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'I just kept emailing people and eventually got an interview' - Ruth O'Neill on her LA odyssey and plum job at E! News


Ruth O'Neill

Ruth O'Neill

Ruth O'Neill

It's yet another tediously stunning day in West Hollywood but Ruth O'Neill, one of Ireland's brightest new TV exports, has no time to work on her tan. This is the natural habitat of the A-Lister, and harvesting morsels of news about them is a full time job.

"I just worked eight days in a row" The E! News reporter sighs. "This is my first day off. If there's one thing America does is it drums the work ethic into you. They work everyone to the bone."

The former Assets model has been in Los Angeles for five years now but it's a relief (and something of a surprise) to note there's still no Yankee twang to her accent. She was just fresh out of college - she did commerce in UCD - and had stints on the reality programme Total Xposure, where she got to the final, and briefly as a presenter on TV3's Xpose when she first started to get itchy feet.

"When I look back on it now I was absolutely mad", she says. "I was only 22. I'd never lived away from home. I was fresh out of college. I had no contacts here. I just decided I wanted to move here. My background was in modelling - I did it in school and college - but I really wanted to work in TV. When I moved it was right bang in the middle of the recession and I thought if I don't go I'll regret it. One of the biggest advantages of being young is that you don't have an enormous fear of failure."

Another advantage that Ruth had was that she didn't have to run the gauntlet of immigration and the visa waiver programmer in the way that most Irish immigrants have to: "My Dad was a trader, he was offered a job on Wall Street. My Mum and Dad and sister relocated there and I happened to be born there. [They came home to Ireland a few months later.] It turned out to be a big stroke of luck because it came in so handy later on. Every day you have to bring it on because you know there's hundreds of thousands of people who want your job."

She freelanced for music channels VH1 and MTV but very quickly after she arrived, Ruth landed a much coveted job with ABC News.

"That was really hard. My boss was really tough. My dream was to work for E!", she recalls. "I just kept asking people and emailing people and eventually I got an interview."

At the entertainment network, Ruth found her calling. "I think it suits me much better than hard news. They give you as much or as little as you want, depending on what you pitch."

It also gave her an opportunity to meet some of her heroes: "Kate Hudson stands out. I interviewed her and I kind of knew she'd be cool but she really met all of my expectations. She was so present and looked me directly in the eye and gave great answers. She is in even better shape than she looks in her photographs."

Although nobody has told her she has to look a certain way in LA, she has noticed herself "working out more than I used to. That's definitely an LA thing. It's a way of life here, you find people talking about the gym a lot as well."

Colin Farrell once unflatteringly compared Irish women to American women but Ruth has found LA tough from a dating perspective: "Nobody goes out with each other here, it's impossible. They are all either very focused on their careers or they think that there might be something better just around the corner. I was in New York recently and I said to a friend of mine 'I can't believe people hold hands here, I haven't seen that in so long, it's sweet!"

She sees Irish guys in a different light now: "The minute I'm with an Irish guy the banter is just on. There's just better craic with Irish guys. I think everyone in LA takes themselves very seriously."

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Perhaps that might be one of the reasons why "I'm not sure I see myself living here in the long term. It's a fantastic place. I really love it but I miss Dublin too. There's no place like home."

E! News airs weekdays at 8am, 9am, 4pm, and 7pm on E

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