New City's Allison Hagendorf 'living a dream' as 'The Next' host
New City native Allison Hagendorf has been a VJ, a record label A&R manager, a music journalist, a voice-over artist and a radio host. But the Clarkstown High School South alumna considers her new role -- host of The CW's new singing competition, "The Next: Fame is at Your Doorstep" -- the opportunity of a lifetime.
"I literally feel like I am living a dream," said Hagendorf, in between tapings of the show, which premieres 9 p.m. Aug. 16. "I feel like every hosting gig, every job, every interview, every band I scouted was all for this moment. I feel like this show is the perfect fusion of all of my experiences, because my passion is not the celebrity -- it's artist discovery."
Hagendorf is perhaps best known for her work as a host on Fuse, a national music cable network that called her three years ago this month to offer her that job. In addition to hosting duties for "Top 20 Countdown" and other Fuse shows, Hagendorf served as a music reporter for the channel, scoring exclusive interviews with artists ranging from Eminem to Lady Gaga, and covering myriad music festivals throughout the country.
Last month, Hagendorf was unwinding in her Manhattan apartment when the powers that be at "The Next" offered her the hosting gig.
"I had just gotten back from covering Bonnaroo for Fuse, and I got the call [to host 'The Next],'" recalled Hagendorf, who began taping episodes of the show soon after. "It was the proudest moment of my life -- until I took the stage of 'The Next.'"
The only downside to her new gig? Quitting every other job that she had -- and she had a lot of them. In addition to her work on Fuse, Hagendorf joined Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Chrissy Teigen in hosting MSG Network's "Music Fridays," which rebroadcast Madison Square Garden's greatest concert moments. Hagendorf also provided voice-overs for MTV and other clients; hosted the "Cosmo For Guys" show on SiriusXM; and starred in her own AOL Web series, "Signature Sounds."
But even Hagendorf's previous work continues to make an impression: MSG and SiriusXM still broadcasts reruns of her shows, and a return to Fuse could be in the cards, depending on the success (and scheduling) of "The Next."
"Fuse could not have been any more supportive, and the door is wide open," Hagendorf said. "I'm shooting ['The Next'] through Oct. 4, and who knows? Maybe I'll come back on a case-by-case basis, but [the split] was so amicable."
Hagendorf has also seen the music industry from other perspectives. After graduating from Penn State, she sang in a New York City band called Nearing Nothing. She also worked as an A&R manager at Epic Records, where, she says, she tried to sign Katy Perry before the pop star famously sang about kissing a girl and liking it. Hagendorf says she did, however, discover and sign Juliet Simms, who later would become the runner-up to Harriman native Jermaine Paul on the second season of "The Voice."
"I knew [Simms] was a star," Hagendorf said. "She sat there and played her own original material with her acoustic guitar. She had this innate sense of style. She just had it. She had it. And I immediately signed her to a development deal ... I worked with her for three years at Epic Records, sort of wearing every hat -- manager, booking agent and [host], because she lived with me and slept in my bed."
Hagendorf says timing, politics and regime changes in the music industry made it difficult for Simms to succeed during their time together, but credits a show like "The Voice" for properly showcasing Simms' talent.
"She asked me what I thought about her going on 'The Voice,' and I thought it was great," Hagendorf said. "I knew she was a star. She just needed the platform."
These days, Hagendorf has her own televised singing competition to focus on, and she's got some additional star power to help her along the way.
On "The Next," celebrity mentors -- namely teen idol Joe Jonas, hip-hop star Nelly, pop icon Gloria Estefan and country singer John Rich -- prep contestants for their stage performances. Rather than offer post-facto opinions at a judges' table, the four mentors immerse themselves in contestants' lives to provide 72 hours' worth of advice and encouragement before head-to-head competition.
"One of the contestants works at Sunglass Hut, and Nelly actually goes to work with them," said Hagendorf with a laugh.
"The Next," she added, also benefits from its contestants, who are more seasoned than singers found through other reality TV shows' casting calls.
"These are real artists, who have that do-it-yourself work ethic," she said. "They've been hustling and grinding on their own. They're already selling out local venues. They're already getting potential local radio airplay. They already have thousands of [page views] online. They're already doing it, so now they just need some guidance, and they need a platform."
In the end, the celebrity mentors don't vote -- viewers do -- and the winner will snag a contract with Atlantic Records.
Long before "The Next," Hagendorf established roots in Rockland County. It's where she won the title of Little Miss Clarkstown when she was about 8, and it remains home to her parents, Arlene, an elementary school counselor, and Steve, a retired bond sales manager.
With regard to "The Next," "I don't think my parents' feet have hit the ground," Hagendorf said. "And my two sisters [Dana and Lisa] are my absolute biggest fans; they've already booked their flights to L.A. for all the live semifinal shows. I'm really fortunate, because my family could not be any more supportive."
At Clarkstown High School South, Hagendorf was president of her class all four years and captain of her lacrosse and field hockey teams. In later years, she embedded herself in Nyack's rich music scene, where she started hanging out with prog-rockers Coheed and Cambria, and "Saturday Night Live" guitarist Jared Scharff, before they all broke big.
Rockland also is home to some of Hagendorf's favorite flavors. The self-described foodie raves about the hot pumpernickel bagels at Rockland Bakery in Nanuet, a shop she declares to be the "eighth wonder of the world." She loves the glacé at Gourmet Garden, also in Nanuet; whole-wheat pizza at Turiello's in Nyack; and various dishes from Blu Fig in New City.
A fitness enthusiast, Hagendorf has a favorite place to burn it all off, too. "Rockland Lake is my favorite place to run on the planet," she said.
But what is it about Rockland, in particular, that gives Hagendorf so much pride? She cites the sense of community, which was evident when "The Next" filmed an episode close to home.
"[When we taped] the New York episode in Huntington, Long Island, my whole high school crew of girls came from Clarkstown South, and it was the coolest," she said. "The Rockland vibe has been amazing. [People tell me], 'You're making Rockland proud,' and 'Rockland represent!' It's just been this really cool homecoming thing."
What: Premiere of "The Next: Fame is at Your Doorstep" on The CW
When: 9 p.m. New York time, Thursday, Aug. 16