A Brush With Kristin Chenoweth … And a Talk on Childhood Cancer

Rio 2 Kristin Chenoweth Jemaine ClementCelebrities. They’re just like us, only with a lot more money and a lot more pull at restaurants.

I’ve been a reporter long enough that I no longer get those flutters that were common in my early days of interviewing people whose names are known around the world. The first time a celebrity acts like they’re better than you when you’re interviewing them to give them press for a project – essentially you’re there to help them – tends to cure you of being star-struck.

Which isn’t to say that all stars are monsters. Most are just people who are doing their thing even as you are doing yours, and when you’re put in the same room or on the same phone, you find things in common and while you will likely never meet again, you connect as human beings are wont to do. And this is where a bit of the old magic remains. When you connect with a star, when they turn it back on you, a part of you thrills at the attention, like a flower bud stretching open at the sensation of sun on its petals.

Yes, I’m leading you all on a bit, and I’m about to be an awful name-dropper. Reader, I interviewed one Kristin Chenoweth recently at the press junket for the new film Rio 2 (hitting theaters on April 11). Chenoweth is a bona fide triple threat who has tackled and tamed Broadway, TV and the big screen. It was just 10 minutes; pretty standard in celebrity interviews, and we are not going to be besties forever. I never go in with those illusions.

But she did give me a moment to talk about the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the non-profit for which I’ve shaved my head seven different times to help fight childhood cancer. The daughter of a four-time cancer survivor, she thanked me for my efforts. I don’t need to be thanked. I am just one of hundreds of thousands of people who have seen the work that St. Baldrick’s does to change children’s lives and have become a champion of the cause.

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Nor did she even really need to hear me. She could have focused solely on her own pursuits and plugged her movie (she’s starring in the upcoming Rio 2), and kept everything professional. But she asked, I answered, and she took the time to ask more, to show true interest, to acknowledge that it’s a cause worthy of celebrating.

Will it make any difference in the long run? Who knows. She may forget, may have already forgotten. But where celebrities may put their pants on in the same manner as the rest of us, they have what we regular joes don’t: a platform to spread messages, to make a splash where we make just a drop in the bucket.

You don’t have to be a blubbering sycophant at their feet to recognize the value in that. And I wasn’t. I was a professional who turned the topic back on her and her project and all it was that my blog readers want to hear about her, but I walked away with a little something I don’t always take from celebrity interviews: a genuine sense of like for the star on a human level.

Celebrities are just like us, but when a star you’ve always admired is not just gracious and kind but just as sweet and funny in person as they are on your TV screen, when they act not like a star but like a regular Joe who gets that they’re part of the global village of humanity, your faith in the whole mystique of Hollywood is restored. It feels so much more OK to get a little flutter in the belly for a star who actually deserves it.

Have you ever met a celebrity who totally disappointed you? How about one who did the opposite?


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