Toni Gallagher, Class of 1983

Toni Gallagher has always enjoyed storytelling, especially non-fiction and realistic stories. She turned a degree in journalism into a career in reality television.

“I think I always realized I wanted to be more in the entertainment business,” said Gallagher, a 1983 Newark High School graduate. “The day after I graduated (from college), I moved to Hollywood.”

Gallagher’s first television job was with MTV’s The Real World as a story editor. She has worked in reality TV since then, and is now executive producer with the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Recently, Gallagher also released her first book, “Twist My Charm: The Popularity Spell,” which stars an 11-year-old girl who uses a voodoo doll to become popular.

“This story just inspired me,” she said. “There was a little girl playing with a joke voodoo doll at my house, and she said, ‘I’d like to do this to somebody at school.’ … The story kind of fell into place.”

In the story, Cleo moves to Los Angeles from Ohio and makes a friend. When they find a voodoo doll, the pair uses it to make themselves popular.

“When our hero wants to stop it, her friend doesn’t want to,” Gallagher said.

The book is aimed at children ages 8 to 12 years old, and includes a message about being nice to others, and some slight bullying consequences. It is now available on Amazon, and from other retailers.

Gallagher has always enjoyed writing — she wrote for and edited Newark High School’s student newspaper, the Compendium, and attended Northwestern University to major in journalism. She credited then-NHS teacher Evelyn Biga for inspiring her to pursue journalism, after moving to Newark from Philadelphia in 10th grade.

After a lone internship at the newspaper Florida Today, Gallagher decided to go all-in on an entertainment career and move to Los Angeles. Her first season with The Real World was set in LA.

“Most people don’t realize that reality TV goes back to 1992,” she said.

Her first job, which involved parsing through footage to find interesting stories at the home, prepared her well for her current role as a producer.

“Essentially, that’s what I still do. Only now I look at the entire series,” Gallagher said.

The world of reality television has changed tremendously since 1992, both in terms of technology and in terms of the way cast members interact with each other.

“We’re not watching our footage on VHS tapes any more,” Gallagher said. “The Real World was very pure. We just let the kids do what they were going to do.”

- Written by Seth Roy, Community Outreach Coordinator
September 23, 2015
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