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Exclusive interview: E! Show LadyGang Keltie Knight goes to Flavortown and then some

Keltie Knight-a nice Canadian girl making it her Hollywood on her terms. Pic credit: Keltie Knight
Keltie Knight-a nice Canadian girl making it her Hollywood on her terms. Pic credit: Keltie Knight

There’s a safe space on TV to hear real talk and honest reveals about the Byzantine cultural norms, fads, trends and THE GREAT MYSTERIES of womanhood…

You know, how to deal with an errant unbudgeable Diva cup, or when you find out the Twittersphere is having a heyday with the current state of your knees.

Emmy award-winning entertainment journalist Keltie Knight does all that and takes all the criticisms in stride (even her knees).

She’s an ace gabber who thinks fast on her feet and who has teamed with designer Jac Vanek and actress and dancer Becca Tobin to create the best new talk television show solely for E!, LadyGang.

The three whipsmart go-getters brainstormed during a bit of lull time in their careers and decided that working on creating their own content and capitalizing on their natural chemistry and wickedly funny repartee was the ticket.

They turned an idea into a podcast and then that was morphed into an award-winning podcast with oodles of listeners. Such was the genesis of LadyGang for E!, a hot new TV series that is booking cool guests and building legions of fans all under the late-night radar.

And adding the cherry, they hired a solidly female-powered below the line crew who work hard to get the show produced and on the air. The twelve episode, thirty-minute talk series debuted in October.

Knight, Tobin, and Vanek get a celebrity guest to dish un-filtered, hysterical intel aided by beer (Ed Sheeran) or champagne as they hash the gamut, from managing the lady bits to people who sit down in cakes for…you’ll have to tune in to see that one.

They keep it light, fun and topical with an emphasis on the things that women discuss in private. No topic is off limits except heavy political stuff, religion and other things that bring the mood down.  There’s no down in LadyGang!

The trio has snagged many cool celebs this season including Ed Sheeran, Lea Michele, Adam Rippon, Karamo Brown, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Guy Branam, Nikki Glaser, Johnny Bananas, Robin Thicke, Jenna Ushkowitz, Kevin Mchale, Sabrina Carpenter, Kat Graham and more. This girl gang will make you laugh out loud.

Monsters and Critics spoke to Keltie about this gem of a talk show that is an addictive watch:

Monsters and Critics: First of all, what is that? There’s an animal noise in the background.

Keltie Knight: Well, I’m actually calling you from the make-up chair here at Entertainment Tonight and my dog, Callie, comes to work with me every day and so she was playing with her toy, and I was being a mom of a toddler and saying, “Shh. Mommy has to work!”

M&C: [Laughs] I love it. So the fact that you love Paula Abdul who is one of my favorites…Is she ever going to be on LadyGang?

Keltie Knight: I’ve asked her a hundred times. Like, I’ve asked so many times that it’s almost embarrassing.  It’s weird. Paula is so nice and she certainly knows who I am and knows that I’m a super fan, and I can’t tell if she loves it or it creeps her out.

But anyway, her publicity, with good reason, is pretty careful about what she does … Which is weird, because she’s the nicest person and she’s really great at talking, but I think they went through that time when she was a little bit off her rocker and they’re holding the reins in really tight.

So, I’ve asked her. I think the best chance I have of interviewing her again is maybe we’re gonna go backstage at her tour for Entertainment Tonight. I freaking love Paula Abdul!

M&C: Do you think that this is because of your own dancing background and she’s a dancer and choreographer and vibe on that dancer level?


Keltie Knight: The first compact disc I ever had growing up was Paula Abdul and I had one compact disc for a decade. So I knew every single song, every music video. I would study it. I was a tap dancer and it was just like, she’s just it. I just love her because she’s kinda nerdy and she’s never been the cool girl.

Janet Jackson was always cool and Paula was just kinda cheesy, but I’m very much the same way. Me and Paula… we’re the same.

M&C: When did you leave Alberta, Canada? How old were you when you left?

Keltie Knight: I was 18. I got my first professional dance job halfway through my senior year of high school. I was working on a cruise ship, and I went for a month and swung a show on a cruise ship and then came back, graduated high school, and then went immediately back out to the cruise ship life that I did for two years.

That is kind of the way that a lot Canadians get into the American entertainment business because we can’t work in the States, so you do a cruise ship and gets you paperwork and all that stuff.

M&C: Interesting. What was the first American TV gig that you landed?

Keltie Knight:   The first time I ever appeared on American television was when I was dancing for the NBA for the New Jersey Nets and I was a guest weather girl. I remember it like yesterday because I went on and then they gave me all this copy and the teleprompter.

I’d never even seen a teleprompter before. I read it through and then when I finished everyone was like, “Whoa. You’re really good at that.” And I was just like, “Oh they’re just being nice.”

And then over the years, I was like, “No actually I’m pretty good at reading a teleprompter.”

So that was kind of the first thing. I love being on set. I love doing this. I love talking. That’s when I made the transition and started thinking about hosting, but my first ever real, real, real job was here at CBS on The Insider, the sister show of Entertainment Tonight.

M&C: All of your experience from dancing and being on reality TV to hosting and interviewing celebrities, it’s the perfect background for you to host and create LadyGang and get really interesting guests. How did Jac and Becca come into your orbit?

Keltie Knight: Becca, I knew from years ago, because Becca was actually a Broadway dancer and singer as well. A lot of times, even though I’m much taller than her, we would go out for the same roles on Broadway a lot and she would always get them and I wouldn’t cause she’s crazy talented.

Becca was always in my orbit as an acquaintance and she got Glee and moved out to L.A. around the same time I moved out to L.A. and we were both doing digital and blogging, and things like that.

So we always wanted to work together.

There was one day where we had met for lunch about figuring what to do together and I was at a point where I was going to get fired. She couldn’t get another job after Glee because there it was this “the curse of Glee,” where you’re so popular and it takes a minute to get your next job.

We were like, “the entertainment world sucks” and I hate waiting for people to call me. I wish we could create something where we don’t have to wait for someone to say yes and pick us, we can just pick ourselves. That’s how LadyGang was birthed.

We knew that we needed a third girl and I instantly thought of Jac [Vanek]. Jac and I share a mutual ex-boyfriend. We always knew each other and Jac is the coolest person. She’s a self-made entrepreneur. She started her company when she was in college and she possesses a little bit of gravitas, I think.

 

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Join us for a quick dance break, 💃💕because #LADYGANGTV is back TOMORROW! Tag the babes you’ll be watching with. 💋

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We met up, had dinner and were all like, “we should do this.” We didn’t realize that we were going to be such a magical trio and then as we got started on the podcast, it just all come together and now it’s just a really magical mix of personalities.

I can’t really explain it. You couldn’t cast it. We’re certainly not like the Spice Girls, where we need the serious one and we need this one. It just happened organically, that this is who we were and it’s a perfect storm.

M&C:  I love how you didn’t know what Flavortown was, by the way, just throwing that out there.

Keltie Knight: My God! I’m SO embarrassed. The greatest thing is that yesterday, I was flying at the Burbank airport and I took a picture of myself beside [a cutout of] Guy Fieri and I sent it to the girls and I’m like, “hey girls, I’m in Flavortown,”  just to really set it in motion.

I ended up getting a burger from Guy’s burger joint just to see and it was the most delicious burger of all time. I have been changed. I’m a part of Flavortown now.

M&C: So Guy Fieri, when he reads this, he’s on notice. He must come to LadyGang.

Keltie Knight: I think it’s only fair. I think Guy Fieri and John Mayer are the biggest guys that we love. We’ve just been begging for so long now that it’s, you know, embarrassing at this point.

M&C: Who are some of the celebrities that you’ve got lined up for this season on Lady Gang on for E!

Keltie Knight:  Rachel Platten is coming for our pregnancy episode. She happens to be seven months pregnant right now. We’re texting about nipple hair when you’re pregnant and I was like, “you gotta come on LadyGang!”

Lea Michele is coming…We’ve filmed so many segments this summer. Oh, we might have Lil’ Jon. Our thing is, we’ve never been “about” our celebrity bookings.

I think that there’s this thing in late night TV where [Steven] Colbert and [Jimmy] Fallon and even Busy [Philipps] and they’re all competing on who can get the biggest guest to be on their show!

We literally do not care, we don’t chase talent like that. We want people that are going to come and be their authentic selves and play and be a part of the LadyGang.

That’s the success we’ve had with the podcast, is that we’ve invited all kinds of celebrities that we just love. If we think you’re cool, we’ll put you on our show and then people will fall in love with you because you’re on our show.

That’s what’s been really cool. I have a long-standing relationship with Ed Sheeran and he was the first person I reached out to.  I was like, “hey I have my own show. Would you be on it?” He said, “absolutely. I’m so proud of you.” And he’s one of the biggest stars in the world.

[For booking] It’s people that mean something to us and people that mean something to our audience. We might have crazy psychic on or whatever, but we love them and it doesn’t have to be J-Law. Of course, Jennifer Lawrence, if you wanna come on the show, we’ll take you, but that’s not the M.O. of LadyGang at all.

M&C: What’s interesting is with like [Showtime talk show] Desus and Mero, the more popular your show gets, the more than the celebrities start to sniff around and they’re clamoring…

Keltie Knight: I mean sure, no one wants to be the first person to come on a brand new show. When we started the podcast, we started it because the conversation that Becca and Jac and I were having was that we want a talk show but no one’s going to give us a talk show – because we’re not famous people.

Let’s make the podcast and I produced it exactly like the show with three blocks and our whole thing was that it would be a celebrity podcast. As we continued with the podcast the numbers clearly reflected that people were more interested in listening to the three of us.

When it was just the three of us, it got higher downloads than an episode with a huge booked celebrity. It just became clear that people are coming to LadyGangTV to see us and our celebrities are just the icing on the cake.

Whereas I think a lot of other shows like this, it’s all about who the celebrity is that day.

M&C: Any taboo subjects, things you will not discuss on LadyGang?

Keltie Knight: Yes. We’ll discuss anything. We have always circled our brand around the rule that my mama gave me that you don’t talk about politics or religion at the dinner table. We certainly do … We have an entire spirituality episode so we’re kind of breaking our own rules.

It’s impossible not to talk about it, but for us, our brand is the release from the world [of real day-to-day news]. We’re not experts on political commentary.

There are people who do it so much better than us. You can get that in a variety of other places, so I think for us we focus on the things about being a woman that are universal.

Periods, pregnancies, stretch marks, and weight and insecurities and negotiating and all those things that every woman goes to that really unite us. It doesn’t matter what side of politics you’re on. I think that’s what makes LadyGang really nice in a way.

M&C: In a Variety piece about you all, there was a lot of flak from #metoo trolls, hyper-serious people that felt you ignored the cause of the moment. How do you manage that? Or do you just ignore it?

Keltie Knight: I think for LadyGang, the brand, we focus on our girls and the girls that love us. We know we’re not gonna be everybody’s cup of tea and that’s okay because we’re a mimosa.

I think we all have our own beliefs. We’re pretty open with those on our own social channels and that’s where we go and turn to be involved. I was at the Woman’s March so if you follow me, you know I’ve been on the red carpet with people like Reese Witherspoon talking in depth about the Me Too movement.

 

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Took this at last years #womensmarch 💪🏻 @womensmarch

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I’m very highly involved in it, but that’s not the LadyGang brand and that’s not something I bring over to LadyGang cause that’s not what our show and our brand is about.

It’s not that we are ignoring these things and it’s not that we don’t care about them, but you don’t watch the Kardashians to hear any political commentary, in the way same way you don’t watch LadyGang to hear it. There’s a place and time and people who do it the right way.

We certainly all are involved. I’m thinking about the elections that just happened this week and obviously, I followed Jac on social media and she had done this beautiful Instagram story about all of these women breaking barriers, but that’s not something we talk about on the show.

That’s what cool about being this millennial brand: yes we have 22 minutes of TV, yes we have our podcast, but we also have our own social channels, we have YouTubes, we have Twitters. There’s a place for all of that content to live. Does that make sense? I don’t wanna seem like a jerk, you know? It’s not that we don’t care.

M&C: It’s the thing about Twitter shaming, I call them the “hectors”. They hector people on Twitter. If you’re not “this enough” or you’re not “that enough” or if you say the wrong word and the politically correct police pounce. It seems like they’re taking the fun out of the funny and nothing’s funny anymore. Everyone’s skin is so thin.

Keltie Knight: Yeah.

M&C: What do you about think Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop. What would be one thing that you would love to write about from your point of view?

Keltie Knight: Oh my gosh, well first of all, we love Gwyneth and we actually have an episode coming out where Becca is gonna share a secret because she is convinced that Gwyneth has requested all of her friends to call her Gwynth.

Like, she doesn’t wanna be Gwyneth, she wants to be Gwynth.

I have no idea if that’s true or not. We got into a whole discussion about it. For us, I love Gywneth and I think she’s so ridiculous at the same time and I hope that’s how people look at us.

We were very inspired by Goop, when we went out into LadyGang. We’re investigating all this stuff. Further on in the season, we investigate fetish stuff that makes vagina steaming look like it is the most conservative thing of all time. We really went there.

We want to deep dive into all of these things because Gwyneth has uncovered all these things that we were never thinking about and we were like, “let’s push the envelope even more.”

If we were to write an episode on Goop, I think we would probably do it on cake sitting. Do you know what that is?

M&C: Someone sits down on a cake naked…

Keltie Knight: Sexual.

M&C: Yep.

Keltie Knight: We did it. We might have investigated this on the show coming.

M&C: [Laughs] Okay, duly noted. Alright. You’ve taken this podcast, you’ve grown it to the network. Is there anything or any goal, or any career type thing that you want to accomplish before you hang it up?

Keltie Knight: Yes. I think for us, we, like you said and thank you for that. This is unheard of in 2018. We are non-celebrities, if anything, like a seventh cheerleader on Glee, like a reporter on TV.

We’re not famous people. We are stars and executive producers and creators of our own television show, which is unheard of. We make the content. We create the content. We hired a female director of photography. A female audio engineer.

The Ladygang Crew behind-the-scenes is female and diverse. Pic credit: E!
The Ladygang Crew behind-the-scenes is female and diverse. Pic credit: E!

All of our production staff that from our senior producers down to our P.A. are female save one. We’ve made those decisions so consciously and I think when people watch the show they’re like,” oh my God. Look at these dumb girls, just being so dumb…”

But we’re NOT dumb girls. We can laugh at ourselves and we don’t take life to seriously but we have absolutely built this brand with intention. I think moving forward everything we do in the LadyGang brand is going to have that same level of intention.


A lot of people don’t know because we’re not screaming it from the rooftops, but this year we gave over $100,000 worth of college scholarships away to girls.

We helped a woman in our LadyGang group [who] had died during childbirth and were part of the fundraising efforts to raise $15,000 for her now-widowed husband and new baby.

I have lent my wedding headdress that I wore at my ceremony. A LadyGanger wrote me on Instagram and was like, “where did you get this?” I loved it. This is what I want for my wedding. I was like, “it was custom made for me, but I’m happy to lend it to you.”  And I lent it to her and sent it to her in the mail. She wore it for her wedding and sent it back to me.

We’re so involved in this community and when people watch the show, I think this is the fun, bougie bunch of the LadyGang but we have a lot of access and I that’s a really strong representation of what women are. I, in my career, as a blonde girl on TV. have constantly been scrutinized.

“She can be pretty or she can be smart, but you can’t be both.” You can either be the hot girl or you can be a journalist who’s serious and really smart. I am blowing the rooftop off that.

I think that you can love the [Real] Housewives and love The Bachelor and you can also empower women at the same time. That’s really what our brand is all about.

LadyGang airs Sunday at 10:30 pm ET on E! and their season is 12 episodes airing every Sunday. New podcasts still up every Tuesday and Thursday as well.Sundays on E!

April Neale
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