HPW’s Inspiring Women series profiles remarkable Greek-American professional women whose stories of success inspire and encourage us to achieve our own career goals and aspirations.
TV host, lover of food, author, ALS activist
Debbie Matenopoulos is a four-time Emmy® nominee who has successfully sustained her career as a compelling journalist, talk show host, food and lifestyle expert, and bestselling cookbook author. She began her career opposite Barbara Walters on THE VIEW as the youngest person in daytime TV history to hold a permanent co-host position on network television. Debbie has gone on to host shows for E!, Fox’s GOOD DAY LIVE, The TV Guide Channel, TBS, and most recently co-hosted THE INSIDER on CBS.
Debbie re-released her first bestselling cookbook, IT’S ALL GREEK TO ME, in paperback in 2018. She is currently the celebrated Co-Host of Hallmark Channel’s HOME & FAMILY.
What is your passion?
My passion is learning. With every day, every opportunity, every interaction, every success, and every misstep we all have opportunities to learn. I think life is about constantly learning, growing, and broadening our understanding of the world we live in. People’s lives can be complicated and messy, but we have the choice to either see the lessons and overcome the obstacles or stay stuck.
What motivated you to move into your profession?
My love of learning motivated me to get into my profession because every day I get to meet someone new and learn something new that I didn’t know the day before. There is a sense of daily wonderment and amazement that goes along with being a journalist. You get to see the world through the eyes of so many different people. And in turn, end up developing a deep amount of compassion, empathy and understanding for people you would otherwise know nothing about. I don’t think I could ever grow tired of asking people questions.
Who has inspired you most in your life?
My mother and my father have been my biggest inspirations in my life. They came to this country barely speaking English with two suitcases and two children under the age of five. They worked endless hours, sometimes two jobs at a time, while going to night school to learn English, and still managed to raise my brother, sister, and I and be there for us every step of the way. They did whatever they could to provide for us and make sure that we had a better life than they did. Even though times were tough and financially difficult, I never knew it because there was always an overabundance of food, laughter, and love. My father, Niko Matenopoulos, was an amazing warrior and I saw that strength first hand and understood the power of the human spirit as he battled ALS for five years. Although he eventually succumbed to the disease, he never gave up the fight, and never stopped smiling even until the end. Both of my parents are the strongest and most noble people I have ever met.
Tell me about a few of your most proud accomplishments?
One of my proudest accomplishments would be graduating from New York University with a Journalism degree. I was working at MTV fulltime while also attending NYU fulltime. My daily schedule was as follows attend my first class at NYU at 7:45 am, leave school at 10:00 am, be at work at MTV at 10:30 am, work until 6:00 pm, then go back to NYU to attend night classes from 6:30 pm- 10:20 pm. I did this for four years straight with no summer vacations. Looking back, I have no idea how I handled that schedule, but I do think it prepared me for my future production schedules which can still be very long and hectic. Not to mention I practically paid for my entire education myself thanks to student loans. When I finally got my degree, I owed the student loan company Fannie Mae just a little over $120,000. I bet now that wouldn’t even cover one year. (Lol). Needless to say, I worked very hard for that degree and accepting that diploma was one of my proudest moments of my life.
Another proud moment was publishing my first ever Greek cookbook, “It’s All Greek to Me”, that is dedicated to my late father Niko Matenopoulos. This book was a love letter to our culture and to my family. I wanted the world to experience all of the beautiful recipes that so many of us have grown up with and enjoyed for our entire lives. So, I went to Greece and collected over one hundred recipes from my family and complied them into a book. This project was a huge labor of love for me and it warmed my heart to see it become such an overwhelming success. I know my dad would have been so proud. A portion of the proceeds goes to ALS research.
Was there anything you would have done differently?
I sometimes look back and wonder if there was anything I would have done differently in my career. While there are things I could have done differently, I don’t think I would have. Every success and every so-called misstep has brought me to the place I am today and has made me into the person I am. So, no regrets, just lessons.
What advice would you give to professional Hellenic-American Women today in their careers?
Always stay true to who you are and remember no one can ever be you. That is your superpower. Celebrate your uniqueness. Remember where you came from and never forget about where you are going. Never pass up an opportunity. Some of my best and most satisfying projects came to me because of chance meetings that would have never happened had I decided not to go. Last but not least, YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH!
What impact has your Greek heritage had on your career and professional life?
I feel like my Greek heritage embodies all of me in every facet of my life. I think we all know it is impossible to be Greek and not have it be the center of attention. Our people aren’t exactly known for being wall flowers. I am so incredibly proud of our history and deep heritage. It humbles me to know what our ancestors have created and contributed to the modern world that has enhanced mankind. I really love being Greek. I think it’s the best culture, but clearly I’m biased. (Lol). It’s chic to be Greek.
Are you involved with the Greek community?
Yes, I am very involved in the Greek community not just in my home town of Richmond, VA but also in the community here in Los Angeles. I am hoping to extend that involvement to my four-year-old daughter Alexandra who currently goes to Greek school every Saturday. I have also been fortunate enough to be honored with the Forty Under Forty Award by the Gabbys and given the Elios Award of Excellence by the Elios foundation.
Who has inspired you in your career? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org