Thursday, May 28th 2009, 8:26 AM
"It really helps you gauge everything in life," Lachey says. "There, you're dealing with life and death on a daily basis. Now, just being able to realize what's not life and death helps you deal with every situation."
And it also comes into play now, with his job as host of HGTV's "$250,000 Challenge," a competition series launching Sunday at 10 p.m. that pits five families in a home remodeling challenge.
"I did it at such a young age," Lachey, 32, says of his run as an EMT with Metropolitan Ambulance. "It helped mold me into the adult I became. For me, it kept me grounded."
A former boy-band member with brother Nick in 98 Degrees, Lachey has successfully transitioned from EMT to singer, to Broadway actor, and now into a television personality.
He got his TV start by winning the second season of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," which led to filling in as a host on that show, then hosting "Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann." An appearance on HGTV's "Summer Showdown" last year led to getting the "$250,000 Challenge."
"I never really envisioned myself as a host," Lachey says. "It was never something I was aiming for. It wasn't in my wheelhouse. It's something that's naturally happened. Honestly, I'm glad it did."
Lachey admits that it wasn't easy figuring out what to do after 98 Degrees broke up in 2002.
"It's very difficult, honestly," he says of the transition. "I was sitting home for a while after 98 Degrees. I was trying to find out what the next thing was. It really is hard to make a transition into the next phase of your career, especially when you're pigeonholed into the boy-band thing."
Thought it wasn't his initial calling, he has found a home as a host.
"I think being a host is a very underrated position," Lachey says. "You look at some of the biggest hosts on television - Ryan Seacrest, Tom Bergeron, Howie Mandel - they dictate the feel of the show. ... If you're fun, and upbeat, and joking around, that's what the feel of the show will be."
With "$250,000 Challenge," it helps that Lachey is a do-it-yourselfer, too. He and his family only stay in a home a couple of years, and once they're done renovating, they move on.
"I somewhat know what I'm doing and I have all of my fingers, still, at this time," he says.
His days as a working EMT are behind him, he says, although he has not tossed his EMT workbook and still dabbles in it around the house.
"It always seems," he says of friends and family, "whenever something happens, I'm the first one they call."