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Ten Minutes with a Travel Show Executive Producer

Mercedes Velgot was born in Chicago to a doctor father and a nurse mother, both of whom were immigrants from the Philippines. Her father instilled in her a love of travel and adventure from an early age, which serves Velgot well today, in her role as executive producer on the popular syndicated travel/adventure program “Born To Explore With Richard Wiese.” She moved to Weston with her husband, Jim, 18 years ago along with their then two-year-old son, James.

What did you want to be when you grew up? I got my sewing badge as a Girl Scout, by producing our fashion show, writing commentary, and hosting the event. In high school, I missed my final English exam because I was photographing a Senior Farewell slideshow and writing narration to music. My teacher graded the slideshow instead of the exam. I always knew I would end up in fashion or television or making movies.

How did your love for documentary evolve? After spending two summers in Tijuana, Mexico working with families who lived in the city garbage dump, I dreamed of producing documentaries about social issues.

Describe some early career highlights?
After school, I moved to New York and produced a weekly fashion television program, which was seen on Lifetime, E! Entertainment Television, Style Network, and syndicated internationally. It was every girl’s dream job—traveling to Milan, London, Paris, and New York to cover the ready-to-wear collections. I had a front-row seat to the top names in fashion from Chanel to Gucci and Donna Karan to Christian Dior. I interviewed these style makers and fashion celebrities along with the supermodels of the day. I worked as an on-camera host for Barry Diller’s Q2—a younger hipper version of QVC. It was the greatest training to be on-air for three hours at a time without a script.

What other on air gigs did you have?
I worked for FX, anchored a morning news/talk show in New York on WBIS, filled in as an anchor at CNN and “ABC’s World News Now” with Anderson Cooper, and WRNN in Rye Brook. One of the highlights of my on-air career was guest hosting on “Live! With Regis” when they were looking to replace Kathie Lee Gifford.

How did you end up working on “Born to Explore”? Richard and I have known each other for over 20 years. We have worked together on “Born to Explore” for eight years. The show premiered on ABC in 2011 and ran there for five years. We are about to begin our third season on PBS.

Has the show been recognized in the industry? Yes. We’re really proud of our 14 Daytime Emmy nominations and the show’s two Emmy awards. I’ve been nominated twice for Outstanding Writing, Special Class, and also for Outstanding Directing in a Travel/Culinary show.

Favorite travel locations for the show?
The Sahara, traveling with a nomadic family; Africa and South Africa; Indonesia aboard a wooden klotok boat and traveling by river through the rainforests of Borneo in search of orangutans; and Morocco, one of the most exotic places on earth, where you feel like you are going back in time.

 

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