The Surprising Connections Between Swimming with Sharks and Talking to Famous People
Former E! host Ashlan Gorse Cousteau has interviewed some big names on the red carpet—a skill that's also proved useful in her second career: diving with great whites.
I'm a veteran entertainment journalist with and an adventure-seeking streak. While I banked seven years as an E! News anchor and correspondent, interviewing everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to Gwen Stefani, I also have another passion: deep-diving with sharks.
I recently spent two days on a boat to get to the Marshall Islands to swim with reef sharks and tiger sharks for Nuclear Sharks, (opens in new tab)the Shark Week show my husband and I are hosting (opens in new tab)—perhaps not surprisingly, I was the only woman on the trip.
And while I was there, I found that these two arenas of my life—swimming with sharks and interviewiang celebrities—have more in common than you'd think. When the risk factor is high and the climate is tense, here's what's helped me stay alive:
1. You Have to *Really* Do Your Research
You never want to be caught off guard on the red carpet. Not knowing the singer's new single that just dropped or the fact that a celeb just broke up with their long-time partner will cost you. (I once said the wrong movie name to Aaron Eckhart and boy did he tease me about it for years). You always have to be prepared and well-armed with information—and the same goes for swimming with sharks. For example, grey reef sharks are pack hunters and actually exhibit signs of aggression so you know when they mean business—these are crucial to read for your own safety. But nurse sharks are docile, sluggish fish that chill on the ocean's sandy floor. Always know who you're dealing with and what they're about.
2. Being Sensitive to Context = Key
Don't ask super goofy questions at the premiere of a very serious movie or try to have an in-depth political discussion at the opening of a new fashion boutique. Those out-of-context questions could get you eaten alive on the carpet, and I've learned that the same goes for sharks. Don't swim close to people fishing or cleaning fish they've just caught—that could attract aggravated sharks. Stay out of the water at dawn and dusk when visibility is poor. Common sense is often underrated.
3. Two Words: Eye Contact
Eye contact is a universal sign of respect. When dealing with people, it conveys that you are listening to them and are truly engaged (Tom Cruise is the master of this in interviews). Sharks (especially the larger species) tend to ambush predators who don't know they are there. Direct eye contact shows the shark that you're aware of their presence, thus avoiding shark nibbles on your fins.
4. Never. Show. Fear.
Fear is a sign of weakness in all animals. Sharks and celebrities can sniff it out a mile away—and take advantage. So if you find yourself in the water and the Jaws soundtrack starts playing in your head, just remember this: Sharks only accounted for six deaths worldwide last year, while taking selfies killed over 12 people (opens in new tab). Don't fear sharks—but definitely keep an eye on Kim Kardashian.
Ashlan Gorse Cousteau can be seen on Shark Week all week long. She co-hosts "Nuclear Sharks" with her husband, which premieres on Thursday, June 30 at 9pm ET/PT.
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