BY JACKIE KIM
Fresh off the plane from London after interviewing the cast of the new Harry Potter movie, Kristin Harmel, a book author and writer for People magazine, returns to her Alma mater, the University of Florida. She imitates Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) in her own British accent: “As you can see, I’ve taken off my shoes, cause I’m much more comfortable that way, would you like to take off your shoes?”
As a celebrity journalist, Kristin Harmel, 28, has had her fair share of encounters with famous celebrities: Radcliffe, Matthew McConaughey, OutKast, Patrick Dempsey (Dr. McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy,) Lance Bass (they share the same birthday), Sarah Jessica Parker, P. Diddy/Puff Daddy/Diddy and Justin Timberlake are among the many.
And her favorite? “I really liked Andre Benjamin from OutKast. He was very very very nice. He’s very intellectual. I just really liked the way that his mind worked. He was just a very very very friendly person. To the point where he even called me couple times after the interview to ask me about things, or to mention things, or whatever, which was really nice.”
With her vibrant personality and five feet-miniature stature, she shares the story of her rise to fame to 87 aspiring journalists hoping to one day be in her shoes–or her backless gold stiletto shoes for that matter.
Harmel, a Boston native, moved to Ohio when she was only 2 and to St. Petersburg when she was 10. Stoked by her passion to be a journalist, she worked at the St. Petersburg Times at only 16. She wrote a cover article about the St. Louis Cardinals’ instructional league, and went on to interview people like Bo Jackson and Sister Hazel. Harmel then went to Gator-town and by the time she was a senior, she was interning at People. She then graduated top of her class (summa cum laude) at the College of Journalism and Communications with only one B all four years. “I love to write. I tried to make a newspaper for my school when I was 10. I love writing, talking to people.”
To this day, Kristin credits her success to UF. “I had a ton of wonderful experiences here. It was just wonderful. 100 times out of a 100 I would choose to do it again. The professors are very proactive.” In her speech, she said she believes that if it wasn’t for UF, she wouldn’t have had any of the opportunities she did in her life, such as the People internship.
Now she is a regular freelance writer for the magazine and loves every minute of her job. “I like that it gives me the opportunity to get inside the heads of all different kinds of people. I enjoy doing the celebrity interviews, but I think I prefer doing interviews about real people doing amazing things. It’s always very interesting for me to find out what motivates them and what drives them. I think it’s people like that who are making the world a better place…In a way it helps me become a little bit of a better person because it’s an inspiration.”
She says her favorite interview for People was with Henri Landwirth, a Holocaust survivor who came to America with only $20 in his pocket. He soon became involved in the hotel industry and with the profit, created a non-profit organization best known as Give Kids the World.
Aside from magazine writing, Harmel is also the author of two books, How to Sleep with a Movie Star and The Blonde Theory. She doesn’t fail to add that her first book is 100% fiction, and it is definitely not a how-to book. Both were published by Warner Books.
In 2008, she has two more books coming out called When You Wish and The Art of French Kissing. When You Wish is Harmel’s first teen book. When asked for the reason she switched audiences, she said, “I really wanted to work with this particular editor, who edited the Traveling Pants series. I also think that there’s something about writing for teens. I feel like you have more influence. Books meant more to me and moved me more when I was a teenager than they do now. At like 13/14/15 you’re still trying to sort of figure out the world around you and where you fit in it. And I think books play a big role in helping people figure those things out and I think it’s a neat ability to have to influence people that way. To sort of play a little bit of a role. Or even inspiring them to read.”
As far as journalism as a whole, Harmel says, “I think that it’s broader then ever before because of the advent of the internet. I think there are a lot of changes in store for the future of journalism. It’ll be really interesting to see where it’ll go in the future.”
And for Harmel’s future in five years? “Hopefully still writing novels; still working for magazines. I’m where I want to be right now, so hopefully doing at least two novels a year. Having more people who have read my books and liked them and are looking forward to my next book. Other than that, I’m really happy at where I am right now, so if I’m doing this in five years that’d be great!”
Whether she will stay in journalism or continue writing books, she says, “People ask me now since I have two books out, if I’m going to stop doing the journalism. I don’t think so. I’ll never be able to leave journalism. I love it. It’s a different thing every day and you get to learn so many interesting things about people and you get to meet so many new people from different locks of life.”
Now for the age-old question, in harmony with her latest book, The Blonde Theory, who has more fun? Blondes, brunettes, or redheads? “I think fun is what you make it. Blonde, brunette, or redhead, I think it’s always best to be true to yourself and I think that’s when you have the most fun when you’re true to who you are,” said Harmel, a blonde.