GQ Correspondent DePaulo discusses celebrity profiling and the magazine industry

The Daily Pennsylvanian
November 9, 2009

Lisa DePaulo has made a career out of revealing the human side of celebrities, from 50 Cent to Donald Rumsfeld.

Yesterday afternoon, GQ Correspondent Lisa DePaulo discussed celebrity profiling, dealing with publicists and the future of the magazine business at the Kelly Writers House. DePaulo, a College class of 1982 alumna and former Daily Pennsylvanian writer, spoke to an audience of about 15 as part of the Sylvia W. Kauders Lunch Series.

DePaulo has profiled celebrities including Jamie Foxx and Matt Damon, and is currently writing a piece on Rihanna. Over the years she has also gained respect for her profiles of political figures such as General David Petraeus and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.

Her question-and-answer with Steele made its own headlines, as he implied in the interview that he was pro-choice.

DePaulo spoke to students about interview techniques and her goals as a profile writer. Profile writing, she said, "is the most interesting, compelling form of journalism."

"My thing is common sense and fairness," she said. "Some people deserve a little more understanding."

She added that she tries to ask the questions that her interviewees haven't been asked before – for instance, she once had a conversation with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about Paris Hilton. Finding these unasked questions, she said, can be a difficult task for some widely-covered celebrities.

DePaulo discussed the difficulties of dealing with publicists and "gate keepers," as she called celebrities' staff members. She said in order to get the material she needs, she tries to get through the publicist to the "human side" of a celebrity.

But this can sometimes prove difficult. DePaulo said she will occasionally tell the interviewee directly that a publicist's interference is negatively impacting the story. In addition, in several of her published profiles she has directly mentioned these interfering publicists.

When she is interviewing the celebrities themselves, DePaulo said she tries to "get them to forget [she's] there."

She said she always asks herself, "How do I put the reader in the room with this person?"

"I thought it was fascinating," said College junior Alicia Rodriguez, who came to the discussion. "She gave us good tips."

The Sylvia W. Kauders Lunch Series will also present journalists Dan Biddle and Murray Dubin, who will visit the Writers House Dec. 9.