Gina Carbone from Wetpaint was kind enough to answer some of our very nosy questions, and as always, we are treated to her delicious sense of humor! Enjoy. (This is also posted on the forum and will be posted on our Weekly Update page later this week).
Would you tell us a little bit about your background? How old were you when you started writing? Did you study journalism?
I kept diaries when I was little, like a lot of kids, but on March 14, 1991 I made a point to write in my journal every single night, no matter how boring my day. (I just happened to pick that day, but the very next month my parents split and my journal turned out to be very helpful therapy.) I was 14 back then and it was probably the best thing I could’ve done to get into the habit of writing. Over the years my posts evolved from “I woke up...” to something more akin to real stories.
I originally studied Anthropology at Hamilton College in upstate New York and that’s where I started writing film reviews. I decided to switch to Communications/Radio & TV at Northeastern University in Boston and wrote a few reviews for that school newspaper as well. I studied abroad at Curtin University in Western Australia and that was my first paid writing gig — film reviews for the school paper. Never thought they’d actually pay!
After graduating from Northeastern, I got a job as a news clerk/librarian at the Portsmouth Herald in Portsmouth, N.H. After the first month I approached the news editor with a story idea and after that I slowly moved up to features writer, film critic, special sections editor and, ultimately, features editor. I had a “year abroad” where I was a copy editor at the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle in Cheyenne, W.Y., but I eventually decided to go into freelance writing since it offers more flexibility. Doesn’t pay as well, there are no benefits and I could be canned from a project at any time, but it gives me independence and lets me often work outside by the water. To me, that’s worth it.
How does your approach differ when writing about shows other than Dancing With the Stars? When you cover The Bachelorette, for instance, it’s fairly obvious you still go for humor, but how do you get inspired to write from a particular angle?
The audiences are a little different. With Bachelorette I feel like I can poke fun at the show a bit more, since longtime fans are pretty aware of all the editing and manipulation and how so many contestants there for the “right reasons” to find love are really just trying to get their faces on TV. I love the show but I roll my eyes at it too. And since it’s supposedly about romance and chemistry, I don’t mind getting really silly about the guys’ bodies and other shallow stuff. I do that for DWTS too — obviously I’m in love with Tristan! — but I have to sometimes rein myself in because it’s not just a dating show. The people on DWTS are usually famous for more than just showing up on TV and there’s so much more to the pros, especially, than just their bodies. (Although I never complain when they want to show off their bodies!)
How long have you been covering DWTS for DWTS Wetpaint, and has your approach changed over the seasons? Where do you get your ideas?
DWTS is the first show I started covering for Wetpaint as a freelancer … I think it was around March of 2010. The site was pretty new and at the time the editors wanted a lot more content than they do now. They’ve scaled back a lot of the features, whereas it used to be recaps, quotes, OMG moments, costume hits & misses and a lot more. I think it’s good to keep it relatively simple or things just get lost out there and you end up flooding people’s Facebook pages with so much content that it’s overwhelming.
Wetpaint breaks things down into news stories and features and for news stories there’s a lot of aggregating. I go to various sites and see if, say, People.com has a story about a DWTS pro or contestant, then send intel to my editor to see if she wants something written up. She’ll either say yes or pass. During the show season I’ll come up with some top 5 or whatever ideas for features and my editors will also suggest some ideas. While the shows are literally airing Monday nights, stuff will often come up naturally and I’ll ask my editor if she wants something on, say, what Maks just said to the judges. If a story or particular topic does well, we’ll do more on it. My editor has access to the database that says what works and what doesn’t, so sometimes she’ll pass on stuff if people aren’t responding to that topic. Usually stuff on the pros does pretty well, especially Maks and Tristan. So if you see a lot of stories on a particular subject, it’s not always because I’m obsessed, it’s more often because the readers are responding with page views!
Obviously, we’re a little partial to the appeal of Tristan MacManus, but do you have a favorite pro (or pros) on DWTS that you have found particularly brilliant – either in terms of performing or choreography? Along those same lines, do you have a favorite season of Dancing With the Stars? (or perhaps a least favorite season)
I’m a huge fan of Derek Hough’s choreography. It’s a crime that he hasn’t won an Emmy. He was my favorite pro before Tristan, but Tristan definitely won me over with his humility, charm, looks, accent and dance talent. I only put talent last on the list because he always puts his partners first. He’s not a LOOK AT ME dancer, which I find very endearing. Kym Johnson is my favorite lady pro — Edyta was my favorite before she left — so I’m thrilled Tristan and Kym seem to be so … close.
Favorite season? I loved the cast on Season 10. Even hating on Kate Gosselin was pretty fun since it seemed to bond all the viewers. There was a lot of drama but also a lot of great dancing. Some people diss Nicole Scherzinger for being too good right off the bat, but that’s the producers’ fault for casting a “ringer.” She and Derek were like two pros out there. That 1950s Paso Doble? Classic. Loved Erin Andrews with Maks. Loved Buzz Aldrin, even though he couldn’t dance. Loved the immediate shock of Shannen Doherty leaving. Loved wondering what the hell Jake Pavelka was doing there. Great season, even if the winner was predictable.
What is your personal favorite of the different pieces you’ve written?
Oh wow. I don’t have one. I’d be afraid to name one, ‘cause then someone would point out there’s a huge typo in the first line.
As a writer, you probably also love to read. Do you have a particular favorite author or book?
I don’t even have HBO right now but I’m insanely obsessed with the actual “Game of Thrones” books and I’m currently I’m re-reading everything in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. I never thought I’d be a fantasy geek, but I was assigned a news story on the new “Harry Potter” book back when the fourth one was just coming out, and the little girl I interviewed convinced me to give the series a try. I got hooked on all things Harry Potter, then read “The Lord of the Rings” series and now GoT. In high school I was a big fan of Russian literature, especially Dostoevsky, but since then I’ve slowly gone mainstream. Now when a Stephen King book comes out I’m all over it.
What type of writing do you most enjoy? Do you write in other genres?
If I could come up with a good topic for a novel I’d try to write one. Anyone have a topic that might work? I’m already 50,000 words into the world’s worst novel — thanks to a National Novel Writing Month experience maybe 10 years ago — but it’s crap and I can’t make it un-crap.
What question have you always wanted to be asked? How might you answer that particular question?
Tristan: “Gina, will you let me take you on a tour of Ireland, fall in love with me and be me wife?”
Gina: “Why, yes. Yes, I will.”
Now to the fun stuff. What do you really think about Tristan MacManus, and what do you really think about MacManiacs? By the way, we gave full credit to you for the term ‘MacManiacs’, even from the inaugural days of our website back in late November, 2011.
Oh I don’t think I deserve credit for the MacManiacs term, although I don’t know the source myself. It descended from the heavens on its own! I think the MacManiacs are a blast. It’s always fun to find a group of people who share the same interest, especially when those people are nice and don’t take everything too seriously. We’re not saving lives, we’re just making each other smile. And to me, if you’re going to like someone, why not go all-in and indulge in it? It’s not like Tristan is sitting across the room as we write about him (if only!), giving us embarrassed looks. If he ever said “Listen, you guys need to chill ‘cause you’re making me uncomfortable,” I think we’d all back off and keep our lovin’ to ourselves. But he knows it’s just harmless fun. He has great fans because he’s earned the affection and respect of other kind people.
When did you realize that you wanted Tristan to be your fake boyfriend? (okay, you can leave this one out if you want).
I totally missed him as part of the pro troupe. I don’t know what my brain was doing back on Season 12, but I didn’t really feel the full power of our Lucky Charm until he was announced as a competing pro and he started his whole Bickersons relationship with Nancy Grace. I think I got hypnotized by his tattoos.
There has been tons of discussion about the DWTS All-Star Season coming up in the fall. If you could cast the show, which pros and celebrities would you bring back, and how would you pair them up?
I think I covered that one here a while back, although I could probably update it:
I partnered Tristan with Brandy because she’s someone a lot of folks feel was “robbed” of a place in the Season 11 Finals (certainly over Bristol Palin). I would prefer to see Maks dancing with either Erin Andrews or Mel B and I’d like to see Brandy with a completely different pro personality. Maks and Tristan are about as different to me as two men get, never mind two pros, and I would just be curious to see how Tris and Brandy would work together.
A very special thank you to the amazing Gina Carbone for taking time out of her schedule to answer our questions. Thanks again, Gina!