FAVORITE MALE (COMMERCIAL) TV PERSONALITY
Houston Life is a weekly marathon for Derrick Shore, who wears many hats to bring the show to “life” day in and day out, along with new co-host Tessa Barrea and their “mighty team.” His hard work has paid off. As the show enters its seventh year, Shore has been selected by Outsmart readers as their Favorite Male TV Personality.
“I can’t believe I won this category after losing to my bestie Frank Billingsley for years!” jokes Shore. “First of all, what an honor to be in such good company. Second, there’s no way I’d even have this job and this kind of recognition if the brave LGBTQ+ folks before me hadn’t dared live their lives openly. That’s not an easy thing to do, especially here in Texas.”
Shore moved to Houston from Los Angeles in 2016 to launch Houston Life. Though he didn’t know a single person in town at the time, that quickly changed.
“I was at work one day in LA when I got a call from my agent,” says Shore. She told me that the NBC affiliate in Houston was launching a new daytime show and they wanted to meet me. Even though I’d been to Houston several times for work, I really didn’t have a sense of the city. But I thought, ‘Why not?’ So I flew down to do a screen test for the show and then a couple weeks later I got the offer. It was scary to leave LA after having lived there for 17 years, but I felt like it was the right decision to make the jump, and of course I’m so glad I did.”
Moving to a new city, where he knew no one, is nothing new for Shore, who grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. Leaving home at an early age to pursue a television career not only allowed him to pursue his dreams, but also offered an escape from the community where he had not always felt welcome.
“I was raised by a single mom and two older sisters in a conservative Mormon suburb of Salt Lake City,” recalls Shore. “Neighbors judged my mom as being a ‘difficult woman’ because her husband wasn’t around. Extended family members were concerned that I didn’t go hunting and shoot guns ‘like a man.’ My peers singled me out and harassed me because I played the piano and sang, instead of playing football. Each day at school I tried to be as small and quiet as possible, just so I could fly under the radar and hopefully be lucky enough to avoid some of the constant bullying. Once high school was done and I decided to move to LA to pursue a career in television—instead of going on a two-year Mormon mission—my grandmother never really spoke to me again.”
Although Shore is close to his family now and sees them often, that was not the case 20 years ago when at age 22 he came out to his family.
“It was terrifying but such a relief at the same time,” he explains. “At that point I already had close friends and colleagues who I knew would support me no matter what, but for years I had put off telling my family because I was worried it wouldn’t go well. The biggest challenge was probably the undoing and unlearning of the idea that gay people are evil, something that was ingrained in all of us at church and in our community and social circles for as long as I can remember.”
There isn’t a day that goes by now, says Shore, where he doesn’t speak to his mother at least once. She was there when he accepted his first of three Emmy awards.
“One of the best feelings of my career,” he says, “has been walking the red carpet with my mom, seeing her smile, and knowing that she knows she did an okay job raising my sisters and me. We didn’t have money, we didn’t have connections, and we certainly didn’t have the respect of our community. But somehow, being the underdogs made us tough and made us fight for what we wanted in life. The first time I was on stage for an Emmy win at the Television Academy and I looked out and saw my sweet mom looking back at me, I felt everything all at once. She has been there through all my tough times, through all the thick and thin. It’s been such an honor to not only win those Emmys but to have my mom next to me for every single one.“
Shore did not always envision a career in journalism. As a young person, he enjoyed acting and was talented enough to land some roles on television, spurring his inevitable move to LA. His first big break came when he was a sophomore in high school. It was an acting role playing opposite Julia Stiles in the CBS television drama Promised Land. After that experience, he wanted more. He continued to book jobs in TV and film and had a small role in the ’90s teen comedy Drive Me Crazy.
It was his senior year in high school, however, where he was introduced to the profession that would eventually become his career. Shore co-hosted a weekly news magazine show called SPIN in Salt Lake City. It was the first time he was on television as himself, instead of a character. Looking back on those tapes, Shore says he cringes at the quiet and awkward teen he once was. But his natural curiosity about people and the world made him realize that journalism was a better fit for him. Eventually he would get another big break as an anchor and correspondent for Channel One News, a national classroom network that was broadcast daily in about half of the high schools and middle schools in the United States. The job changed the trajectory of his life.
“Having grown up in Utah,” says Shore, “I had only traveled to a handful of nearby states, and suddenly Channel One News was sending me all over the world. My first international assignment was to cover the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I then covered everything from the Oscars in Hollywood to the SARS outbreak in China, the Super Bowl, September 11th attacks, and dozens of other features and breaking-news stories in South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. For the first time in my life, I was immersed in other cultures, meeting a diverse collection of people and learning about cultures very far from home.”
The job with Channel One News is what brought Shore to LA. It was the first (but not last) time Shore would be in a new city and not know anyone. It was the scariest and best decision he ever made, he says, and it made him grow up faster and stronger. Shore eventually adapted and made many friends, earning a degree from the School of Arts and Architecture at UCLA along the way.
Years later, when Shore found himself in Houston, he was better equipped to deal with the trials and tribulations of being on his own. But something different happened in Houston. He met his partner of six years, Brandon Borque.
“We met in Houston and it instantly felt like I had known him forever,” explains Shore. “He’s the Director of Advancement for a non-profit and he’s also working on his master’s degree at Tulane in New Orleans. Each day for us is packed from sunup to sundown. We work hard and play hard, and while we love to be out and about and traveling the world, my favorite thing is just to be at home with him, dog sitting our friends’ dog Gouda or having a casual dinner at Barnaby’s. We’re also so lucky to have the best, funniest group of friends in Houston. Typical weekends include kickball, pool, dinner and/or a game night. It’s the simple things I’ve started appreciating more and more.”
“You’ve got to take opportunities as they come, because those doors might not open again. The only things in life I’ve ever regretted are the things I didn’t try.” —Derrick Shore
The couple built a new home in the EaDo neighborhood, where they have lived for two years. Shore says he is definitely a city person. A good thing, since he is on live TV every day in the fourth largest city in the US.
“I think Houston is one of the best-kept secrets in America,” he declares. “Most people just don’t understand how great this city is, how kind most of the people are, the incredible arts, food and sports scenes in town, and the diversity that makes us so strong. Despite a couple of extra-loud haters, I believe the overwhelming majority of Houstonians firmly believe everyone is welcome here.”
Shore has some advice for those folks out there who might be contemplating a career like his.
“Whether you’re interested in history or science or the environment or social justice, I believe the best journalists have a deep interest in telling stories they’re passionate about,” he says. “I also think you’ve got to take opportunities as they come, because those doors might not open again. The only things in life I’ve ever regretted are the things I didn’t try. Go out into the world and meet interesting people and do some cool shit. You’ll be much more interesting on TV if you’ve lived life, if you’ve traveled and tried new things, if you’ve opened your mouth, talked with a stranger, and learned something new.”