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article imageA conversation with Home and Family's Cristina Ferrare Special

By Mindy Peterman     Jan 26, 2014 in Entertainment
Cristina Ferrare has had a long, varied career. She’s been a supermodel, a TV talk show host, and a New York Times bestselling author. Now she co-hosts The Home and Family show on The Hallmark Channel, and, at age 63, has no plans on slowing down.
“I’ve never been as busy in my whole life,” Cristina told me during our recent phone conversation. “Doing a two-hour live show every day has been fun. I have no life but I’m having the best time of my life. It’s like going to a great big wonderful party every day. We get to give great information. There’s crafting and singing. I call my Home and Family house my house in the country.”
With her many talents and interests, Cristina Ferrare is a fascinating woman who takes pride in both her personal and professional achievements. We spoke at length recently about both.
You began a career in modeling with the Ford agency at age 16, a career which spanned over 25 years.
I started modeling at 14 years old in Los Angeles. By the time I was 16, I was put under contract to Max Factor, which was one of the first to get a cosmetic contract. I was under contract to them for ten years. I tried my hand in New York when I was 18. Francesco Scavullo met me and liked me and put me in Vogue for eight pages and I never looked back.
What was life like for you then, having your face on the cover of all those high fashion magazines?
It’s something that you dream about or whatever. But when I would walk by the newsstands when I was in New York and I’d see my face there it was like it was somebody else. It wasn’t me. I come from a very close, grounded Italian family. I married young; I had kids young. My home life was always important to me. That took precedence over everything and still does. It was my job and I loved it. I was able to do it while the kids were in school. But before I even had children I got to travel all over the world. I got to meet very interesting people. It was wonderful.
In the 80s you began working on television.
That all happened by accident, really. It was after my ex-husband was arrested and everything came crashing down. I had written a book before this all happened and it happened to come out in the middle of the whole DeLorean thing (In 1982, Ferrare's husband at the time, John DeLorean, was trapped in a sting operated by the F.B.I. and charged with trafficking in cocaine to raise money to refinance his car company). I couldn’t really go on any of the shows because all they would ask me about was the trial. I was under a gag order; I really wasn’t allowed to talk about it. But Phil Donahue decided he wouldn’t ask me any questions about it and I really wanted to come on the show to talk about the book. My publisher said I needed to go to do PR for the book. So I went and the first question out of Donahue’s mouth was [about the trial]. I did address it. I talked about it for about 15 minutes but without giving away anything I wasn’t supposed to.
It just so happened that the manager of a Los Angeles TV station happened to see that. There was something about me that kind of resonated with him. When I was in L. A., he offered me the job of doing a morning television show, pairing me with Steve Edwards. It was just one of those things. Our talk show was number one in the morning for five years and I learned basically on the job.
You later hosted Shame On You, a prime time news show that exposed consumer fraud.
It was before all those magazine shows that became popular. It was something CBS was trying. It was one of the first of those type of magazine shows that went on CBS.
How influential was this show on the many shows of its type that followed?
It opened up a whole new genre of television: 20/20, 48 Hours, all those shows.
You’ve also appeared in feature films. What was it like working with David Niven in The Impossible Years?
I was put under contract to 20th Century Fox at 16 years old. It was just one of those things that happened [even though I’d never acted before]. I was there for a few months and they were casting this movie called The Impossible Years, which was a big hit on Broadway at that time. They were casting David Niven in it and they’d asked for me to read for the daughter. I went in and the director said he’d like to do a screen test, and I did it. I was fortunate enough where I got the role. It was a huge success but I never really bought in to all that stuff. Acting was not my passion. It was not something I pursued for myself. It was more or less pushed on me. I liked the live audience aspect. That excited me.
You are also an author.
Writing is my true passion. If you ask me what I want to do for the rest of my life, I want to write. Somewhere where I can sit and look out at the lake and just write all day long. It was something I never thought I’d be good at because as a child I had dyslexia. I didn’t really revisit writing until I was an adult. I love women and women’s health issues and [especially] love writing about those topics.
Your show Home and Family has just been renewed for a second season on The Hallmark Channel. Please tell us something about the show.
I did the first incarnation of The Home and Family Show in the ‘90s at Universal in the house they built for us there. We were on the air for about four years until The Family Channel was sold. At the time, women were going into the workplace but they were still basically at home. It was a different time, a different type of audience. This time it’s different. At first, they didn’t call me to be the host; they cast it with two other people. I was pretty sad. This was my baby. My daughter pointed out that maybe they wanted a younger demographic. About six weeks into it, I got a call saying the host missed her husband, missed being back east, and I was asked if I would host the show.
It’s been over a year now. The first year we got an Emmy nomination. Our show is like a really smooth running machine. I’ve never in my life had a working experience like this. I love every single person on the production staff. I adore my co-host, Mark Steines. We have great chemistry.
We run that house like it’s our home. We treat every single person who comes to visit us like they’re part of the family. We want them to feel that when they leave they want to come back. Usually when a guest comes on a talk show they stay for seven minutes and then they leave. Nobody leaves. They want to help us with the DIY projects, they want to cook in they kitchen. They stay for the whole show. Everyone who comes on says it’s the most fun they’ve ever had on a talk show. The reason why they say that is that you’re not going on to a set. You’re going in to a real home. From the garage to the laundry room, the family room, the kitchen, the dining room, Mark’s “man cave”, as we call it, the bedroom, the craft room and our bathroom. Everything is functioning. Things that go wrong in our house, we fix like you would in a real home. I think the audience is really responding to that.
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