hollywoodfirstlookfeatures.com | inlovemag.com
When I first started and I was looking for writing jobs and I first locked onto this editorial gig, they were looking for a lifestyle writer and political writer and I wanted to write about politics. I wanted to follow Bernie Sanders around. I pitched them six different articles, three about lifestyle and three about politics and that’s when they wrote back to me and they were like, “We want to give you a column and we want it to be about L.A. fashion trends.” The weird thing was I didn’t know about fashion trends, I didn’t know about brands, but I went with the idea of what inspires somebody to wear what they’re wearing and who they are underneath and what that represents. And that’s how AXS found me, because I started interviewing more people.
So things have gotten crazier! Basically what happened was things magnified a million times over since that last interview when it was like the Wild West out there… I really went and carved out my own manifest destiny. But my days turned into 16 hour days seven days a week. And when you love what you do it’s quite easy to lose track of that! It doesn’t bother you so much. I was full-time freelance, still am, so you’re only going to get paid the amount that you work. I would get calls from publicists or artists themselves or people who wanted me to be somewhere or interview someone, go to this event, go to this concert, can you be at this carpet. I would lock in what I was going to do and do all the prep work, drive to L.A., do the event, drive home, write my story and get it out in the amount of time that it’s still “newsworthy.” It’s a lot of work! As an independent contractor, you’re not going to say no to work. A) because you need the money, but B) because you love it.
I was brought on by a couple of other publications. I was writing for Screen Rant for a while; Cracked, I had already written for; I was hired by InLove magazine which is in print. So all that and AXS and other people that would hire me for their outlets. InLove is quarterly and in print and digital. Generally, what I do for them as an entertainment journalist is celebrity interviews, one-on-one with the celebrities and then we do fashion shoots with them. Sometimes they’ll send me places to review a restaurant or we do travel reviews also. That’s why I ended up in Dublin, Ohio.
Last year I got a call to go cover a cruise in the Grand Caymans, and then I came back to PaleyFest which is my favorite time of year. It’s the premier TV festival, so a bunch of actors, different shows, it would have been my dream when I was a kid and it’s still my dream now. It’s a fun environment, lots of good people involved. Right after I got back from that, I got an e-mail from my editor [at AXS] that was like more or less they’re no longer covering events, doing interviews, anything that I was doing. Nobody gets into this job for the money, I will tell you that. I’m lucky that I’m able to make somewhat of a living working as much as I do. So I didn’t know what I was going to do after that and started to panic. Now that I have this lifestyle that I love, what am I going to do? I just lost the outlet that gave me all the creative control, and everywhere that I went under that umbrella of being a journalist for them, now I didn’t have a platform for that.
I had a really good friend of mine and she came to me and she needed help. She works for a TV show and they air mainly to an Asian American audience. The show is called “Hollywood First Look Features” and it airs on two different channels, Hapa TV and SBTN, and they air a couple times a week. She needed a host and I met with her boss; I had some things I could bring to the table and I needed a home to put all this content that I had and they needed the extra help and it was a great fit. So now I am a correspondent on a TV show! On top of still writing for InLove and doing our seasonal issues, my main gig is doing this TV show, which… I guess a dream come true would be an understatement! I interview people so it’s a full-on entertainment show. We’ve got a general in-studio host who breaks down for the week, cut to her in the studio, and she’s like, “This week, blah blah blah, this happened, that happened, this happened” and then she’ll say, “We’re going to take it to Sari Cohen on the red carpet of the premier of XYZ,” and then it cuts to the package that’s already been edited where earlier that week I was on the carpet. Then you cut to me and I’m like, “I’m Sari Cohen and I’m on the red carpet and blah blah blah, let’s take a first look,” and then it shoots to the interviews and then we wrap it up.
It’s one thing to be able to talk to people, to have a conversation, but it’s another thing to stand up there and be like, “My name is blah blah blah, and I’m here for blah blah blah and we’re doing blah blah blah,” and having everybody watching you while you’re doing it. It’s a lot of practice. Stand-ups, or intros or outros, it’s a lot of practice. I also learned as a writer that it’s probably better to script things ahead of time. Even if your lines are just, “I’m Sari Cohen and I’m at the premier of XYZ.” You still want to practice that! It’s the energy level and whether you’re looking at the camera and if your head’s up or head’s down and all the make-up; now I have to prep for being on camera. Every job I go on, it’s not just dressing presentable, I have to wear what’s going to look good and I have to be aware if my head’s up… my god, being 4’11”, am I wearing heels, is their eye line meeting the camera or are they looking down and all you’re getting is their eyelids as they’re talking because some guy who’s 6’2” is talking to some short little reporter who’s 4’11”?
I still have a hard time watching myself. I would listen to myself on audio when I was writing my interviews… watching yourself is a totally different thing. There is not one interview that I’ve ever done or one stand-up that I’ve ever done where I’ve been like, “God, I did a great job on that!” No! Every one, I’m like, “Holy shit, I can’t believe people are putting me on TV!” My hair’s off, what am I doing with my face, what word am I saying, is that even a word? I don’t usually feel like I asked a bad question, that the engagement is not good. But watching myself in front of a camera hosting or announcing something is very awkward.
I’ve said this from the beginning: one thing about being on that carpet, I’m never there for me. I’m not there to further my career, I’m not there to be famous, I’m not there to get anything out of the situation other than to have a real conversation with someone else. Preferably somebody that I admire or look up to, but to be present, to connect with somebody — that is my goal 110% of the time, the connection. So to be on the other end of it where people are looking at me as some kind of like “personality” is weird!
I met Leah Thompson years ago and as crazy as this sounds — because obviously Back to The Future — but I loved Howard the Duck when I was a kid. Watching Howard the Duck made me want to be in the entertainment industry. So when I met her it was an awesome and amazing moment and after we did the interview, I was like, “I just have to tell you, you’re the reason that I’m standing here right now, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you, your work.” And she looks me in the eyes and her eyes looked like they were filling up with tears, she gave me the biggest hug… when I posted a picture of her she left me the sweetest comment on Instagram, like, “It was an absolute joy talking to you!” People are like, “You shouldn’t meet your heroes,” but you should meet your heroes! Meet people who aren’t your heroes! I’ve had interviews with people who are completely opposite from me on the political spectrum, people that I would never think… that I would watch on TV and I would yell and scream and shake my fist at, and then you sit down and talk to them and you have a totally different understanding of what it means to be human, to have different ideas and to live in different worlds. You find the things that you agree on, or the things that you can print to inspire other people to not make the same negative story that everybody else is doing but to find something good in it.
I have a lot of favorites. If you want to talk favorite, favorite? I would say Luke Perry. He was one that blew me away. And it’s coming up on his one year anniversary of when he passed. I was as a big a fan of Beverly Hills 90210 as anyone else, but I was not one of those girls who was crazy obsessed over Luke Perry. In fact, I was probably more of a Jason Priestly fan when I was younger! I was on a Riverdale carpet. He came down on a Riverdale carpet, and I didn’t even realize that he was going to be there. I thought we were just doing the cast of Riverdale, which anybody today would be freaking out about. But I look at the tip sheet and I see Luke Perry on the tip sheet and I’m like, “Oh my god, Luke Perry’s going to be here?” And I remember looking at the reporter standing next to me and I was like, “Oh my god, I’m freaking out right now, I might ask you when Luke Perry comes down to take a photo of us.” And normally I’m not a geek-out person, but oh my god Luke Perry! I remember she looked at me and she was like, “Wait, you mean the dad? Like, the guy who plays the dad?” And I’m like, “Yeah, the guy who plays the dad!” Everybody else is talking about the other baby celebrities. And Luke Perry comes down and it was this instant — I swear, our eyes locked and I felt like I had known him for a lifetime. I asked him the coolest question, and this was the big first season and all the murder mystery was going on in Riverdale, and I was like, “If Dylan McKay could give the kids of Riverdale today any advice, what would it be?” And I think he said something like, “Run! I would tell them to run!” It was amazing. In the picture that we have, he was squeezing me really tight, and it was such an interesting moment for me. But I walked away feeling like I met a kindred spirit. Somebody that’s on the same vibration. So when people ask me favorite interviews, I can go into like the different connection I’ve had with people because they’re all very different and a lot of them are really wonderful but he’s one that I think of often. And man, I wish I could have seen him again, I wish I could have spent more time with him.
It depends on the angle of my story; it depends on if I’m writing or if I’m on-air. With AXS I had to stay in their wheelhouse, which is music and live entertainment, it’s not Access Hollywood. I knew whatever story I was going to do had to have a music angle. Now with InLove, I know what the artists have coming up and working on, I’ve gotten their bio, I’ve prepped and watched their shows or watched what I need to watch, I know what their talking points are and I know what interviews have been done about them so I try to do something that hasn’t been done, something you’re not going to be able to read anywhere else. I always try to take an angle that’s more inspirational.
But it’s different on camera because I have a limited amount of time. This is different because I have to evoke some kind of something and whatever they throw out there is what my producer has to put together. I have to hope that everyone I get on the carpet, that she’s able to piece it all together. Like with Outlander, I had never seen the show before and I knew people loved the show and I knew how obsessed their fans were. I spent three days binge-watching all five seasons. And I probably could have done it by doing a fair amount of research. But no, I became an invested fan because I wanted to get what I knew the fans wanted from them and really get an idea of why people love it. But you can do enough research to know what’s out there, to know what’s been done, what hasn’t been done, what’s in the news. Things that the actor or artist likes talking about or doesn’t like talking about.
My job seems almost easier now. I work long hours, don’t get me wrong. I don’t know yesterday from tomorrow and I don’t know what country I’m in half the time, I don’t know what year it is… I’m not kidding when I say that! But I will say, there’s not that same exhaustion that I had two years ago where I was only sleeping four hours a night and waking up freaking out about a deadline, did this article get published, did my editor publish this article, oh my god this has to go out, the artist needs this now and the publicist is waiting for this link. I get called to do something, I get prepped, I go, I do my job, I come home, and then I wake up and do it again. It’s not the same kind of frantic energy. It’s a lot of running around, it’s a lot of craziness, but in a way I feel like I got a promotion.
I’m excited because I have to go in the next couple of days and work on my interview with Harrison Ford. Which is… god, Henry Winkler and Harrison Ford in one week? When that was added into my schedule, I had just come from Karen Allen three days before, I had Henry Winkler the night before, I had another event that night, then I had to go home and I had to prep for Ford and then I had to drive back the next morning and I had Ford in the morning and then the Outlander premiere that night. So in between I had to watch Outlander and I had to watch Barry… that’s what I get to do for a living. Those moments, they fuel my fire like nothing else. I don’t care if I’m not sleeping the night before. When I was a kid and I thought I was going to be an actor, when I was older and I thought I was going to write in a writer’s room… this exceeds every expectation that I ever had. It takes every world that I ever thought I wanted to live in and it marries it all in one and I get to wake up every day and do this. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful gift and it’s one that I’m grateful for every single day.