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Intern Rising

Ross Mathews is living his dream and it’s an exciting thing to see! When we caught up with him, he was in the midst of promoting his hilarious (and surprisingly inspiring) new book, Man Up! Tales Of My Delusional Self Confidence (available May 7), and gearing up for his nationwide book tour complete with his own one-man show!

If that's not enough, it was just announced that Ross will have his own talk show called Hello Ross that will premiere this fall on E!  All this from the former Tonight Show intern, and past Instinct cover guy! 

Ross chatted with us about his new book, his crazy journey and many of the juicy pop-culture nuggets he reveals in Man Up! As per the book, no topic was off limits. It’s about to get real, y’all!

Hi Ross! I should tell you, I got 100 percent on the quiz at the end of the book. So I’m coming into this very informed. 

Ross: Did you read it?! Did you read the whole thing?

I read it! I read it cover to cover on the elliptical—and almost fell off the elliptical.

I have to tell you, the most rewarding thing is hearing that. I mean, I wrote it in this little teeny room and thought, “I wonder if anyone’s ever actually going to read this,” and the fact that you read it means to so much to me. Thank you. 

I’m going to be a little fan-girly because you’re hitting some wonderful points for me. 

You know, I wanted to tell a really funny story and sort of honor my family and all that stuff, but I also think I have a responsibility to plant a little seed so people will go, “Oh, I didn’t expect to get a little life lesson out of that, but I did.”

What made you decide to write the book?

Well, I’ve always had a ridiculous life and gotten to do ridiculous things. And I always just thought as I was going along, “Oh God, you’ve gotta put this in the book. Oh God, you gotta put that in a book.” And then one day, I just thought—I looked around at my peers—my friends—who are doing such amazing things and I thought, “I’ve got a story to tell, too. Let me sit down and write a treatment.” I did and Chelsea [Handler] saw it and she said, “I want to publish this. I love this.” And then I was like, “Oh fuck. Now it’s gotta be really good, if she’s putting her name on this.” So I took it really seriously because I wanted to write something of her level. When she read it and said, “This book is so good,” it was the best compliment I’ve ever gotten.

 

 

And so, of course, Gwyneth Paltrow wrote the foreword for the book and she’s your BFF. Are you a part of the GOOP lifestyle? Are you reading the website, doing the cleanses, buying $400 linen pants? What’s happening?

No. I’m eating an apple instead of pita chips. Okay? That’s a GOOP thing that I do. [Laughs]

You give a pretty hilarious, unfiltered account of your romantic and sexual escapades with women and so clearly you’ve been below the belt. Would you still classify yourself as a “gold star gay”?? 

No! I’m not gold star. I went pass the border and I ate a taco. 

I’m still trying to determine if you eat the taco, does that make you, like, bronze?? I don’t know—I don’t know how the rankings work.

You know, I don’t know. I feel like I—that’s like returning from war and being like, “Well you didn’t kill anyone.” You know, like, I was still a soldier. I went there. I earned it. I want that credit. [Laughs]

I like the analogy. I’ve never been to war so I appreciate that you’ve been there and fought that fight.

I was on the front lines!

You make a few references to Shannen Doherty in your book, so just for clarification: Are you Team Brenda or are you Team Kelly? I’m just gonna tell you—I think that this answer says a lot about a person.

Yeah, well I think I was just as confused as everyone. I mean, I still am. I can’t say I’m one side or the other. If you put a gun to my head, I’d probably have to be Team Brenda to be honest with you.

You know what? That’s the answer that I’m looking for. I think if you’re a good person you’re Team Brenda. 

[Laughs] I think Kelly was more popular for longer because, remember, Brenda didn’t come along until her sophomore year, so if you’re going for popularity, Kelly Taylor’s been around a lot longer….

Yeah, but for the audience of the show, we were seeing them both from the same point, and you know, one stole her best friend’s boyfriend and one didn’t. So one’s kinda better.

Yeah. Brenda all the way! I just think I liked Kelly and Brandon together.

Exactly! It should’ve been Kelly and Brandon, Dylan and Brenda. I would’ve been completely fine with that.

Mind you this was almost 20 years ago and we should both probably move on. [Laughs]

You’re right! But I haven’t and I’m glad that showed up in your book so I could feel validated. 

Good! I’m glad that did that for you.

 

 

So, have you met Tiffani Thiessen since the “pretzel incident” described in your book?

I did! I met her on a press line one day and I kind of told her the story and she was like, “Oh. Okay...” I would like to sit down with her. When I guest host Chelsea I’ve asked every time if Tiffani-Amber Thiessen could be a guest and she’s always out of town, but one of these days  when she’s in town I want to reenact the moment in the book with her and have it end better than I let it end.

I think it’ll end better. It can’t end worse!

It honestly could not end worse! And by the way, this really happened! This is not a made up story; it’s not embellished for the book. It happened. It all happened. [Laughs]

You also tell that great story about meeting and getting to touch Madonna, but I gasped when a certain someone joined you in the “prayer circle.” Now I’m not going to say who that was, so as to not spoil it for our readers but, did you die?!  I would have died.

It was a gasp-worthy moment and I appreciate your decorum here because, let me tell you something, that chapter about Madonna is like this couldn’t-possibly-get-better moment that I described and then it gets so much better that I almost thought, “Maybe I should just end everything now. This is the highlight of my life.” [Laughs]

I love that you were very pro Tonya Harding, at least going into the Olympics. I wanted to find out what that was about. Was that because she was kind of the scrappy underdog or was it more that you were pissed at Nancy Kerrigan for taking Michelle Kwan’s spot?

I was angry at Nancy Kerrigan because Michelle Kwan had earned her spot at the Olympics hands down. But mostly, the reason I rooted for Tonya was because I can appreciate a permed bang and an acrylic nail. 

The bangs were intense.

And I love a thick thigh on a gal. You know what I mean? [Laughs] I love a girthy ankle. 

Tonya definitely had a thick thigh and a girthy ankle, but I think that that was her power source. You can’t bust and land a triple axel without a thick thigh!

Well, you know, some people manage—and I’m not putting down thick women. You know the BBW is my target demo. These are my people. 

Yeah, you worked at Lane Bryant!

Yeah, I worked at Lane Bryant, the best job I’ve ever had! You know, I love working in television, but working at Lane Bryant really was probably the best job I’ve ever had. And you know that I can’t ever work there again…

I know. I know. Because of the incident with those pajama bottoms…

[Laughs] It was a real low point in my life. A low point. Remember in the book I said, “It wasn’t rock bottom, it was rock pajama bottoms.”  

I could feel your pain in that moment.

But you have to tell the stories of when you “manned up” and when you didn’t “man up.” And that’s what I define as manned up: loving who you are, never apologizing for who you are, using what makes you different to stand out from the crowd—because I think when you do that, things open up for you. Really embrace who you are. In that moment, I did not. [Laughs]

I have to tell you, I did actually get teary when you met Michelle Kwan. That was a moment. 

It was beyond surreal. I hope that people that read the book get that there are so many moments in my life—that’s why I had to write this book—that are so ridiculous, over-the-top, this-did-not-really-happen, but it did…and I, again, I hope that they feel what I felt in those moments.

What’s next for you? What can we look forward to? The book is coming out in May and you’re going to be promoting that…

The book comes out in May and I’m doing a corresponding one-man show. I’m traveling the entire country playing theaters. I’ll be bringing some of the book to life; I’ll talk about celebrities and things that are happening right now—there’s some stuff I need to get off my chest—and then the audience, nothing’s off limits! They can ask me anything. And I do a book signing at every show—you know, I want to meet everyone that wants to meet me, so I’ll stick around until the last person’s there.

It seems like you have a really rabid fanbase from your website, helloross.com, and on Twitter.  

It’s nuts and I think the reason why people are really invested in my journey is because I’m the everyman. I’m just a guy from a small town that still can’t believe that he’s here and I think that resonates with people because it’s really honest and I am really in touch with the people, you know, at my website and on Twitter. It feels like people are genuinely happy for me and for my success. It’s great because I get to be in that crazy world and then I get to come home and go “Oh. My. God.”

Is there anything else you want to relay to our readers here at Instinct?

I just want people to know that the dream I had as a little boy, that I talk about in the book, was to be a talk show host and I just shot a pilot that Chelsea and I produced together—my own talk show on E!—so we’re waiting to hear about that. We’re just milliseconds away from the dream. 

For more info on Man Up!, visit readmanup.com

Photos by Austin Young