would figure that attending a local basketball game would change
your life forever? That is exactly what happened to 11 year old
Maria was a huge basketball fan and she and her grandparents
spent many nights watching the Erie Wave play in their hometown
of Erie, PA. This time however, things would be a little
different. During halftime two boys and two girls were randomly
selected from the crowd to compete in a slam dunk contest. They
lowered the rim and
Maria totally hammed it up wowing the crowd and capturing the
attention of a sports reporter covering the game. Mike
Gallagher, from the ABC affiliate in Erie,
WJET-TV24 thought it might make an interesting feature to
interview the kids. When he spoke to Maria he was immediately
impressed with her innate ability to articulate her thoughts. Upon
viewing the tape he said Maria possessed “a chemistry with the
camera”. After the feature aired that evening, calls came pouring
into the station wanting to know more about the little girl they had
seen. Mike had years of experience in the television industry and
thought he might have stumbled on a media phenom. His instincts
would prove correct. He convinced the studio brass to create a
segment for the news to be called “Down to Size”
featuring Maria as the host. The segment had aired for only a few
weeks before Maria found herself on the radar of the national media.
The Wall Street Journal wrote a feature
article in the winter of 1992, followed by a frenzy of radio and
newspaper interviews. Then she appeared on Good Morning
America and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Maria appeared on to national broadcasts of ABC's Little
League World Series, Professional Bowling Tour, Wide World of
Sports for Kids, and reported from the U.S.
Figure Skating Championships, witnessing first-hand the
Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding saga. Later, she co-hosted
Gladiators 2000, together with American Idol’s
Ryan Seacrest. She became the youngest reporter in the
history of network television (12 years, 6 months old), after
sideline reporting for ABC’s live coverage of The Little
League World Series. She went on to interview Jim Kelly
of the Buffalo Bills; Michael Jordan; Bill Cowher; baseball
legend Tommy Lasorda, and others, all before her 13th birthday.
Maria took a break from TV to be a 'regular' kid and attended
Villa Maria Academy where she played varsity basketball. She
attended Syracuse University, graduating in 2003 from the
prestigious Newhouse School of Public Communications. While a
junior at Syracuse she co-hosted Live with Regis and Kelly with
Regis Philbin while Kelly Ripa was on maternity leave. Upon
graduation in 2003 Maria headed straight for Manhattan where she
worked as a VJ for MTV’s college network, mtvU.
For three years she hosted a weekly music show called The
Freshmen and traveled to campuses across the country. In
addition she would work occasionally for CBS Sports,
CSTV and NESN.
In Spring of 2006 she auditioned for a new internet web show on
YAHOO! called 'The 9. Although the
YAHOO! officials envisioned the host to be a male, Maria nailed
the concept on her first read and they had found their host!
'The 9' debuted on July 10, 2006. In August 2006, Time
Magazine dubbed 'The 9' the best online video
show and one of the “50 coolest websites”.