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THE SUNDAY CONVERSATION

Cat Deeley

The host of 'So You Think You Can Dance' lends a British-bred panache to the Fox hit, but she's got ambitions beyond the ballroom.

July 19, 2009|Choire Sicha

Cat Deeley is the host of Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance." A former model, and therefore tall, she had a successful TV-presenting career in Britain before arriving on our shores with her fearless love of flashy clothes and talking to people on camera.

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Where are you and what are you doing today?

I'm at home at the moment, then I'm going to "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien" later to do an interview with him. Actually. I've done "The Tonight Show" a few times with Jay [Leno] but never with Conan. I can't wait to meet him actually! I have yoga at 1:45, my hair and makeup girls Sally and Amy are coming at 3:45, then the interview between 5 and 6. Busy girl! If I'm busy, it keeps me out of trouble.

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What kind of trouble?

Oh, any. The bad kind.

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Oh, English people!

Exactly.

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But you don't sound particularly nervous.

It must be a lot harder for somebody who is an actor by profession, to go on and be interviewed as themselves. With me, it's what you see is what you get. If I was nervous still after this amount of time, I should give up the day job.

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Do you have a say in your "look" each episode or do you leave it to the stylists?

I used to have a stylist. This season I'm completely styling myself. To be perfectly honest, I kind of know what I like. Some days as a woman you feel super-confident and you can rock a little black leather mini-dress. But other days you want to wear something more comfortable. And I love fashion, and I love mixing designer with High Street and vintage clothes. That's my secret addiction -- flea markets. I go out on Sunday morning in a ponytail and then slowly work my way around flea markets.

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Because you do indeed have a fashion background.

Well, a little bit. To me it's not like work at all. I'm sitting in the makeup chair -- well, last night was '70s Elizabeth Taylor. The dress was a little "Cleopatra." And that's what we did. Or, OK, we're thinking Dior, Ava Gardner -- a very kind of dark eye and lip and they tucked my hair into a bob. Then I found a really old brooch at this flea market, but the catch was broken, so with just the right amount of bobby pins and hope and a prayer it stayed up the whole episode. We do silly stuff in the chair: Think Jerry Hall, '70s, she's been out on a big night and it's halfway through -- that's what I want to look like. We come up with the most extravagant scenarios.

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You treat yourself like a dress-up Barbie.

You know what, I just don't want to be boring. The show itself so lends itself to extravagance and being slightly over the top. And I want people to have an opinion of it -- whether they like it or hate it.

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Do you have a thick skin?

Eh, to be perfectly honest? I've never had to really kind of have a thick skin! Nobody's ever stopped me in the street or said anything derogatory to me. People are happy to come and have a conversation and talk about the show, and they invest themselves in it. And I'm like, it should be a guilty pleasure! And they're like, no, we love it!

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So you're still an innocent?

Well, -ish.

What else are you doing? Do you have hobbies?

I do yoga. I have a horse, so I go riding. I'm quite outdoorsy and quite kind of a tomboy. I love fashion and that kind of thing, but I'm just as happy in jeans and a T-shirt, trekking through the hills. At the moment, we're so frantic with the show. I'm not complaining. I love the show! And in these current economic climes, where people are struggling to find work, I very much appreciate being employed.

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Is it trampling your personal life?

We work hard and play hard. We'll do auditions in New Orleans and then go to a jazz bar and end up at Cafe Du Monde at 3 a.m., having coffee and beignets. So it's not too bad at all. I'm a woman, I can multi-task.

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Are you a female supremacist?

I really wouldn't say that! No. But I'm definitely all for women doing what they love and having a family and having a social life and going out and doing their own thing.

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Well, they're unquestionably better.

You're a snake in the grass!

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I'm just getting you warmed up for Conan.

You know what I can't wait for? He's so tall. I'm 5-foot-9. The minute I put heels on, I'm 6-foot. I'm surrounded by all these bird-like graceful dancers, then there's me; I look like I should be their bodyguard.

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He's like a pterodactyl. And much less frightening than Jon Stewart.

I love Jon Stewart, I really do. And I think Conan is great fun. Those kind of interviews are the best, when the host and the guest are equally comfortable -- a conversation between two friends that laugh and joke and can be serious and heartfelt.

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What are your long-term business goals?

Oh, my goodness. I'm talking about heels and hosting! Well, I would like to have my own production company. I met Dave Stewart on a plane, and we came up with this TV idea. And we're currently talking that one through.

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Wait -- Dave Stewart?

Yes! I'd also like to do a talk show at some point, and I don't know how I'll do it. And you know what? I'd like to continue doing the dance show; it's a show I absolutely love. The show proves the American dream is alive and kicking.

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calendar@latimes.com

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