Author Shallon Lester on 2010's 'Downtown Girls' and now, working on her third book.
Every year, a new class of twentysomethings move to Manhattan in search of love and life beyond small town monotony. And while the allure of the city and its prospects are blinding at first, many wide eyes narrow when the real challenges of dating in The Big Apple come to light. Shallon Lester had already put a few years into NYC and given the subject a lot of thought when she appeared on MTV's "Downtown Girls," but it didn't make nailing down the perfect relationship any easier for the dating and entertainment writer.
Now, having just emerged from a year-long relationship, Lester says she's evolved from her former serial-dater self and is ready to settle down. The author has got a third book on the way, is busy writing for the "Gossip Girl" empire and has a TV project in the works. Still, she's sure she's got the time and drive to find the right guy. See what she told Remote Control below, follow her on Twitter for daily dating advice and check out her website for direct video replies to fan questions, including how not to act desperate (featured below).
How did your spot on “Downtown Girls” come to be?
I was a reporter at the New York Daily News and my bosses there pitched a terrible show idea to producers, who decided to make a series about my life instead. My boyfriend at the time said that if I did a reality show, he’d dump me. I told him that if he was going to be such an a-hole, he should at least have the decency to be really rich or really hot. He was neither.
You're very open about dating and relationships, but how different was it to see those on TV?
I always thought I looked demure and mysterious on dates but OH, NO. I giggle like a piglet on Ritalin, even if I don’t like the guy! I really had to learn to keep my nerves and emotions in check. And I realized that—surprise!—dudes don’t like having their private lives plastered all over my columns or blogs. I know, right? Who knew?
How have you evolved as a dater?
I can advise everyone on earth how to date, but when it comes to my own love life, I’m an idiot. But just this past year, I turned the corner and realized that I’m ready to settle down, so now I approach my boyfriends in totally different ways and look for different traits than before. Things like whether or not he’s a pro athlete aren’t as important anymore. OK, fine--I’m lying--that’s still really important. I love being a WAG.
What was your first job out of college, and how did that eventually translate into being a dating and entertainment writer?
My first job was at a--oh, God-- pest control company. There, I said it! It really pushed me to change my situation and do something drastic like move to New York and pursue writing.
I always knew that I wanted to write books and be on TV, but it wasn’t until I moved to NYC that my dating life took center stage and bubbled up as a possible direction. It just goes to show, you don’t have to know how you’re going to get someplace, as long as you believe that you will.
What are some top-line, basic tips you can offer to someone who’s striving for a relationship?
So glad you asked!
1. Be honest about what you’re looking for—Don’t pretend you’re happy being single when you want to settle down. There’s no shame in it. But lying to yourself will prevent you from ever being happy.
2. Don’t be weird—At least not right away. I used to tell every strange, funny, bizarre story I had on the first date and, shocker, there wouldn’t be a second one. Meter out your personality in doses--it keeps your partner interested.
3. Girls, don’t put out—It sounds anti-feminist, but the longer you can hold out, the more he turns into your boyfriend without him even realizing it. It’s the most powerful card you have, so don’t play it right away.
4. Lead with the sweetness—Girls and guys think they need to come off as fiercely independent, razor-sharp smart and tough as nails. No. People want a partner who is kind, supportive and understanding, which you probably are. Why hide it? It doesn’t make you weak, it makes you dateable.
5. Whiten your g***amn teeth—I’m serious. It’s not that hard.
What was the worst date you’ve ever been on?
How much time have you got? Just last week, I went on one where the guy used the words “penis” and “clitoris” eleven times. Eleven. I counted. Another implied that I was stupid because I grew up in Orange County, California, while yet another regaled me about why Hitler may have been on to something.
The latest on your dating life?
I actually just split from my boyfriend of a year—I totally thought he was "The One," but he was super jealous and not at all supportive of my career, and I really haven’t come all this way to settle for that. I realized that at the end of the day, I like who I am—and my man should, too!
So now I’m getting back to my real self. Being single again feels nice but a little strange, like the first time you wear a sundress after a long winter. I’m sure I’ll couple up again soon, but for the time being, I’m enjoying freedom and discovering the myriad of boys who I haven’t yet kissed. Mamas, lock up your sons. I’m back.
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Photos: Rene Cervantes and courtesy of Shallon Lester.