It was a gorgeous weekend in Park City, Utah, and — for a change — Plymouth Township native Kelli Zink wasn’t reporting on the latest celebrity gossip. Looking like any other young tourist, Zink strolled around the scenic town for her show, CelebTV.com, talking to locals on camera and assessing the local cuisine. This short lead-in, however, was just a tease: In just seconds, it was back to business, with Zink running through the names of all of the A-List stars who would soon descend on the town for the Sundance Film Festival.
The ultra-competitive world of Internet celebrity gossip doesn’t leave much room for bucolic vistas and leisurely cappuccinos. “Sometimes we’re battling with TMZ down to the minute to break a story,” says the 27-year-old Zink, who works out of CelebTV’s Chicago offices.
“And it’s the best feeling when you do, because then you’re on every single news page.”
When attending Plymouth Salem High School back in 1998, Zink probably never would have guessed that her life would be so intertwined with the Britney Spears, Paris Hiltons, and Pam Andersons of the world — not to mention the hundreds of other celebrities she’s covered as part of her gig as host on CelebTV.com, a burgeoning, TMZ-style entertainment Web site that reaches millions of viewers daily.
It’s bizarre Britney, though, whom Zink can thank for a recent spate of super-high-profile gigs as a Spears “expert” on national news shows such as Nancy Grace, The Fox Report With Shepard Smith and untold regional CBS, ABC and Fox affiliates. “People always ask me how I became the Britney Spears expert,” Zink says. “It all started when she dragged that paparazzi [she was] dating into the bathroom — he’s actually one of our photographers [Adnan Ghalib]. So we were getting the scoops. Then, it’s just like anything â€¦ when you cover something every day, you become the expert.”
It wasn’t always written in the, er, stars, however, that Zink would be chasing celebs for stories — though she knew journalism was her calling from a young age. At Salem High, she participated in the televised morning announcements and lettered in three sports while logging time in the school’s theater program. After that, it was off to Michigan State to study journalism — but with a decidedly different angle in mind than broadcasting from the red carpet. “I’ve been into sports my whole life,” she says. “I wanted to go into broadcast journalism and cover sports.” Zink landed an internship with Fox Sports Net in Chicago just before her senior year in college. That summer, on her way home from a baseball game, she saw an ad for tryouts for the ESPN reality show Beg, Borrow & Deal — which she entered and won. A producer from that show helped her land a gig on the start-up NFL Network in Los Angeles as a producer. After three years, though, Zink says, the Midwest and its less flamboyant lifestyle beckoned. Searching online, she found an audition for a start-up Internet celeb news site, sent in her résumé, and that’s how she landed her current spot.
These days, Zink’s schedule is beyond regimented. The payoff is an exciting, fast-track career that has Zink reporting all of the action from Hollyweird. Aside from being the go-to gal for all things Spears, she’s reported a wide array of high-profile stories: Pam Anderson’s divorce from Rick Salomon (an Internet “star” in his own right, wink, wink), Eminem’s recent trip to a hospital, photos of Oscar de la Hoya in drag, and let’s not forget Paris Hilton’s trip to the clink.
Turn the tables on Zink, and she doesn’t flinch. “I’m so single it’s not funny,” she says when asked if she’s dating. “It’s pathetic.”
Well – we’ve heard Kevin Federline is available – just sayin’.