College: Arts and Sciences
Major: Communication Studies
At the ripe old age of twenty-three, Damien Fahey is a phenom.The former Northeastern communication studies student reigns as the hot VJ on MTV’s flagship afternoon show, TRL (short for “Total Request Live”). How hot? When Fahey appeared on Live with Regis and Kelly in early March, Regis Philbin gestured toward him and said, “This is the future. This is what it’s all about.”
Teen People magazine’s Readers’ Choice awards ranked him “Best VJ” in its December/January issue. People ran a profile on him in November. The month before that, Gotham magazine proclaimed him one of its hundred most eligible bachelors.
Fahey’s reaction to the buzz? “It blows my mind a little bit,” he admits. “I mean, I’m just a little Irish Catholic kid from Massachusetts with freckles.”
Maybe the Longmeadow native didn’t aim for a television career. But he was nose-to-the-grindstone determined to have a radio career. When he was thirteen, he emptied his savings account to set up a mock radio station in his bedroom.
“I’d bring friends over, and we’d tape radio shows. I would get really upset at them because they wouldn’t take it seriously,” Fahey recalls. “My friend Larry would forget to do the weather, and I’d have to stop the tape and make him do it. Then my friends would get upset and leave.”
At just fourteen, he landed an internship at Springfield FM station WMAS. After six months, he gave the program director a demo tape—he’d perfected it in one of the station’s studios—and got offered the overnight DJ spot every other Saturday.
Fahey’s dad would drop him off late at night and pick him up at 6 in the morning, in spite of his wife’s misgivings about her son being up all night. (“My folks are so supportive,” says Fahey. “They’re my best friends.”) Soon, WMAS was letting him fill in for the afternoon drive-time DJ.
After Fahey enrolled at Northeastern, he sent another demo tape to Boston station KISS 108, which hired him for the Saturday overnight shift, then quickly bumped him up to Sunday mornings. Northeastern gave him co-op credit for the KISS gig. “The combination of classroom and co-op was great for me,” Fahey says. “I like an education where you can really apply what you learn to the outside world.”
Then in 2002, MTV, which was conducting a nationwide search for a new VJ, came to town. Fahey auditioned in the KISS basement. “I had a gut feeling that this was the job I was going to get,” he recalls.
MTV execs felt the same way. With three years of college under his belt, Fahey left Northeastern—he says he still hopes to get his degree someday—to grab MTV’s offer to cohost the beach show Shore Thing in Seaside Heights, New Jersey.
“I kind of told MTV I’d done a lot of interviews, but in reality I’d probably done like three,” Fahey says. “So I worked that much harder. I guess they bought it, because it only took a week and a half until they asked if I wanted to host TRL by myself.”
In person, Fahey is a tall and lanky joker with a serious side. On television, he’s pure fun. Quick with one-liners, energetic and silly, he’s the ultimate frat party host for TRL, which features music videos, celebrity interviews, screwball antics, and a gaggle of cheering teen fans.
When Jackie Chan came on the show, Fahey, covered with protective gear, doubled over after some “kicks” from the martial arts pro but came up smiling. Interviewing Brad Pitt, Fahey asked, “How’s my hair?” before launching into some cheeky banter about Pitt’s looks.
TRL host for nearly two years now, Fahey’s interviewed some of the country’s biggest celebrities: Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher. He also hosts “TRL Weekend Countdown,” a radio show syndicated to some 135 stations across the country.
“The interview is the hard part of the job,” he says. “It’s hard enough not being awkward in real life with people that you first meet. Being natural on television is even harder—and then there are seventy-five people and three cameras around you.”
Some days, he’s fine before interviews; other days, he’s jumpy. “Funny thing is, when I interviewed Madonna, she’s like, ‘Hey, that was a good interview,’” Fahey says. “Then she says, ‘I had a couple of glasses of champagne backstage. I get so nervous for interviews.’ And I go, ‘Omigod, me, too— I threw up this morning!’”
At TRL’s Times Square studio, work begins around 10a.m., when the VJs discuss the format of that day’s show. Then the writers, including Fahey, get together and pitch ideas. After lunch, the VJs read through the script, have their makeup done, get into wardrobe, and rehearse some more. The show airs live from 5 to 6 p.m.
Afterward, Fahey’s usually off to parties or events, hobnobbing with celebs. “I have to be home before twelve-thirty though,” he says, “because Craig Kilborn’s on, and I love that show.”
Although Fahey would love to host his own talk show someday, he’s having a blast at MTV. “Being so intimate with music, working with the people who make music—it’s a dream job,” he says. “I’m thankful for everything I have and where I am.”
He hopes fame doesn’t go to his head. “The most successful people who are still really nice—for them, it’s not just about being famous,” he says. “It’s about being an artist and being true to themselves. They do it because they love it.”
Fahey, it seems, is one of those people. “I just wanted to have a job and have fun. And do something,” he says with a mischievous grin, “that didn’t involve math.”
For more information about Damien Fahey, visit his website.