“I realized what matters in life are the people that you positively affect and touch — the things that you do that are not about accolades, awards, or success. Success isn’t a closet of Chanel bags. It all doesn't matter if you're going to go, what matters is living while you can. Every time you can dance, someone else can't. You have to remember that.” - Maria Menounos
Maria Menounos is a long-standing Hollywood veteran. She’s an actress, Emmy Award-winning journalist, best selling author, founder and CEO of Afterbuzz TV, one of the world's largest digital broadcast networks. She’s also the host of Better Together with Maria Menounos, a daytime talk series and podcast. Every week, Maria brings the world’s leading healers, experts, influential celebrities, and game-changers to share groundbreaking secrets and tips to getting better in all areas of life, including physical health, emotional wellness, spirituality, finances, relationships, and more.
Maria has also worked for some of the biggest shows including Entertainment Tonight and The Today Show. As a journalist, she had sit down interviews with every US president since Bill Clinton.
After being diagnosed with a brain tumor, her perspective on work drastically shifted. Her mission now is to share the lessons she learned with others about protecting both your mental and physical health while balancing an incredibly rewarding career.
This interview with Maria was recorded live in front of an audience at a Girlboss Rally LA 2019 but her message is as important as ever.
Listen in and learn why Maria thinks women need to save time for themselves through hobbies and mindful activities, balancing personal and professional lives and focusing on what truly matters in life.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get into the business of entertainment journalism from your first job at Dunkin Donuts?
Maria: I always say it started at Dunkin Donuts. I started working there when I was thirteen and I was constantly auditioning because you never know how you're going to get discovered. There were baby steps but my biggest thing was getting my first job in LA where my now-husband, Kevin was directing and writing his first film in Boston. When we wrapped, someone that worked on the film alerted us to this on-camera job in LA for Channel One News, which is a high school-based news program that was delivered directly into classrooms. I auditioned, got the job and moved to LA. We gave the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I interviewed President Bush. From there, I got an agent and ended up getting my job at Entertainment Tonight and the rest is history.
What does focus mean to you in your early career, and has that changed over the years?
Maria: There were people along the way that told me I should just focus on one thing, but I have a lot of interests. Growing up poor, I wanted to be fail-safe. I wanted to make sure that if I failed at one thing, I had ten other things going on. Luckily, I had an interest in multiple things, and I started preparing them so that there would be no issue. But I recently found that in the last few years, my happiest times are when I just focus on one thing. I think it's because as women, our mentality is to be everything to everyone. We have to be perfect — the perfect daughter, the perfect employee. We are chasing ideals and with social media, it's gotten so much harder. I always say to people we've become human “doings” — we're not human “beings” anymore. These last two years for me have been a return to being a human being. I am trying to keep a very narrow focus on things and it's making me so much happier.
What led to that realization?
Maria: Two things happened. Almost three years ago in August, my mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Your life just gets flipped upside down. I've always been the caretaker of my family and I didn't realize that I was having my own problems, thinking that I was just super stressed. I was having these nasty headaches, pain in my ear and slurring my speech to the point where I would joke on set about my stupid brain tumor — and then I had one. A lot of ailments get disguised under symptoms of stress and so I found out I had a brain tumor as well. I realized that that was just kind of the last brick from the sky was like, “okay, you didn't hear it with your mom, you got to hear it now with yourself and I changed my entire life.” I had surgery two years ago on my birthday; I looked at it as a rebirth and I changed my life, and now I'm a human being.
Maria: I believe it happened to me because I am a communicator. My mission is to help you find that integration. Being a human being will enrich your work and it will make you better. When you're in your 20s, you can abuse your body and get away with it, and in your 30s you can still do it. But then it adds up. The accumulation of stress, the lack of self-nurturing, the lack of self-love and the lack of self-care will catch up. That's why we are all sick in that next era in your late 30s, early 40s and your 50s as you go along. Your body can't be in fight or flight all the time. I have a podcast every week and my life is completely devoted to learning. I'm bringing in mystics, yogis, gurus and self-care people so that I can continue the work to integrate all of these lessons into my life because life goes by super fast.
Maria: When you're sick and you get a diagnosis or you’re dying, none of the accomplishments matter. All I thought about was, “oh my god, why did I run myself into the ground? Why did I tell my mom I didn't have time to talk because I was busy emailing somebody?” What really matters is being present with your family and friends, how much you give back, and the people that you positively affect and touch — the things that you do that are not about accolades, awards, or success. Success isn’t a closet of Chanel bags. It all doesn't matter if you're going to go, what matters is living while you can. Every time you can dance, someone else can't. You have to remember that.
Did you find Hollywood toxic when you were deep in it every day?
Maria: You could say that about a lot of different environments. We've seen the other side of Hollywood that's been hidden for so long in the last two years. There were dark times but it's hard to say that because it almost comes off as ungrateful. I'm grateful for everything that I've been able to do in this business. There are some not awesome people that want to hurt you and extinguish your light. That happens across the board which is why Afterbuzz TV was so important for me to build. I see the difficulty when you're trying to start and build a career. What I'm really proud of is that we’re kind of anybody with a dream’s first stop in Hollywood. They come to us, we grow their careers, we nurture them and we teach them. We've built a network where we have over 300 hosts and we've mentored and helped over 100 success stories in the business at this point.
Maira: Afterbuzz TV is a digital broadcast network that my husband and I co-founded. It's got a two-part mission. One is to make great content. We produce after-shows for every TV show and have about 150 hours of global content that we produce a week. The second mission is to nurture these young talents with dreams and to help them along in their journey. We've been doing it for almost nine years.
Who is it that should come to you at Afterbuzz TV and say, I'd like to learn something and join what you're doing?
Maria: I always say anybody can be a host at Afterbuzz. The truth is, if you're a fan of TV, then you have a place. What I've loved about it is we've had super introverts blossom and completely transform. I believe we are the most diverse company in the world —we have every ethnicity, every color, every size, every age, every gender and non-binary gender.
Maria: A few weeks ago at our new host seminars, this woman came in and was shaking. Kevin asked why she was shaking, and she said, “I thought you guys were going to reject me because I'm old.” That broke our hearts because that's the business that we live in. There is an ageism component to it, unfortunately. But at Afterbuzz, there isn't because the only prerequisite to hosting these shows is getting past the training seminar. It's a really cool place for people to be able to fulfill their dreams and to experience a little bit of that world.
Maria: I definitely think I'm tough on myself. In therapy, I've realized that I never felt like I was enough, which is a huge problem for a lot of people, especially women. That's what drove my workaholism and I used to be so proud of it.
What would your advice be to someone who is really grinding and wants to find that balance?
Maria: There are so many different things I do at this point. Everybody knows meditation. My favorite one is called the Soul Sync on YouTube. Also, Headspace is great because you can do it in ten-minute bits. I enjoy walking in the grass with my bare feet and just breathing. I also love smelling flowers on my walks.
Maria: I never had hobbies and I never thought I had the time. Now I've gone the opposite way — it takes like six hours a week. Do we not have a couple of hours a week to devote to ourselves to be better and happier emotionally and spiritually? I took up guitar and I’ll go into a guitar session having had a very stressful family conversation and leave feeling so uplifted and happy. Whatever that is going to make you feel good — is it dance class? Is it SoulCycle or playing with puppies at the shelter? You need to figure out things that aren't expensive and figure out how to access your happiness during stressful moments without cost.
Maria: When I get triggered by something or I'll be stressed about my mom, I stop. Whereas before I used to fuel myself and get angrier. For five minutes, you just stop and then you'll be shocked at how quick your body resets. If I'm really exhausted and I can't handle anything anymore, I'm not going to reach for the coffee. I do a sixteen-minute hypnotherapy meditation. After that, I'm completely refreshed.
Follow Maria on Twitter and Instagram. Lastly, don’t forget to check out Maria’s show, Better Together with Maria Menounos. The show airs live on YouTube and Facebook from Monday to Thursday at 9am PT/12pm ET and drops on Apple Podcasts and Spotify right after.