With seven—yes, seven!— jobs, host Ryan Seacrest may just be the busiest man in Hollywood. And, this mover and shaker wouldn't have it any other way. "I actually thrive. I love it," he says. "At first it was challenging to figure out how to do it all and exist as a human being, but now we've locked into a pretty comfortable Zen with that."
Every weekday, Ryan rises early in Los Angeles to host, produce and book his syndicated radio show, On Air with Ryan Seacrest. When that show wraps, he has just two and a half minutes to prepare for job number two—hosting American Top 40, the radio show he inherited from the legendary Casey Kasem in 2004.
After signing off on a morning of radio, Ryan shifts gears as host and executive producer of E! News. Once Ryan's caught up on the day's top stories, he hits hair and makeup before taking the stage with co-host Giuliana Rancic.
Stopping only for a quick Twitter break, Ryan hits jobs four, five and six at Ryan Seacrest Productions, his multimillion-dollar production company, which churns out hit shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians. More than 10 hours after starting at the radio station, Ryan assumes his role as entreprenuer, seeks out new talent and creates original shows.
At the end of the day, Ryan heads over to the main event of his day—American Idol. This year, Ryan signed a $45 million, three-year contract with the biggest show on television, making him the highest-paid reality television host ever. "That's pressure," he says. "I actually have to be good at what I do now."
Though Idol is in its ninth season, Ryan says he still remembers the early days. "When we started, we were wondering, 'Would we get the second season pickup?'" he says. "We got a phone call before the end of the season from the network saying: 'We think this is going to work. We're going to do it one more time.'"
Ryan says he feels fortunate to be part of the Idol phenomenon. "It's changed television and music," he says. "Look at the success of the Idols and who's come out of it. You've got Grammy® winners and Oscar® winners."
So does Ryan have a favorite Idol winner? "That's like picking kids or puppies," he says. "I really loved seeing Carrie Underwood's success. ... She was someone who had never been on an airplane before she came to Hollywood, and now look at the success."
Ryan says Simon will be missed. "When his acerbic personality was first exposed to America, it was shocking. But then you realize he does have that inner voice that we all have—what we hear in our head, he says out loud," Ryan says. "I'm glad he says it out loud and not me."
Though their onscreen banter suggests a love-hate relationship, Ryan says he has nothing but respect for Simon. "I will regret this existing in the universe, but he's a terrific individual who's one of the sweetest guys that you're ever going to meet in the business," he says. "Even though he's tough on the show, he's got a really big heart, he's very generous and he's been a good friend of mine. That being said, we love to compete, and we love being competitive."
While Simon is often considered the king of mean, audiences have crowned Ellen the queen of nice. "When we spoke before she started, she was wondering: How is she going to be critical and kind? That's a tough equation because you do have to be honest," he says. "She [owns] herself on that show, and the chemistry's going to continue to be fantastic."
Ryan says Ellen's presence has also taken some pressure off his hosting duties. "She's funny," he says. "I don't have to try to be funny."
Ryan says he wasn't the strongest, fastest or the tallest growing up—but he always worked the hardest. "I knew I could control one thing, and that is my time and my hours and my effort and my efficiency," he says. "I would get up and go to high school. After high school, I would play sports—not great at them—but I would play sports, and then I would go to a radio station and intern until midnight at night and then get up and do it again."
Though his mom, Conni, worried about how much sleep he lost, Ryan says he learned much of his work ethic from his parents. "My parents would always have us, as many times as we could, sit together for dinner and talk about what was happening in our lives, and so we created a great recipe where I could be completely honest with my mother and to an extent my father, being an attorney," he says. "That really helped me as a kid feel comfortable and confident to do what it is that I wanted to do."
"He used to say he didn't want to be an attorney like his dad because his dad worked too many hours," Conni says. "And then look at this."
If he had to pick a favorite job, Ryan says he feels most at home on the radio. "It's in my blood to be on the radio every day. I've done it since I was 16 years old," he says. "You know two minutes about a lot of different things, and you also realize that you are not the conversation. You're just sparking the conversation. I like that."
His life isn't stress-free, but Ryan says it's easy to take challenges in stride. "I literally get up and get to do the one thing I dreamed about doing every day," he says. "And that is being a part of a television show and a radio show that is based in Hollywood."
Going forward, the sky's the limit for this triple threat—something Ryan says he owes to his idol and mentor, Merv Griffin. "He taught me a lot," he says. "He taught me how to leverage. He taught me how to take the success of being a personality and the access you have and build something to have forever. To build an asset. Because you never know how long this is going to last."
Ryan also believes good karma brings great rewards. "I believe you put out what you get back," he says. "It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow. But it comes."