Kelli Gillespie accomplished what many women in media dream of: Land a San Diego-based job that enables you to jet-set across the globe and work alongside the film industry’s greatest actors. It’s the best of Hollywood glamour, without any stress of Los Angeles lifestyle, complete with plenty of passport perks.
You probably recognize 32-year-old Gillespie from her entertainment reports on San Diego 6. But this ambitious blonde’s resume extends far beyond the local news. Gillespie moved to San Diego to attend Point Loma Nazarene University, where she studied mass communications while hosting a radio show and writing for the campus newspaper. Multitasking is one of Gillespie’s most valuable talents, and she continues to juggle multiple professions to this day.
For the past decade, this La Jolla resident has traveled around the world to attend film premieres and interview celebrity stars of the cinema for XETV. From Bora Bora to Egypt and back, Gillespie has been up close and personal with Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Anne Hathaway and Tom Cruise. The globetrotter is also a national magazine editor and an aspiring film producer. When she’s not working, Gillespie can be spotted eating lobster tacos with friends at Miguel’s Cocina in Point Loma or sneaking away to her private refuge of relaxation in Newport Beach.
Get to know Kelli Gillespie in this week’s San Diego Style Profile.
A: Simply, I help people share their stories with others and I absolutely love it. Currently those stories are shared through movies, television, magazine, and radio… I’ve been so blessed to be able to utilize the skills God has gifted me with to encourage, inspire, and bring a little laughter to others through several forms of media.
This June will mark my 10th year at XETV where I continue to commute regularly to various domestic and international locations on assignment interviewing top celebrities about their latest film projects. Entertainment reporting for San Diego 6 has taken me to exotic locations like Egypt, Russia, and Bora Bora for movie premieres, most of Europe, and all the top film festivals including Cannes, Toronto, Berlin, and Sundance. I love to travel and seeing the world with stars like George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, or Robert Downey Jr., well that just makes it all the more interesting!
I wanted the opportunity to go deeper with these celebrities because they have such an influence on society – regardless of whether you think that’s good or bad, what these stars do has direct impact on the worldview of millions – so I wanted to focus on the heart and soul of these actors, athletes, authors, musicians, and bring light to the positive ways celebs use their sphere of influence or power. The perfect showcase for this is Risen Media. On the tagline of faith, hope, and love… Risen is comprised of a film division, magazine, and non-profit. I’m Editor-in-Chief of the national publication Risen Magazine, and under Risen’s film division I co-produced my first feature film Hardflip, starring Rosanna Arquette, John Schneider and Randy Wayne which is set to hit theatres nationwide on June 1, 2012. I also served as Executive Producer on a western called The Sorrow with Michael Madsen and John Savage set for release later this year.
Q: Your background in education and media training?
A: I graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University with a BA in Mass Communications. In school I produced a sitcom, had a radio show, and wrote for the campus newspaper. I did several internships with TV stations and always looked for opportunities to get involved in media events ranging from the Super Bowl, to golf tournaments, concerts, or film shoots.
Q: What was your first job, and how did you break into the media business?
A: It’s all about internships and building relationships. My first internship was at KFMB News8. I specifically remember the interview because I told them I’d like to work on the morning show, and the coordinator at the time said, “We don’t usually have interns on the morning show.” And I asked, “Why?” She said, “Well the shift is 3am to Noon.” And I said, “Then you must have never interviewed anybody that really wanted the job.” If I was going to let tough hours keep me from pursuing my dream, then I knew I wouldn’t get very far in the field. Needless to say, I got the internship with KFMB, which then parlayed into my first job writing news copy for their morning show. I then field produced for the sports department conducting sideline and locker room interviews with the Chargers and Padres.
My first on-air job was actually in sports. My senior year of college I was a reporter on the UT-TV High School Sports Show that aired on COX. And then when FOX launched their morning show I went over to XETV, which is now the CW, to produce their morning show segments and transitioned from sports to entertainment reporting. Eventually my focus shifted to just entertainment, highlighting all the celebrity interviews and latest film releases.
Q: Who are the most exciting celebrities you’ve interviewed? Most memorable interview experience?
A: The most exciting celebrities for me to interview are those whose work I respect the most… effortlessly talented stars like Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Paul McCartney, and Anthony Hopkins to name a few. A handful of celebs have a special place in my heart like Kate Hudson, Channing Tatum, John Krasinski, and Anne Hathaway… we are all similar in age and spent our twenties seeing each other grow, take risks, and really come into our own.
The most memorable interview would have to be with Tom Cruise & Cameron Diaz. In the summer of 2010, I went to Salzburg, Austria and Seville, Spain with them to highlight Knight & Day. Aside from regular sit down interviews, and red carpet premiere interviews, both stars thought it would be fun to recreate a stunt sequence from the movie with a few select journalists. This was an experience unlike any other. Cameron Diaz behind the wheel of a BMW Roadster, me riding shotgun. We sped through the streets of Spain drifting, spinning, and chasing Tom Cruise on a Ducati. All the action was caught on a 9-camera shoot.
It’s pretty tough to catch me off guard but Russell Brand succeeded in a way I never thought possible. He is super sharp and unpredictable but this particular time interviewing him for Get Him to the Greek, during our interview he asked me to kiss him. I laughed it off and said no. He then began with his quick wit and next thing I knew he grabbed my head and full-on kissed me on the lips, on camera. I’m not going to lie; I didn’t really know where to go from there. So naturally Russell continued on with the charade and I sat speechless. Oh you better believe that got a lot of play… not only locally, but the web, CNN. We get a good laugh out of it when we see each other now.
Q: Upcoming spring / summer movies we have to see?
A: I’m a huge fan of the Christopher Nolan Batman franchise so I’m most looking forward to The Dark Knight Rises in July. And what kind of producer would I be if I didn’t plug my film? I definitely have my calendar marked for Hardflip to hit theatres June 1.
Q: Big picture, what are your ultimate career goals?
A: I would absolutely love to be able to continue making movies. I get this stirring inside of me when I’m working with talent, developing stories, and on a film set. I know it’s exactly what I was created and gifted to do. While I’m definitely a goal-setter and thrive on structure, I’m also savvy enough to know that there needs to be flexibility within a plan. I know where I want to go; but I don’t know what the exact blueprint looks like to get me there. My faith in God is the only absolute I know and trust. Any industry favor, talent or influence comes from the Lord and as long as I remember to always put Him first in my life, everything else just seems to naturally fall into perspective. Every day I feel as though I’m living out my dream. I’m beyond thankful and continually humbled. It’s my prayer that everyone would be courageous enough to step out in faith and lead the life God intends for them. There is no greater joy.
Q: When you were 10-years-old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: It has changed so many times, but it is always big. I never had any small dreams; I still don’t. My parents were the best at encouraging me to be creative and not let anyone or anything limit me. But then in turn, they also made it crystal clear as to exactly what would be needed to achieve that goal, and then helped equip me with the needed skills to see my dreams come to fruition. So at 10 years old? I think that was when I wanted to be the first female President of the United States. When I learned everything I’d be responsible for as leader of the free world, well I quickly shifted to wanting to be an Olympic athlete instead. Just seemed more attainable. Then I wanted to be a lawyer, or an actress… but I think it was around high school when I really thought about what would I want to spend my life doing and it boiled down to something very simple: I love people and I love hearing their stories. I knew if I could find a way to surround myself with all types of people and share their stories then that would truly be a dream job. It was then I knew I wanted to go into television broadcasting.
Q: Who is the most significant female role model in your life?
A: Without question my mom. I’m so blessed to have the most incredible family. I grew up in a home of love, encouragement, and support. My mom is a writer. She is an author, a copy editor, she was a columnist, a publicist and so much more. So clearly she was instrumental in helping me develop my creative voice, and in understanding the sacrifice and discipline that was needed to really stand apart from the masses. But more importantly she gave me confidence and an unshakeable foundation of core values. She is a personal example of someone who lives her life by conviction, puts others ahead of herself, and values real relationship. She exudes love in every detail – she still hides notes in my room when she visits, or slips cards in my suitcase. She sends unprompted thoughtful gifts in the mail, and is the only person who can ever remember my schedule. You can’t help but feel special around my mom. We talk almost every day and honestly I can’t imagine where I’d be without her unwavering commitment to our family, her wisdom, and her ability to keep me grounded in the kindest ways possible. I hope a reflection of her can be seen in me.
Q: In what ways do you give back to the San Diego community?
A: I think every single person has a unique sphere of influence and there is a responsibility to how that influence is used. For me it comes in many forms; from speaking on college campuses, to volunteering, or financially committing to key organizations whose passions align with mine. I’m extremely involved with The Rock Church. From junior high and high school ministry, to signature events and the Pervasive Hope campaign. I’m also a faithful supporter in varying capacities of Urban Youth Collaborative, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, The Risen Project, and Mercy Ministries.
Q: How do you describe your personal fashion sense?
A: I definitely like to dress. I don’t think any one would classify me as casual. While I don’t always have to be dripping in designer labels, I am definitely drawn to fabrics and textures. Nothing beats a great cut or the feel of finely made clothes. I’d like to think I take risks, but I always find myself gravitating to styles that are classic and timeless. I love jewelry, dresses and handbags.
Q: From head to toe, what do you feel the best wearing?
A: Well first of all, if they make it in black, I’m buying it! In winter I love my J Band black pencil leg jeans paired with any Leifsdottir blouse. I won’t leave home without my Calvin Klein black peacoat with gold hardware. I’d be wearing my knee-high Michael Kors boots or maybe my Vera Wang crystal-toed gold flats. In Summer I love mini-dresses from French Connection, Juicy or Joie paired with a Splendid sweater and strappy heels or an embellished sandal. Cynthia Steffe, Tina Turk, and Free People also populate my closet. I’m definitely a regular at Anthropologie, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s Impulse, Leohmann’s, and DSW.
Q: San Diego hair salon and stylist you can’t live without?
A: I have the most amazing hair stylist: Jessica Krueger. She used to work in Beverly Hills and because she’s so talented when it comes to color and cut, actresses like Brooke Shields and Debra Messing trust her with their locks. Now Jess either works from her home in Costa Mesa or makes private house calls.
Hand and hand with hair is the appearance of flawless skin. I have two favorite places in San Diego I frequent for facials, peels, and massage: Jean-Michel and Lorena Balensi at Balensi Spa and Kathleen Rocca at Eastlake Rejuvenation Center. I know I’m in good hands with them.
Q: What must-have items do you always carry in your purse?
A: I love handbags and switch often based on my outfit. But most regularly I’ll be carrying my Louis Vuitton Batignolles bag, or my Gucci GG Twins bag. But if I’m at a premiere it’s probably my simple Tory Burch clutch. Regardless of which bag, the items you’ll always find in it are: my iPhone, camera and Christian Dior Ultra-Gloss in Pearl.
Q: No matter how busy you are, you always make time for ___.
A: Family and close friends. I can’t emphasize how important this is to me. I think time is the most precious gift we have. I don’t take one minute for granted. I choose to invest my time in building and maintaining the relationships with the people closest to me. Because I have worked crazy hours, and I travel quite extensively, there is always someone bidding for my attention, and I have to be quite protective, and disciplined, with the time I do have. Navigating what that looked like wasn’t easy. Fortunately I’m blessed to be surrounded by the most amazing core group and we all make each other a priority. When all is said and done the experiences that I’ve had with my family and friends are what has shaped who I am and regardless if I’m on TV, or produce a movie; they love me the same. But make no mistake, they still love the international travel, and celeb encounters too… it’s just brings more joy to share it!
Q: What is your favorite meal at a San Diego restaurant?
A: Lobster tacos and chips with the delicious warm white salsa at Miguel’s Cocina. And it has to be theMiguel’s in Point Loma. The food tastes better there, or maybe it’s because I associate it with college and every person that came to visit me, got taken to Miguel’s.
Q: What is your favorite weekend getaway?
A: Newport Beach. Our close family friends have this incredible additional home right on the beach. They’ve been generous enough to let me escape there ever since I first moved to San Diego for school. Some of my favorite memories are in the simplicity of being inaccessible to my daily responsibilities and just getting on a beach cruiser and riding the boardwalk or sitting still while sipping a latte on the balcony watching the sun set over the ocean. It’s sheer bliss.
Q: How do you stay in such great shape?
A: Do stress and anxiety count as exercise plans?! And I’m sure a caramel latte doesn’t pass for a healthy meal. Hmm, didn’t think so. Well, I wish I could say I put as much discipline into my fitness routine as I do into all the other areas of my life. Most mornings I try to make it to the gym, but sometimes sleep wins out. When I do go, I mix it up between the elliptical machine, treadmill, and weights. I’m also very active. I love walking. Whenever I travel I walk the whole city to get my bearings and to see the sights. Rain, snow or sunshine you can usually find me out and about. But nothing will ever be as fun or as physically grueling as when I played organized sports in high school and college.
Q: Three unique or surprising things we don’t know about you?
A: 1. When I was 12 years old I won a nationwide contest and was on Nickelodeon. It gave me the TV bug…
2. When I was younger and would go to the movies with my friends, I would make them sit through until the very end of the credits because I thought it was amazing just how many people it takes to make a film. And I would tell them one day my name will be in those credits.
3. I can actually sleep on airplanes!
I am so proud to call you my friend!!! I love reading about where you have been and where you headed next. Kelli, you are so amazing!