In her 30s, Myleene Klass has done perhaps more than what most people have in their lifetimes. As the host of CNN’s The Screening Room, viewers worldwide see her traveling from one country to the next, covering film festivals and interviewing Hollywood A-listers. “It’s just so exciting for someone who grew up in a small town in Norfolk, England, a mixed-race girl who didn’t know where she sat,” the half-Filipino, half-Austrian beauty shares.
The irony now is that she sits nowhere but everywhere. “I now go into every home in the world… and it’s brilliant to be part of it. It’s an entertainment show with a journalistic element that defines it and gives it credibility.” She adds, “We don’t just report on movies, we also analyze why this movie is good, what is it about it and the way it was created that’s integral to the film industry.”
Despite being accustomed to rubbing elbows with celebrities, she still gets starstruck. “At an interview with Robert De Niro, I said, ‘Hello, Mr. De Niro, how would you like me to refer to you?’ and he said, ‘Call me Bob’. I flipped, so now if I do see The Godfather or Raging Bull again, I can say, ‘Hey, that’s Bob!’”
As excited as she is about her dream job, she doesn’t seem fazed at all. After all, as an established musician and rising celebrity in England, Myleene has already had her taste of fame. After stints as a chorus girl in Miss Saigon and backup vocalist for artists like Robbie Williams and k.d. Lang, she became a member of the wildly popular band, Hear’Say, winner of the reality band search Popstars (pre-American Idol days). She and her bandmates held British audiences captive and were often favorite tabloid fodder. After the band split in 2003, she became an even bigger celeb on the hugely successful U.K. reality show, I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!
All the hype’s brought good things to Myleene’s career—she’s the face of the Marks & Spencer summer campaign alongside big names in fashion like Twiggy, Lizzy Jagger, Erin O’Connor and Laura Bailey. But her impressive CV boasts of more than just being model, host and pop star. She’s also a classically trained pianist (she plays the violin and harp too) with her album Moving On hitting double platinum in the U.K.
Revisiting her Filipino roots
“I’m dying to go back to the Philippines again! I keep promising my mom (Magdalena, a former nurse from Pangasinan) that we’ll go back. So we’ll definitely go back together… I’m lucky because my family is here. It’s a home away from home, so I don’t feel at all distant. We have the Barrio Fiestas; I’m holding one this year. Whatever’s happening in the Filipino community here, I make sure I’m open to it. It’s a culture I want my baby and my fiancé (former Hear’Say bodyguard Graham Quinn) to know about; it means a lot to me.”
Asked what innately Filipino practices she and her family observe at home, she relates, “The one thing I am grateful to my mom for is instilling family, family, family and that never goes away. I have all these opportunities to see my aunts and cousins who are over here now; we have a really nice relationship.”
On being bi-racial
“It proved to be a drawback at the start of my career largely because work opportunities often required me to look a certain way. But now (being bi-racial) is my biggest advantage especially now that I live in this global community that is just so mixed and varied. I meet so many girls who are half-half, who are mestiza and it’s exciting. It’s our time now. Now, I’m being recognized in my own right for being Filipina and to be on television and have fellow Filipinos say, ‘She’s one of our own.’ That makes me so proud. It was a long journey.”
“At the moment, the thing I’m most proud of is that I’m going to be a mommy but at the same time, I’m hanging on to my normal life too. Because one thing that I see so much of is women who work, work, work. Suddenly, you hit 45 and think, ‘Okay, I have this huge office but I’m on my own’. I’ve seen that so much and I’ve interviewed a lot of women like that. They all tell me, ‘You’re so brave’. And I think, ‘It’s not brave, it’s normal’. People think there must be a right time to do things: when to have a child and when to focus on work. But actually, there’s no right time to do it. So do it all. Do it all at the same time.”
On loving oneself
“I tend to fluctuate between size 8 (US size 6) and a size 14 (US 12)…When I was just starting out, I thought, weight was no big deal. They’ll judge me based on my talent. I’ve worked hard enough to get my talent together and I’m a young woman who can articulate herself and hopefully, I will be judged for that. I’d play a concerto and somebody would say, ‘Hmm, Myleene looks a bit chunky in that dress’. I never understood that and I took it so personally. Why are you judging me on whether I’ve put on or lost weight? They’ve missed the whole point. I practiced for hours and hours to play this concerto and all they could say was, ‘Myleene is chunky and ate all the pie.’ Now, I don’t take it so seriously anymore if someone thinks I’m bigger or smaller. You just have to know yourself and learn to laugh about it…I’m never going to be Gisele, I’m never going to be Kate Moss but I’m happy to be Myleene.”
On helping others
Like many other celebrities, Myleene has used her fame to call attention to, among others, the poverty and injustice in Sierra Leone, Africa through the organization World Vision. She’s sponsoring two families there, providing for the children’s education. “Two of the kids are on their way to becoming nurses,” she reveals, with a note of pride. “This isn’t going to make a difference to just one person; it’s going to make a difference to an entire community. I always tell my friends, ‘Rather than give me a present for Christmas, can you sponsor the kids instead?’”
“Whatever you’re doing, whatever you believe in, do not let anybody tell you, ‘You can’t do it’. I’ve been told at every stage of my career, ‘You can’t do that; you’re not right for this’. It’s not a matter of being arrogant and not listening. You actually have to think, ‘Okay, you might not be able to, but I will’. Never take no for an answer.”
So far, she hasn’t. Maybe she’s had to knock harder, sometimes exhibit a bit more persistence and patience, but life has finally opened its doors for her and said, “Yes, come in.”
For programming info on The Screening Room and Myleene’s blog, visit www.cnn.com/thescreeningroom.
(First published in Marie Claire, August 2007; photos used with permission from Myleene Klass, photos courtesy of CNN International)