PITTSBURGH — Cat lovers, take note: Beth Stern, wife of radio personality Howard Stern, will be hosting the first “Kitten Bowl,” which airs at noon Sunday on the Hallmark Channel.
The former Beth Ostrosky began her career as a model, first in Pittsburgh and later in New York City, where her career expanded into doing commercials. That lead to parts in movies, but her true passion is animal welfare. The 41-year-old is a big supporter of the North Shore Animal League America, the world’s largest no-kill shelter.
Question: You are very into cats. Did you grow up with them?
Answer: Yes, I grew up with all different kinds of animals. Our family always rescued animals from local shelters or from the street or from someone who didn’t want their animal. We always had a dog in our house. We usually had two cats. We had guinea pigs and little chicks and chickens. I think it is just a love for animals that is in the blood that comes from my parents.
Q: Do you remember ever bringing home a stray?
A: I think it was just hurt animals in the driveway or the lawn or in the neighborhood. We called Dino (Lombardi), who was the local rescue guy. He would take them and rehabilitate them and then bring them back and release them. It was always about rescuing and making sure they were OK.
Q: Because you are hosting “Kitten Bowl,” will your husband make an appearance?
A: My husband will be watching the “Kitten Bowl”! We taped it already, and I had a lot of my animal-loving friends who are celebrities stop by, including Rachael Ray. She does so much for animal welfare. She donates 100 percent of the proceeds from her dog food to Animal Rescue and the North Shore Animal League America, which I work so closely with. Now she has a new cat food that is out. We had the kittens sample the new cat food and (NSALA) will benefit from those proceeds as well.
Regis (Philbin) is my neighbor, and he is a huge cat lover. He drops by and we have a fun conversation. Hoda Kotb came by … and Kelly Rutherford, an actress and friend of mine, stopped by and fell in love with two of the players (kittens) and ended up adopting them. All 71 kittens that participated in the “Kitten Bowl” have since been adopted.
Q: You started out as model. Were you ever in any of the plays when you went to Fox Chapel High School?
A: I remember the senior class play I was in. I was also in the musical, although I can’t sing at all, but I wanted to be a part of it. Then I was modeling in Pittsburgh, so being in front of the camera was something I enjoyed and benefited from. I made money growing up by modeling locally.
When I moved to New York I started to do a lot of TV commercials. It just kind of naturally evolved from still photography to commercials. From there I was asked to do a couple of movies, just booked from my modeling agency. I was in a movie called “Flirting With Disaster” with Ben Stiller. I realized that I am really not a good actor and not something I wanted to pursue (laughing). I could not memorize lines for the life of me.
My modeling career took me to Europe for five years. My career was steady and lovely in New York City. Then I met the love of my life, so I ended up staying in New York. I think when my name became associated with Howard (Stern), I ended up getting some offers to do some hosting gigs. So it has just kind of been a really nice career. I feel so lucky. Just by association with Howard, it has brought only good things to my life.
Q: Was there any adjustment period for you being with someone so well-known?
A: Yeah, when we first started dating it was overwhelming. I was just a working model in New York City. I fit the mold — the 5-foot-10, blond, blue-eyed type. It was really an adjustment.
I remember magazines were calling me. I remember FHM magazine calling me to be on their cover. I wasn’t ready for it. I wanted to continue on with my career the way it was.
I found it to be challenging because I would walk into castings and people would know it was me. All of a sudden I became a name instead of a model. I decided to just embrace it. Howard and I were becoming more and more serious, and I knew this was what my life was going to be if I was going to be with him. I said OK to the magazine offer, and from there on it was really positive.
Q: Did you find any downside to it?
A: One of the challenges was I used to love taking the subways everywhere. I just owned the city. I knew every subway line, and I loved traveling and being independent. It started to get harder and harder, being recognized. Nothing really negative or harmful happened, but I just realized it was safer for me to start taking more taxis. I have a car service now. That was a big adjustment for me because I really loved public transportation. I feel like that’s been taken away from me (laughs).
Q: You could always put a wig on.
A: That’s funny. I never even thought of that. But other than that, I am so fortunate and people are really lovely to me. My life has changed only in the best possible way.
Q: Where would you like to see your career go from here?
A: Howard and I — I don’t know if you know this about us — we fostered over 50 cats and kittens since June, and my work with animals is No. 1. I have never been more fulfilled in my life. I really want to continue my work with animals and animal rescue. Anything else I do — I have been working a little bit for “Entertainment Tonight,” I interviewed Cameron Diaz last week — that to me is icing on the cake. As long as I can continue to do what I do with animal rescue, all the rest is just fun.
Q: So that is your main focus?
A: Yeah, and I’m lucky because I don’t have the pressure of needing to work. My volunteer work is what fulfills me the most.
Q: Was Howard always into cats and other animals or did you bring that into his life?
A: He definitely was. He is a huge animal lover. I couldn’t be with anyone who wasn’t. Since we have been together, we had a dog together. She died last year. We have five cats right now. We just recently adopted a blind cat, the love of our lives. We are looking to adopt a dog, probably in the spring. Animals are a big part of who I am and he fell in love with me.