I headed to our production area on a Monday morning a little tired with a coffee in my hand. I’m meeting Kim Prentiss – one of our two new hosts with a novel’s worth of experience in home shopping. I remember reading her name in forums and hearing it mentioned on Oprah before, but nothing clicked until I walked into the hosts’ meeting room.
Kim welcomes me with open arms, and exclaims in her Southern accent, “Oh gosh! You must be Michelle! Let’s do this!” She leads me towards the green room where I previously conducted Dionne’s interview and we make ourselves comfortable. As I am setting up my laptop, she leans in and giggles, “I’m not going to lie – I’m so excited.” I set down my coffee, feeling a little tired but starting to energize from her personality. Kim is fun and immediately welcoming.
I remember her mentioning about moving to Austin not too long ago over an email exchange over the previous week. I had so many questions ever since she began letting me into her life – Where was she from? How did she get here? How did her career even start? But first, why did she even move?
“Well, first – I love the idea of resettling my life in Texas. Austin is a place where I’ve always wanted to live first. And then, when I came in and I talked to everybody (originally to be a guest expert), I just fell in love. People are so great, down to earth. We could be more ourselves on the air than we could be with the network I worked with before. And yeah, I did come from another shopping network before, but it’s a very different atmosphere. Here – I can be myself, I don’t have to water myself down, we have fun here, I look forward to coming to work every day. I love it!”
She sighs, and continues, “(I moved in) May. Oh, I’m lucky (because) I got friends here! Nikki Stanzione is good to work with, Cheryl L, Katie Rooke, and Craig Rooke – yeah I knew people when I came, which is nice… I’m from Knoxville, Tennessee (so it’s very different).
(I moved to Austin because) Well, it’s all the culture, I love country music, I thought the food was going to be great, and SXSW, it’s considered one of the best cities to live. I love it! I can’t get around the traffic though…I’ve driven in LA, it’s not like this…I’m learning how to get around it (laugh).”
We bonded over how much we hate driving through Austin traffic despite being in love with the city. She told me how she loved the feeling of newness and began to reminisce about her career. She told me about the dangers of burnouts and how she had been battling with it for the last few months.
“You get burnouts. I took a year off. But now, I feel rejuvenated and great. It gets to you a little bit. I want to stress how much I love it, I was born for it. For about 5 years, I worked for the Tennessee Titans – and I miss it so bad. Sometimes, you just got to have a break to get re-energized. That’s what I like about here (at Shop LC) – you get a little time in between…(Today), I don’t do anything but sleep (on my days off). I go home and watch TV and rest my voice to balance myself. One day of that where you have a day of not doing anything. I will say a day a week (would work). I love it, but I get exhausted. (It’s because) I put so much of myself into it. Then, I’m ready to roll after that (chuckles).”
It never occurred to me how difficult hosting must be, for someone with such high energy feeling burnt out from hosting. I soon realize that I have a lot of misconceptions about television shopping hosts, and asked her what do people get wrong about being a host.
“(The job being easy) is the one I get from everybody. “Oh, you have such an easy job!” But – we work 8 hours a day here. Where I used to work, we didn’t. I can’t even go to the bathroom when I’m out there. I think people think it’s easy to just sit there for 4 hours and just chat it up. And – just the stamina it takes to do it. But, I love it! That kind of thing gets me when people think it’s so easy.”
Speaking of standing there and speaking for a few hours – I remember thinking that I felt so scared of performing live when I was a theatre kid in high school. I would force myself through the scene to get over the fear of a hundred people staring at me as I did something scripted. I could not even imagine trying to improvise, keeping people entertained and talking to thousands and thousands of people for hours on end. She then leans back and smiles. She says,
“I love it! I’d rather would do live than tapes. Tape – you feel more put on the spot. I don’t want to waste people’s time – I don’t like feeling like I’ve wasted people’s time. Live – it’s like your own show. You can do what you want. If you do say something, no one can get mad at you until afterwards (laughs). You can say things and get a little fun and – you know – “stick to the script.” I like it!”
She could probably feel my second-hand anxiety as she explains how she never forgets that she is talking to so many people live on air after doing a show for 4-6 hours at a time. I would twitch every single time she told me about having to demonstrate how durable a necklace was live, or how she would have to respond to people coming in and commenting on her show. Kim then leans in and tells me the secret is to keep being yourself through all the recording. I asked her if she ever had a mishap on television.
“I knocked over the whole set once (laughs). I get so many. I’m on the chair talking, and I just fall back and the chair was broken (laughs). It was hilarious! I guess the show must go on. Pushing over the set was a little harder – it had to go on a few breaks.”
The more she spoke, the more real she felt. It didn’t feel like two co-workers sitting down trying to churn out a project, but two life-long friends reconnecting. She and I would go off-topic constantly as we get more and more excited for each other’s accomplishments. It’s no wonder that she has so many fans. I asked her how a fan identifies with her, and she says,
“I think it’s that I’m really real. I talk about not being able to get off a couch, binge-watching. I get a little bit of trouble over it over my career. I don’t want to be super glamorous. I just want to be super real. I want to be able to talk about how I can get a glass of wine at night, I just want people for people to see me….I can’t imagine thinking of it the other way. That just wouldn’t be me.”
Speaking of being real, I noticed that her phone background was a photo of her two adorable chihuahuas. Whenever she looks at the photo, she would constantly smile with pride. I had to ask about her dogs.
“Cash Money was a foster, and Cheryl L works with a rescue agency. She was trying to foster out. I’ve always had big dogs, so I never thought I’d fall in love with a chihuahua. He has just one little tooth hanging out of his mouth and he looked like a little gangster. That’s why I named him Cash Money. And then, Iggy Azalea was from a hoarding situation where she was rescued from. So, that’s his sister, and she looks a lot like him. That’s why I owned them both. But, they got different personalities. I can talk about them all day (laughs).
Cash is like my handsome boy. He’s super good looking for a dog. He really wants attention, (and if he doesn’t get it), he’ll sit (3 feet in front of me) and turn his back away from him until I go, “what’s wrong, Cash?” When he feels adequately pampered, he’ll turn around. He’s got the weirdest personality. He likes to watch TV – if he hears a certain commercial come on, he’ll run to watch the commercial. (However), he’s incredibly masculine. He will insist I pet him. He won’t sit like a normal dog, he will insist on sitting on my chest so I can’t look at the TV, I can’t look at my phone. I’m crazy about him.
Iggy is the one who does many funny things. Bless her heart – her little teeth are a little mangled. She hobbles along – there was something happened during the breeding that messed them up. Anyways, she hobbles around with her little mangled teeth and she’s so cute! She’s not pretty, but she’s super cute! She’s a super-lover girl…and you can hold her like a baby. She’ll look at you in the eyes like she’s super in love with you. It’s hard to explain it – you have to meet her. She’s very girly!”
Wait – Cash Money and Iggy? Aren’t they rap names?
“I used to like a group called Cash Money Millionaires, so, I want (Iggy) to have a rap name too. She’s real light skinned, so I thought that the only white female rapper that made it big is Iggy Azalea.”
She then goes on to tell me about how her favorite past time is to sit there and binge watch television shows. What are her current obsessions?
“Bold and Beautiful (laughs). Not only do I appear as my customer, I am my customer (laughs). Big Brother – it’s a good season! I’m also into Keeping Up with the Kardashians. I also love anything on ID channel. I keep ID on all day, and the shows are about murder. I keep them on all day for my dogs. I have a friend who’s on Homicide Hunters – and he’s so awesome…I love American Monsters. Deadly Women. I’ve watched almost anything…I’ll take any of them, I just love ‘em…There’s really nothing I don’t watch in a movie theatre.”
She then goes on and tells me about how she really is not scared of much. One thing that struck me was how enigmatically eccentric she was. When asked about her two biggest fears, she says,
“Haunted houses. Not like the real ones – the fake ones! The real ones, I’ll go into getting the real ones. But with the fake ones where they’re touching me and stuff – uh uh! They poke at you and breathe on you? I can’t do that! I have claustrophobia – and they make you crawl in tight spaces. So…I told them (they had to let me out) and they let me out the back way.
But I have (experienced paranormal activities) before! When I was by myself in Nashville, I’d be asleep at night, and lights will start flicking on and off. And then, I’d wake up, then fall back asleep and the bottom floor – any electronic I have that made noise started flicking on and off. I was like, “damn you ghost, leave me alone!” (laughs). I wasn’t scared – I don’t know why! I was like, “damn you ghost – stop bothering me! I just want to go back to bed!” And, they’d stop! But, what else could it be? A couple times the TV would come on, and I’d have to go downstairs and say “I told y’all to leave me alone” (laughs). They did (listen) though. My sister stayed at my place before alone and she got panicky. Everything would turn on by themselves and she was freaking on!
(My other fear is) that I fall and break my hip and people have to come in and see my messy apartment (laughs).”
We go off topic once again and we talk about our love for reality television show. Did you know that Kim Prentiss was part of the Oprah’s Big Give show? She goes on to tell me about her experience.
“Yeah! It was about 10 years ago. I’m proud of it. I auditioned for it – I was working on the Tennessee Titans at the time – and I’m proud of that! Working for Tennessee Titans – the NFL team? There was an ad in the paper, and I basically got it! It was like over a million people there – and I got it. You know why? I’ve just acted…like myself.
The premise of the show was called “Oprah’s Big Give.” It was about 10 people – and our job is to see how much we can give back to the people and charity. The winner at the end receives $1 million. But, I got to meet John Travolta, Jennifer Aniston – it was really fun! Oprah – who I love! Oprah was exactly the way she was even when the cameras are off. Everybody was great!”
Before we wrap up, I had to ask for more insider’s secrets to success. She had an impressive resume paired with a fun personality, I figured she had a few more tips to give to newcomers of the industry.
“I applied for an ad on the paper. I’ve been doing this since I was 23 – so it was 1991. I didn’t get picked the first time around. They had auditions, but I looked at it as something I could do but I wasn’t worried about it if I didn’t get a response either since I was working in another job. I always tell people, “don’t get worried if you weren’t called the first time. There’s always a second time.”
On dealing with some more critical feedback, she says,
“Here’s what I say – love me, hate me, do whatever. As long as you don’t ignore me and you’re watching me. I really don’t care. Even on air – if I see any negative comments come up, I’ll say “Caroline – now that was mean!” (laughs). Or, I’ll say “Susan, I shouldn’t say this so much, but I ain’t giving up – BOOM! Susan that’s for you!” (laughs) And then, normally they are sorry. And some…aren’t!”
As we walk over to my desk on the other side of the Shop LC building, she gave me the friendliest hug and offers to get a cup of coffee together one day. Speaking of coffee – I remembered thinking that from the moment I met Kim until now – I never needed to take another sip of caffeine because I felt so much more energized speaking with her. She walks out and looks back and says, “thank you again by the way! I hope you had fun like I did!” before closing the lobby door on her way out.
You can follow on Instagram @kimprentiss17.