I, Claudia

Claudia DiFolco isn't really a ditz. She just plays one on TV.

And DiFolco is comfortable with her lot. Yet she considers herself to be on the wrong side of the broadcast lens.

"I never wanted to be in front of the camera," she explains, "but people keep putting me there, so I figure I must be doing something right. I wanted to work behind the scenes. I wanted to be the one that gave out the budgets and decided how a show should look. I was very insecure about my abilities when I first started doing this. I'd be lying to you if I told you I believed I was the bomb. I'm here because somebody pays me to let me play in front of the camera. Pays me to talk to people and make friends and go do these things. It could be worse."

Inside the KTVK van.
Paolo Vescia
Inside the KTVK van.
DiFolco at work.
Paolo Vescia
DiFolco at work.

Born 27 years ago in Toronto to first-generation Italians, Claudia DiFolco is the middle of three siblings. Growing up, she traveled back and forth between parochial school in Rome and public schools in Toronto. Hers was an upbringing that instilled a sense of self-reliance, a duty to self. She worked throughout high school, earning enough to purchase her own car, to go on her own vacations.

DiFolco is quick-witted, intuitive and bright. Very bright. She can toss out a blue streak of profanities and order dinner in four languages.

She can tender a treatise on women's role in society, and why, in her belief, feminism failed: "Feminism just confused men. They don't know if they are coming or going." She nailed the provincial dialects of women chatting at a nearby table in a Biltmore eatery. (Women who scoffed outwardly at DiFolco's appearance.)

She not particularly well-read, though she's midway through Memoirs of a Geisha. She pores through pop glossies such as Spin and Rolling Stone for "job research."

She can be droll, interrupting conversations with descriptive and narrative-driven jokes. Slowly, if she trusts you, her voice slips from a polished, TV-ready timbre to a southern Canuck twang. It's then that her armor subsides.

"Sometimes I just feel weird all the time," she says one morning. "I just don't know exactly where I belong. Sometimes I just want to curl up on the couch in a fetal position and stay there all day."

In truth, DiFolco is principled, a good Catholic girl.

"One misconception about me is I don't sleep around," she says in a bit of maimed syntax. "I don't sleep around."

She is a woman motivated by ambition and purpose.

"I don't think I'm a master at anything, but I believe that I can do shit. With me, it's determination."

After high school, DiFolco had plans to study law, but eschewed college for a career. Any career. She went to work briefly at the Italian consulate in Toronto with hopes of becoming a diplomat. That was a snooze fest.

"That was a great-paying job," she says. "You get the little title there and the red license plate, but it was really boring. Really, really boring. Could you imagine me a diplomat? Walking in with my glam-rock tee shirt, jeans."

Work with a Canadian media mogul came next, and that led to a gig at the nationally broadcast TLN Telelatino. She worked in the promotions department before producing and hosting her own entertainment-driven show, Graffiti.

"That station broadcast in Italian and Spanish. And since Toronto is incredibly multicultural, it did very well, and it was nationwide. I had no experience whatsoever. I winged it. That's what I did on every job, I just winged it."

In 1996, DiFolco landed a swank gig at City-TV as an entertainment reporter. City-TV is the parent company to Much Music, Canada's answer to MTV. For three years, she produced, wrote and anchored an entertainment package for the 6 and 11 o'clock news. Once her contract expired, City-TV offered her a new one, but she declined.

At City-TV, DiFolco was its poppier, in-house Charlie Rose, interviewing almost daily a cache of celebs, from Lenny Kravitz and the Rolling Stones to Tom Cruise and the Backstreet Boys.

"It wasn't like here, where going to a new restaurant is entertainment. If they [celebs] went to Toronto, I talked to them, unless it happened on a day when I wasn't working. Toronto is big-time entertainment, it's incredibly entertainment-driven."

Last September, when the NewShow switched from a traditional newscast to entertainment flag-waver, the station needed an entertainment reporter. DiFolco decided to move stateside.

"It was kind of a good deal for her and for us," says KTVK's chief news exec, Phil Alvidrez, a man who gives meaning to "mild-mannered."

Was she pricey?

"No, not particularly. I don't normally talk about that kind of stuff, but it was in line with, you know, what reporters in Phoenix would make."

"I mean, here [in Phoenix], I needed this," says DiFolco matter-of-factly. "Could you imagine leaving your family, leaving your country for a job that was just as busy or more busy than what you had? I see this job as rest. I don't just go to work every day and learn about a new local band or . . . it's like a whole experience for me. I'm getting a feel for a whole new culture that I didn't even know existed."

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