Ryan Seacrest's career did not begin on American Idol, but the popularity of the televised talent search contest on Fox helped make him a household name by 2003. Before taking the American Idol job, Seacrest hosted a highly rated radio show in Los Angeles that dominated the afternoon drive-time slot. His career began to flourish in 2004 with the debut of his daily daytime television show, On-Air with Ryan Seacrest.
High school DJ
Born in 1974, Seacrest grew up in Dunwoody, Georgia, where his father, Gary, was a lawyer. He was an overweight child, teased by others, and preferred to stay indoors listening to the radio. His fascination with the medium evolved into making his own radio show tapes, and he would give the cassettes to his parents to play in their cars. "I thought it was a hobby," his homemaker mother, Connie, told Allison Glock in a New York Times Magazine profile. "But people would call my answering machine just to listen to his voice. They thought I had a professional doing it. That's when I thought, This might be bigger than I think it is."
At age fourteen Seacrest became the "Voice of Dunwoody High School," as his school's regular morning public-address system announcer. He was still anything but a star there, he told another New York Times writer, Hilary De Vries. "I wore braces and glasses and was fat and got teased about it," Seacrest said, "but I was always very ambitious." He eventually lost weight by cutting out nearly everything in his school lunch except for the oranges his mother had packed for him. In 1991, the year he became a junior at Dunwoody High, he landed a hard-to-get internship at Atlanta pop music station WSTR-FM.
One night the regular DJ called in sick and asked Seacrest to take his shift. Both thought the station owner was out of town, but he wasn't, and Seacrest received a surprise telephone call on the studio hotline during his live debut. Assuming he would be fired, he went to see his boss the next day in order to apologize. Instead, the station owner told Seacrest that, though he was not a professional, his stint of the night before hadn't been too bad. The boss offered to start training him, and soon Seacrest was given the weekend overnight shift at WSTR.
"Ryan has the appeal of a dog that has been rescued from the pound. That is his secret. He's grateful. He's happy. Always, always. If he had a tail, he'd wag it."
Simon Cowell, New York Times Magazine, May 23, 2004.
Headed for Hollywood
After graduating from Dunwoody High in 1993, Seacrest stayed at the station and began taking journalism classes at the University of Georgia.
British Pop Idol Hosts
Ryan Seacrest has hosted American Idol since its debut in 2002, but the show is a remake of a British hit that premiered in the fall of 2001. The ITV Network's Pop Idol also featured Simon Cowell as a judge, but it was hosted by a pair of English comedians named Ant and Dec. Unlike Seacrest, they were already widely known in their country, thanks to their popular Saturday morning children's show.
Ant and Dec are Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly. Both were born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1975. They met when cast in a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) soap opera for teens called Byker Grove in 1990. Their characters, PJ and Duncan, were popular, but McPartlin lost his part when the show's writers had him maimed in a freak paintball accident. The two went on to release a series of pop music albums, and in 1995 became hosts of their own short-lived BBC series, The Ant and Dec Show. It was followed by Ant and Dec Unzipped in 1997, but the two boyish, energetic personalities only hit their stride with SM:tv Live, a Saturday morning show aimed at young viewers on ITV. Their antics made them popular with their target audience, but older viewers began tuning in as well. On their show, Ant and Den spoofed the Byker Grove paintball episode, gave away their pop records to guests—joking they still had boxes of them left—and mercilessly teased youngsters who called in to the show.
Ant and Dec hosted SM:tv until Pop Idol came calling. Like Seacrest, their easy banter and likable personalities provided relief from Cowell's cutting remarks. Once they even played one of their well-planned pranks on Cowell, after the show became a success in the United States as American Idol : they donned wigs, fake beards, and prosthetic makeup and auditioned as two of the thousands of hopefuls who tried out.
Ant and Dec are often referred to as Britain's favorite "Geordies," a nickname for those from the north of England, who have a distinct accent. In 2002 they became hosts of Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, which was set to make its American TV debut in late 2004 on the Fox Network. There were no plans to air the prank they played on Cowell, in which they sang a Paula Abdul song with American accents. "Thank god the American audiences didn't see that," Donnelly told Sam Wonfor and Alison Dargie in the Journal of Newcastle, England. "I don't think it would be the best way for us to introduce ourselves to them. Maybe we'll show them one day."
He also made his television debut as host of an ESPN show for kids called Radical Outdoor Challenge. When he was nineteen, he quit the Atlanta radio station and moved to Los Angeles, enrolling at Santa Monica College. He had a hard time finding work in the highly competitive radio market in southern California, but he did land some television jobs. He was a weekend anchor on the entertainment-news show Extra, and hosted series like Gladiators, Sci-Fi Channel's The New Edge, and The Click, a teen quiz show. He also worked as an overnight radio DJ and eventually took over the drive-time slot on KYSR, an alternative music station, with the highly-rated "Ryan Seacrest for the Ride Home."
By 1999 Seacrest's show had become the top-rated Los Angeles-area radio program in its time slot. He continued to take the occasional television job, and in 2002 came under consideration for a seat on the judging panel of a new reality-TV series, American Idol. The Fox Network show was based on a hit British series of the previous year called Pop Idol. In both shows unknown hopefuls competed for a chance at a record contract, and viewers could phone a special number and cast their votes for their favorite performer that week. One by one, the singers would be eliminated. Simon Cowell (1959–), a British record executive who made the Spice Girls a success, brought the show across the Atlantic. Cowell and others felt that the likable Seacrest might be better suited for the job of host. "They asked if I thought I could handle live TV," he recalled in the interview with Glock, and "I said, 'Of course,' even though I had no idea."
American Idol debuted in the summer of 2002 and was a phenomenal success almost from the start. Seacrest's on-screen enthusiasm made him an overnight sensation, and the show was seen by some twenty-six million viewers weekly. As American Idol grew in popularity, Seacrest, Cowell, fellow judges Paula Abdul (1962–) and Randy Jackson (1956–), as well as the final contestants, all became household names. Seacrest was sometimes described as the antidote to Cowell, who often judged the contestants' talents harshly. "I think we're showing that there is more than one way to launch a star," Seacrest said, when De Vries asked him about why American Idol had captured the nation's attention. "It could have been a great TV show, but not have any validity in the record-buying world. But we've proven to be very successful that way."
Sometimes Seacrest and Cowell traded insults on the air. Cowell later penned a book on the American Idol phenomenon in which he claimed that Seacrest, known for his perfectly coiffed hair, sometimes spent three hours in the hair and makeup room before a taping. "That's a bit of an exaggeration," Seacrest said, when Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Rodney Ho asked him about it. "My hair, makeup and wardrobe takes about 14 minutes. I don't have three hours in my life to do anything."
Given daily TV show
Seacrest's schedule became even busier in early 2004, when he began hosting On-Air with Ryan Seacrest, a syndicated daytime television talk show. He described its core audience to one interviewer as young adults who had spent their teen years watching MTV's Total Request Live and were now ready for more grown-up fare. The show was a mix of entertainment news, in-studio performances by guests like Missy Elliott (1972–), and live performances outside its studio at the Hollywood & Highland complex in Los Angeles, a tourist mecca. The host also bantered with guests like Donald Trump (1946–), and segued to reports from the show's remote correspondents. Fox Television built Seacrest a new studio for the television and radio show of the same name, a facility that cost a reported $10 million. By then, Seacrest was thought to make about that same amount of money yearly.
Around the same time his new television show debuted, Seacrest also began hosting the weekly radio staple American Top 40. He replaced longtime host Casey Kasem (1932–), who had retired from the top-rated chart hits countdown show heard on hundreds of radio stations across the United States each week. Kasem had been one of Seacrest's radio idols when he was growing up, along with Dick Clark (1929–), host of the weekly music show American Bandstand from 1956 to 1987. Seacrest once asked Clark for some career advice, and Clark told him the business had changed dramatically over the decades. A stake in ownership was important to have, Clark believed, and so Seacrest negotiated a piece of the ownership pie for the televised On-Air. He hoped that it might become "a brand name that could live forever," he explained to De Vries. "So maybe in 20 years it will still be called 'On Air,' with someone else hosting the show, but I can still produce it. Because, let's be honest, you don't know how long people are going to let you into their homes."
Seacrest's own home is a three-story Italianate villa in the Hollywood Hills. He began dating actress and singer Shana Wall in 2003, which seemed to put an end to persistent rumors about his sexual orientation. In interviews, he readily admitted he had "metrosexual" tendencies, using the catchphrase of 2003 for straight guys who exhibited some of the stylishness commonly associated with gay men. Well before the metrosexual term came into common usage, Seacrest used to talk on his L.A. radio show about getting his eyebrows waxed. He once confessed to celebutante Paris Hilton that his flatiron was also a cherished possession in his household. "What can I do about it?" he asked Entertainment Weekly journalist Nicholas Fonseca, about his love of hairstyling products and well-tailored shirts. "I could lie and pretend that I hunt and camp, but that wouldn't be me. Clothes? Shopping? That's stuff I like!"
For More Information
"£10m Bid for Ant 'n' Dec.' Birmingham Evening Mail (Birmingham, England) (May 12, 2004): p. 6.
Curtis, Nick. "What Makes These Two the Hottest Stars on TV?" Evening Standard (London, England) (October 26, 2001): p. 31.
De Vries, Hilary. "His Feet in 'American Idol,' and Reaching to Be a Star." New York Times (January 11, 2004): p. AR30.
Fonseca, Nicholas. "The Music Man: American Idol Host Ryan Seacrest's Blond Ambition Has Earned Him a New Talk Show and Makes Him Hair, We Mean Heir, Apparent to Dick Clark." Entertainment Weekly (January 9, 2004): p. 46.
Glock, Allison. "Bland Ambition." New York Times (May 23, 2004): p. 20.
Ho, Rodney. "Life of Ryan: Atlanta-Born Ryan Seacrest Hopes His New TV Talk Show, Starting Today, Is the Springboard to a Media Empire." Atlanta Journal-Constitution (January 12, 2004): p. B1.
Lipton, Michael A. "Fast Forward: American Idol's Hyper Host Ryan Seacrest Makes Room for Talk TV, a Radio Gig—And Romance." People (January 19,2004): p. 69.
Moir, Jan. "'Yes, We Are Rather Middle-Aged.'" Daily Telegraph (London, England) (December 6, 2001): p. 22.
"Movie for Ant and Dec." Evening Chronicle (April 2, 2004): p. 2.
Poniewozik, James. "Shallow like a Fox: Ryan Seacrest of American Idol and On-Air Hopes to Turn Pop Fluff into an Empire. Go Ahead and Laugh." Time (January 26, 2004): p. 62.
Singh, Anita. "Ant and Dec's Audition Fools Pop Idol's Mr Nasty." Europe Intelligence Wire (January 9, 2003).
Wonfor, Sam, and Alison Dargie. "Ant and Dec Bid to Be Idols in US." Journal (Newcastle, England) (November 3, 2003): p. 7.
"Seacrest, Ryan." UXL Newsmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/general/culture-magazines/seacrest-ryan
"Seacrest, Ryan." UXL Newsmakers. . Retrieved May 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/general/culture-magazines/seacrest-ryan
Seacrest, Ryan 1974(?)–
SEACREST, Ryan 1974(?)–
Full name, Ryan John Seacrest; born December 24, 1974 (some sources cite 1976), in Atlanta, GA; son of Gary (an attorney) and Connie (a homemaker). Education: Attended the University of Georgia and Santa Monica College. Avocational Interests: Exercising, running, cooking, traveling.
Addresses: Agent— William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Publicist— Baker Winokur Ryder, 9100 Wilshire Blvd., Sixth Floor West, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Career: Host, television personality, and radio personality. WSTR/Star 94 (radio station), Atlanta, GA, radio personality, 1990s. Appeared in television commercials.
Awards, Honors: Family Television Award, and Emmy Award nomination (with others), outstanding reality/competition program, both 2003, for American Idol; named one of "20 under 30" (twenty most successful people under the age of thirty), E! Entertainment Television.
Television Appearances; Series:
Host, Radical Outdoor Challenge, ESPN, c. 1993.
Correspondent, Extra Weekends (also known as Extra: The Entertainment Magazine ), syndicated, beginning c. 1994.
Host, Gladiators 2000, syndicated, beginning c. 1994.
Jack Craft, Reality Check, beginning c. 1995.
Host, The New Edge, Sci–Fi Channel, 1996–1999.
Host, The Click, syndicated, beginning c. 1997.
Host, NBC Saturday Night Movie, NBC, 2000–2001.
Host, Ultimate Revenge (also known as TNN's Ultimate Revenge ), The National Network (later Spike TV), beginning 2001.
Host, American Idol: The Search for a Superstar (also known as American Idol and American Idol 2 ), Fox, 2002—.
Host, American Juniors, Fox, 2003.
Correspondent, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2004—.
Host, On–Air with Ryan Seacrest, syndicated, 2004—.
Host of Total Rush.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Host, Wild Animal Games, The Family Channel, 1995.
Announcer, The Crash of 2000: A CNET Special Report (documentary), Sci–Fi Channel, 1997.
Host, America's Party: Live from Las Vegas (also known as America's Party: New Year's Live from Las Vegas ), Fox, 2002 and 2003.
Host, American Idol: Best of the Worst, Fox, 2003.
Host, American Idol: Halfway Home, Fox, 2003.
Host, American Idol: The Final Two, Fox, 2003.
Host, Jingle Ball Rock, Fox, 2003.
Himself, The Disco Ball: A 30–Year Celebration (also known as The Disco Ball ), ABC, 2003.
Maxim Hot 100, NBC, 2003.
Playboy's 50th Anniversary Celebration, Arts and Entertainment, 2003.
Host, American Idol: The Road to Hollywood, Fox, 2004.
Host, American Idol: Uncut, Uncensored and Untalented, Fox, 2004.
Himself, Britney Spears: E! Entertainment Special (documentary), E! Entertainment Television, 2004.
Host of An Evening at the Academy Awards; also appeared in a special marking the premiere of the film Tomorrow Never Dies, E! Entertainment Television, c. 1997.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
The WB Radio Music Awards, The WB, 1999.
Host, The 2003 Billboard Music Awards, Fox, 2003.
Host, The 2003 Radio Music Awards, NBC, 2003.
Presenter, The 55th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Fox, 2003.
Presenter, The 30th Annual American Music Awards, ABC, 2003.
Himself, The 2003 Teen Choice Awards, Fox, 2003.
The Fifth Annual Family Television Awards, The WB, 2003.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Announcer, Life, Camera, Action, Fox Family Channel, 1998.
Guest host, Talk Soup, E! Entertainment Television, 1999.
Voice of Fighting Families host, "Helga Sleepwalks/Fighting Families, " Hey Arnold (animated), Nickelodeon, 1999.
Melrose Place, Fox, c. 1999.
Host, "The Final Proof," Beverly Hills, 90210, Fox, 2000.
Himself, MADtv, Fox, 2002.
The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, CBS, 2002.
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2002 and 2003.
Himself, "NFL Draftees," Player$, 2003.
Guest host, Good Day Live, Fox, 2003.
Guest host, Larry King Live, CNN, 2003.
Himself, Paula Abdul: The E! True Hollywood Story (documentary), E! Entertainment Television, 2003.
Himself, The New Tom Green Show, MTV, 2003.
Himself, The View, ABC, 2003.
Himself, The Wayne Brady Show, syndicated, 2003.
Himself, The Late Show with David Letterman, CBS, 2004.
Also appeared in episodes of other series, including Blind Date, syndicated; The Dating Game, syndicated; and Leeza, NBC and UPN.
Television Executive Producer and Creator; Series:
On–Air with Ryan Seacrest, syndicated, 2004—.
Radio Appearances; Series:
Host, Ryan Seacrest for the Ride Home, KYSR/Star 98.7 [Los Angeles], c. 1995–2004.
Host, Live from the Lounge, syndicated, c. 2001–2003.
Host, American Top 40, 2004—.
Host, On–Air with Ryan Seacrest, KIIS [Los Angeles], 2004—.
Appeared in other radio productions.
Entertainment Weekly, January 9, 2004, pp. 46–48.
Parade, January 4, 2004, p. 26.
People Weekly, May 1, 2003, pp. 26–27; January 19, 2004, p. 69.
Time, January 26, 2004, p. 62.
TV Guide, January 17, 2004, pp. 42–47.
"Seacrest, Ryan 1974(?)–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/seacrest-ryan-1974
"Seacrest, Ryan 1974(?)–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved May 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/seacrest-ryan-1974