Armed with a her quirky personality and blonde bombshell looks, television host, red carpet correspondent & MAXIM radio personality Kyle Keller is getting a little more personal in her latest project as the breakout star of VH1’s “Tough Love” (Season 5 premiering August 28th), the network’s most popular reality program hosted by celebrity matchmaker Steve Ward.
A MAXIM “Hometown Hottie,” Midwest-born, Southern California-raised Kyle Keller began her career as a sports reporter in San Diego followed by a regular guest hosting spot on “The Covino & Rich Show” for MAXIM radio on Sirius Satellite/XM. Kyle’s quick-witted personality then landed her the job of Executive Producer and lead media correspondent for MediaKillers.com, interviewing celebrities on the red carpet, at sporting events and charity functions, and in 2011, Kyle was hired as theLifestyle and Entertainment Correspondent for UT-TV, where she developed and hosted her own show “Style with Kyle” where Kyle uses her fashion and beauty expertise to make over military spouses. Due to her immense popularity with the network, Kyle then launched a second program “Kyle’s Ultimate Challenge” which follows her as she accepts and carries out viewers’ dares that have included bungee jumping, finding the best food trucks in San Diego, skydiving, etc.
A natural entertainer, Kyle began performing in musical theater productions at the age of 5 performed in over 100 musicals throughout her childhood. Kyle received the top female vocal scholarship to the University of Redlands and has trained at the world famous Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. Kyle has been continuing to see her star rise, interviewing and working with some of the most polarizing stars in the entertainment industry. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Kyle Keller to discuss her roots in the entertainment industry, her role on Vh1’s ‘Tough Love: Coed’, the challenges involved, lending her star power to The Friend Movement and what the future holds for this rising star!
I wanted to go all the way back to your early years and find out what you wanted to be when you grew up.
When I was growing up, I loved all things entertainment! I remember sitting on my grandparents piano and serenading my family with Madonna songs! [laughs] I wanted to be a pop star. I got into musical theater when I was around five years old and my dream was to be on Broadway. That was my dream for as long as I can remember! I did children’s theater growing up and professional theater in college. In college, I was a musical theater major at the University of Redlands, here in California. I graduated with a BA in musical theater and moved to New York to pursue a career. In 2007, I had career ending throat surgery to remove polyps, which is the reason I now have this amazing raspy voice! [laughs] The doctors told me I would never sing again, so that really hurt my career. It was the only thing I really knew how to do was sing but, luckily, I talk a lot! I started doing radio for Maxim Radio. People started to tell me I had a voice for radio but a face for TV and asked why I wasn’t getting into hosting or corresponding. I moved back to San Diego, where I am from, and started doing that for a while. I moved out to LA and then “Tough Love” happened and here I am! I guess it was all a blessing in disguise!
Who are some of the people you would cite as your biggest influences and inspiration?
Growing up, I loved Kylie Minogue. My name is Kyle but I got teased as a child for having a boy’s name. I was in second grade; Kylie Minogue came out with her remake of “The Locomotion”. My second grade teacher, my parents and I decided we should give me a nickname, so I used “Kylie”. From second grade all the way up to college, people called me Kylie Keller, it helped stop the teasing a little bit, so I loved her! Doing theater, I loved Idina Menzel from “Rent,” “Glee” and “Wicked”. Audra McDonald was also a huge influence on me, especially when I was in college. It was her voice and she is so amazing. When I was in college, I studied abroad in Austria. At one point, I flew to London for the week and I saw the West End version of “Kiss Me Kate” and Marin Mazzie was playing the lead. I remember going backstage and meeting her. It was she, Audra McDonald and Idina Menzel, who were my idols. I remember crying when I met her! [laughs] She was like “its ok! It’s ok!” So nice! Getting into hosting, I always looked up to Maria Menounos. I love Giuliana Rancic. My mentor who I have been working with currently is Maureen Browne. She is the one who has been helping me since I moved out to LA in November. She is amazing! She used to be a casting director for E! and NBC. She has really kept my afloat in this crazy business since I have moved here!
How has the transition to the LA lifestyle impacted you in the past few months?
It has been a great experience. When I was broadcasting in San Diego, I was a lifestyle correspondent for a network there, and I never needed anything. It was based on talent and resume alone. When I moved here, I realized hosting and corresponding is such a niche market. I was not very smart in thinking it was thinking it was going to be easy! [laughs] I pretty much met Maureen right off the back and started working with her. I began submitting for agents and managers. They would meet with me and say “We love you. We love your personality. We love your look, we think you are beautiful. However, the trend right now is ethnic and you look like a Barbie doll!” I thought, “Um, Thanks, I think!” [laughs] It has been a bit of a struggle since I moved up here because of I am not ethnic. I started debating dying my hair or developing a British accent! What should I do! [laughs] Maureen kept telling me to be patient. I have been keeping busy and now I am doing “Tough Love”. I am so excited about that! Hopefully, it will put me on the map and people will believe in me and give me a chance! All it takes is one person!
Absolutely! You definitely have the goods, so it won’t be long until we are seeing you pop up all over the place!
Speaking of “Tough Love,” how did you initially get involved with the show and what intrigued you about it?
“Tough Love” is a show I really love. I also love Steve Ward and think he is an amazing guy. He is no nonsense and doesn’t take any bullshit. That is fantastic! I have been single for a little over a year. It was a serious long-term relationship. After it ended, all of my friends tried getting me back into the dating game. I wasn’t really ready, I was picky and I didn’t really know what I wanted. When the opportunity for “Tough Love” came up, I said “You know what? This would be a great opportunity for me because I am looking for love and I am serious about it. The only way I am going to be true to myself is if I do it on national television because then I can’t lie to myself about love and what is going on.” It was such a great experience! Steve is a guru in what he does. The show features both men and women this year, so it is pretty insane! When it comes to me, I knew I had to be 100% honest with myself. That is what I needed to get past my fears or whatever I had about getting back in the dating game. Having watched Steve on past seasons of “Tough Love,” I knew he would be able to break down my barriers. That is really what he does; he breaks you down and builds you back up! It was probably one of the most challenging things I have ever gone through but I don’t regret any of it! I would do it all again in a heartbeat!
Did you have any reservations at all about putting yourself out there? That has to be a pretty intimidating undertaking, even if you are used to being in the spotlight!
I really did. I did because you see shows like “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette,” where they are competition shows. “Tough Love” isn’t a competition show. It is more of a “feel good” reality show. I love “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” but I knew if I ever did the show, it wasn’t for love. Everyone is fighting! [laughs] I feel like people might not be there for the right reasons. I never want to be anyone else but me. I was a little afraid I might say something to piss off my family, hurt my career or something of the sort. The great thing about “Tough Love” is I was able to stay true to myself the whole time. I hope I am relatable and I think I am. I was always kind of nervous. After talking with my parents, my Mom said “Kyle, this is a great opportunity for you. We want grandbabies! Come on! You have to learn to put yourself out there again!” [laughs] I thought “Ok. I am going to stay true to myself and we will see what happens!”
It sounds like you definitely enjoyed the experience. What did you learn about yourself through this project?
Yeah! Obviously, you will have to watch the show to see my total transformation, but my name on the show was “Miss Disconnected”. It is the nickname Steve ward gave me because I did date long-distance. I think I liked that because I could go away and then come back when I wanted to see a boyfriend more. Meanwhile, my friends were like “I want to see my guy every day!” I thought, “I don’t!” [laughs] We worked on that a lot and it has been helpful. I do talk a lot and I feel a lot of times, I talk myself into the friend zone. I ask focus questions. I can’t reveal too much more. It is really weird when you are doing a show and our cast mates and dates give us feedback. It was a really humbling experience to learn what people think about you. You think “Oh my gosh! I didn’t know that I did this!” All of us who come on the show know we are dating rejects but we all think we are spectacular in other ways. Steve’s job is to take that spectacular-ness and make it shine. I can’t talk about my whole transformation, as I said, but none of my friends and family knew I was doing the show. I couldn’t say anything. I had told everyone I was going on vacation. I remember afterwards, my friends stopping by and joking they thought I had gone to rehab or something! [laughs] Once the show was announced, I was like “SURPRISE!” [laughs] It was pretty funny. My friend said, “We have noticed a difference in you.” This was before I was able to say “Yeah, I was casted on Tough Love”. It was right after I got home and people were really noticing a big change. One of the things about the show is, not only do you learn a lot about your love life but you learn about yourself in general. It affects your love life, family life and your relationships with your friends. Overall, it was an amazing experience! Steve and Monica [Ward] are amazing! They are the best of the best and really take the time to hear about each and every one of us. They get to know us and genuinely care. Yeah, Steve and be a jackass but it isn’t called “Tough Love” because it is easy! [laughs] He genuinely cares about each and every one of us!
Are you doing anything to celebrate the debut of “Tough Love” and the ringing in of this new era?
All of us cast members live all over the United States. Kris, who is “Mr. Me, Myself and I” on the show, is in Orange County and I am in Hollywood. The two of us are doing a premiere party at a bar in Hollywood. From what he has told me, he will be DJing at a nightclub afterwards, which is great! Again, I can’t say too much about my love life but I am talking to you about this project and it is really a great way to ring in a new chapter for me! I am going to a lot of events and red carpets. It is really weird because I am used to being on the red carpet interviewing celebrities, so it is strange that all of a sudden I am the one being interviewed and I am the one people are taking pictures of! [laughs] It is new and challenging and very exciting. To be honest, I keep pinching myself to make sure it is real and I don’t want it to end! Hopefully, I have a promising career ahead of me and it doesn’t have to end!
Absolutely! “Tough Love” is your focus at the moment but what else do you have in store for us in terms of goals?
I just finished my website, which is www.mskylekeller.com. I also have a Facebook fan page, which is facebook.com/mskylekeller. It is the same for Twitter and Instagram, twitter.com/mskylekeller and instagram.com/mskylekeller. That is my brand as the other variations were taken! [laughs] I am freelancing at the moment, hosting and doing red carpets. There is a lot stuff coming down the pipeline I would love to be able to mention but it isn’t official quite yet! I will say, I think you will be seeing a lot more of me in the future!
You had a done some very interesting work as part of “Kyle’s Ultimate Challenge” in the past, where you lived out some other people’s dreams. What are some of your own bucket list items you are looking to scratch off the list?
One of my bucket list items is I want to be the bartender on “What Happens Live” with Andy Cohen, the show on Bravo. On the show, he has a bartender that comes in, a different one every night. That is one of my bucket list items because I love that show! I don’t want to be a guest, I want o be the bartender! [laughs] I would love to swim with sharks, using a shark cage, of course! I am very lucky. I have been able to travel the world and used to live in Austria. I would love to go to Figi. I have been backpacking through Europe but I would love to do something like that. I would love to go to places no one has ever gone before. As I get older, obviously, things are going to come, things like getting married and having kids — since I am thirty-two! [laughs] I really just want to take over the world when it comes to hosting and corresponding — a female Ryan Seacrest. I want to do it all!
I am sure being in the spotlight gives you some great opportunities to give back. Is there any charity work you are involved with at the moment?
Absolutely. I am involved with The Friend Movement! It is an anti-bullying campaign that Adam Lambert, Leann Rimes, Lance Bass, Rachel Dratch and a lot of other celebrities are involved with it. I am in the new campaign called “The New F Word: Giving Bullying The Bird.” Basically, it is giving bullying the bird, for real! The bird is blurred out. I am very excited to be a part of it. As I mentioned, as a kid I was teased for my name. I was so upset; I changed my name to Kylie. My parents always said, “When you get older, you will love and appreciate your name.” That was absolutely true, I love my name. I was bullied as a kid, so being involved with a project like this has been such a blessing. One of my messages to pass along to people is that it does get better, especially for teenagers. Your early years as a teenager are so difficult but it does get better. You can get through it, just believe in yourself and be fabulous with who you are.
I think you are the perfect person to ask this next question because you are in the middle of discovering who you are and where your career is going. What is the best piece of advice you can pass along to someone looking to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
Don’t give up! Don’t give up and focus on what you want to do. For me, I am a host and a correspondent, which is a niche market. I have friends who are actors, singers, songwriters, models and comedians. The thing they all have in common is picking the one thing they are so passionate about and following through. Focus on that one thing you love first, make it work and then everything else will come. I’m a host. Will I act? Sure! But my focus is on being a host and correspondent. Find that one thing you are most passionate about in the industry, the one thing, and stick to it. If you are a jack-of-all-trades to soon, you can get lost in the mix and you might not get taken seriously. Most importantly, never give up. All it takes is one person to believe in you and your entire career can change.
Great advice! Thank you so much for taking time out to talk to us today! We look forward to everything you have in store for us in the months to come.
Thank you! I really appreciate it and thank you for your support!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.