Friday, July 12, 2013

The Jeff Nelson Show

Jeff Nelson says most people don’t believe him when he says he grew up on a dairy farm.

You can’t blame them, seeing as Nelson wears leopard loafers and casually talks about interviewing celebrities as a People magazine intern, but it’s true. Growing up, Nelson milked cows and baled hay on his family farm in Southeastern Minnesota.

“You can’t really wear a cardigan while baling hay,” he jokes, suggesting that’s why people have a hard time picturing him doing “lots of manual labor.”

Although Nelson was the secretary of the FFA in high school (formerly the Future Farmers of America), he knew he wanted to do something with writing. Nelson applied to a total of three colleges, all with a strong journalism or writing programs, but ultimately there was no competition after he read a Drake University pamphlet, which featured the school’s magazine major.

“I had never heard of a magazine major before. It was like a light bulb [went off] in my head. I knew that I wanted to do writing, and I love pop culture. So I was like, 'This is perfect. I need to do this.'”

And when his academic advisor Lori Blachford told him about Drake alum and Entertainment Weekly Staff Editor, Tanner Stransky, his decision was set.

“I could not have chosen a better school for me,” Nelson says—and you can tell he really means it.

Over the past three years Nelson has been involved with his university’s campus magazine, Drake Magazine. He started off as the only freshman editor and moved up to editor in chief.

He says editing, interviewing and rewriting stories consumed his life, but as he describes the magazine, it’s clear that he enjoyed this existence.

Blachford, who is also the faculty advisor for Drake Magazine, says that Nelson made a great editor in chief.

“He was very encouraging to the rest of his staff,” she says. “He’s not a dictator, he’s a good collaborator.”

Under his leadership, the Drake Magazine staff printed its largest editions to date, says Blachford.

This upcoming school year, Nelson will forgo Drake Magazine to work on his senior capstone publication, which will probably be for an iPad or online magazine. He’ll also be busy starting his school’s chapter of Ed2010.

When he’s not working on a magazine, Nelson enjoys reading other magazines or shopping (the leopard loafers were his most recent acquisition).

Jeff and his fellow People interns
But this summer he has very little time for such pursuits. His internship keeps him busy at all hours, but Nelson doesn’t seem to mind.

“I love People, where do I start?"

He quickly rattles off a few amazing things he’s done in the past month: interviewing Heidi Klum, attending a One Direction concert, getting a byline during his second week…

“I know people say this, but there is NEVER a dull moment,” he says.

Nelson describes the fast pace of a weekly as “ridiculous and exciting” and is constantly reiterating how fortunate he feels to be working at People.

His favorite moment of his internship was attending an X-Factor taping and asking questions at the press conference that followed it.

“Demi Lovato looked at me, and we locked eyes, and she smiled,” he says, adding proudly that he was professional and kept his composure.

For now, Nelson is thrilled to be interviewing celebrities, but in the future he’d like to join them.

“Basically, I want to be famous,” Nelson says matter-of-factly.

He certainly has the personality for it—he occasionally tosses around phrases like “casual hate crime” referring to a very real incident when his ex-roommate at Drake poisoned him.

Nelson has plans for a few different memoirs and would like to have his own TV show, which would be a cross between Kathie Lee Gifford on the Today show, Chelsea Lately and Andy Cohen.

"It would do well, I promise," he says.
But in the near future, Nelson’s plans are tamer. He’ll graduate in December and move to New York City the first week of January to look for a job.

When asked if there’s anything else people should know about him, he whips out his iPhone and shows a picture of his orange cat, Joey, who he says was an “impulse” buy.

Now tell me—who wouldn’t want to watch The Jeff Nelson Show?

Written by Ana Rocha, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Food Network Magazine
Edited by Carlos J. Anchondo, Trinity University, Sports Illustrated

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