Q&A: Maria Menounos, Host of Extra! and Oxygen’s Newest Reality Star
Medford’s own Maria Menounos is certainly everywhere these days; from cohosting Extra! alongside Mario Lopez, to bouncing between red carpets during awards season, and now preparing for an upcoming health and fitness book due out later this year. It’s fitting that her new reality show on Oxygen is dubbed Chasing Maria Menounos as it chronicles the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of living with her parents while also maintaining her relationship with longtime boyfriend Keven Undergaro.
In Tuesday’s episode, Menounos makes her homecoming to Medford, where she returns to past jobs in Boston (selling sausages!) and also revisits an emotional chapter in her life in the early stages of her relationship with Undergaro.
Here, Menounos spills on what it’s really like having the cameras on her around the clock, what makes her homecoming so sentimental, and her proudest moments on Chasing Maria Menounos.
So Tuesday’s episode revolves around your coming home to the Boston area. How often do you come home?
I would say a few times a year, but I’m always looking for openings even through work to get there. The sad part is [because of] my work schedule when I’m there—or my work schedule in general—I don’t get to be there as long as I would like to be. So that’s always tough, and I have such a large family so it’s hard to figure it all out.
What’s the weirdest part about returning home?
A lot’s changed. The more I come home, the more I realize just how beautiful a city Boston is, especially coming from L.A. I admire the trees, the greenery, and even the architecture more and more. Plus the completion of the Big Dig since I moved has made the city even more breathtaking. … I love the fact that I can just go from the North End to Faneuil Hall and have it not be a big deal.
In Tuesday’s episode, what areas/places do we see you visit around the city? Will you visit any local landmarks?
We go to perhaps Boston’s most famous sports landmark and, of course, we eat at some of my favorite restaurants, which I’ll let you see for yourself. This episode, our return home, was the most painful and could be the most poignant. It covers one the most difficult periods of our lives: what happened when Keven and I started dating. My family basically disowned me because Keven wasn’t Greek. In the aftermath of it all, it was just Keven, Joe Gear (who still lives with us and is also on the show), and I living in an unfinished basement, which you’ll see on the episode.
Back then, Keven never wavered in his belief that even though things were bleak, I’d be a star one day and that we just had to ride things out [until] he got my debts paid and got my résumé out to Hollywood. We shared a twin mattress on the floor just like Rocky and Adrian did in the movie Rocky—which we still watch together annually each Christmas. … When there was no technology to build a new, online broadcast network, Keven went out and created it. Then he launched AfterBuzz TV, an online broadcast network dedicated to producing after-shows for your favorite TV shows. It’s the largest new media platform on the web playing to a weekly audience of 22 million. But true to my form, and our relationship, I doubted him about that, too. He is also the driving force behind my EveryGirl brand.
The episode featuring our return home reminded me of those painful memories but also of what a visionary Keven is and what an incredible will he has. I am blessed to have him and Joe who protected me then and does so to this day. Incredibly, years later, when my family came to their senses and returned to my life, Keven never held a grudge or resented them for what they put him through. As much as he calls me his champion, the truth is he is mine. I hope people can see the same things I do in this episode: that Keven is the most creative, forward-thinking, generous, and courageous person I’ve ever known. And that I wouldn’t have all the many blessings without him.
Anything else you remember from those early days?
So when I first met Kevin, we were making a movie. And basically at some points, the movie was stolen and we had all these different issues with it. To save the movie, we all started selling sausages to pool our money together to save the film. Joe, who is on the show as well, was on the movie back then and so Kevin tricked me in this episode, and we go back to my old job selling sausages. And it’s a really, really great moment because you see me back in action.
… I think everyone in Boston will really appreciate this episode because not only are we going back to our roots, you’re really getting to see where we lived, how we dealt with everything. You’re getting to see one of my old jobs selling sausages. Which no one would ever imagine that I would stand outside of Patriots games and Fenway Park—I was either in the freezing cold at the Patriots games selling sausages or in the extreme heat of the summer doing the same thing at Red Sox games.
What’s been the weirdest aspect so far about having cameras so present in your everyday life?
Having a crew next to you shooting around the clock. Because we are so familial, however, we became close in a very short time. Mom and Dad were feeding them during meal times, and began inviting them over during down time to socialize. When we decided to do this, we made a conscious decision to be very open and very raw with it all.
What was the conversation like with your friends and family when you decided to do this reality show?
We all had reservations, but I have a great family. I think we have a unique story to tell. I was nervous, but I’ve always taken risks, which has helped me succeed. And my family and friends were excited to be part of it, which helped. My father was just excited to have a platform to tell the world how aggravated he is with me for not being married and not having kids.
What aspect of Chasing Maria Menounos are you most proud of?
I think that the thing I’m most proud of is—and I didn’t realize we were doing it—is just how open we are talking about things on camera. Because that’s just who we are, we’re pretty open people when we’re talking to our friends and family and anybody. I mean, if you and I just struck up a conversation, I would be the same way.
Have you been pleased so far with the reception that you’ve been getting?
So much. … The response has been so intense. People who watch the show love the show and really connect with it. And I remember when I watched it for the first time all the way through, I was nervous and cringing and scared because it’s your life up there. But every time I cringed and wanted to kind of throw up or was nervous about something, I knew that we had a good show. I’m really proud of the show. I think it’s a really good show and I feel like the response has only kind of confirmed that for me.
What’s next within the next few months? Are you hoping for a second season of Chasing?
Next is promotion for my second book, The EveryGirl’s Guide to Diet and Fitness. That means a book tour, a lot more press and promotion. In terms of the show, we’re only on episode 4 of 10. So talk to me after episode 10! We have lots of time before we start even contemplating another season. There’s a huge journey and a huge ride we have to go on first with our audience. I know that the episodes only get better and better and better. I’m looking forward to a little break more than anything. Bora Bora, here I come!
Chasing Maria Menounos airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Oxygen. Check out clips and episode highlights on Oxygen.com.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.