Most of the stars at the E! channel are what we would call the all American girl, blonde with blue eyes. However, the two most popular eyes are deep brown and belong to the Greek American TV hostess of “Daily Ten” Debbie Matenopoulos. “Despoinio”, as her Grandma from Greece calls her , presents many red carpet events and of course the Oscars and the Golden Globe Awards for E! channel. In her office a the E! there is Madonna’s guitar with an autograph on it from the singer. Our hope for a normal interview went away when we met her and discover that she is not that type of person. She had just finished the recording for “Daily Ten” and Snoopy Dog was interrupting us with the sms he was sending to Debbie. She was in the mood for an informal discussion which lasted three hours and only some excerpts fit here:
About her Family and the U.S.A.
“I was born in Richmond, Virginia, but all the members of my family were born in Greece. Most of my relatives are from the Greek cities of Xanthi, Naoussa, Thessaloniki, and Athens. My father knew a Greek named Jim who had immigrated to Richmond. They met in the Greek Army and then my Dad thought that it would be a good idea to immigrate, too. My dad always likes change. One day he comes home and says to my mom “ Get ready, we are leaving.” She asks him where he wanted to go and he replies South Africa. My mom told him that he was out of his mind. Fortunately they did not give them visa so they decided to go where “Jim” was in Richmond, Until today I have never met Jim.
From Virginia to MTV
“When I was 17 I was already in college studying journalism and I was working for a local radio station. At that time I sent my resume to many TV shows and I was hoping I will get hired as an intern. One evening the phone rang and it was a lady from MTV, who asked me if I could go to New York for an interview. When I heard the proposition I almost fell down, I could not believe it. My mom was crying and was saying “ where are you going, where is my baby going?” Finally, I went , they saw me, they liked me and I stayed. I was living alone in New York and somebody from MTV helped me to transfer from my college in Virginia to NYU. What else could I ask for? Even if I would die the next day, I didn’t care. I did not have much money so when I wanted to go to the clubs-and that was a lot- I wasn’t eating just to save money for my admission to the clubs. In MTV I was doing whatever I was told, from presenting shows to making copies.”
Her first serious job
“I was in a club and a friend of mine who was working fro Barbara Walters suggested to go to an audition for co-presenting her show. I did not pay attention to what he was saying, and agreed to go. My hair was pink because I had to be ‘punk’ for a character I was doing in MTV. Next day I was in the waiting room for the audition and I was embarrassed because of my hair color. The more I was waiting the worse I was feeling with my appearance and finally I open the door to walk away. At that moment the studios door opens and Barbara calls me. We co-hosted a show for two years and then I came to LA. I worked for TV Guide Channel, Fox and now I am working for E! and Style.
“My husband is not Greek, but me and my family made him Greek. We baptized him in the Greek church and we had a Greek Wedding. He wanted to go to Greece for honey moon and this is what happened. I wanted to go to Italy for a month and then to spend some time in Greece, too. I had warned him that from our first hour in Greece people will start feeding us , we will put 20 pounds, and everybody is going to tae care of him like he is a little kid. He said he didn’t care and he wanted to go. We went and liked it a lot that , everybody was taking care of us, but of course he could not understand anything. People could say anything they wanted, even make fun of him in front of him, and he didn’t care. All the time though, he was asking me to translate. For three weeks I was a translator and I regretted it we didn’t go to Italy.
About the TV in Greece
“I always wanted to have a show on the Greek TV. My parents came here from Greece and I want to go back and work there. One day I was watching a Greek show where they were interviewing a Greek-American girl who –as they said- was involved in the American fashion industry . I have been working on US networks for thirteen years I had never heard of her. Many times I see people on the Greek TV who say that are important in the US, but actually nobody knows them. Why did they invite these people and they have never invited me?”
Her relationship with her co-hosts
“We have a very good relationship. If you are not friends –in a way- with the other hosts you cannot have a show with them. On the other hand it is called ‘show business’ not ‘show friends’, and you are here to make money and build a career not to make friends.”
The Gossip Magazines
“I really enjoy reading gossip magazines. I read them and think oh, look what she did, or he did , and then I turn the page and she my face and an article that is not true, but I don’t care. I call my friends and we are making fun of the fake stories.
“In LA there is not a place where they sell real Greek Gyros. I think is a great idea to start a business selling gyros. I will bring many famous people to eat. Seriously we can make a lot of money. I want to start some kind of business a some point of my life. The other time I was thinking to build a hotel in Greece , have many celebrities to come stay for free, and then I will sell their news stories to magazines like ‘People’. In the future I want to live in Greece.
“The job I do is not for soft people. You have to know that somebody who is smarter, more beautiful, or have better connections in the industry can take your job any moment. You have to accept it as something obvious because this is the nature of show business.
“I say whatever I want. I don’t care about what others will say. If something is true I will say it in the way I like it, even if some people will complain. Political correctness has become stupidity in the U.S. Some people have taken the term to the extreme.”
“I did not change when I became famous, and maybe this is because I did not have a chance to act differently. I wasn’t born in a famous family and even now when I visit my parents’ home everybody behaves as before. I work in the house, clean and then we all go together to our family friend, Thalassic, as we always did. In public people recognize me but I don’t change my behavior just because of this.