- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2000

NEW YORK

When you watch Cynthia Garrett interview someone on NBC's "Later," the first thing you notice besides her striking sleek looks and ever-present smile is the way she puts her guests at ease.

She also separates herself from the male, suit-wearing late-night pack with her Bohemian style: She wears a nose ring, has long, crinkly hair, and would rather talk about issues involving spirituality than sensationalism.

The law school graduate also is the only black woman to serve as host of a late-night talk show on a major TV network.

"I think it's such a blessing that it's been enough to be me in this job," says Miss Garrett as she sat in her Manhattan apartment. "They like me the way I look with my hair and my skin color and my nose ring and my sometimes quirky way of dressing, or my sometimes quirky way of thinking, and my emotional sensibilities as a woman they like that. It's so great to be able to be myself and go to work."

It was a dream come true for Miss Garrett when she took over hosting duties for "Later," whose previous hosts include Bob Costas and Greg Kinnear.

"I always knew that I wanted my own late-night show," she says. "When I started out in the business four or five years ago, and I produced my own piece of tape, a spec pilot done as a one-hour late-night imitation of [Jay] Leno, [David] Letterman and Arsenio [Hall]."

Her tape caught the eye of a talent agent at the William Morris Agency and eventually helped her get her first big break, a vee-jay spot at VH1.

Since she took over hosting duties at "Later" in January, Miss Garrett has been taping the daily show in Los Angeles, then commuting back to New York City on weekends to be with her 7-year-old son. She does occasional vee-jay stints for VH1, and starting in July, will write a monthly column for InStyle magazine as a contributing editor.

"With the hustle and bustle of what I'm doing, all of a sudden my life has really gotten busy, and I mean, it's crazy," she says. "I sit here at home with two house [phone] lines and two cell phones, and they are all ringing, and the door is buzzing. And some days, I go, 'Wow, be careful for what you pray for, you just might get it.'

"But the flip side is, I probably wouldn't have it any other way."

Q: Why did you want to host a late-night talk show instead of daytime or other time slot?

A: Because I just really believe that late-night is in need of what I can offer. And I just in my gut always felt like God said to me, 'You should be on late-night.' Now, I'm not opposed to daytime, but daytime is a different medium. I don't think an interview show, like a half-hour, one-on-one interview show, is going to hang in daytime… . And I think that the syndicated market is so glutted with daytime talk shows, that I think that I would have gotten lost.

Q: What do you think makes you different from other late-night talk-show hosts?

A: I'm an interviewer. And you know what? I say this with all confidence now. There are not a lot of people who can make a person feel comfortable and open and not judged… . I just feel like there's not a lot of interviewers in the world.

Q: You have talked about an ordeal that renewed your faith in God. What was that?

A: I went through an incredibly abusive marriage and divorce at one time in my life, a long time ago, when I was really young, and really found myself in it lost myself for a while, and really found myself… . It's the greatest gift in my life, faith, because it has gotten me through some really dark times and it has made me even happier and more fulfilled in the really bright times.

Q: Rocker Lenny Kravitz has been called your brother. Are you truly related?

A: We are not related by blood. We are related by life experience, by 23 years of calling each other brother and sister because we are best friends and we lived in the same household and shared parents… . I talk to him four or five times a day every day. We don't get through the day without connecting with each other.

Q: What's next for you?

A: I'm going to do a movie with Lenny … and I think we're shooting at this point late summer… . It's about growing up in two cultures, growing up in two worlds, knowing how to navigate the 'hood and Beverly Hills at the same time… . [Acting] is something that I really enjoy. But unlike other actresses, my day job is something that I've always wanted to do always.

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