LA People 2009: Tech's Popular Girl Shira Lazar
First off, Shira Lazar is not a fameball. Though the post-Gawker era has made the notion of Internet fame hard for many of us to stomach (eh-hem, Nick Denton), and she purportedly dated Digg’s Kevin Rose, I’ll be the backlash to the backlash here. Sure, this entertainment correspondent — seen on KTLA, NBC and the Reelz Channel, among others — is a vocal presence on the Web. And yes, it would be a no-brainer to chalk her up as just another pretty face in the cute quasi-tech journalist tradition.
But then I talked to her (and she likes to talk). Lazar personifies the best parts of being a New Yorker: a go-getter, ambitious, self-aware and all too willing to use other people’s misconceptions of her to her advantage. The stepsister of another L.A. notable, American Apparel founder Dov Charney, Lazar, who grew up in Montreal, snagged a dean’s scholarship to Emerson College, graduated in two years and also found time to create a collegiate version of The View. Lazar attributes much of the inspiration for her success to her stepbrother’s penchant for entrepreneurship. “I saw someone who went bankrupt, was up against all odds, wasn’t scared to have a voice and do something different. I wanted to forge my own path.” After graduating, 25-year-old Lazar worked behind the scenes at The Ellen De Generes Show and produced a nighttime request show at STAR 98.7, paying her dues.
I met up with her at an event she hosted in Orange County for Mixergy.com, where she was sipping bad wine and chatting with venture capitalists about using social media for social good. Touting the maxim “Spend less time being interesting and more time being interested,” she was deeply engrossed in a conversation from which anyone else would have jumped ship after five minutes.
A hybrid journalist, Lazar is the human manifestation of the convergence of technology and entertainment. As of this writing she is hosting a Styl.it TV series, where she interviews celebrities, and is tweeting into the technosphere for interview suggestions. What she is attempting to do is difficult: “Bring the red carpet to the tech community as well as a new intellectualism to Hollywood.” If anyone has the sheer energy or people skills to accomplish it, it’s Lazar.
And that energy is considerable. Between blogging on Shiralazar.com and on Popsugar, writing for Jaunted.com, hosting Mahalo’s “Today in YouTube” and convincing Shaquille O’Neal (whom she met in a hotel lobby) and other high-profile Twitter users to join her in an “I am a Geek” video meant to raise awareness for a charitable cause, Lazar is busy, busy, busy.
In the new-media high school that has emerged since social media started counting as an industry, Lazar is the savvy and friendly popular girl who still has time to take your call. And what is remarkable about her is that she seems to have absolutely no ego. Her philosophy and reason for inhabiting the tech sphere is fundamentally satisfying: “I feed off people, and it just so happens that the Internet has the most people.”
She hopes to apply her passion for social culture to social good. What usually gets left by the wayside in the “me-me-me narcissism of the information age” is non-profit work. Inspired by a TED Conference talk about a 20-year-old who started an orphanage, Lazar wants to use her podium (and her 4,425-strong audience) for social good, working with non-profits such as Link Live, charity: water and Global Green USA to inform others about the myriad ways one can fight the good fight. Let’s hope the Gawkerbots don’t kill her spirit — and our chances to see her vision shine.
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