Jay Tenem, Quinnipiac’s link to the A-list, opens up about his life as a celebrity interviewer
He’s partied with Jay-Z, laughed with Dustin Hoffman, worked for Howard Stern, and interviewed just about every celebrity you know. Oh, and he’s currently a sophomore at Quinnipiac University.
Yes, he’ll snooze through a class or two and make an occassional appearance at Toad’s Place, but is Jay Tenem a typical college kid? Definitely not.
In fact he’s “Almost Famous.” Now 19 years old and an active employee to “Howard,” as he refers to him, Tenem has been in the Hollywood business for almost five years now.
On his 15th birthday, Tenem realized that time was ticking away and he needed to act fast.
“I wasn’t really doing anything other than being a 15-year-old kid and I thought, I want to leave high school with a career set,” he said.
When Tenem was a bit younger he dabbled in acting, doing a few modeling and commercial gigs, but he was determined to break into the Hollywood business.
Over the next few months, he worked day and night to try to get phone interviews with some small celebrities.
“My workday, when I was fully into it, started at 7 a.m. when I woke up and ended at 11 p.m., and that was just me on the phone making calls out to LA,” Tenem said.
After a few months, he finally got a response and had his first phone interview with Josh Peck from Nickelodeon’s “Drake and Josh.” In August, Tenem got his big break: two passes to the red carpet of the Teen Choice Awards.
“It is the most embarrassing thing,” Tenem said. “I called my Mom’s cell phone and left a voicemail in this little high voice, ‘Mom we’re going to the Teen Choice Awards!’ I was freaking out; that was my big break. I went from not meeting a single celebrity to now walking the red carpet with Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson and Dane Cook.”
In addition to conducting interviews for Howard Stern, Tenem has worked for People Magazine, Newsday, Tiger Beat, BOP, The Insider and Us Weekly. So how does he juggle it all—the life of a Hollywood somebody and the average life of a Quinnipiac student?
“I have work and I have social—they’re completely different.”
When Tenem was in high school, compartmentalizing his two worlds didn’t come so naturally.
“I got the drift that I was talking about my work too much and my friends were like that’s the only thing,” he said. “It’s annoying. It sounded like I was bragging when I was really just extremely passionate. It’s just like, dude—I don’t care about Brad and Angelina and how many babies they’re adopting.”
Luckily for Tenem, he got the message and altered the way he expressed himself to portray a different image at Quinnipiac.
“In high school I had that name as that celebrity guy, everyone asked me about it,” Tenem said. “That was my life. But I came here not wanting to be that guy. I didn’t want to go to a party and meet a group of girls and be like, ‘Hey I know David Beckham.’ That’s not what I wanted to do.”
For a while, Tenem was able to maintain his low-key lifestyle on campus. Other than his close friends, people at Quinnipiac didn’t get wind of their semi-famous peer until he received a backstage pass to meet Bob Saget at the Student Programming Board’s Fall Show as Jay Tenem, interviewer to the stars. Although SPB chose not to comment on Tenem’s meet-and-greet with Saget, most students were shocked to hear about their almost-famous peer.
“I was a little taken back by it and didn’t know what to think,” said Jordan Hall, one of Tenem’s close friends. “Then he showed me all the pictures with famous people from the Teen Choice Awards and I was in complete awe. But to me, Jay is still just Jay, one of my first friends at Quinnipiac, not Jay, the guy who knows famous people.”
Photo credit: Jay Tenem