We had the good fortune of connecting with Lara Bell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lara, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I grew up here in Houston and attended Taylor High School. Whenever I was little and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would say a TV Host. I used to pretend to interview neighbors with my makeshift microphone made out of tin foil crumpled around a tennis ball and glued to a empty toilet paper roll. I was too sweet to have the door shut in my face then and everyone was so nice and played into my dream. Im not exactly sure why I wanted to be a TV Host but I do know, that I have always asked a lot of questions and Im curious by nature. So much so, my mom use to always say I would either be a good FBI interrogator or TV Host! I also love to tell stories- other peoples stories, whether its the Houston Ballet or Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In my fourteen years as host of Wild about Houston on KTBU-TV and my nine years as a Magazine Publisher I have interviewed thousands of people and everyone has a story to share. No doubt, my mom was the one who had the most impact on me of who I am today. She believed in me and encouraged me to do whatever I wanted and would always tell me I could do absolutely anything I put my mind too even when I didn’t believe in myself.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
In 2011 when I had a kindergarten and third grader I decided it was time for a change with more flexibility. I had been writing for a community magazine since 2006 called Absolutely Memorial. It was a monthly magazine mailed into 30,000 homes monthly in the area of Houston called Memorial. I went to my boss and told her I needed a flexible job and was going to leave TV and Wild about Houston and asked her if she would consider hiring me for a “bigger” role than writer. She did and I left TV in August 2011. She hired me a Publisher/Editor and off I went- again not knowing much about being a Publisher or Editor but knowing ALOT about telling peoples stories! I guess I figured out how to be a Publisher as in 2017 I bought the magazine and changed the name from Absolutely Memorial to Swoon Memorial! People ask me all the time why I changed the name of the magazine to Swoon. The true is- it is a word I have loved for a long time and makes me smile. How can you not smile or feel happy when you are “swooning” over something!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Wow! This is hard- Having covered Houston for over 25 years I can say without a doubt Houston is the most wonderful city! We have more theatre seats than any other city – besides New York. The arts here are outstanding! We have the BEST restaurants- lets face it- Houstonians love a great meal! Some of my favorites are The Annie Cafe, Brennans and I love Tonys luncheons. You can get a great lunch for $20 at Houstons most exculsive restaurant. I also love Sylvias Enchilada Kitchen for Mexican, Southwell burgers, DISH Society for their pimento cheese! Id also take them the the Houston Space Center- We are the Space City and the Space Center has a ton to do and is so fun. My “at the moment” fun due to COVID is going to RoofTop Theatre of Drive-Ins to watch classic movies in my car- What guest wouldn’t love seeing Urban Cowboy on big screen- right?
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are truly so many people that helped me get to where I am. I was in my mid- twenties when I started working at the community television station. I was unsure of myself but I was eager to learn so I joined an organization called American Women in Radio in Television. A lady named Susan Buddeke (who retired recently from KTRK-TV after 35 years) was the President and she took me under her wing- I ended up being President of the organization a few years later. Also around that time in 1997 there was a new family TV station- KTBU-TV The Tube starting up owned by Joel Osteen. Yes, THAT Joel Osteen but he wasn’t THAT Joel Osteen then. Joel along with a well- known TV veteran in the Houston market, Matt Reiff, hired me. I will always be grateful to them for taking a chance on me- someone who had never been “on-air”. They saw something in me and allowed me to fulfill my childhood dream of hosting a TV show. Shortly after that as you probably know- Joels beloved dad John Osteen- Pastor of Lakewood Church passed away and Joel went to work for Lakewood. So while I only worked for Joel for a couple of years I always admired his kindness, work ethic and dedication. I knew the Joel before he was “Pastor Joel” and I can honestly say he is the nicest person- Im so grateful! I also have to give a “shoutout” to Philanthropist Carolyn Farb. When I was at the community TV station before I was at KTBU-TV she was another person that deserves credit for “taking me under their wings” to teach me about Houston society, Houston non-profits, Houston fundraising. Since 1999 I have chaired over 20 luncheons and galas raising over 4 million dollar for Houston charities. She is completely responsible for much of my success. I think mentors are key. I have been fortunate to have many- I have one now, Phil Lonsway who is helping me achieve my next set of goals. My biggest piece of advice is to get a mentor- someone who is experienced in their field and willing to give back and pull someone else up.
Facebook: Lara Bell
Little Bird Photography- Black Dress Gittings- Me and my husband Brent