Dragana Kosjerina: A charming 'nerd' who likes sports and subverts stereotypes
If you think that women dislike sports or that smarts and beauty don’t go hand-in-hand, the TV host Dragana Kosjerina will prove you wrong within moments. This Belgrade Herzegovinian has Moto GP in her blood, so it’s no surprise she is able to process and put out information at impressive speed even during her morning program.
You were born in Sarajevo, but circumstances put you in Belgrade at an early age and this city became home.
I was young so my memories are vague. My childhood wasn’t completely care-free, but it shaped me into what I am today, so I don’t see it as something to regret or think negatively on. I came to Belgrade when I was five years old. This is where I grew up, built my first friendships, started school, had my first crush, my first job...Belgrade is my city and I’ve never felt like a foreigner here, quite the opposite. Still, there remains something inside of me that connects me to Sarajevo too. I’m actually the only one of my family who likes going there and doesn’t have a negative feeling towards it, despite what my family experienced there.
What is it that you consider the nicest thing about Belgrade?
This is a city that has something for everyone. In Belgrade, you can be a loner or a social butterfly, you can visit various events, you can...the possibilities are endless. I like how friendly Belgraders are and how welcoming they can be with every visitor to our city, sending them home with wonderful memories.
Just like any other city, Belgrade also has its problems, but I choose to see it as a metropolis which has a broad palette of possibilities for anyone.
What are your favorite parts of Belgrade?
I love the rivers. I love going to “Kalis” with my friends and have ice-cream there together. I love to stroll down the cost at 25th of May or take a boat ride down the river. I don’t like crowds and the crazy nightlife. I prefer to walk in the parks and enjoy the rain and the Autumn in Belgrade. Also, the Botanical garden is a slice of heaven in Belgrade that I feel not enough people know about. I especially like Kosutnjak, where I work. People often joke that we should stop the car to let Dragana run off into the forest and then continue to the studio.
I think it’s got to do with the fact that I grew up in a village near Priboj, sleeping with a calf and lambs that my grandma would bring to my room.
So you’ve been an animal lover since you were young?
Oh yeah. I have a cat, but my whole family is always gathering animals off the street. In my family house where my father and sister live with their families, there’s a dog and two cats. We used to have three, but one escaped and was never forgotten. There are four other dogs around our house that we feed. I’m a fierce advocate of adopting strays or sheltered animals.
Seeing how you are from Herzegovina and we know that people from that area are famous gourmands, how did ginger root become your best friend?
I love food and I adore traditional cuisine and prosciutto. On the other hand, I also like to discover new things, but I am allergic to nuts. That’s how I discovered ginger which I take as a tea as well as add into various other drinks, creating my own ginger ale that saved me from antibiotics and strengthened my immunity.
How did you enter the world of sports-casting?
I’ve always loved the cameras and public performances, being the center of attention. However, it never occurred to me to study journalism. On the contrary, I wanted to be a dentist and I enlisted in Dental-technician high school. In my third year I realized that wasn’t what I wanted. Luckily, my parents let my choose my own path, so I found my way in the world of media and culture which I studied and in my third year of study I began working in Sport club.
Why there of all places?
The producer Sava Jovanovic, whom I had previously met in various music video shootings, called me one time and said he was filming a pilot for a show called ‘Music top list’ as an independant production. He remembered me as a photogenic, well-spoken person and suggested I try out for it. We made the pilot, but it never went anywhere. A few years later, he called me again and said he was working on a sports channel and that they were going to make a show analyzing sport-related content. I said I was interested, but that I didn’t know much about sports, and he said that wasn’t a problem and that they’d teach me everything. Three months later, I started working on Sports club. I spent a lot of that time working closely with experienced colleagues who played a big role in shaping my TV image. They were all professionals in their trade, people who shaped our television and I’ll always be grateful that they took the time to help me. Our appearances on shows was such that we always tried to present one another in the best light and not as though we were on opposite sides and would respond negatively. This helped me get the confidence I needed.
You have a reputation of being a bit of a ‘nerd’ in your work since the very start.
When I started off I was a total outsider to all except GP and tennis. Still this was my new work and so I sat for hours learning, listening to broadcasts, gathering information – all so I could better adopt the collocations, vocabulary and phrases used in the field. I just had to learn all of that just so I could pull off what many people might see as basic and simple. I prepared for every episode like I was studying for an exam. This way, bit by bit, I improved myself professionally and started getting my own space in the shows I worked on, allowing me to make my own mark in them.
After that came your big transfer.
Working with all these TV aces helped me emancipate myself. I felt it was time for new things. That was when I got the call from Nikola Mirkov, then the director of RTS, who offered me a place at that TV station, working on an entertainment show which also included a sports segment. I agreed and at first I only worked on sports shows, but I very quickly branched out into entertainment as well. This is where my career started taking off, sometimes in unexpected directions. Today I host the morning program, my favorite show, and when needed other projects in the entertainment program, which I take great pride in.
What was the best piece of advice you ever got from a colleague?
I found it unpleasant to be the target of various comments regarding my appearance. In my line of work it seems most people are identified based on their face and aesthetics. It burned me up inside to put in all this work and effort and not have anyone notice it. Once, I was having a conversation with Olivera Kovacevic, the editor of RTS’s entertainment program and she gave me some excellent advice. She looked at me and said “My dear, you are beautiful and that means you have to work twice as hard to show what you’ve got”. And that turned out to be the truth.
You’ve hosted a live program, worked on live broadcasts with colleagues...how much does the final outcome depend on your co-hosts?
I prefer to work alone because that way I have full control over the conversation and the dynamic. Working in pairs is a much bigger challenge. You have to respect the partner in your studio and that’s hard to do both ways. Sometimes your co-host will take the conversation in a direction you hadn’t expected, preventing you from taking it where you wanted, or they’ll ask a question that you wanted to ask. All this should be balanced and learned.
Of all my colleagues I have to highlight Aleksandar Stojanovic, with whom I worked on “Olympic afternoon”, a special show that we aired in 2016 during the Olympic Games in Rio. That amount of professionalism and gallantness towards a co-host is something that only special people can pull off. He even allowed me to dominate the conversation in certain areas that he was better-versed than myself, or when it comes to handling information and questions.
I also worked with very different partners and I had to adapt to them, which was a learning experience for me. I worked with the actor Marko Zivic who was from a whole new world compared to me, but we managed to find a common ground and even got praise for the work we did.
And how do you deal with negative comments which seem to follow every public persona?
You just learn to live with it, after a while. I certainly won’t sit there stressing over someone saying I was stupid or that my voice was annoying or that I was just there to look pretty. Nobody ended up where they are by accident. It took me a few years to understand how things are and stop giving those comments a second thought.
Are there comments that can get to you?
There are people in my work whom I greatly respect and consider professionals. If one of them gave me some constructive criticism, I would accept t but if they said something just to be hurtful, that would definitely make me sad. I’m generally always ready to improve and take criticism and advice from colleagues I admire. I don’t have ego problems.
Did your experience in the modeling world help your career?
Oh, absolutely. Every woman in the industry has to be ready to sit in a room with a 100 other girls and that the person who’s doing the casting might come up, observe her and then decide she’s not as good as someone else or just in general. And it won’t be because there’s something you don’t know or can’t do, but just by the virtue of not being born suiting their needs. At that moment you’ll learn that there’s always someone who is better than you, no matter what you do in life, but this shouldn’t preoccupy you. You have to be the best version of yourself and wait for your time, because it will come.
You’re currently working on various projects. The morning program, Eurovision, sports. Is that a problem for you?
At this time in my career this is excellent because I have the chance to explore what feels right. In our market there is a very wrong opinion that once a host is typecast, that’s where they should stay. It’s important to note the difference between hosts and journalists. Hosts can work on various formats, all of which is valuable experience in their career.
Your work enables you to travel a lot. What do you remember most from distant destinations?
I like to feel the atmosphere of a moment in any new city. I like to walk by a river and remember that moment, watch the people walk and talk. It’s amazing how you can look at people’s overall posture and manner of speech and recognize the collective identity of a nation.
And what is your most vivid work-related memory?
Hosting the morning program has allowed me to interview so many excellent guests from various fields and learn something new from each of them. Even though I enjoy it, I’ve started seeing it as part of the job. That’s probably why the events from the start of my career, when everything was new, seem much more vivid and meaningful. On the other hand, for car racing sports which I followed before I came to sports TV there was always a special kind of adrenaline. So I’ll say that nothing compares to the GP caravan races. This is where you feel a very specific atmosphere, a special micro-climate. This is where you’ll find excellent sportsmen with a special mentality who overcome incredible challenges and are always available and kind to you, even though in a mere 10 minutes they’ll be going 300/h and be risking their lives. When you look from the side, you feel amazed to be in their presence and you feel how average you are. This was a special experience for me.
This was when I got the chance to talk to the then champion Jorge Lorenzo. He was so amicable and charming that I acted more like a fan than a journalist. I berated myself for it later, but I just got caught up in the moment. Once you feel that, you can’t really resist it.
Gaffs are an unavoidable part of your line of work. Was there one you’ll remember forever?
My lack of knowledge, especially when I was starting out, was something I always held against myself. Sports fans as an audience are very demanding and knowledgeable. Once I made a serious blunder. We were analyzing Wimbledon and Hewitt wasn’t doing too well and had poor scores on the grass. So I was in the studio with my colleague and I say “Well okay, he’s not very skilled on grass anyway”. My colleague looked at me and replied: “Well okay, you were a child when he won tournaments on the grass.” At that moment the amount of rage I felt towards myself for only reading information from the past 10 years was overwhelming. It was enough to make me remember it my whole life and become aware how much effort it takes for someone to become a good sports caster.
What are your plans for the future? What new goals are you setting for yourself?
My ambitions are shaped depending on my current status and life experience. I want to become a good host for author shows. This is why I continue to learn and plan to enlist in my doctorate studies. I believe I have the work ethics required to achieve what I want.