FEATURES / EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS

America's Sweetheart Mans Up
A Q&A with the always bubbly Ross Mathews
Stephan Horbelt
4/25/2013

2013 is turning out to be quite a year for Ross Mathews. In addition to the recent announcement that his very own show—an “interactive” talk show dubbed Hello Ross—has been picked up by E! for a fall debut, his very first book, Man Up! Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence, is set for a May 7 release date.

In addition to these solo projects, funny man Mathews has been a regular panelist and occasional guest host of E!’s hit late-night chat show Chelsea Lately, and he has continued his duties as a regular correspondent for The Tonight Show, where he famously got his start as Jay Leno’s “Ross the Intern.” 

For once, the spotlight is on Ross Mathews and him alone. America has grown to love this openly gay comic, whose brand of endearing likeability and love of puns have established him as America’s Sweetheart. In the span of his career, we’ve seen Mathews sit down with everyone from Olympic athletes and movie stars to politicians (when he was the official political reporter for E! News, covering both the Republican and Democratic Conventions). Known for ‘freaking out’ on-camera upon meeting his idols, I asked about a time he really went crazy.

“The craziest freak-out of them all—from sports legends to Oscar winners to politicians—was Michelle Obama. I had to be calm, but I was freaking out on the inside. I was totally calm, talking policy—talking about gay marriage, women’s rights with her. On the inside, I was like, holy fucking shit, I cannot believe I’m sitting here with the first lady! It was nuts.”

While Mathews has always been open about his private life—his occasional obsessions with certain pop culture personalities and celebs, and his life at home with partner Salvador—never has he been more open than in his upcoming book, a memoir that takes the reader through some of Mathews’ most personal journeys, some of which are hilarious, and some of which are downright embarrassing.

“You know, I have had a ridiculous life, and every step—even as a kid—I remember thinking to myself, it’s for the book, it’s for the book. So I always kept a list of stories I would tell in the book. I started writing a treatment a couple years ago of what this book could be. I knew I wanted it to include friends, but I also have a responsibility to leave a bit of a message—not cheesy, not saccharine—but with every story, I wanted there to be a thread of a message.”

It appears Mathews didn’t have to look very far to secure a book deal. “When I showed my treatment to Chelsea, she said, ‘I want to publish this book. I have an imprint now, and I want this to be the first solo author under my imprint. You’re the one.’ Then it was like, oh my god, now Chelsea’s printing it, so it has to be really good. So I took my time writing it. It’s really fantastic. People who have read it have laughed and they’ve cried a little bit.”

Discussing the title of Man Up!, Mathews says it’s about being who you are and never holding back. “You have to love what makes you different, because if you hate it, that’s not helping anything. But if you use it to stand out from the crowd, it can make all the difference in the world.”

Don’t think for a second, though, that Man Up! is a collection of stories depicting Mathews as some contemplative wise man dishing out advice—there are some missteps here as well.

 

“I’m not the hero of every story. I say the book is about ‘manning up,’ but it’s also about the times when I didn’t. There are a lot of mistakes I’ve made. I can never work at Lane Bryant again!”

That’s where I stopped him. What the hell was Ross Mathews doing working at Lane Bryant, a company famous for selling “the latest looks in women’s plus-size clothing”?

“I was living the dream, OK? It was the most fun I’d ever had,” says Mathews. “The story—it’s hilarious, and then it gets really sad, because I can’t work there anymore. I was fired, and you’ll read why in the book. It was not not embarrassing.” 

Mathews laughs.

“I wanted the book to be a balance of moments when I really rose to the occasion and moments when I really fucked up,” Mathews continued, “because I feel they’re all relatable and people will learn something from all of these stories.”

What’s something many of us can’t relate to? Having Gwyneth Paltrow as our self-proclaimed ‘bestie.’ The Oscar-winning actress is responsible for the new book’s foreword, and I asked Mathews how the two of them met.

“I have always loved her, ever since I saw her in a picture with Brad Pitt when he won the Golden Globe for 12 Monkeys. I said, ‘Who is that? I love her.’ I even said, ‘One day we’re gonna be good friends.’

“So I was at my first Oscars, on the red carpet at the Vanity Fair press line. She walked out, and I said, ‘Will you be my best friend?’ and she said yes—and she meant it. Since then, we’ve been best friends. We just emailed today.”

No one could be happier for Ross Mathews than Frontiers, as the comedian and his partner Salvador are members of the Frontiers family. Salvador has played the role of wardrobe stylist for many a Frontiers cover shoot, and he’s always delivered amazing work. Interestingly enough, the couple just recently sold their house and are moving on up in the world to a gorgeous new home here in L.A. 

If you’ve never run into Ross and Salvador out and about here in town, cut out the middle man and check out the upcoming Man Up! book tour, which stops at L.A.’s Largo Theatre on May 13. “It’s a one-man show across the country. I’m bringing the book to life, telling stories mixed with pop culture, and then I go into the audience, and they can ask me questions. Then I do a book signing afterwards, and I want to meet everyone who wants to meet me.”

Man Up! Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence is currently available for preorder at Amazon.com. Purchase tickets for Ross’s Man Up! tour hereHelloRoss.com.

All photos by Austin Young


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