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Joelle Garguilo: Living her passion

Smart, funny, outgoing, and above all, inspiring.These are just a few of the words that come to mind after spending time with Joelle Garguilo, TV reporter, host, producer, and overall dynamic storyteller for NBC’s NY Live.

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From reporting on the hottest in entertainment to sharing stories that touch people’s lives, Joelle is right where she’s always dreamt she would be. But the road to TV was anything but typical. Before taking one of the biggest leaps of her life, Joelle studied and worked in accounting and finance before switching gears. When her job at New Line Cinema was dissolved, she decided to follow her passion.

“I always wanted to do something in TV, but I kept those dreams small,” she says. “I don’t know why, but I did. Maybe because I felt like I wasn’t good enough, or thought I had to have the financially stable career because society said so.”

After taking a few classes at NYU and then a yearlong program at the New York Film Academy, Joelle was ready to leave her old self behind and pursue a dream she always had but up until then had only whispered.

“As kids, we scream our dreams out loud and genuinely believe we’re going to achieve them,” Joelle explains. “But then something happens as we get older where we hide them, and we make ourselves feel small for some reason. If there’s something you want to do, go for it, because I think it’s sad if you look back at the ‘What if’s’ when it’s free to try.”

Along with the work she does both in front of and behind the camera, Joelle’s biggest role is that of mom to two little girls for whom she is setting an example as she leads the way.

BELLA sat down with the hard-working and talented TV host for an extremely candid conversation about her career, her life as a mom, and the way in which a near-death experience as a child helped to shape the woman she is today.

You’ve been in the business for over a decade. What do you find the most challenging aspect of your job?

So much work goes into three minutes of TV. First, it’s finding the story, the hours of footage to go through, handling it with care, and then crafting it.

You’ve said this career has always been your dream. What is your favorite part of it?

It’s the people I meet and the worlds I get to step in to. I step into worlds that aren’t mine and as evolving people, I think it’s so important. It’s given me empathy, understanding, and it’s made me a better human being.

There was a time when I was all about entertainment, and I still love it…I love a great interview. But as the world started to change, I realized the importance of using my platform, giving a voice to people who don’t typically get the microphone on such a large scale. It just takes one person to make a difference. When you shift from self to service, I feel like magic happens.

A career highlight for you was the chance to interview Oprah Winfrey. Tell us about that experience.

Oprah told me I had it! I was on the red carpet, and these people talk to everyone, they’re asked the same questions and I pride myself on coming up with questions that will get a good answer and that other people aren’t asking. I remember it was her and Steven Spielberg, and I asked them both a question, he answered first. As she was answering, he’s smiling because he’s thinking, this girl is getting a compliment from Oprah. Even Spielberg understood the significance. That moment will always stay with me.

Who’s on your interview bucket list?

Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears—they’ve been on my list for a very long time!

In a previous interview, you talked about the challenges of being a working mom and the importance of finding your tribe.

I had some rude awakenings in the industry after having my first child. Pre-Gianna, I was all rose-colored glasses. When I came back from maternity leave there were situations that hardened me, which unfortunately happens to too many working mothers. I realized then the importance of finding your people, the ones you can really count on. Leaning on colleagues (especially my current boss), friends, and family…I can’t stress enough the importance of a support system.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow your footsteps or hoping to just make a change?

Know when it’s time to walk away. So many people become stuck in a job where their potential isn’t being noticed—women especially—and we look to others for approval. Just follow your heart and your passion, forget about the noise.

It’s also OK to fall flat on your face. For me, personally, I have fallen hard and multiple times, but I think that’s where the magic happens. You don’t see it at the time, but I found myself and my calling along the way in the messy moments as well as the picture-perfect ones.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

That’s a great question because I’m such an open book. When people know you work in TV and they see this certain image, they think you must have a perfect life, but I say I am a ‘put-together mess.’

As a kid I was a Type-A perfectionist, and I had a bad eating disorder when I was younger. I developed bulimia when I was 12 years old and didn’t tell my parents until I was about 15. Because I had to be so perfect, I said I would never do it again, but then I stopped eating and developed anorexia. I was hospitalized and almost died. My parents sent me to a hospital in Philadelphia where I got therapy and really learned a lot.

That time shaped me, and from then on, I became a reformed perfectionist. Anyone who knows me well will say, “That girl is a hot mess, but she always gets it done.” I don’t always have it together, but I make it work. I think a lot of that comes from that near-death experience as a kid. I learned a lot of lessons at a young age.

As a mom, what lessons do you hope your girls will take away from your experiences?

So often in life people will tell you everything you can’t do; why aren’t we telling people everything they can do? Every day when I’m walking the girls to school, I make them say, “I am smart, I am beautiful, and I can accomplish anything I want.” I want them to have a voice. I grew up very shy and in the background. I teach them you have a choice; you don’t always have to do what others want you to.

So often I took the safe route because it’s what I thought I was supposed to do, and I want them to know what their dreams are, not what dreams other people push on them. If they can identify what it is they want to achieve, they can do it.

When looking ahead, what do you see for yourself ?

It all goes back to dusting off those dreams. I’ve always wanted my own show and it’s time to put it out there. Within the next five years I’d love to come up with something. I don’t know what it looks like or where it will live, but I’d love to do something where I can continue to shine a light on people who deserve the spotlight but don’t often get it.

A podcast is next, for sure. I do these interviews with people who have such interesting stories and I’m captivated by them, so look out for that in the near future!

Photography by VITAL AGIBALOW for HENSEL

Makeup by Lauren Vena

Hair by Eddie Wunderlich

Styling by Mindy Gura and Paula Orlan

Location: Blonde Studios



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