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You can't bring this girl down

Stevie Ryan's YouTube stint got her noticed -- and a co-host gig on a network TV show. Like, how cool is that?

September 22, 2007|Maria Elena Fernandez | Times Staff Writer

This is "Online Nation" co-host Stevie Ryan outside her comfort zone: When the line on the teleprompter reads "revolting beverage," she delivers it by sticking her fingers in her mouth and gagging. A viral video of a cat she introduces triggers her to meow for effect, then to bark when the director requests that she go with it sans meow. Another Internet video called "Show Beast" sparks a "Thriller"-esque scary stance and tone, which amuses her bosses until they ask her to try it one time "like a girl."

"I don't want to be a girl," whines the 22-year-old whose alter ego, the tough-talking chola Little Loca, made her a YouTube sensation and is about to turn her into a TV personality.

Ryan is sitting on the Minimalist white set's spiral staircase to nowhere. She then crosses her legs, tilts her striking face and does indeed act like a girl. She later admits, though, that she's still getting used to being told what to say, how to say it and, toughest of all, having no say about the finished product.

Executive producer David Hurwitz observes, "You couldn't create her, right? She's beautiful and talented but has no ego, and she's completely uninhibited -- but never in a dangerous way."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, September 25, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Little Loca: The caption with photograph of Stevie Ryan in Saturday's Calendar section described her as playing her character Little Loca in the picture. Ryan was not in character when the photograph was taken.

Ryan is one of the four hosts of "Online Nation," a modern-day "America's Funniest Home Videos" that premieres on the CW at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. In a very fast 30 minutes, the clip show zips through 40 or so videos but also reinforces how much YouTube has changed both show business and popular culture since its launch two years ago. As much of a mom-and-pop operation as the homemade productions it features, "Online Nation" cuts costs by hiring unknowns as hosts, producing four shows two days a month and not paying for its content. (The network cannot air the videos without permission from the owners, however.)

"This show goes off and features all the people who have the motivation not to procrastinate but to create and go out and shoot and upload," said executive producer Paul Cockerill. "It really is a new world out there, and this is really bringing to light all their creations."

If it weren't for the ever-popular video-sharing on YouTube, Ryan might still be stocking jeans at Levi's, waiting for that next commercial audition. Similarly, her co-hosts Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal, ( www.rhettandlink.com), both 29, who have been friends since first grade, might still be goofing around in North Carolina, showing their musical parodies and short films only to their pals.

Instead, they are hosting the first network TV show dedicated to the artistic endeavors of amateurs like themselves who grew up with the Internet. (The fourth host is Joy Leslie, a 29-year-old actress meant to represent Internet junkies everywhere.)

"It's not about Hollywood connections anymore," Cockerill quipped. "It's about your Internet connection."

All you need these days, Cockerill says, is some ingenuity, a quality Ryan seems to have in spades. As a 12-year-old girl in Victorville, Ryan spent a lot of time socializing in Internet chat rooms and filming herself with her father's hand-held camera.

"I had all my real chola friends with me and I'm like, 'What up, you guys?' And I'm like, 'Don't be all getting pregnant and stuff,' " she said. "I was so young. I don't know where it comes from, but since I was young, I've been a total camera hog."

This is how badly Ryan wants to be a star: When she was 18, she dug a hole under a fence to sneak into the filming of a Moby music video and was chosen to stand next to the musician. That, and a divine message -- "It was like one day God woke me up and said, 'Take your own head shots, girl' " -- inspired Ryan to take some pictures, develop them in her photography class, Google the names of Hollywood agencies and send them off.

The first part she landed was for Hilary Duff's "So Yesterday" video, in which she played a Marilyn Monroe wannabe.

"I was like, ta-dah! I've made it! I've won my first Oscar!" she said. "Of course, it was just a little part, but that day I saw my reflection in this huge lens, and that is probably a moment in my life I will never forget."

After a brief stint living in Huntington Beach and working in commercials, Ryan moved to Los Angeles. When the acting leads fizzled, she took a job at Levi's and decided that the new video website she was addicted to was the answer.

Ryan posted vintage-style silent films she starred in and edited, and was stunned when fellow YouTubers called her everything from ugly to stupid.

"Where I was from, I was nah-uh, you say that to my face and you will get knocked out," Ryan said. "That's the environment I grew up in: We're strong females. I'm just not used to people being mean anonymously, and it brought out the tiger in me. I let that Little Loca attitude come out. You can't bring this girl down."

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