It was December of 2001 when The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (before the host left the first time) plopped an unknown, happy-go-lucky intern named Ross Mathews on the red carpet. Cut to 2014; that intern is now a household name, at least among E! viewers, and People’s Choice Award nominee for Favorite New Talk Show Host.
What happened in those 13 years to turn Mathews into the brand he is today? For starters, it doesn’t hurt that he befriended Gwyneth Paltrow. But he also successfully parlayed his interning gig into a regular seat as one of Chelsea Handler’s funny gays at the comedian’s late night roundtable before launching his own show, Hello Ross, and documented all the mishaps, celeb freak outs, and his journey to stardom in the book, Man Up!: Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence (out on paperback in February).
Mathews, who hit it big this past year, is ready for more. The entertainer is carving out a new lifestyle brand with the launch of Swank.la ("The Amazon of tile, stone, and wood") and even has hopes of becoming the next HGTV star.
On the launch of Swank.la:
"There should be an Amazon for surfaces—from hardwood to countertops to backsplash and beyond. When it didn’t exist, I just made it. So now we have the largest distributer in the world of home surfaces, over 175,000 products, which you can find on the website. It’s cool. It’s for people who like pretty things."
On becoming an omnipresent brand like pal Gwyneth Paltrow:
"I think Rachael Ray is a great example of someone who is a personality that is relatable but also such a brand, and I think, at a certain point, ‘What’s [going to be] my pots and pans?’ It can’t be something that doesn’t make sense, it can’t be something I’m not really into. It’s got to be something I really enjoy doing and want to contribute to the world. Swank was something that didn’t exist and I thought it should exist. I made it mostly for me.
"Down the line I’d really love to do a line of pocket squares, ties, men’s accessories, and then who knows what. I just think, ‘I always wanted to be a talk show host.’ I got that thinking, ‘Why not me?’ So now why not do other things? There’s 24 hours in the day, I’ve got stuff to do!"
On his dream Food Network or HGTV show:
HGTV: "I wish we had cameras rolling as we’ve been fixing up the Palm Springs house. For starters, we go thrift storing constantly when we’re in Palm Springs because there’s the best vintage shops and the treasures we’ve found are incredible. We’ve done a lot of work on the house and it’s been hi-larious."
Food Network: "I’d love to do some sort of Ross Across America show where you get to see America and eat the food in America and learn the culture through the food."
On how he might react if he lost his People’s Choice Award to fellow nominee Queen Latifah:
"You know, I should just go fucking nuts. Just, like, knock it out of Queen Latifah’s hands … [To Latifah:] ‘You think you’re a queen bitch, give me that fucking award!’"
The celebrity guests he wants to stop by Hello Ross:
"I aim high. I think, ‘Why not me?’ So why not go after Lady Gaga? Why not go after Taylor Swift? Why not go after Liza Minnelli? (Yeah, I said it.) Why not go after Dolly Parton? (It could happen!)"
On making 2014 his year:
"I almost can’t imagine topping 2013. A lot of hard work came to fruition. A lot of seeds I planted, and have been for twelve years on TV now, grew into the dream, which came true. The talk show, the book and now the People’s Choice nomination. (It’s nuts.) I would love if 2014 got even better. I feel like I’m just getting started."