The beautiful Zuri Hall was in South Africa this month on official E! Entertainment duty, covering the annual Durban July for the American broadcast giant.
It was the Friday before the July and I met the star at a studio in Durban’s creative district, Station Drive, where a photo shoot was organised.
The studio was filled with Hall’s entourage, stylists, photographers, even a bodyguard.
Now for those of you who might not know, Hall has made a name for herself Stateside as the co-anchor of E! News, and the former host of MTV’s after-shows and reunions for the popular reality game show The Challenge.
An Emmy winner, Hall, who was born in Toledo, Ohio, is also a model and has appeared on a number of shows.
I took advantage of the break given to everyone, to chat with Hall.
“You are staying at one of my favourite hotels in Durban, The Beverly Hills,” to which she said, “It’s funny because I left Beverly Hills in the States to come and stay at the Beverly Hills in Durban. It’s insanely beautiful and the sunrises are just so speciaI, it looks like the heavens are opening up,” she said.
Hall is no stranger to Mzansi, having covered the Veuve Clicquot Polo in Cape Town.
“Oh my goodness, what’s not to love about South Africa. I think the moment you land you are aware that you are in a special place.
“I hate mornings, but every morning I am up at 7 watching the sunrise whenever I am here.
“Also everyone here is so kind and generous, from fans of E! to local celebrities and artists, I always feel welcome,” she said.
Hall studied communications at university but always knew she wanted to be on camera, just not a presenter on the world stage.
“I grew up in theatre, I studied theatre at university and I loved the stage and acting.
“But presenting was not a job I thought about doing, until I won a competition to be the face of a local TV station. It was baptism by fire. I started to enjoy it,” she said.
She then began familiarising herself with presenters like Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic.
“My goal was to one day be on E! and it’s a little crazy that I am.”
Asked if E! is as amazing as it looks on TV, she said, “Yeah, it really is! My job has taken me all over the world and I feel so blessed.”
Although the young starlet has fast become a household name since joining E! in 2015, she describes her career as “slow and steady”.
“I have been at this for a decade now, so I know how much work I have put in behind the scenes for so many years, and I think from the outside it might seem like everything has happened quickly, but I had dedicated myself to my craft for years,” she said.
On some of the challenges she has had to overcome during her decade-long career, Zuri was very open.
“I started young so I was still in university when I was presenting on television and my biggest challenge has always been being the underdog.
“I was always the new girl, the untested talent, so it was ‘oh we like her, we think she is good on TV and smart, but we don’t know for sure because she is new’, and so having to prove yourself at every network you go to. Being the new girl on the block, has been difficult, but it has definitely toughened me up.”
Hall said that having been at E! for three years now, she did not feel like that new girl anymore.
She added that her time in the entertainment industry had taught her many lessons about herself.
“I’ve always known I was tough but I’m more resilient than I realised and I care about a lot of different things than I thought I did.
“I don’t want to get all super emo, but I’ve always been very ambitious, and being in this career I always wanted, the camera, lights and action, I’ve realised what matters more to me.
“I need people and human connection way more than I thought I did and I love that my job allows me to meet new people all the time.”
Being Zuri Hall certainly has its perks - she gets to attend all the awards shows and red-carpet events in the US, travels the world for movie premieres and interviews some of the biggest stars in the world.
So who has been a red-carpet highlight? She answered in a flash.
“There have been many, but definitely Oprah Winfrey is at the top of the list. I once asked her for dating advice and she gave me the best advice that I have been following.
“She said ‘go out and live your best life, and after you have had your fun and you’ve danced all night, come back to yourself and focus on becoming the partner that you would want in someone else, and that will attract the right person to you’.
“And I took those gems and it’s been working.”
Other highlights were meeting Will Smith and George Clooney.
On where she sees herself in 10 years, Hall said, “I would like to be happier than I am now, which is hard because I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my adult life.
“I’d like to be married with kids. I still want to work but also share that with someone special.
“In terms of work, I would love to spread my platform and give back.
“I come from the inner city, from a community where not many people are well off and there wasn’t a lot of money, and I would love to go back to those communities and equip young kids with the resources they need to get out and realise their biggest dreams. I want to use my platform to do that,” she said.