One of the occupational hazards of being Cat Deeley: You tend to get hugged by strangers. And it's no wonder people feel such a kinship with her — on Fox's reality competition So You Think You Can Dance, now in its ninth season, viewers have grown accustomed to watching her nimbly switch gears between effortless host and supportive big sister, offering words of encouragement in her soothing Brummie accent to trembling, Spandex-clad hoofers. If possible, she is even more ingratiating in person — swanning into the nail salon at the swank Beverly Wilshire Hotel with a conspiratorial smile. (As the pixie dust around her clears, she offers to buy rounds of mimosas for the entire room.) We put our feet up with Deeley for some old-fashioned pampering and attempt to unlock the secret to her sparkle.
TV Guide Magazine: Hosting seems like a natural fit for you. Ever feel the pressure?
Deeley: I'm very lucky, because I started out by doing eight years on a live Saturday-morning show in the U.K. We'd put on silly wigs and giant fake teeth and we interviewed everybody from Tom Jones to the Spice Girls to Sting to Mariah Carey. Everything that could possibly go wrong did — whether it was falling over, dropping a mic, being ill. As long as you handle it with a little bit of charm and a serious dose of self-deprecation, it endears you to the audience.
TV Guide Magazine: How did you make the transition from that to SYTYCD?
Deeley: [Executive producer] Nigel [Lythgoe] needed a host for the second season and I was like, "Yes, please." It was such an adventure for me to move here, it actually took my mind off the enormity of what I was doing. If you don't know where your nearest supermarket is or you drive on the other side of the road, you're not thinking, "Oh, my God, what if this fails? What if they can't understand me?"
TV Guide Magazine: Has being around all these gifted dancers rubbed off on you?
Deeley: I've never in any way, shape or form held myself up as any type of dancer. I think all eyes are on me when I'm on the dance floor because they're like, "Stay away from her; she'll take you out!"
TV Guide Magazine: During the audition rounds, you still travel to all the cities. How do you keep yourself entertained between tapings?
Deeley: It used to be always going to vintage stores, but I'm in the middle of remodeling, so now it's developed into shopping for household items as well. We've got a truck with us that transports the equipment, so when I buy something, I'm like, "Throw it on the truck!" Currently I have a wrought-iron dressing table and a stuffed taxidermy rooster waiting for me at the studio.
TV Guide Magazine: What's your take on the SYTYCD judges?
Deeley: Nigel is stern but fair; he can criticize, but it generally tends to be constructive. Mary Murphy is the most infectiously enthusiastic person I know. She's crazy bonkers in every aspect — crazy about dance, crazy about life. If you go out for a night with her, you never know quite what's gonna happen. We ended up dancing on stage with Prince in Vegas once.
TV Guide Magazine: You've been compared to that other überhost, Ryan Seacrest...thoughts?
Deeley: I'm always saying, "Yeah, he's good, but let him do it in 4-inch heels, then we'll talk!" You know what I love about him? He makes it look easy. I think he's one cool customer. If Sacha Baron Cohen can throw ashes on you at the Oscars, you can handle anything.
TV Guide Magazine: And you almost filled in for him on American Idol last season, right?
Deeley: Earlier this year, a producer from Idol called and told me that Ryan was sick; it didn't look like he was going to do the show, could I come in? I show up with soaking wet hair, no makeup, to rehearse. At the very last minute, they're like, "He's going on." No problem, that's totally cool. And then they went, "But we still want you to sit here behind the stage just in case he takes a turn for the worse." So I sat there in a gold lamé frock, with a mic on, just in case Seacrest hit the deck.
TV Guide Magazine: Do fans tend to be overly familiar with you?
Deeley: There are moments where the line is blurred. I've been standing at a bar and someone will come over to me like, "Oh, my God, hi!" And then as they grip me and hug me, they start to pull away and go, "I don't really know you, do I?" And I'm like, "No, you don't. Drink?"
TV Guide Magazine: You recently went public with your boyfriend, Irish comedian Patrick Kielty. What's he like?
Deeley: He's been a friend for 10 years. It was just the right place, right time. And now he makes me sandwiches. And fabulous cheese plates. I love a cheese plate!
TV Guide Magazine: In your experience, is it true what Gloria Estefan said: That sooner or later, the rhythm is gonna get ya?
Deeley: Ha! It will. It has very sharp teeth, and it will probably bite me in the ass.
So You Think You Can Dance airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on Fox.
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