Flip through the English language news channels living in Europe and you can’t miss her. Every weekday just before 1 pm Paris local time, Genie Godula slides behind the anchor desk to present the midday newscast. But wait, haven’t you seen that face before? Just who is that girl on France 24 Television?
Born and bred in Chicago, USA, Genie Godula is one of the rare American journalists to have also reported for the French media. French radio loved her American accent and recorded her for voiceovers. French TV discovered her charismatic personality and hired her as an entertainment reporter. Not long after, Genie was a professional mainstay at film festivals and awards ceremonies providing the linguistic bridge to English-speaking celebrities in the audience.
Today, the expat mother of two children is solidly behind the anchor desk for the English language channel of France 24 presenting the day’s top news to an audience of 42 million daily viewers around the world. A highlight of her newscast includes a weekly segment on what’s buzzing in France. INSPIRELLE reached out to this inspiring woman to learn how France opened its doors so she could bring the world to us.
How did a nice girl from Chicago end up in Paris working for television?
I studied journalism at Northwestern University, and as we were required to intern at an actual newspaper for a semester, we couldn’t do study abroad as we would miss too much school. So, the minute I graduated, I headed to Europe. I spent my first year abroad working as an assistant at the BBC in London, and when my work visa ran out over there, I decided to come meet a friend in Paris. I had performed professionally in college, so I got a job here as a singing waitress at a restaurant called The Hollywood Savoy.
A colleague knew someone who knew someone who worked at the FM station Fun Radio, and I started doing some voice-over work for them as they were looking for someone with an American accent. This was during the First Gulf War, and one of the DJs at Fun was also an American marine who got called up. They were desperately looking for someone to replace him, and as I had been constantly hassling them for more work, they put me on the air that night. As my French got better, I went from music DJ to radio talk show host, and then through my radio contacts, I started getting hired on French TV shows like the French version of “Entertainment Tonight” or “The View”. The rest, as they say, is history!
Is it true you are one of the few American journalists to have worked in French for French television as a reporter? How did you ever perfect your French language skills to go on air?
I’ve only known one other American to work in French TV before me (Amanda McLane) and there are a few Brits now, mostly doing sports reporting, but that’s about it. I got lucky with the language as I sort of eased into it. I had just four years of high-school French before moving here and could barely speak at all. Fortunately, my first big gig at the radio consisted of only saying things like “Now you’re listening to Bob Marley…” so it wasn’t that hard. My sound engineer though did spend a lot of time writing things out phonetically for me! Working in an all-French environment was the best way to improve.
Even though I’m fluent now, I still have an American accent. I don’t mind that though, as that’s what made me stand out from all the other French people trying to get on the air!
Your big break in television was with the entertainment show, Exclusif on TF1. Is the French showbiz scene like Hollywood?
It’s actually quite different. First of all, it’s a much smaller talent pool, so as a journalist you quickly get to know most everyone in the business, which tends to blur the lines a bit between the media and the actors. Secondly, French actors don’t seem to care as much about promoting a film as Americans do. US talent, for the most part, take interviews very seriously and will go out of their way to charm you, whereas with French actors – if they’re not into the interview or not feeling particularly motivated that day, you’ll know it!
You also have a coveted position as the English translator for film festivals in France, award ceremonies and US movie premieres in Paris. How lucky is that?
It is lucky, and it’s lots of fun! I had covered Cannes, the American Film Festival in Deauville and the Monaco television festival as a journalist, so that’s how I got to know the festival organizers and studios I work with now. I particularly enjoy doing it these days, as I mostly focus on hard news at France 24. The red-carpet glamour is often a welcome break from all the difficult and serious stories I cover on a daily basis.
Tell us who your favorite actor or actress is that you interviewed or translated?
I’m lucky enough to have met so many, it’s hard to pick! Steven Spielberg is always so kind and thoughtful in his answers – he is so obviously in love with his work, it just pours out of him. I love Cher for her straight talk and down to earth answers about things like raising kids and plastic surgery. I spent a day with Tom Cruise when I was seven months pregnant and he seemed to be more concerned about me drinking water and standing than I was! And Helen Mirren exudes such warmth, intelligence and inner and outer beauty, it takes your breath away.
Seriously, why did you leave the reporting field to join France 24 at the anchor desk?
I had been reporting for French television for about ten years, and the last show I was working on got canceled. That gave me a little time to stop and regroup, as I had been thinking about moving back to the states and trying to break into television there. It was right about that time that I met my husband at an expat event here in Paris. France 24 started up a few years later when my son was one year old. It just seemed the perfect fit for my new life as a mom, and it still is!
INSPIRELLE co-founder Grace Wong-Folliet interviewed by Genie Godula
Describe for us what kind of news programming we can expect from your daily news show from 1-2 pm local? What kind of stories do you seek out in Paris for your audience?
France 24 is an international news channel, so my news hour is mostly made up of the day’s top stories from our correspondents around the world. It also features a business segment and a daily press review that looks at headlines from papers here in France and globally. At the end of the hour, I always try to feature a story or guest on what’s buzzing in France. We also do a great weekly segment called French Connections that tries to explain all those weird French cultural quirks to foreigners.
Raising two children (one boy and one girl) and anchoring a daily show, what’s your favorite pause time and place in Paris?
To be honest, one of my favorite places is chez moi with the four of us all cuddled up on the couch doing a family movie night! But outside my front door, I love wandering through Paris’ many parks, particularly the Champs de Mars. The Eiffel tower never gets old! On the rare occasions, I do have a few hours to kill, I will be in a museum, at the movies or in a café – or taking a class with the great Karen Seidman at Studio 15 Pilates.