Get to know ET's Denny Directo, who is celebrating Pride Month by creating a safe space as the show's only LGBTQ+ correspondent.
Denny Directo is right where he dreamed he would be! The 34-year-old on-air talent has been a part of the Entertainment Tonight family for over a decade, and is opening up about his career and the organization that has allowed him to be what and who he has always wanted to be.
"I just always knew that I wanted to not just work in entertainment, but I wanted to work in entertainment news," Directo tells ET. "I found a job and a career that aligns with both my passions and my personality."
Directo's personality (and outfits) shine as he has built a career talking to some of the most famous names in entertainment while covering some of the biggest events in the business.
Last year, after almost 13 years at ET, Directo was promoted to full-time correspondent. What's more, Directo is ET's only LGBTQ+ correspondent -- a position that has allowed him to be 100 percent himself.
"I wouldn't be comfortable being me at work or on television if it wasn't for a place like ET that embraced me for exactly who I am," he says.
Hailing from Norco, California, Directo started his career after graduating from UC Santa Barbara, and connecting with a friend who gave him a tour of the lot, before telling him about a PA opportunity at Entertainment Tonight. After landing the job (and saying goodbye to his brief run in retail), Directo started from the bottom.
"I got my start at ET as a production assistant," he shares. "I really went the classic route where I just had to find my way in. Honestly, if they wanted me to be someone's assistant, pick up their dry cleaning, walk their dog, I would've done it just to say that I worked at Entertainment Tonight. Because, of course, ET is the mothership. It's the mecca of this genre, and I'm no fool. I was like, 'Well, I want to learn from the best, even if that means starting at the bottom of the totem pole,' which is what happened."
He adds, "I was always vocal about my goals -- what I wanted to do, what I wanted to learn, where I saw the next five, 10 years. Thankfully, I was put in positions where I was working for people who helped me, supported my dreams, and gave me opportunities to learn."
It was all about divine timing. As fate would have it, Directo's tenure started as ET was building its digital footprint.
"Every new thing we tried, I was at the forefront of it," he shares. "I haven't always been the ideas man, but I was definitely a good person to execute these ideas. I think that's what made me an even better reporter, better producer and writer, and ultimately a better host too. It's because I really just absorbed everything. Every person I worked with or under or alongside with, I learned from them too, and I really got to know the ins and outs of this business, and particularly the ET brand."
It was all about building his confidence and finding his voice, so that it would be possible for him to showcase his talent, and present the ideas that would eventually become some of the brand's well-known verticals.
"I had no time to second guess myself," he says about presenting his ideas. "I was always good at asking questions, and I tried to never ask the same question twice. It was a combination of faking it till you make it, and also just trying and not being afraid to fail. I knew there would be people who could support me and help me find a solution and get better, so then I wouldn't make the same mistake twice."
He adds, "It's really just building up that confidence, building up your skill set so that you can enter these rooms knowing exactly what it takes to execute these ideas. I also have to admit, it took me a long time to find my voice. And I don't mean my voice as a host or correspondent. I mean, just in general here, because it can be really intimidating, especially when you're a kid and you're playing with the bigwigs. And so I had to develop that confidence."
The results of that confidence are ET Mas and the Pride verticals, in addition to his rise in the ranks from producer to his position today.
Being at ET, Directo has never had to hide or dim who he is and his career has allowed him to celebrate those parts of himself and to be part of a diverse team.
"I'm Mexican, I'm Filipino and I'm gay," he says. "I felt like I hid so many parts of my gay identity too. Those are all things I have honestly been trying to piece together and form my whole life. And so for that to also enter my professional life too, where they're trusting me to amplify these underrepresented communities on a huge platform like Entertainment Tonight, I was proud and excited to do that work. But on the inside, I was also coming to terms with my own identities, you know what I'm saying? And realizing that there is no one way to be any of those things, I just am."
He adds, "I'm just so grateful that I work at a place where they want to do that too -- amplify and represent diverse communities and voices."
And ET has created a space where Directo can be unapologetically himself.
"It's not lost on me that I am on national TV being just myself, out and proud, embracing all of my identities," he says. "I mean, I had a moment with Cher on a carpet recently where she's coming up to me. I say, 'Hi, Cher, how are you?' And she said, 'I'm great. How are you?' And I just couldn't help myself. I said, 'To be honest with you, my gay heart is exploding. And I never thought that that would see the light of day. And sure enough, they included it in the segment, it opened up the whole piece. That moment shook me because I didn't think that would air. And when it did, I'm like, 'Oh my gosh.' Any insecurities or fears that I had about being gay just went out the door. It makes me feel proud. And also, I finally was like, 'OK, I can just be me.' It just was a really exciting moment and a huge breakthrough in so many ways."
He adds, "It's a privilege to feel like you're in a safe space, especially at work, and it's a privilege to feel like you are in a place where you can just be yourself, and that you can actually enjoy what you do."
Directo has worked with the It Gets Better Project, The Trevor Project and has amplified the voices of members of the LGBTQ+ community through interviews.
Outside of work, Directo knows how important it is to give back and offer encouragement to the younger generation of folks who look like him, and have big dreams of following in his footsteps.
"I have young people reach out to me all the time trying to get advice. And while I can't always make time for everybody, I really do try to," he says. "I find the young people who I see myself in and I remember someone took the opportunity to meet with me, so the least I can do is take a meeting with them and offer any insight or just honesty. I've learned that what a lot of people are looking for is encouragement. Especially people of color because we're born into, and we're born into a society that sometimes looks over us, sometimes they look through us. We have to make our voices even louder. And so for young people, that's even harder to do. I know that because I was that person. You don't know how to use your voice, and you certainly don't know how to use your voice in a room full of white people either."
Directo's key advice is simple ... "Say yes."
"I don't care how old you are or where you are in your career, I don't think there's any opportunity that you are too big for because you never know what one opportunity could do," he says. "You never know how one opportunity could lead you to the next one or put you in front of the right person who could mentor you or get your next job. You've got to be kind. You've got to be someone that people want to work with, on nights or weekends, when you're really in the trenches and the thick of things, so be kind. I think that personality and passion and the eagerness to learn will get you a lot further than skills and talents on a resume, truly."
In the spirit of Pride Month -- which Directo kicked off this past weekend in Los Angeles -- he was inspired by Sam Smith to enter an era that will allow him to amplify his voice, and fight back during a time when LGBTQ+ rings are under attack.
"I stole this from Sam Smith," he shares. "They recently told Matt Cohen at ET, right before their latest album cycle, that they're entering their villain era. Advocating for our community, because I mean, it goes without saying that it's not lost on me that I am the only gay correspondent on ET at a time when the LGBTQIA community is under attack with legislation specifically targeting trans community, drag performers. We are at a crossroads right now where we have to suit up, and we have to fight against this legislation and also this rhetoric, and also encouraging our allies to join us. And so when I say villain era, I'm here to fight."