"So Justina, what's your dream career?"
"I want to be Ellen Degeneres."
I've had this conversation hundreds of times. The question changes in format: "Who's your role model?" "Where do you see your life in 10 years?" "Who is your dream interview?" and the person asking has ranged from higher-ups to anchors and morning show hosts, but the answer is always the same: Ellen. She's not just a really amazing human being I'd love to sit and have ice cream with, she's an idea. The idea that one person, with good humor, an open mind, and an understanding that snack breaks are needed at award shows, change the way millions of people think. She owns who she is, and has used it as way to forge new paths, not just for herself, but for me -- not exactly an obvious recipient.
Here are a few things I've learned during the 4:00 hour on ABC:
You can be funny without being mean. You can make fun without hurting someone's feelings. You can talk for five straight minutes about J-Lawr falling upstairs without her feeling targeted. Dance if you want to, and eventually everyone else will too. Give away gifts and play silly games. Do it in Converse. Talk to anyone you'd like. Give people a platform. Host two little girls for a tea party. Give good teachers more books so they can be even better. Be who you are and never apologize for it.
Ellen has strongly influenced my career goals (of being her), and the way I work to achieve them. I love doing interviews for my blog. Not just because I'm nosy, but because I love to hear about other people's lives. You wouldn't realize it, but we all do basically the same things every day, just with a different perspective. When I do an interview, I get that perspective. Ellen taught me that. Sure, we can talk about your new album, but tell me about the funniest thing that happened when you were recording it, too. I know you're not just a face on a tabloid, you're a person that has to walk through an airport and see that face on a tabloid too. An interview shouldn't be a way to pry into someone's life, digging up secrets and the past. It should be a way to learn something new about someone and who they are. Also, to tell them who you ship them with and/or frighten them with Chippendales, as Ellen has done several times.
Everyone talks about Oprah. Oprah this, Oprah gave this person a car, Oprah that. But no one ever says "Oprah made me spit Sprite across the living room talking about the weather." Ellen has. Her Oscars hosting was the greatest television event of 2014. If you don't believe me, you're wrong/Neil Patrick Harris.
So thank you, Ellen. I'm coming for your job, an interview and also ice cream (if you're interested).