By Adam Kluger
Photographer Benno Klandt
Hair by Ricky Mota for Angelo David Salon | ghd hair | The Flex Brush
Makeup by Virginia Martin for Angelo David Salon | Laura Mercier
Photo Imaging by Enri John Angeles
When you spot Entertainment Correspondent Jill Dobson at a movie premiere, you might just wonder why she isn’t on the red carpet instead of behind a press barricade. Dobson, with her All-American, “movie star” good looks, could easily be cast as the female lead of a hit movie or popular TV series! But for Dobson, a critically acclaimed TV journalist, being behind the scenes and getting to know what makes celebrities tick is much more fun. As an always-busy Entertainment Correspondent, Jill Dobson has conducted on-camera interviews with Kate Winslet, Zendaya, Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Margot Robbie, Gwyneth Paltrow and countless other superstars. Dobson has reported on celebrities for CBS, E!, Fox News, HLN, MSNBC, The Today Show, Vh1, and more. She has also conducted extensive interviews for Associated Press Television. Dobson, an extremely talented writer, originally planned on a career in magazine journalism, but changed her focus to broadcast journalism.
“I absolutely love magazines and always have. I have a bookshelf full of magazines at home. I recently realized I had interviewed every single person on my magazine covers! But, I interviewed all those stars for TV, rather than for a magazine, which was my original life plan. It’s like the universe is telling me, ‘Hey, your dreams came true – just not in quite the way you imagined!'”
Red Dress: La Petite Robe di Chiara Boni
Jewelry: Mina D Jewelry
In the Beginning…
“I grew up in the one-stoplight town of Quincy, Michigan. When I was ten years old, my cousin Lori Faulkner moved to New York City to study at F.I.T. She focused on children’s clothes and invited to me walk the runway in her designs for her senior thesis. I loved telling my fourth-grade friends I was jetting off to New York to model!” “That was my first airplane ride – and my first visit to New York City. It couldn’t have been more different than my hometown, but I loved it.”
“When I was 13, I discovered ‘TEEN magazine at my local grocery store. Forget boys – that magazine was my first true love! I saved up enough babysitting money to subscribe. I studied every page of every issue – for years! As time went on, I started reading other magazines and I noticed most of them were published in New York City. So I decided that’s where I would live someday.”
As a Miss USA contestant, Dobson returned to New York City in 2000. The Miss Michigan USA winner (and eventual Miss USA finalist) joined other contestants in NYC for a weekend of media appearances.
Dobson studied journalism at Troy University, eventually focusing on broadcasting. During graduate school at Michigan State University, she moved to New York City to intern at Fox News Channel. On-air talents John Gibson and Heather Nauert mentored Dobson, and introduced her to her future husband. “John Gibson saw potential in me, so he called his agent at William Morris, who suggested I meet with his young colleague, Jim Ornstein.”
It was love at first sight – but more matchmaking was in store.
Gold dress: Badgley Mischka
Jewelry: Mina D Jewelry
“Heather Nauert was a reporter at Fox News who happened to know both Jim and me. She vouched for Jim, telling me he was a really great person. These days Heather is the Spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State. Whenever I see her on the news, I think, ‘There’s my matchmaker!'”
Dobson lives in Manhattan with her husband, WME talent agent Jim Ornstein and their 6-year-old son, Shane and 4-year-old daughter, Elle.
“My husband and children were born in New York City, but I’m a transplant from Quincy, Michigan. I don’t have any childhood friends here in the city, but I’ve found it’s an amazing place to make new friends. I met my friend Rachel standing on the sidewalk, waiting for a traffic light to change. We were both pushing strollers. We started chatting and realized our babies were exactly the same age. Now those babies are six years old and our friendship is still going strong!”
Dobson covers movies for her job, then spends her free time hosting friends at her home theater.
“I love having my girlfriends over for movie night! I start off serving low-fat popcorn and Diet Coke… but inevitably someone smuggles in chocolate or rosé and ruins the whole low-cal vibe,” Dobson laughs.
Aqua and Gold Dress: Christian Dior
Jewelry: Mina D Jewelry
Dobson’s focus on health starts first thing in the morning, where she can often be found at SLT, Steep Rock Bouldering, or FlyWheel. “I ran cross-country in high school and college. These days I compete with the other names up on the leaderboard at FlyWheel. I love pushing myself to my absolute limit to try to get first place. On the days I’m battling just to get fifth or sixth place, I can hear my high school coach, Andy Parzych, in my head, telling me that every point counts and to give my all for the team. Then I work even harder. It’s a trip down memory lane – and an amazing workout.” “I love SLT, even though it’s incredibly hard. I’ve taken more than 100 classes and it’s still a huge challenge every single moment of every single class. I’ve definitely been mistaken – recently – for a first-time student. It’s so sad! I apparently have no natural core strength. But I’ll keep trying and hopefully someday I’ll get through a class without stopping to rest. A girl can dream, right?” “My first rock wall climbing experience was for a local news story when I was a reporter at WWMT in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I finished my report from the top of the wall and couldn’t wait to go again. These days, when my kids are literally starting to climb the walls at home, we head to a climbing gym together and see who can go highest.”
Dobson’s favorite cause is City Harvest, which collects 59 million pounds of excess food each year and delivers it free of charge to soup kitchens, food pantries and other community food programs. Dobson is a volunteer with the organization.
“We have to look out for our neighbors. City Harvest just makes so much sense. Of course we should rescue the extra food from supermarkets and restaurants, and give it to our hungry neighbors.”
Dobson has been a supporter of City Harvest for years – and encourages others to do the same. “If you’re able to help deliver food, or make a donation, or both, please help City Harvest feed our hungry neighbors.”
Another passion of Jill’s is the theater. “My friend Kelly Stillwell is a Broadway stage manager and I’ve seen every show she’s worked on, from Dear Evan Hansen to Frozen the Musical. My friend Anna White took me to see Hamilton with her. Alicia Rancilio, Amanda Coletta, Rachel Klein and Mara Kanner are my other theater-going pals. Together we’re keeping the Great White Way in business!”
“My friend Dr. Kelly Powers invites me to all the coolest events this city has to offer. We all need an ‘in the know’ friend to get us out of our day-to-day routine. Kelly took me to last year’s Diner en Blanc – an outdoor dinner at Lincoln Center with thousands of people, all of them wearing white outfits, white accessories, white headdresses – you name it. It was quite a scene. I also joined Kelly at the Victory Cup Polo Match on Governor’s Island. If an event requires a fancy dress or feathery headdress, Kelly and I will be there!”
Dobson works for various media outlets on a freelance basis, which grants her flexibility and helps her achieve balance between work and home life. “I’m all over the place, so sometimes it’s hard for my friends and family to know which channel or show I’ll pop up on. I tell them it’s easiest to look at the Instagram hashtag #JillDobsonVideos. Either that or you’re going to have to do a lot of channel-flipping!”
“On any given day, you can tell what I’ve been up to, just by looking at my face. Bare face with sunscreen? Playground with the kids. Full TV makeup? A sit-down with Jennifer Lawrence. Full makeup with a layer of sunscreen over it? Let’s just say it’s been a busy day!”
Dobson will next be seen on the upcoming A&E Biography: Teen Idols.
JILL DOBSON’S CELEBRITY SCOOP
“Jason Bateman is one of my favorites. I was a big fan of Arrested Development. He’s so funny and he’s done so much great work. Fun fact: Jason Bateman and my husband were actually born the same year, the same month, the same day. I brought this up one time in an interview. Now every time I interview him he just volunteers to say happy birthday to my husband and he always makes some sort of hilarious joke about it on tape. And so every year I’ll save that tape, even if the interview is from July, and show it to my husband for his birthday in January. It has become a birthday tradition at our home.”
“Everyone loves Reese Witherspoon and after meeting her, I feel that way even more. She has a clothing line called Draper James and at a recent red carpet I wore a Draper James dress. She noticed it and complimented it and that was kind of an icebreaker before the interview. She’s warm and fun to talk to.”
“I also really like talking to Hugh Jackman, he seems so nice and the man knows how to give a sound bite,” laughs Dobson. “One time I interviewed him for Logan, one of the Wolverine movies- and he talked about how he dressed as that character for Halloween one year and took his son trick or treating and almost no one noticed. He always has some funny stories to share.”
“I recently interviewed Drew Barrymore and I feel like we could be real friends. We had a very natural rapport. I had a list of questions, but I didn’t have to ask anything beyond the first question, because the conversation just naturally flowed in a way that she happened to answer all my planned questions. We were just chatting and it felt so comfortable, like I was with an old friend. She’s probably very good at interviews because she’s been doing it her whole life, but deep down I interpreted it to mean we’re soul mates!”
Floral Dress: Prabal Gurung
Jewelry: Mina D Jewelry
“I’ve always loved Gwyneth Paltrow. The first time I interviewed her, I worried she might not be nice and it was going to ruin my long-term fascination. Luckily she was super warm and friendly and I really enjoyed talking to her.”
“Another one was Madonna. She’s from Michigan, I’m from Michigan. And I’ve always listened to her music. Right before the interview they said, “We’ve run out of time. You’re not going to get to talk to her.” I basically begged until they relented. When they took me in for the interview they had to adjust the lights — while Madonna and I small-talked for 8-10 minutes. And then we had our interview, so I not only got to meet Madonna, I got to chat with her off camera and on camera. A dream come true.”
“I’ve interviewed Jennifer Aniston a few times. She is someone everyone knows. We’ve all watched hundreds of hours of Friends and it’s been great every time I’ve interviewed her. She’s such a natural, fun person. And by the way, her hair looks just as good in real life!”
I interviewed Angelina Jolie a few years ago on the red carpet while she was with Brad Pitt.
“I interviewed Angelina Jolie a few years ago on the red carpet while she was with Brad Pitt. At that time, she was on the cover of every magazine- every weekly magazine, every monthly magazine. A red carpet interview can sometimes be really quick and really short. Sometimes actors just walk right by and they don’t even talk to you. But Angelina Jolie stopped and we had a nice talk. She was stunning in person, as you might imagine.”
The Joker’s Wild:
“The first time I interviewed Jared Leto, he just suddenly unclipped his microphone and walked away in the middle of the interview. My cameraman had never seen anything like that before and was shocked. Apparently Leto wasn’t thrilled with one of my questions. It seemed like an innocuous question to me. I asked about his long-term fans who have loved him since My So Called Life. I think at the time he was really focused on music and he didn’t want to talk about his previous acting jobs. … that was my takeaway. I interviewed him again a few years later for the Suicide Squad movie and I was determined that this time we would have a good interview –and we had a great interview,” Dobson laughs.
When I was growing up it was always my dream to be on The Today Show or be on Oprah. I’ve gotten to appear on The Today Show sharing celebrity scoop–but the Oprah Winfrey talk show doesn’t exist anymore. So I adjusted my dream a little bit and now it’s my goal to interview Oprah.
Star on the Rise:
Joel Kinnaman isn’t a household name yet, but I expect him to be one soon. He’s been in The Killing, he’s been in House of Cards, he has a new Netflix series called Altered Carbon and he’s been in Suicide Squad. I’ve interviewed him multiple times and he was the most surprising interview in that he plays such different characters. He is such a chameleon that I didn’t even realize that it was the same person playing all these roles — and that he’s Swedish — until I started studying up for my first interview with him. He’s incredible. Mark my words – he’s going far.
“I love Kathie Lee and Hoda –so I’m hoping that they’ll decide that they need a new regular sidekick and that Jill Dobson would be the perfect person! I’ve met each of them out and about in NYC. They’re both so genuine and wonderful in person and on TV. I’m hoping to someday appear on Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda.