By Winnie Sun
September 1, 2015
An interview with Mark Steines
Born in a small town in Iowa and quickly hitting the red carpet in Hollywood as a three-time Emmy Winner, Mark Steins has worked diligently throughout his life to get where he is today. While well known for his 17 year tenure on Entertainment Tonight, where he interviewed hundreds of A-list actors, producers, musicians and athletes, his success did not come all at once. Mark has a unique sense of direction and has used that direction and hard work to obtain the success he enjoys today. He didn’t just wake up one day and decide that he wanted to be on TV; Mark’s lifelong dedication for radio and television started at a young age.
After graduating from the University of Northern Iowa with a B.A. in radio and Television, Mark worked in the newsroom at KWWL-TV in Waterloo, Iowa, working as both reporter and photographer. From there, he went on to work for KSPR-TV in Springfield, Missouri, where he was the sports anchor until 1991. His drive and commitment to work led him to KCAL-TV in Los Angeles, California, and on to working assignments for ESPN. In 1995, he started as a correspondent and substitute anchor at Entertainment Tonight. Prior to being selected as co-host, Mark was also anchor of Entertainment Tonight Weekend and primary substitute anchor.
We can’t disregard Mark’s “great looks” either. He has a striking resemblance to Tom Cruise. Some say that in 1998 just after Top Gun came out, he was in New Orleans and someone mistook him for Tom Cruise. Entertainment Tonight got wind of Tom Cruise making a movie in New Orleans and rushed a crew down there. When they realized their error, they decided to stay anyway and do a profile on Steines. He says, within a week he had 3 job offers. While most of Mark’s accomplishments are due to his hard work, a few of them came “naturally”. Mark was featured in People Magazine’s coveted “Sexiest Man Alive” issue in 2004 and Men’s Fitness Magazine’s “25 Fittest Men in America.” Mark is a born fitness enthusiast and is currently working with fitness expert Tony Horton and Beachbody showing people how to stay in shape with the “10-Minute Trainer” program.
Mark boasts a list of accomplishments in his professional career. As his spot on Entertainment Tonight grew stronger, he also hosted the “2008 Miss America Live!” telecast on TLC from the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Mark served as the host of AOL’s interactive online game “Gold Rush,” from creator and close personal friend Mark Burnett. He proudly hosted the Golden Karma Awards, which recognizes the national and international philanthropic efforts of celebrities such as recent honorees Jessica Biel, Jane Seymour, and Johnny Grant. As an actor, Steines has appeared on such television shows as “CSI: NY,” “Half & Half,” “America’s Next Top Model,” “The Practice,” and “Medium,” as well as in Sony Pictures NIXON, among others. He has lent his voice to the hit Disney Channel cartoon “Handy Manny” and has performed on stage in an Alhambra Theater production of “Barefoot in the Park.”
The success in Mark’s professional career is important to him, but he has a life success that is even greater. One of Mark’s most valued accomplishments and also biggest challenges in his life has been his two boys, Kai Harper, 12 and Avery James, 11. “It’s just a big challenge raising kids, staying on top of their technology and staying on top of what is happening in the school,” says Mark. He tries to make everything he does with his boys, and life in general, a teaching moment for them.
Mark was raised by his mom and dad in Dubuque, Iowa, along with his brother Mike. Mark’s dad loved to fix things up, he loved to tinker. Mark held onto that skillset from his dad and used it to work construction jobs through college. Today, he loves to take that knowledge and get out in the garage with his sons. They take on all kinds of projects, big and small. One very memorable project for Mark was building a prop for his son Kai’s Halloween costume. Mark Says” I tell them first everything starts in your imagination, your mind’s eye, so what is it you want to create. From there the imagination gets put onto a piece of paper, and we start asking ourselves questions about how long it will take and how big do we want it to be. You do a little math; start putting your materials together and then you have created this wonderful thing that started out in your imagination.”
Taking the time to do these things like building stuff with his boys, taking them shopping for healthy foods, and even having them on the set of his show while putting them to work, are all ways that Mark imparts life lessons for his boys. One important lesson that can be learned from all of these opportunities with his boys is how to manage money. So how does mark put his plan into action? Mark involves his boys in every aspect of whatever they are doing in the moment, such as the cost of the building supplies, how much of the material you might need to build that project, and what the overall cost will be when it is completed. One of Mark’s favorite teachable moments is all about incorporating a budget and doing math in the process. “So we find all of these things, like staying on the perimeter of the store, how to read labels, then to learn and grow we do math and we have to pay the bill. We have to know what our budget is up front, so everything becomes sort of a teachable moment” Mark says.
Mark is no stranger to accolades. He has been awarded two Emmys and a Golden Mike Award for work on KCAL specials. He also earned an Emmy and Golden Mic award for “Beyond Endurance: Borneo,” an Emmy as host of the 74th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade in 2005. Mark received a National Iris Award for the special, “The Big Business of Sports Endorsements”, and national recognition by the Women’s Sports Foundation for his fair and impartial reporting on the Women’s National Football League.
After the internet boom, and social media, Mark decided he needed to take on new challenges and take a different direction with his career and his life. Mark wanted to focus on different interests. On March 24, 2012, it was announced that Steines had decided to leave Entertainment Tonight at the end of his contract in order to pursue other opportunities.
Moving on from Entertainment Tonight afforded Mark he opportunity to begin a new chapter in his life. Today, Steines hosts the Hallmark Channel’s new show ”Home & Family” alongside his co-host, New York Times bestselling author and Oprah.com blogger Cristina Ferrare. Together they entertain and inform their audience daily with an array of lifestyle topics, do-it-yourself projects, cooking segments, celebrity guest appearances, and various experts. Mark will tell you that he finally feels like he is at home. When I met Mark on the set of Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family, he shared, “I am glad I have this job, I am going to squat on it a while, it’s like I got the winning lottery ticket.” There is nothing more fulfilling than being able to go home at the end of the day and be happy about your job.
Everyone that works with Mark raves about working with him. In a brief interview with Mark’s co-host, Cristina Ferrare, I asked her what it was like working with Mark and what she thought of him as a dad. “I have known Mark now going on 4 years. First of all you asked me how I like working with him, which is an unfair question because I love him; I am so in love with him. I have worked with a lot of co-hosts in my life, and I love them all but I have never been in love with anybody. He is so dear, he is so supportive he is so kind; he is a great friend, a great friend of our families. My husband and I we just adore him. He went through a very difficult period just recently but he came through it and as a father he is an example of what a great father should be. He is always there for his boys, they are number one in his life, and they are his priority. As we all do as parents we go through tough times with our kids, the thing about Mark is he never gives up. He is very supportive and very loving, and he uses his words wisely,” shared Ferrare.
The Hallmark Channel’s show “Home & Family” is exactly that – a family. That is one thing that Mark loves the most about it. He has taken his kids onto the set to work behind the scenes. Every time someone asks him a question about life, he feels like he is always referring back to the show. “I keep coming back to this, but this show has taught me so much about my family and about raising them; about being healthy and how to talk to your kids, in a way where everything is a teachable moment with them.” Mark says. I asked him if he had one guest that he could think of that “wowed” him and that he learned from. It was clear to me that everyone on the show was an inspiration to him, both guests and the people who surround him on set and off set every day. “I’m getting a Master’s degree in living. I’m learning how to be a better father, cook, gardener and interior decorator. If I get married again, I will have a better relationship. Coming here I learn so much – and then I go home and share it with my kids,” Mark says.
The Hallmark Channel is doing so well, they should be getting their own congratulations card. The networks are on fire; the stock is up and has almost doubled in the last 18 months. The new show is almost 600 episodes in already and they just got picked up for their 4th season. Yet, Mark still has people that come up to him to tell him that they just found his show. Mark said “I am so proud to know that we have this really good program that people are still discovering.”
Mark has a love for life adventures. And while his career has taken him to the spot where he is comfortable, he always leaves room for hobbies outside of his career as well. His most recognized and celebrated hobby is photography. Mark is rarely seen without a camera by his side as he has traveled on assignments around the world to such places as Rome, Geneva, Bora Bora and even Sierra Leone. His passions have also allowed him the opportunity to give back to issues that are important to him. He has received applause for his photo book “See the Light”- A Passage to Sierra Leone documents the Light House Medical Mission’s trip to raise awareness for fresh water in impoverished countries. To pay homage to his hometown roots, Mark has established a mentorship program with his alma mater, equipping students with the tools necessary to successfully transition from the classroom to a career.
Mark has come a long way, from “Sexiest Man Alive” in 2004 to hosting a family show on the Hallmark Channel. He feels like he has found his place and is enjoying the authentic connection with his audience. Mark says “That is what I love about this show; we are very stripped down, very reality. We do not reshoot anything, we do not stop. If there is something that goes on, we leave it in the show.” There is a lot of hard work and preparation that goes into a show like this. They do rehearsals just like any show, but they adlib so much of what they do. All of the cast members love the spontaneity of it. “Being that authentic and then being accepted by a viewing audience, it really makes you feel good about yourself at the end of the day. I am blessed and enjoy my work, I get to play me, not a character , and that is just amazing validation to have.” says Mark
Someday Mark hopes to retired from show business and move to Ojai. His retirement dream is a simple one. He will have a career in photography, grow a great beard, and spend his days building stuff and selling it at the farmers’ market. Life is about what you make it, and Mark is doing a remarkable job. “My theory is to donate your time in whatever passion you have, to bless others.” Mark says.
Mark may not always be in the TV business, but for now it looks like he is right where he belongs.
All Parents, but especially single parents like Mark, have some key things that they should consider focusing on from a personal financial planning standpoint for both themselves and their kids:
- College Planning – Parents who get a jump start on saving for college are far more likely to have the means to cover most, if not all, of their child’s tuition. Mark has already started college planning for his kids. Above all, consider setting up a 529 plan as soon as the child is born. This is a simple and easy way to set aside money in an education-targeted way. These accounts grow on a tax deferred basis, while the distributions are free of federal taxes as long as the proceeds are used to pay for higher education.
- Seamless Teaching – Parents can proactively guide financial values for their kids. Mark takes opportunities when he is naturally interacting to include financial responsibility lessons. He knows kids learn best when it’s not a big sit-down talk. Growing up with prudent parents paved his own value system shared with his kids of the importance of saving, living simply, and giving to those less fortunate.
- Retirement Planning – Just like when you board an airplane and the flight attendant reminds you to manage yourself prior to your dependent, a financially independent and responsible parent is valuable to the family. Save for your own retirement with every paycheck. You’ll be less of a burden to you child as they get older, and with proper planning, you’ll be better positioned to have the retirement you envisioned. Talk to an advisor to put together a Retirement Plan.
- Estate Planning – Estate Planning is about your control over your assets. Having an Estate Plan enables you to decide ahead of time who would manage your personal affairs in the event that you are unable to. This could be anything from caring for your children when you are unable to, deciding what environment you want your children to grow up in, to managing your kids’ finances until they become adults. It is something every parent should have. And advisor or estate planning attorney would be a good place to start with these conversations.
- Insurance Planning – Whether you are planning for yourself and/or a family, it is good to ensure that if anything were to happen to you, your family would continue to receive income into the future. Disability or Life insurance are good to consider. “Income replacement insurance” might be a better way to think of this coverage, since that’s what it is designed to do. Planning for the future with insurance will ensure that you do not become a burden to your kids in the event that something in your life or health changes.
Winnie Sun is the Managing Director and Founding Partner of Sun Group Wealth Partners, a trusted financial consulting firm providing financial planning services to small business owners, senior executives, celebrities, tech elite, and established families throughout the West Coast. She has appeared on CNBC Closing Bell, CBS News, Huff Post LIVE, theStreet TV, and hosts the entrepreneur business show The Renegade Millionaire Show. Follow her on Twitter: @sungroupwp.
Prior to investing in a 529 Plan investors should consider whether the investor’s or designated beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in such state’s qualified tuition program. Withdrawals used for qualified expenses are federally tax free. Tax treatment at the state level may vary. Please consult with your tax advisor before investing
Winnie Sun is a registered representative with, and securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Sun Group Wealth Partners, a registered investment advisor and a separate entity from LPL Financial