It’s possible that you recognize his face but can’t put a name to it. He is that guy with a perfect hair, eager smile and always dapper suit. Though he is probably best known as the host of news segment "E! News, E! Online", Ken Baker is a successful author of several books. His critically-acclaimed "Man Made: A Memoir of My Body" (Tarcher Putnam, 2001) told the story of his battle with a brain tumor. A movie adaptation is currently in development with Ineffable Pictures and Eclectic Pictures in which Kevin Pollak will make his narrative directorial debut. The book recounts Baker’s experience of going through puberty for the first time at age 30 after having a pituitary tumor removed. His latest work "Finding Forever" is a story about a celebrity blogger, Brooklyn Brant, dying to have her big break.
I recently sat down with E!'s Chief News Correspondent, Ken Baker to talk about his work on E!, his personal style and his latest book.
Photos by Lauri Levenfeld
J: You report breaking news, conduct celebrity interviews, host live red carpet events. Did you always know you wanted to be a journalist ?
KB: Not consciously. When I was 11, I began keeping a journal. It was pretty basic stuff at first, mostly about what happened at my hockey games that week, or some silly things like what I did on a snow day from school (I grew up in a small town outside of Buffalo, New York, so there were a lot of snow days!). Slowly, more serious topics entered my journal, such as things I was angry or frustrated about. My parents’ divorce and how that made me sad for my little brother is one memorable entry. So, I guess, by strict definition I was functioning as a journalist back then. But I just didn’t know that was what I was doing. When I entered college, I still had no real clue about what I wanted to do with my professional life. So I majored in geology. I was fascinated by the mystery of what lies below the surface of the Earth, the many layers and unseen and unexplored rocks. So I majored in geology. But by my junior year I realized that I loved writing and I loved reading the newspaper and the mysteries of life on the top earthly layers of crust were more interesting to me. I soon became fascinated with the idea of becoming a reporter. It was too late to change my major, plus Colgate University didn’t even have a journalism major, so I just did an internship at a local newspaper, The Syracuse New Times. And that’s how I got my start. I instantly fell in love with the profession and besides a stint playing pro hockey, it’s all I’ve ever really done with my career.
J: You began your career as a news assistant for ABC News. What made you move into reporting Celebrity news? Was it your goal from the beginning or concatenation of circumstances?
KB: My original goal was to be a feature writer for a major metropolitan newspaper. But while working at a medium size paper in Virginia after graduating from Columbia Journalism school, I found job openings to be few and far between. One day, a friend of mine who worked at People magazine named Jennifer Mendelshon tipped me off that the L.A. bureau was hiring new correspondents. I sent them my resume, got an interview and two weeks later drove out to L.A. I had zero experience covering celebrity and entertainment.
So it was all basically on-the-job training. It has turned out pretty well, but I am grateful for everyone along the way who allowed me to make and learn from mistakes.
J: What do you most enjoy about your job on E! News?
KB: The people – from the producers to the crew to the correspondents and hosts – are all top flight human beings. But also I enjoy how every day presents a new adventure. I wake up and have pretty much no idea what stories we will be covering that day. That keeps it fun and interesting.
J: A lot of celebrity news comes from social media these days. What is your view on that? Does that affect your job in any way? Positive / Negative?
KB: When Twitter really began to take off in like 2009, I remember thinking, ‘Oh, crap, celebrities won’t need us anymore.’ But social media has made it far easier to get information on celebs. They provide it for us! We used to have work a lot harder to find out where a big star was vacationing. Now, we just look on Instagram. It’s been the best thing that ever happened to celebrity media.
Photos by Lauri Levenfeld
J: What is your best blooper moment during the taping ?
KB: Well, not one comes to mind specifically. But a recent example is the day after Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn Jenner I could not for the life of me consistently call Caitlyn a “she”… I kept slipping up. Luckily, I got over that.
J: Who is your most favorite celebrity moment?
KB: There are so many. I mean, I am in my twentieth year covering celebrity and entertainment so it would be hard to choose. I do love covering weddings. I went to Italy with Giuliana Rancic and covered Tom Cruise’s wedding to Katie Holmes in Rome, and that was a blast. Years later, I went on a solo trip to cover George Clooney’s wedding in Venice, Italy. Those were memorable and great assignments. I am truly blessed to have the job I do
J: You are obviously quiet stylish. What are some mistakes that you think men make when it comes to fashion?
KB: My kids would laugh at your premise, mostly because they see me at home, where you might find me in my favorite golf shirt and sweats with a beat-up pair of sneakers that need to be thrown out or donated. But I try to keep it sharp for on-camera. Honestly, I get lot of help from my stylist, Adriana Gallarzo. The biggest fashion faux pas men tend to make is that they try too hard. My advise is to keep it simple. If you look good in a simple button-down shirt and a tie with jeans, wear it. You don’t have to wear some snazzy, trendy shirt with your chest hanging out because you saw it in GQ. The same goes in fashion as it does in life: Be yourself. And, as a rule, don’t wear “dad” jeans. They’re not flattering.
J: Do you have a favorite item of fashion you own?
KB: I am currently obsessed with these boots in my wardrobe closet that feel and look like sneakers. I would wear them every day if my stylist allowed me. But she won’t. In fact, she is starting to hide them from me, I think.
J: Besides your journalism career you've written nine books. What inspired you to write books?
KB: Daily journalism has the rewards of being fast-paced and constantly new, but the drawback of being on the superficial side and so fleeting. Writing books allows me to get into topics in more depth. It scratches a different kind of itch. It also allows me to reflect and examine life in a way that I think can make readers appreciate life more.
JB: Do you have a special time to write? How is your day structured?
KB: I pretty much cannot write Monday through Friday because I am so swamped with E! News and my responsibilities to my kids and, of course, to myself to remain a healthy and balanced human being. Most of my writing occurs on the weekends, and definitely in the morning. I will write a little after work during the week if I have the mental power, but it is mostly a weekend job.
Photos by Lauri Levenfeld
JB: Do you ever get writer's Block?
KB: Not usually. But some days are better than others. I did hit a wall, however, earlier this summer. My brain kind of shut down. I had been very busy working at E! News and by the time the weekend came around (my prime time for writing books), I didn’t have any gas left in the tank. So I needed a vacation. I took off for two weeksback East and visited family and didn’t look at my computer once. I came back refreshed and wrote a lot over the next month. Generally, I don’t believe in writer’s block. Imagine if brain surgeon’s had surgeon’s block? Or bus drivers? Or teachers? They don’t. They have a job and they do it the best they can, thank God. Writers need to be as committed as anyone else and not make excuses. Naturally, I am not Hemingway every time I write, but I can always put something on the page.
JB: For your own reading do you prefer e-books or traditional paper/hard cover books?
KB: I am still very much a reader of traditional paper books, but it is on my to-do list to take over my kids’ Kindle Fire and go all-in on ebooks. To be honest, I have probably read more audiobooks in the last six months than other kind. In fact, I am looking forward to finishing the writing of my current book project so that I can read more.
JB: Your latest book, "Finding Forever" is a first from the Deadline Diaries series. What was an inspiration behind it ?
KB: I have been writing novels for the last five years focused on the Young Adult audience. For a while now, I wanted to write a series with a character at the center who is a journalist. So I created Brooklyn Brant. And she is Everything. I love her and what she stands for. I hope she inspires readers, because she inspires me.
JB: Every writers dream is to bring their book to life. The movie "The Late Bloomer" is being filmed based on your 2001 memoir "Man Made: A Memoir of My Body" with Kevin Pollak directing the film, share your feelings about it?
KB: It is very gratifying and it is still sinking in that is happening. Definitely is a pinch-me-I’m-dreaming experience. The movie adaptation has been in development for about thirteen years. At one point a few years ago, I had stopped believing it would ever get made. And now that it has been shot and is being edited, I am like, ‘Okay, I guess this is really happening!’
JB: When should we expect the movie to be out ?
KB: Well, like I said, we need to let Kevin get a cut of the film in the can and then perhaps get it into some film festivals next year. It is independently produced, so we have many different paths to take and there is no set calendar. But I would expect it could be out any time from late next year to 2017. It is very funny and touching, the perfect tone. And the cast is stunningly talented.
JB: What is Ken Baker working on at the minute?
KB: I am frantically trying to meet my Nov. 1 deadline to deliver a first draft of the second book in the Deadline Diaries series. I am also fiddling with an idea for a nonfiction idea that is Hollywood related. And, oh, yeah, I have to deliver the news every day on E! So, yeah my plate is pretty full.