Maria Menounos (Μαρία Μενούνος in Greek; born June 8, 1978) is an American actress, journalist, and television presenter known at home for her appearances as a correspondent for The Today Show and Access Hollywood, and abroad for co-hosting the Eurovision Song Contest 2006 in Athens, Greece.
Early life & beauty pageants
Menounos, a Greek American
, was born in Medford, Massachusetts
, and is fluent in the Greek language
. At age 17, she was an employee of Dunkin' Donuts
with aspirations to be something more. Menounos attended the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
in Danielson, CT. In 1995, Menounos began to compete in beauty pageants. The following year, she won the title of Miss Massachusetts Teen USA
and competed at Miss Teen USA
where she failed to place in the top 10. Menounos did however place in the top 15, receiving an honorary mention, during the preliminary competition; Menounos placed 13th in preliminaries. The pageant was won by Christie Lee Woods
. Maria would go on to compete for the title of Miss Massachusetts USA
2000; she placed as the 1st runner up.
Film and television career
Later Menounos attended Boston's Emerson College
where she participated in the NOW award winning organization, Emerson Independent Video. During her senior year, she was hired as a reporter for Channel One News
. Her work for Channel One's 10-minute segments included traveling to El Salvador
to report on the earthquake
of 2001 and interviewing President George W. Bush
Entertainment Tonight hired Menounos as a correspondent in 2002, where she reported on movies, music and fashion. ET executives offered her a hosting gig for ET on MTV & VH1; she left the program in 2005 to focus on her acting career, though she would eventually join rival program Access Hollywood later that Fall as a special correspondent. She went on to co-host a few episodes of the Today Show in the late summer and fall of 2006 as well as in April 2007.
In 2003, Menounos appeared on the November 30 episode of Punk'd where she was one of many celebrities caught in the awkward and embarrassing "Red Carpet Interviews".
In the summer of 2005, she appeared in the comic book film Fantastic Four, where she played a nurse who is romanced by the "Human Torch", played by Chris Evans. Her likeness and voice was featured in the 2005 Electronic Arts video game, From Russia with Love as Eva Adara, Red Grant's henchwoman, which stars Sean Connery as James Bond. She is also the spokesperson for Pantene hair products.
Menounos presented the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest (along with Greek singer Sakis Rouvas) that took place in Athens.
Menounos is a correspondent for The Today Show as well as Access Hollywood in an overall deal with NBC Universal to act in films and television shows. She also has recurring roles on CBS' Without a Trace and as Jules in the second season of The CW's One Tree Hill (during its run on The WB).
Menounos also appeared on the Scrubs episode "My Extra Mile", which aired in May 2006 where she is attracted to John Dorian because she likes his hair.
In 2006, Menounos appeared in the music video for "A Public Affair" by Jessica Simpson. In April 27 2007, Maria starred in Kickin' It Old Skool. In 2007, Menounos continued in her run as international spokesperson doing print and television commercials for Pantene hair products as well as print ads for New York & Company.
On December 17 - December 20 2007, Menounos hosted the reality game show miniseries Clash of the Choirs.
In 2008, she became the host of "Hollywood Green" on the "Planet Green" network.
"Maria Menounos brings glamour to green living as the hostess of Hollywood Green. Both as the special correspondent for daily entertainment newsmagazine "Access Hollywood," and on Hollywood Green, Maria provides TV viewers with comprehensive coverage of entertainment and news personalities."
In 2008, she became the first journalist to interview the entire Obama family as a whole. She is represented by Creative Artists Agency.
In May 2008, played in the AVP Cuervo Gold Crown Huntington Beach Open, but was eliminated in the qualifying round. On July 13 2008, Menounos starred in the celebrity softball game at Yankee Stadium in New York.
At the age of 17, Menounos produced In the Land of Merry Misfits
, an independent film fairy tale. The 35mm feature film was produced by Menounos while attending Emerson College
with director Keven Undergaro
, then head writer for MTV
's Singled Out
. The negative of the film was stolen and the film was never completed but her work on the film, and the film's director, helped her land her reporting job at Channel One News
and at MTV (ET on MTV
). Menounos, however, never forgot the film or the film's director. In 2005, Menounos personally funded the recovery and restoration of the film, which was narrated by John Waters
and starred an eclectic group in the Waters vein - including former WWE
champion Bob Backlund
, actress Josie Davis
from the TV show "Charles in Charge
" and B-movie icon Randal Malone
. The film premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival
Menounos also directed Longtime Listener starring Wilmer Valderrama. The film is an official selection of the Tribeca Film Festival 2006.
Menounos appeared in FHM
magazine and in People
magazine in 2004 as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People
." In another poll conducted by askmen.com
, Menounos was voted one of the top five girls a guy would most want to marry, along with Angelina Jolie
, Charlize Theron
and Jessica Alba
. She has also beaten Jessica Alba and Charlize Theron for "Cyber Vixen of the Year
" on Spike TV
's video game awards.
Menounos founded the charity "Take Action Hollywood!" after her trip to South Africa. Reporting on the devastating effects of the AIDS crisis she was inspired to create TAH!, a charity that utilizes the power of the entertainment industry and the medium of film to affect for positive social change. Maria also created the Cosmo Girl Cup, a national, annual competition and award given to the group of teens who do the most in their communities to affect for positive social change.