly published book, The Everygirl’s Guide to Life, she imparts her secrets on how to juggle life without dropping too many balls. She reveals everything from the best advice her parents ever gave her to what she calls “the most relaxing drink ever”: hot water. She visited the College on April 15 to sign copies of her book in the school bookstore. After that, she spoke with the Office of Communications and Marketing about life, her time at Emerson, and her mystical memory powers.
A lot of books offer advice geared to females. What makes your book stand out from the rest?
Well, I haven’t seen any of the ones that are out there right now because I’ve been so busy working on this one [laughs]. I think the key to this one is that I am the Everygirl—I’ve gone through all the same struggles that everyone else goes through. I didn’t have the foundation that you would expect or need to succeed in this business. My parents were immigrants to this country and they taught me so much, but they didn’t know how to deal with all of these career moves and how to handle all that. I was struggling along the way trying to keep it all together, and I tapped so many wonderful women and men to ask them, “How do you do it? How do you keep it all straight? How do you get it done without getting sick and falling over from exhaustion?” So after all these years of kind of bumping my head along the way to get it right and somehow still surviving and thriving in the business, I feel like I’m at a good point. Now a lot of women ask me for advice…“How did you lose the weight? How do you keep it together? How do you juggle it all?” and I’m at the point where I thought, You know what? I’m going to put this all in a book and store all this information. I love sharing it. I could go to these book signings and chat with people all day; but now I can just say, “Oh! That’s in chapter five. Don’t worry, it’s all there!”
What would you say is the most important piece of advice you give in the book?
It changes all the time, because there’s so much advice to give that’s important. My parents didn’t just give me one piece of advice that stuck with me, but my dad always told me, “If you work hard, you’ll always have a job.” And he said that you can do anything you put your mind to. I have a whole section of the book called “Mottos.” I don’t think it’s just one thing that defines who I am or the best advice I’ve ever gotten, because I’ve gotten a lot.
What does your Greek-American heritage mean to you?
I’m really proud of my heritage. Even when I wrestled in the WWE, I had this big Greek flag on my chest so my family back home could be proud. When the match aired, my parents had all my aunts and uncles visiting from Canada and we built them this huge screening room. When I came on the screen, my whole family saw this big Greek flag, and they were pumped.
We read that you used to work at Dunkin’ Donuts. What did that teach you about hard work and dealing with people?
I actually used to work at the Dunkin’ Donuts right downstairs [at Emerson]. I worked at so many. It’s funny, because growing up we were janitors in nightclubs, so when we worked it was just us as a family, and there was no one else around. It was a transition when I started working at Dunkin’ Donuts at 13. I worked there till I was 19, and I had a million jobs going on in between. Dunkin’s was fun because I definitely learned a lot about working with people and seeing the positives and negatives. I had a photographic memory, and the way the store was set up I would look out and see the cars pull in. So I’d memorize the license plate numbers without trying and I’d remember their orders. When my customers would come in, I would have their order ready on the counter, and they would be so excited because they would get to work on time or early because of it. I made more money in tips in a week than I did in my paycheck! I instantly learned the rewards of being prepared and going the extra mile for people, so now when I go to Dunkin’s and people are hiding in the back I actually give them lectures. I say, “When I worked here, I went the extra mile and I cared and it paid off! If you do, too, things will come to you!” And they give me these looks [laughs]. A couple of years after I started doing Entertainment Tonight, I ran into one of my regulars and was like, “Oh my God! Cream, no sugar!” and he almost passed out!
During your time at Emerson, were there any professors who really mentored you?
Absolutely. Doc [Anthony] Bashir was so instrumental to me in my first year in school in the FASP program, and thank God for that program or I would never have been at Emerson. Pete Chvany more than anyone else, because he got me involved in Emerson Independent Video and was always so encouraging. I was such a nerd. Well, not a nerd, just very professional. I’d go to Filene’s Basement and get one of those little suits and come in to do EIV and would play the role of a newscaster. He’d tell me I was the only one who went the extra mile and took it seriously and said it would pay off for me someday. And then freshman year, lo and behold, I won the EVVY for best newscaster along with another person. We tied, and I was the first freshman to ever get it. I think the good thing that I did was to always recognize the things that helped me achieve. So I kept sticking to those recipes for success along the way.
You’ve worked in journalism, film, and now you’re an author. Is there any kind of creative endeavor you haven’t tried that you’d want to?
On my last film, I actually got to shoot a little, which was amazing. So shooting and directing more would be fun. Picking up the camera was amazing.
The Everygirl’s Guide to Life is available in bookstores.
Photo Credits: Aja Neahring