A few people have asked me how Katie Couric found out about me. While I’d like to say it’s because she’s an avid reader of this blog, that would be an epic lie. In fact, I am 125 percent confident Katie Couric had never heard of me before Wednesdays taping and will in all likelihood never think of me again but let us not dwell on that.
Her producers got my name from my close friend Anna Holmes, founder of Jezebel.com and a fellow writer/author. Anna and I first became close when we worked together at Glamour magazine then a few years later at the tabloid Star. We’d pass each other in the hallways wearing equally bemused expressions, like, now why are we working here again?
Katie producers were looking for a women’s magazine veteran, someone with insight into that industry, but Anna was unavailable so she gave them my name as an alternate. The producer I spoke to liked my story [recounted in my book Rurally Screwed, buy your copies today]– how I went from Cosmo to the country, and the simplification of my life along the way — and thought I’d be a good fit with the other author in the segment, Phoebe Baker Price, author of The Beauty Experiment. Next thing I knew, I was bombing up to NYC in my dusty 4×4 Toyota pickup truck and checking into the famous Algonquin Hotel; two worlds collided.
Every time I go up to New York I feel like more of a tourist. The city has a way of shedding a skin, making it feel new and different to the point of unrecognizable with each passing visit. See: Guy Fieri’s new Times Square restaurant, located just down the block from the Algonquin.
A few other fun facts about the taping:
1) I wasn’t entirely make-up free
I know, I know — it defeats the purpose of an episode about abandoning cosmetics to appear on camera wearing foundation, concealer and a swipe of gloss but COME ON! Despite what you may think, I am not a bag lady. I do not live in a tent. I’m not about to go on national television sporting big country eye bags deep enough to stash eggs in, an evil goat hair sprouting from my chin and a bloody scratch from Solha on my nose. The staff makeup artist and I agreed on a very minimal, natural though “camera ready” look which turned out to be the best professional makeup job I’ve ever had. Every other time I’ve been professionally made up, I leave the chair feeling like Tammy Faye Baker’s second cousin off to make it big in Gatlinburg.
2) It’s pronounced “KERR-IC,” not “CORE-IC.”
My mom is the one who corrected me on this. She used to be a die hard Today Show watcher when Katie KERR-IC was co-anchor. I had the pronunciation corroborated by the staff makeup artist before I went on set.
3) I spent two days freaking out I had offended Katie Couric on national television
The most excruciating moment during the segment was when I revealed to Katie that I remember going through celebrity photographs for the infamous “Stars Without Makeup” feature for Star magazine and seeing her makeup-free visage. I told her she never made the final cut because she never looked “bad enough.” The audience audibly gasped. Katie told me to go back to Virginia. My soul died.
For the next two days before the segment aired, I wanted to throw myself off a bridge. I had been trying to pay her a compliment — an admittedly clumsy, hackneyed one — but the phrasing came out all wrong. I meant to say, “You never made the cut because you always looked too good.” Instead, I said “bad enough,” and “bad enough” just sounds, well, bad.
During the break, I apologized to Katie. She didn’t seem to care but I was convinced she was just being nice before I was ushered off set and thrown into a large fire. After the segment, I apologized to her producer who took it in stride and told me that if Katie truly didn’t like the unprompted moment, she would have it cut it from the final episode.
I left the ABC studios in a panic — what kind of jerk offends America’s sweetheart on her own show??? I called Jake, I called three of my closest friends, I called my agent and explained to them what happened. Each assured me in their own way it wasn’t that big of a deal with an overriding subtext of “you are kind of a jackass” and I shouldn’t lose sleep over it.
I didn’t sleep for two days. By the time I made it back to Virginia, I was a wreck. The day the episode was slated to air, a few close friends, my mom, Jake and I assembled at Applebees (which leads me to another fun fact)….
4) None of my friends have cable television or even TV so we all had to watch the episode at Applebees
The Stars Without Makeup bit approached; I actually had to hold Jake’s hand in the lead up, I was so nervous. But they aired it! She didn’t cut it. And it didn’t come across as offensive or rude, just jokey and, um, kind of stupid. That she left it in suggests she felt similar? Maybe? Hopefully? Wishful thinking? Maybe I’ll stop talking now?
All in all, I’m happy with the way the segment turned out. Katie Couric and her team are so impressive, and they make it all look so easy. But the moral of the story is
5) Never, ever, EVER say anything remotely rude or offensive to a treasured American icon….especially on camera.
I can’t believe I actually just had to write that that, but life is full of obvious lessons for idiots, yes?