E! News Host Kristina Guerrero Shares Her Childhood Struggle with Poverty

E! News host Kristina Guerrero is a native of Sunnyside, Wash. (population 15,000), who grew up poor and spent her childhood working on a farm. While cutting asparagus and gathering buckets of cherries, young Kristina had a hunch from a very early age that she was destined to be on TV. So she left the farm for greener pastures—first college (where she had a bed of her own for the first time in her life), and later the workplace, where she worked hard (at times for no money) in the hopes of getting her big break.

Today, Kristina, who proudly describes herself as “100 percent Mexican from head to toe,” has made history by becoming the first-ever Latina host of E! News. And her success is undoubtedly a credit to her relentlessness and determinations to see her dreams turn into a reality (seriously, I don’t think the word “no” is a part of her vocabulary). In this Vivo Por TiVo exclusive, the beautiful and sweet entertainment journalist talks candidly about the hardships of growing up “extremely poor,” shares what it’s like to be the first Latina host of E! News and remembers where she was when she found out Michael Jackson died.

Where were you raised?
I grew up in a small farm town out in eastern Washington state. It’s a little town called Sunnyside.

Were you the only proud mexicana in your hometown?
Well, it's interesting, because one of the things people say to me all of the time is, “I didn’t know there were Mexicans in Washington state.” Interestingly enough, out in Eastern Washington, there’s a big concentration of mexicanos out there because it’s a farm town, so there are a lot of migrant farm workers that come through that area, which is how my family ended up there.

Is it true that you grew up extremely poor?
Yeah. You know what, I grew up in Eastern Washington state, and we were farm workers. We cut asparagus and cherries—that’s what we did. I remember waking up at 4 a.m because it didn’t matter how old you were. If you could get another bucket of cherries, you were out there to work! That was just more money to add to the pot for the family. So yeah,I grew up extremely poor in a single-parent household. My mom, God bless her heart, raised five kids amazingly on $20,000 a year as a secretary. I didn’t have a bed to sleep in until I was in college. I didn’t really have a real home because we moved from place to place. It was a very humbling experience for me growing up—though for me it was just life and nothing out of the ordinary. I didn’t know any better.

You’ve come along way to become the first ever Latina host of E! News! Congratulations! How does it feel to make history?
It’s so amazing to me! I always set out to be on TV and to be doing what I’m doing now as a reporter and host in Hollywood. But I am so amazed that I have come so far to be on national television! And to be the first Latina to bring a little bit of flavor to the show. I’m thrilled that it’s me!

When I think of Latin hosts on TV, there’s Mario Lopez for the Latino men, and you for the Latinas. Do you consider yourself the Latina Mario Lopez?
[Laughs] I have never ever once thought about that! But I’m so happy for my brown brother that he’s fronting Extra! That’s pretty amazing, and I’m excited for him. But no, I never thought about it that way.

What’s a typical day like in the life of Kristina Guerrero?
I have the best life ever! I’m so, so blessed. I started with E! a few months ago, and it has to be the coolest. I’m sure Latina magazine is happening, too, because it’s one of my favorite publications! But E! is so fun to work at. I get up in the morning, and I go straight into work. I’ve got hair and makeup, and then I get into wardrobe. I come into the newsroom and find out what my stories are going to be. I track a couple of pieces, go out on some interviews, maybe do a red carpet, go to a movie premiere, go to a star’s house and interview them there—you just never know what the day is going to bring you, and that’s what I love so much about it.

Where were you when you heard Michael Jackson passed away?
I had just finished an interview with Selena Gomez and I wrapping up my day. I was coming home and I turned on the TV at home and I saw all of this breaking news. And this is my business. I got back in my car and went back to the station, evaluated the situation and made myself available if anybody needed me. It was a pretty amazing day. In fact, we were just saying that in 20 years when people say, “Where were you when Michael Jackson died?” we can say, “I was working that story.”

What advice would you give young Latinas with dreams of becoming a TV reporter?
I didn’t let where I came from get in my way. I used my culture of being Latina as my advantage as opposed to a disadvantage. So many people discouraged me—they were like, “That’s not really for us, that’s for someone else.” But I worked my butt off to get here. I took chances and big risks. I worked for free in television to learn the business. Believing you can do it and working hard—anything is possible. It’s so cliché to say, “Look at me, I’m the perfect example,” but really, I grew up with no silver spoon in my mouth. I believed I could do it, and I did!

You can watch Kristina on E News! weeknights at 7 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.