by Sheila Hyland, Operations Manager
Producer of top-rated national and local TV talk shows. World traveler. Foodie tour guide. Board member of nonprofits. Multi-Emmy award winner. Freelance travel agent. Mother of two. Put these together and you only just begin to touch the multi-layered surface of what Debbi Casini Klein has accomplished and experienced so far in her unconventional and adventurous life. Now add director of Luminari’s I Want to be an Ambassador! camp to Deb’s long list of enterprises. We are excited to have Deb on board with us and she is eager to meet the teen ambassadors who will join our in-person diplomacy camp in summer of 2021. We recently sat down with Deb to get to know a little more about what makes her tick.
- What most excites you about leading the I Want to be an Ambassador! camp?
I am excited on so many levels to be the leader of the “I Want To Be An Ambassador Camp” in 2021. I have known about Luminari for many years and have always been fascinated with this one-of-a-kind camp here in Western Pennsylvania. Working with and mentoring students has always been a passion for me, and this is such a terrific opportunity to do so. It will be a thrill for me to watch these students develop important life skills that they can take with them in every aspect of their personal and professional lives, while having a great time during the process. Having fun is very important to me, and I think this will be great fun for the students and myself!
- Tell us about some of the fascinating people you have met in your television career. Is there someone who really made an impression on you?
I was very fortunate as a talk show producer to meet and spend time with many interesting people along the way — US presidents, famous actors and actresses, major sports figures, Olympic athletes, famous comedians and musicians, etc. I even had a very long phone conversation once with the notorious Charles Manson, trying to book an interview on my show. However, I was most impressed and honored to meet the woman who changed the course of civil rights in America, Rosa Parks. It was a very long time ago, but I will never forget that day and cherish the time I spent with her.
- You’ve traveled to many parts of the world. If you could go back to one city or country where would it be and why?
It’s so hard to choose one place. I’d like to say either Australia, where I have relatives and the people are the nicest in the world, or Liverpool because I loved the Beatles Tour, and India because I love their culture — their people are wonderful and their food is fabulous, my favorite cuisine.
- You’re what we like to call a “foodie.” Why is experimenting with different cuisines important to you and how will you incorporate the foodie experience into Ambassador camp?
When I traveled around the world for three months many years ago, I experienced a variety of cuisines, many that I had never tried before. Indonesian food is an example of a cuisine I had never eaten, and I loved it. Food is an expression of cultural identity and can bring people together. By exposing yourself to different cuisines, I feel you are also somewhat immersing yourself in that culture. I hope to expose our campers to a variety of cuisines, especially the foods of the embassies that we will be visiting. Food is an essential part of any culture.
- You’re known for being very energetic. What motivates you?
As a child, my parents would say that I could NEVER sit still! So I believe the genesis of that energy in me started there, and has carried me throughout life. Also, working in live television for so many years with constant deadlines kept that energy level way up, and it never really let up. And truthfully, what motivates me is I tend to get bored easily so I have to always be doing something, hopefully something interesting and fun! I am grateful that I still have that energy in me!
- What do you like to do on a cold, rainy day in Pittsburgh?
I am not a fan of cold, rainy days because I would rather be out and about in decent weather. To that end, a cold rainy day would be my time to binge on some good Netflix shows or interesting documentaries, or make some of my famous pumpkin pie!
- Complete this sentence: I wish I could…
SING! I love to sing, but I have a terrible voice! So terrible that once, right before I was about to interview pop singer Cindi Lauper at her sound check before a concert, she asked me to rehearse with her on stage. I told her what a terrible voice I had, but she said it would be fun, let’s do it. At the end of the song, she turned to me and said “Deb, you’re right, you have a terrible voice!” (In a very nice, funny way, but of course she was right, and we just cracked up laughing). Yes, I would love to have a beautiful singing voice!