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Saturday, March 18, 2006

MGS Chat: Kerri Kasem


She reflects the amazing qualities of women today: intelligence, talentde, confident, hard-working and beautiful. Kerri Kasem fits the bill. Here the rising entertainment personality opens up about her dreams, life missions, career and her iconic father Casey.
You’ve seen her on E! Entertainment Television’s COMING ATTRACTIONS and post award show coverage and on the ULTIMATE FIGHTING CHAMPION doing pre- and post-fight interviews on pay per view. You can even hear her over the airwaves on Racing Rocks with Riki Rachtman, National Lampoon’s Comedy Countdown or talking about relationship and social issues on her Los Angeles radio show.

This charismatic beauty is already known to MTV fans around the world for her high spirits and flair for the dramatic.

Away from the spotlight, she has managed to keep a welcoming demeanor; someone you want to hang out with and share laughs and coffee. She loves motorcycles, camping and horses. She loves to help both people – through her work with St. Jude’s Children Hospital – and animals – through her passionate support of PETA.

So how does she balance fame, success and the need to blend in with the world while still making an impact?

MEDIA GUY: Your father mentioned that you ‘have what it takes’ to make it in the entertainment industry…where did that come from?

KERRI KASEM: It’s in my blood, it really is. When I was a kid, I was always putting on shows. I would write the parts, assign them to my sister and brothers and charge the neighborhood kids a quarter.

MG: You have a more adventurous side and your father is conservative. How do you account for his feelings and the need for you to be less flamboyant?

KK: Balance is the key and sometimes it is tough. There are certain lines I won’t cross and I am careful to respect his perspective as well. As a grown woman, I have the freedom to do what I want as long as it is not degrading or disrespectful to me. This is the line I won’t cross.

MG: Speaking of crossing lines, what life messages did your parents transmit and instill to you growing up?

KK: I had different types of relationships with my parents. My mom was very supportive of my dreams and desires. She was fun and creative. She introduced me to horseback riding and it is still a passion for me today. You could say she spoiled me, but she also knew to teach me right and wrong. My dad gave me the morals, ethics and values I carry today. He was the overriding disciplinarian and always demanded a strong work ethic in everything we did.

MG: Did your parents teach you about your Middle Eastern heritage?

KK: We were very proud to be Arab Americans. We were raised to know exactly who we are and where we came from. Our homes were very spiritual and I carry this very close to my heart.
MG: What were some of the heritage aspects that you carry today?

KK: It is definitely hospitality. I love to have dinner parties and entertain. I love to feed everyone and pay for everything. When I went back to Lebanon in my early twenties, everyone wants to feed you. I felt very comfortable since this is how I am. Also I remember spending a lot of time with family. We would always be up playing cards and board games. This was very special.

MG: How were the Lebanon experiences?

KK: I loved the people and the culture and the food. The nightlife is great there too. Here in LA, I avoid the clubs and that scene when possible. But there it was so different and so much fun.

MG: You are known as a hard worker. Where did that come from?

KK: This is something we learned from my dad. We learned by his actions. He was extremely supportive but I had to earn it. He always said “go get a job or go to school and I’ll help you.” This stuck with me not only because of what I was taught, but also because I had a lot of friends who were given everything. They didn’t have to do anything for it and they have little self esteem as a result.

MG: What was the turning point of your career?

KK: I was acting before 1997 and then I did an audition for MTV Asia and I got it! After that I never wanted to act again. I loved being myself! I loved MTV Asia. We traveled everywhere and met so many people it was wonderful. But now I love my radio show. I am so proud of it because it was the first thing I pitched and sold. I can be opinionated and say what I want. I love being able to reach out to the people – my listeners – and give them a forum to speak their minds.
MG: How do you escape life’s pressures?

KK: I am a worrier by nature and when I can get out and ride my motorcycle, I don’t think about anything else in the world. I just purchased a Harley Davidson Dyna Low Rider and the feeling of freedom…it’s a rush.

MG: What is your personal mission?

KK: I want to help. My work with St. Jude’s and PETA allow me to reach out at so many levels. My radio show gives people an opportunity to speak out on issues that are not covered all of the time. I want to show people that how we live [in the United States] is so different from the rest of the world. We are so privileged here and I want everyone to understand this. We are still blessed to be in America and we should never take anything for granted.

Originally published as the cover feature for ALO magazine.