While Andy Cohen appreciates that being added to Hollywood’s legendary Walk of Fame on Feb. 4 is certainly a major milestone in the increasingly multi-faceted career of the Bravo reality television producer and host, he says from the moment he began working in media he felt like a shining star.

“There’s never been a point in my career where I haven’t felt like I made it, because I just felt like getting in the door meant that I made it,” Cohen tells Variety.

His journey began as an intern at CBS News and he rose through the network’s ranks, ultimately heading up reality programming at Bravo, where he delivered brand-defining mainstays including “Project Runway,” “Top Chef” and, of course, the ever-juicy “Real Housewives” franchise.

Along the way his palpable passion for the rapidly evolving reality form provided an on-ramp to his on-camera career. He’s emerged as a perennially popular TV personality hosting the anything-goes “Real Housewives” reunion specials and the freewheeling “Watch What Happens Live,” where he displays his singular knack for getting reality contenders and A-list pop-culture idols to drop their typical late-night-chat poise and defenses for far more uncensored, dishy and occasionally bawdy discourse.

Cohen, too, rarely shies away from his own on-air messiness; following a recent tipsy, ungracious shade-tossing at competitors during his annual New Year’s Eve broadcast on CNN with pal Anderson Cooper, his self-aware response (“Um, I was a bit overserved,” he tweeted the next morning) only appears, typically, to have even further endeared him to his audience.

“I just feel like it’s a fantasy,” says Cohen. “I came from St. Louis. My family was in the food business. We had no ties to television, no real connections. And so that made it all the cooler for me to kind of figure it out on my own and work my way up.”

As a result, he says, he’s reveled each and every step up the media ladder he’s taken. “It was exciting to me being a desk assistant at CBS News — I couldn’t believe that I got checks that said ‘CBS’ on them and that I was working at in the same building where they shot ‘The CBS Evening News’ and ‘As the World Turns.’ I just thought that was incredible!”

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Cohen talks to the women of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Nicole Weingart/Bravo

After a decade at the network, with stints on “The Early Show,” “48 Hours” and “CBS This Morning,” Cohen experienced a stratospheric trajectory shift “when Barry Diller hired me to run programming for a startup arts and pop culture channel, Trio,” he recalls. “That was a huge vote of confidence from him. He apparently felt that I had my finger on the pulse of something, to be able to do that. But there was so much that I didn’t know about cable television, and I learned under the umbrella of Barry Diller. That was incredible training.”

Cohen’s ascendance blossomed when Trio, where he won his first Peabody Award for producing the documentary “The N-Word,”was absorbed into Bravo. His savvy producing imprint was soon on much of the network’s most-loved programming.

“ ‘The Housewives,’ which will be the thing that I wouldn’t be here without and I wouldn’t be getting this star without, it really is a bull’s eye of everything I love: it’s soap operas, it’s dramatic women and it’s reality,” he says. “You just can’t write it. You can never write it, and that’s why I’m still the No. 1 fan, and I’m still totally engaged. I want to see what happens next and it’s why everyone else does. And it’s all in the casting and it’s all in the women. It’s great storytelling, it’s great editing, but overall these women are the stars and we are just all on the ride with them.”

When the opportunity came to take his own place in front of the camera, Cohen says he never balked, or overthought the impact on his status behind the scenes.

“I was really excited to be given the opportunity,” he says, though he proceeded with caution. “One of the smartest things that I’ve done in my career was that I didn’t go all in on it too quickly. I did not think that I was valuable to Bravo as a host until I was valuable to Bravo as a host, and that took a while. I was still in charge of programming, and then I dialed back my responsibilities to just being in charge of development,” he says. “I’ve seen so many people misplay their hands that I just wanted to be very careful. And what I knew was that the reason that I was hired was to be a TV producer and to run programming for them, and I wanted to respect that.”

Cohen’s light, funny, deftly armor-piercing touch proved even more valuable to the network, and audiences embraced him as their proxy when he grilled “Housewives” cast members and, later, top-tier celebrities.

“I am the voice of the viewer and the face of the viewer, so that if I’m not buying something, I’m going to give a look and the viewer will relate to it or respond to it.”

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Cher and Cohen on one of the more memorable episodes. Charles Sykes/Bravo

As “Watch What Happens Live” became an increasingly popular contender in late night, Cohen says the show eschewed conventions of the genre including comedy monologues and leaned into what he was best at: striking spontaneous conversational sparks with his guests.

“It’s the only live show in late night. Sometimes it’s awkward. Sometimes it’s amazing. Sometimes it’s messy. Sometimes it’s emotional. It’s most oftentimes silly, but it’s always an authentic experience, and I just think people crave authenticity.”

Cohen can instantly rattle off the two most significant moments when he felt he and the show were leveling up in the zeitgeist.

“When Meryl Streep did the show: she did it because she had a movie out that they really wanted to appeal to women for – and that thing, that was big!” he remembers. “And then when Oprah Winfrey did the show. She is such a role model of mine, in terms of her hosting and just the ‘Oprah’ show was very impactful on me. That she schlepped all the way down to Soho to do the show was a very big deal.”

While “Housewives” continues to thrive and with the recent two-season pickup for “WWHL” he’ll pursue an array of bucket-list names to make hoped-for appearances — Michelle Obama, Madonna and Diana Ross are among those on his wish list — Cohen’s building a thriving multimedia footprint. He has a pair of Sirius XM channels, the personality curated Radio Andy and music-oriented Andy Cohen’s Kiki Lounge; off the success of his four bestselling books he’s built a publishing imprint with Henry Holt; he executive produces 14 different properties across NBC Universal platforms, and he has an ongoing live tour with his NYE compatriot and close friend Cooper.

“The diversity of what I’m doing also keeps me engaged. Everything kind of feeds into each other. It feeds into ‘Watch What Happens Live.’ ‘The Housewives’ really are feeding into a lot of different things and certainly permeating pop culture in a way that none of us could have predicted 16 years later. And it’s all still really fun!”

All of Cohen’s projects strengthen the connection between him and his audience. “I think that they feel like I’m their friend, more than anything,” he says. “I share a lot [in the books], on social media and the radio and the show, so I just think there’s an intimacy that comes from all of these platforms. … It’s like we all speak the same language, and I think we all feel like we’re in a special club or something. And it’s grown to be a pretty big club, and there you go: I even have my own clubhouse.” He laughs.

And just as he’s luxuriated at each career turn along the way, Cohen’s already wrapping his head around the impact of that Star on the Walk of Fame.

“It means kind of posterity, permanence and acceptance of your work,” as unexpected as the many once-seemingly unlikely things he’s watch happen to him thus far. “It is nothing that I ever would’ve thought of.”