Maria Menounos is a popular television host, respected entertainment reporter, and Emmy Award-winning correspondent. Whenever she steps in front of the camera, her work usually ends up being seen by millions of people across the United States — and since she’s been in the business for years (much longer than you might expect), you may feel like you know all about the famous figure. But the fact is that there are plenty of untold truths about this particular star.
While there’s no denying that Menounos has enjoyed a successful career, you’ll likely be intrigued by the surprising details surrounding her professional path, which has seen her tackling everything from janitorial work to beauty pageants, as well as the range of daunting personal struggles that she’s faced.
Honestly, this lady has lived quite the life. So, have we piqued your interest? Be sure to check out these surprising facts that you might not have known about Maria Menounos.
Maria Menounos is fluent in Greek
As the daughter of Greek immigrants Costas and Litsa Menounos, Maria Menounos is proud of the strong cultural heritage that has always been such a big part of her life. “When I grew up, I only watched Greek movies, Greek shows, [and listened to] Greek music,” she told Perez TV in 2014. “Like, I was very Greek.”
Menounos was so immersed in the Greek lifestyle that shaped her as a child, that she’s fully fluent in her parents’ first language. In fact, despite being born in Medford, Mass., she didn’t actually speak English until she was in the first grade (via her WME Speakers bio). In 2019, the TV journalist showed off her skills with the Greek language during a brief interview with WhereistheBuzz TV at the Beverly Hills Dog Show, proving that she can easily slip from one language to another.
Menounos is also willing to pass on what she knows, and did just that when she instructed Adriana Lima in some Greek phrases while the two chatted on SiriusXM’s Conversations With Maria in 2016. Menounos told the Brazilian model, “Yasou. That’s like hello. You can use it as goodbye. We say it when someone sneezes. It’s very multipurpose.” It sounds like if you can’t say anything else in Greek, “yasou” will at least help you stay friendly with the locals in Athens and Crete.
She's been working since she was a child
Maria Menounos didn’t grow up in a wealthy family and had to strive hard to reach her goals while putting in both serious effort and unwavering dedication. The television personality apparently earned her strong career-focused ethic early on in life while working alongside her parents.
Willing and able to roll up her sleeves and get a little dirty when she was still just a child, Menounos “worked as a janitor cleaning Boston nightclubs throughout her adolescence,” according to her Conversations with Maria bio. From there, she scored a job baking and selling treats at Dunkin’ Donuts, which she kept throughout high school.
While she’s certainly not the only celeb to have regular jobs on the resume, things dramatically changed career-wise and kicked into high gear for Menounos during her senior year at Emerson College, when she landed an interview with President George W. Bush as a Channel One News reporter. “One of the first things I did was interview the President of the United States,” she reportedly later stated, explaining the magnitude of such an accomplishment (via IMDb). “Some people work their whole lives and can’t interview someone of that stature.” But it certainly wasn’t the only success Menounos saw as a young person.
Maria Menounos was Miss Massachusetts Teen USA
Maria Menounos has not only been a janitor, Dunkin’ Donuts baker, and reporter, she was also a beauty queen. Of course, she wouldn’t have appeared on TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras, but Menounos began taking part in pageants as a teen back in 1995 (via Celebrity Net Worth). TV Guide notes that she took home the title of Miss Massachusetts Teen USA the following year.
Menounos went on to compete in the big Miss Teen USA event. While up on stage, she reportedly met the pageant’s host and Entertainment Tonight figure, Bob Goen, who asked about her future career goals. Menounos told him, “I want to work with you at E.T., Bob!” By 2002, she did indeed join Entertainment Tonight as a correspondent.
While foretelling her future job was certainly a remarkable moment for Menounos, she unfortunately didn’t win Miss Teen USA. However, that’s not a fact that seems to surprise her when looking back at her teen style choices. While posting an old photo of herself during her pageant days on Instagram, she wrote, “[Throwback Thursday] to the #missteenusa pageant …. miss Nevada [Cerina Vincent] reunited last year on my @siriusxm show! Love her! Ps — what was I thinking with my hair? Or the brown lipstick? No wonder I lost! Lol.” We’re sure the judges considered more than just hair and lipstick — at least, one can only hope they did for Menounos’ sake.
This entertainment reporter is also really into sports
If you’re ever at a professional sports game in Massachusettes, don’t be surprised if you spot Maria Menounos in the crowd. Along with enthusiastically cheering on Boston-based teams — “I get violent when I watch Celtics games … I get a little crazy,” she once admitted to People — Menounos is also an athlete herself and even competed on Dancing With the Stars in 2012.
However, her dance moves may not compare to the moves she makes while in the ring as a WWE wrestler. “I started watching when I was a kid with my dad. Growing up we were diehard wrestling fans, so it stuck with me my whole life,” Menounos told Wrestling Inc. in 2014. “And then, of course, I met [Keven], my boyfriend … He’s a big wrestling fan. So then we all were kind of just fans together.” As for her own time in the ring, she explained, “They didn’t really believe me that I wanted to wrestle, I think. They figured oh, she’s a celebrity. She’s probably going to throw an elbow or something. And I trained really hard and it all kind of came together … which was so cool.”
If you want to see cool, check out Menounos in action with Kelly Kelly against Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres during WrestleMania XXVIII, and just try not to be impressed.
Maria Menounos was once disowned for dating her partner
Despite having strong family ties, Maria Menounos was once estranged from her parents for dating her partner, producer-director Keven Undergaro. But not because he was a bad person or treated her poorly — rather, Menounos’ father didn’t approve because Undergaro is Italian-American.
“It wasn’t an easy situation,” Menounos explained to AOL. “He wasn’t Greek so my dad was very upset, pretty much disowned me, took my education away … I was now pretty much homeless, no education, no degree, but I had Keven.” Undergaro claimed that their relationship at the time was like “Romeo and Juliet without ending in full tragedy.”
Still, as the media starlet told The National Herald in 2014, “I gave my parents their way so much but I wasn’t going to let them tell me who I can fall in love with.” Menounos added, “My dad came around when he saw me on TV and saw that I was achieving my dreams,” while her father noted, “[And] when I saw how much Keven loved her and took care of her.”
While her father eventually apologized to her future husband, Menounos told AOL, “It’s so hard to give the whole story but it was really tragic and really, really hard. We spent so many nights clinging to each other crying and it was terrible.” Thankfully for the family, they seem to be getting along just fine these days.
She got engaged on the radio and had a surprise TV wedding
Maria Menounos wasn’t willing to give up her relationship with Keven Undergaro when her father disapproved — however, she also wasn’t willing to rush the romance either. The star was with her partner for almost 20 years before getting engaged, and when Undergaro finally popped the question in 2016, he decided to do it on Howard Stern’s radio show. Menounos was clearly shocked when her love proposed, which was why he had to assure her, “This I wouldn’t joke about. I love you so much, and this show’s meant so much to both of us … Why not make it official now? Will you, honey? Will you accept?”
The couple later topped the surprising on-air engagement with a headline-making live TV wedding on NYE 2017. Even Menounos’ parents didn’t know about the ceremony beforehand, which may be why Menounos and Undergaro held a second, more traditional wedding in Greece the following October. “Our wedding in Akovos Greece was filled with pure love. Everyone who was a part of it was there out of love and in the name of love,” Menounos wrote on Instagram alongside photos from the special day. “I’m so glad we waited as long as we did because it meant so much more. It was a fairytale I will never forget and I’m forever grateful to all of my friends and family who made every moment special for us. @undergaro I love you beyond!!”
Maria Menounos froze her eggs and is preparing for surrogacy
Maria Menounos revealed in 2011 that she was planning to freeze her eggs, with the intention of having children sometime down the road. She brought her parents onto Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers (via Us Weekly) to tell them, “I have decided I am going to have kids but to make it realistic, because I’m not going to do it for a few years, we’re going to freeze our eggs so that we have no problems down the line.”
Nearly a decade later, in 2019, Menounos announced that she and her husband, Keven Undergaro, were starting the surrogacy process. “Today, Keven finally sent in our paperwork to the surrogate agency because it’s been sitting on my desk for, like, two weeks,” she told Entertainment Tonight. Menounos explained that the paperwork delay was due to the fact that she was focused on supporting her mother through her battle with a cancerous brain tumor. “Even though my mom is in this situation … I don’t want to stop life … You have to move forward,” Menounos continued, adding, “So this morning, I put it on his desk and said, ‘Can you just scan this and send it in? Let’s go have these kids!’ … Maybe by next Christmas we’ll have little Marias and Kevens running around.”
She had surgery for a brain tumor while her mother was battling cancer
Amid her journey towards motherhood and her mother’s battle with cancer, Maria Menounos revealed that she had undergone surgery to remove a benign brain tumor.
“I can’t believe it’s been two months since I had brain surgery!!!!” she wrote on Instagram in 2017. “I never realized how much pain I was in until I slowed down the ride. It was a huge reality check for me. That’s why I’m hoping the message is heard loud and clear-listen to your bodies and take action. There are a lot of things I’m going to do with this newfound wisdom. Helping those going through similar things is at the top of my list. I’ve never been more excited about life. I feel so free!”
Six months after her surgery, Menounos shared a video of herself in a hospital bed taken 24 hours after her procedure, writing: “I wanted to share this so if you are about to go through this you can see with your own eyes what it can be like. Everyone is different … but if I can ease your fears a bit I would like to. Also want to stress the importance of friends! … Forever grateful to … all my amazing friends who helped me through this!”
Menounos also updated her fans about her condition and her mother in 2018, telling People, “It’s great! My mom’s doing great too, so we’re all feeling good.”
Maria Menounos created a nonprofit organization
Maria Menounos doesn’t just use her fame to boost her own professional profile, she also uses her influence to make change in the world. The star happens to be the force behind Take Action Hollywood, which she started “after a trip to South Africa where she reported on the devastating effects of AIDS,” according to maCares.
“I came back and wanted to do something more than what I had done, which was sending back goods and clothing,” Menounos told NBC News. “[Take Action Hollywood’s] mission is to raise awareness about social issues through the medium of film and through Hollywood.” Menounos also discussed the fact that this kind of endeavor has been a part of her life for a long time. “I’ve been involved in charity work since I was 13 and I always wanted to get to where I am now because I wanted to be able to do so many things in the charity world,” she said, before encouraging others to get involved: “I think it’s more than important that you get involved and it’s so rewarding and you feel really empowered. I always suggest it to people who are lost or who haven’t found their way yet … because it can really give you perspective.”
This TV journalist once got trapped in an elevator and had to climb out
Usually, when you’re about to be on a national television show, you’d likely find yourself concerned with what you’re wearing or what you’re going to say when the cameras start rolling. However, when Maria Menounos was filling in for Kelly Ripa on Live! with Kelly and Michael in 2013, the guest-host found herself in a rather precarious position before the show even started.
After a meeting with publicists in midtown Manhattan, Menounos was riding in an elevator with another person — but something suddenly went very wrong. According to Extra, “She and another passenger felt the elevator stop” and “sink half a floor down.” Yikes! As if that wasn’t bad enough, Menounos and the other person “remained stuck inside for the next 20 minutes!” Of course, since Menounos is used to living out dramatic experiences on camera, she was sure to record the incident on her phone.
Menounos even caught the moment when building staff arrived to free her and the other passenger by prying open the doors and pulling them up and out. Not only was the star surely thankful for being saved, but she was also willing to pose for a picture with the employee who recognized her after the rescue. Now that’s a special celebrity encounter that neither of them will ever forget.
Maria Menounos is worth millions
Maria Menounos has been working steadily since she was a young girl and has reached a level of success that might just inspire others. Those who look up to the media personality might be even more inclined to attempt to follow in her famous footsteps when they find out just how much money she’s managed to bring in over the years. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Menounos is estimated to be worth around $9 million.
Menounos, who obviously knows a thing or two about both making and managing a relatively decent-sized fortune, talked to Girlboss Radio in 2018 about the motivation behind earning money. “The only reason we’re working is for financial freedom,” she noted. And although she’s also aware of the fact that having money in the bank isn’t the only thing to concern yourself with, the business-savvy star did acknowledge that having money is important, explaining that people should make sure that they’re educated on financial matters because “money is a vehicle to live free.”
If you take a look at the luxurious vacations, classic cars, and fabulous ensembles that Menounos posts about regularly on social media, it becomes clear that this lady certainly knows what she’s talking about when it comes to enjoying the fruits of her labors.
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