It was recently my pleasure to interview Hoda Kotb about her rise to fame at NBC and the TODAY show. Hoda’s story is incredibly inspirational as she was turned down for a television job 27 times before someone said “yes.”
Either click the video above and watch our interview (the actual interview starts at 3:20) or read the transcript below.
My biggest takeaway: It’s OK to fail… learn from it and move on to great things! I also love that Hoda has a similar mantra that I embrace in my life and that is, “just ask!”
To learn more about my failing to success, download a free chapter of my book HERE,
I’d love to know what you think of the interview so please comment on it and/or share with your tribe. It’s very inspiring!
Interview with Hoda Kotb:
Christina: I have to show you. This is our special guest. You met Donna. Donna’s husband is a master glass blower, one of only a hundred in the world. He made these for us, Hoda. We have our very own. These are the only two. We might get jumped in the parking lot on the way out, so we have to hide these. Is this amazing?
Hoda: How beautiful.
Christina: So gorgeous.
Hoda: It has maroon and orange in the stem. Beautiful.
Christina: They’re beautiful, so thank you.
Hoda: Thank you.
Christina: We heard that’s your favorite.
Hoda: Kathy Lee is going to be so happy that you brought her wine. Everywhere we go, we go to a restaurant, Kathy Lee goes, “They don’t have my wine. We’re not eating here.”
Christina: Well, it’s almost ten, so it’s about time for you to … you know warm up, right? We want you to feel comfortable here.
Hoda: Yes, I am, I am.
Christina: All right. A room full of Hokies. What do you remember? I know it’s not the food, because we had horrible food when we were there. You guys have no idea.
Hoda: You know what, I was, as you guys know, a Tri-Delt. A lot of my great memories of Virginia Tech are connected to a person who is in this room. Two people here, my mom is in the front row, just to say hi to my mom. She’s up front. One of my dearest friends in the world is here, and she was my roommate in college. We were sorority sisters together, and she is now a star at WUSA channel 9 in Washington D.C. Peggy Fox is here. Aw. Oh.
Speaker 3: You’re awesome.
Hoda: I love you. Love Peggy. Most of our memories are in the Tri-Delt house doing weird things. One thing we used to do during rush week, which we loved so much, was we used to take songs that were current, and we’d change the songs and have great skits. Do you guys still do that? No one does that?
Christina: It’s okay.
Hoda: You guys don’t do Feddy Wop or anything and make it fun? Anyway, we did that, and used to do it with … do you remember Madonna’s song “Borderline”?
Anyway, we did it, because some of our symbols are pearls and pine, so we did …
I can’t remember all the words.
Christina: Peggy, do you want to come do it with her?
Hoda: We all loved it. We had so much fun in the sorority house. I had so much fun at Lane Stadium at football games, you guys. I had so much fun traying. Do you guys still do traying? You take the trays from the-
Christina: We did traying. We did that.
Hoda: We’d get trays from the cafeteria, and you go sledding, but you use the trays. We used to spray them with hairspray. You go way down. It was really, really fun. I just … it was such a great time in my life and a time that shaped my life. There are a million specifics, but most of them we can’t remember. Top of the Stairs, who knows what happened there. I’m sure it was fun, whatever happened.
Christina: It was always fun. Okay, so I’m interviewed a lot about small business and entrepreneurship, and they always say, “What characteristics does a good business person need?” I always say you have to have passion and perseverance. 1986, you graduate very passionately with your degree in broadcast journalism, and you go for your first, and what you think is going to be your last, only interview you’re ever going to have. How’d that go for you, Hoda?
Hoda: Yeah. You know what happened? I graduated, I was so thrilled, and I had one single interview lined up in Richmond, Virginia at a television station. I was convinced that I was going to get that interview, so I got all dressed up for my interview. I had on a green suit, and I had my hair blown out. I borrowed my mom’s car, and I remember I had a resume tape. I said, “Mom, I’m going to go to Richmond. I’m going to go get this job.” My mom was like, “You can do it.”
I remember I drove to Richmond, and I got to the news room, and I was like, “This is really good. I’m going to sit there and I’m going to date him.” I thought my life was going to be great. He puts the tape in the machine, and he plays it for a minute or so. He pops it out, and he says, “Hoda, I’m sorry. You are not ready for Richmond.” It had not dawned on me. Plus, it was my only plan. I go, “What do you mean? I’ll work hard.” “No, you’re green. You’re not good. You’re inexperienced. You need lots more work. Two more years and come on back.”
“Bye,”, like that. I said, “Is there any advice?” He said, “Nope, you just need work. See you later.” As I was leaving, he said, “You know, a buddy of mine’s hiring in Roanoke at WDBJ 7. I bet you if you go talk to him he’ll hire you. He’s going to a conference tomorrow, so you have to catch him tonight.” I said, “I’m going to go. I’m going to get that job.”
I called mom, and I go, “Mom,” she’s like, “How was Richmond?” I go, “I don’t want Richmond, Mom. I want Roanoke.” Nobody wants Richmond. I drove to Roanoke. I got there. I was like, “This is good. I’ll sit there. I’ll date him. This is great.” He takes the tape, he puts it in the machine. He plays it. He watches it. He stops it, and he says, “Hoda, you are not ready for Roanoke.” I was like, “Who the hell is not ready for Roanoke?” It’s Roanoke, okay?
Anyway, he goes, “You’re green. You’re not good. Bye,” and all that. As I’m leaving I’m thinking what is wrong with my tape. He goes, “Well wait. Before you go, I have a buddy in Memphis who is hiring. He may be interested in you, but he’s leaving tomorrow morning to go to this event. If you catch him, I bet he’ll hire you.” I called my mom. I said, “Mom,” “How was Roanoke?” “I don’t want Roanoke, Mom. I want Memphis.”
I drove all night across the great state of Tennessee. You know, the long, skinny state? Memphis is at the other end. Anyway, I drove all the way. It was eleven hours or whatever it was. I remember I met the guy who was the news director. He took the tape. He put it in the machine. He played it, and he stopped it. He ejected it. He says, “You are not ready for Memphis.” As I was leaving, dejected, he said, “Wait, I have a buddy of mine who’s hiring.”
I stayed in that car driving around for 10 days. I kept driving and getting rejected and driving and getting rejected. I got rejected in the whole southeastern United States of America. Birmingham, Alabama rejected my three times: ABC, NBC, CBS. You know where Dothan, Alabama is? Who cares, because I got rejected in Dothan. I literally walked in. I didn’t even know they had TV there. Anyway, rejected there. I got rejected all the way through the Panhandle.
After that, at the end of it, 27 news directors had rejected me to my face. “No, no, no.” In life, funny things happen when you get lost. I was coming home. My mom needed the car back, so I was driving home, and I got lost. I didn’t care. I had sad music on. I had no map, and I was driving through Mississippi, and there was a sign. You know how God gives you a sign? It said “Greenville, our eye is on you. CBS” or something like that. I said let me go in there, get rejected from Greenville, and get a map. That was my plan.
I go in there. There’s this little short guy. His name is Stan Sandroni. He was like this, “Hey, how are you doing? I’m Stan Sandroni. I’m the News Director. I was Sports Director yesterday and got promoted.” I’m like, “Oh, good for you.” He goes, “What’s your name?” I go, “I’m Hoda.” He goes, “Oh good, come on in, Hilda. Let’s go look at that tape.” I was like, “All right.”
He puts the tape in, he plays it, and he watches it. I’ll never forget this. Stan Sandroni was watching the worst tape ever, and he kept watching it. I’m watching. I’m watching the tape, and my heart is pounding because I feel alive. He stops the tape, and at the very end, he says, “Hilda,” and I said, “Yes?”
Christina: Whatever you want.
Hoda: I’ll never forget what he said. He goes, “I like what I see.” I said, “You do?” I was crying. You know when you’re so tired? Anyway, he hired me, and they asked us to bring someone to studio 1A who changed the course of our lives. I brought Stan Sandroni. He walked in. He was like, “I knew it from when I first seen you. Is that Matt Lauer? Hey, Matt. Hey, Al Roker.” Like that. It reminded me guys. If you’re wondering as you go forward in life. Everybody doesn’t have to love you. You just need one person. You only need one.
27 people thought I was terrible, and one didn’t. Once you find your one, they say you can be the sweetest orange in the bunch, but some people just don’t like oranges, so you have to go until you find someone who fits with you. I think that was my important takeaway, and thank you always to Stan for what he did for me.
Christina: What I take from that is you could handle 27 “no’s”. That you kept going. So I want to share my no story.
Hoda: Oh yeah, I want to hear your “no” story.
Christina: It involves you, and you don’t even know it involves you.
Hoda: Uh oh.
Christina: I’m thinking that I have these two businesses that are pretty Today Show worthy, so I pitch the Today show. I got a yes.
Christina: No, no … that then went to a “not now”. They changed your format. I’m like, “Okay, that’s fine.” Then I got a “maybe” that turned into a “no”. Then, I got a couple of “no’s”. But, I was able to build a relationship with Joan, your producer.
Hoda: She’s great.
Christina: When I had this crazy idea to bring you here with all of your wonderful people … when I emailed Joan, she knew that I wasn’t crazy. We had built this relationship, and she emailed me right back. If you ask me would I take all of those no’s for this right now? Absolutely!
Hoda: Thank you.
Christina: There’s always something around the corner.
Hoda: You’re right. There is, and I think the rejection part of it makes the other thing sweeter. Had I gone to Greenville first, I’m not 100% sure I would have taken the job, you know what I mean? You would say, “There might be something better.” When you are worn out and worn down-
Christina: And you meet Stan.
Hoda: -and you meet Stan, and then you realize … because that story made me love my job more than I would have if it had been handed to me.
Christina: It’s a big, important business lesson.
Hoda: Yeah, it really is.
Christina: Another mantra that we share with business is just ask. The worst anyone is going to say is no. We all can handle “no” now, right? Piece of cake. Tell us some stories where you just asked.
Hoda: They say taking a risk is like working a muscle. Once you’ve done it once, it’s not so hard the next time and the next time. The first time, it’s really hard, because you’re thinking, “Oh my gosh, it’s so scary,” but it’s almost like muscle memory. Once you’ve done it, you’re like, “Oh, I know what happens if it doesn’t work. I fall down, belly flop, get up, and then I move on. It’s not so scary.” For me, I was working at Dateline very happily. I loved it. I got to travel the world. I thought, “This is really a gift for me.”
Several years back, I got sick. Sometimes, it takes … certain things make you change the course of your life. Sometimes, you make decisions and sometimes they happen to you. I remember when I got sick. I had breast cancer years ago, and I’m fine, but back then, it was frightening. When you get sick, and I got better, I remember I had this epiphany. It was like a “wow”. I remember the four words I got. My four words were, “You can’t scare me.”
I remember how that woke me up, because I have always been, at least in my professional life, someone who worked hard and waited to get noticed. I’d work at my desk. I’m like, “They’ll see me working here. Give me a raise. Hey. I wonder when they’re going to promote me. I’m just here, ready.” I remember I always waited. There was a new hour of TODAY that was starting. It was about to start up, and they always saw me as a serious journalist, so I knew they would have never thought of me. I said, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to do something I haven’t done in my life. I’m going to go ask for that job.”
I remember I got in the elevator, empowered, because it seemed so nothing to ask for a promotion after what me and our family had been through. I thought this seemed so little. I remember I went to … Jeff Zucker was sitting on the 52nd floor, and I remember I hit 52 in the elevators at 30 Rock, and the elevator was going up. Normally, in that … when it’s going up, I’d be panicking, sweating, and my hands would be clammy, and I would be mumbling, messy. I was so calm, because it seemed like such a nothing, like a little ask. I remember I walked into Jeff’s office.
I was like, “Hey, Jeff Zucker. You can’t scare me.” He was like, “Who are you and what are you talking about?” I didn’t care, because I gave him this weird speech. When I was done, I left, and I ended up having some producers pushing for me, but at the end it, I got the job. I thought if I hadn’t have gotten sick, I wouldn’t have had the guts to go ask for something. I think part of the lesson is you shouldn’t wait to get sick, right?
Just do it, and I wish I had had the courage to do it before, because I’m sort of a pleaser. I don’t want to hurt. You just don’t want to ask, because you don’t like being rejected. I don’t like when someone tells me “no.” I feel embarrassed. At that point, I stopped being embarrassed about that, and I thought, “I ended up getting a job that I love because of something scary that happened to me.” If you’re going through anything that’s really frightening right now, whatever it is in your life, or something that is not working out, know that somehow, that will help you with the next thing even though you don’t know it at this moment. I think it will.
Christina: Do you think that part of the reason that you were scared to ask is, and I find this a lot with women. We don’t think we’re as valuable as we really are.
Hoda: Yeah, I have that big time. I think I still have it a little. I try not to have it, because-
Christina: This is Hoda Kotb is saying this.
Hoda: I have it. I think it is … guys can go in and ask for a raise with no problem. You know how they do? I’m like, “Hey, I’m sure you saw that I did that project. It got high ratings.” The guy walks into the boss’s office like a string of Christmas lights going, “Did you see what I did?” I’m like, and I’m thinking everyone will see through it because it’s so obvious. To me, I feel like if we had more women bosses … women bosses understand that women aren’t always bell ringers. We don’t sit here and talk about how great we are. We just do the work.
I think sometimes if there were more women in charge up top, it would make that change. I think I’m better at it now, but even now, I have some … I’m not someone who will bulldoze or come what may. I still go cautiously I think.
Christina: They say that if a man and a woman are applying for a job, and there’s ten criteria on the piece of paper, the woman will … she has nine of the ten, she won’t apply for the job. “I have to learn this last trait.” A man, he has three and he thinks, “I can wing the rest.”
Hoda: I can wing it. It’s a confidence factor. You see it in our business all the time too. I think women, as a whole, are a little bit more cautious about everything. We want to be better, but I think the confidence thing is so important. I have to tell you, Kathy Lee is very empowering in that way, because she really does know her value and her worth. She’s sort of taught me that. I do a lot of things, and I just do them. She’d say, “What are you getting? How is it helping you?” I said, “It’s okay.” She said, “No, you have to think sometimes about how it will benefit you.”
Things are contagious. If your friends are that way, you start becoming that way, right?
Christina: Absolutely. I think that nobody knows your value as much as your mother. Wouldn’t you agree?
Hoda: My mom is like, “What? Are you talking to me?” Hi.
Christina: Can we ask her a question?
Hoda: I don’t know if she’ll want to answer, but you could.
Christina: It’s just one. Can we ask you a question?
Hoda: She said no. Yes, but you can. What’s the question? Peggy will help you.
Christina: Karen, it’s live. As soon as she has it is fine.
Hoda: Peggy will help you, mom.
Speaker 3: Is it live?
Christina: Yeah, it’s on. Just one quick … we just want to know what you think is Hoda’s greatest gift?
Hoda: She said what’s my greatest gift?
Speaker 3: What’s the question again?
Hoda: What’s my greatest gift? What trait?
Speaker 3: Love and concern and being you.
Christina: Oh, I love that.
Hoda: Mom’s usually shy. She was so good. Thanks, mom.
Christina: Seriously, your mom … nobody loves you like your mom. Along those same lines, how important is mindset? When you were up on that elevator going up, you had to be like, “I’m Hoda Kotb, I’m getting this job.”
Hoda: Well, it works sometimes. I think mindset works. I’m going to tell you one example where it didn’t and where it does. I told you I was working in Greenville, Mississippi, and I’ll never forget this. I was in the newsroom working really hard on a story about how girl scouts need more leaders, breaking news. Don’t judge. I was like boom, boom, boom. I remember Stan busted in, and he goes, “Okay, who has a Blazer?” I go, “What?” “A jacket. Who has a jacket?” I go, “A jacket? I have a jacket. It’s hanging on the hanger.” “Oh good, you need to anchor the news, because Ann is sick.” I was like, “Okay.”
The litmus test for who anchors the news in Greenville, Mississippi, at WXVT News Center 15, is who shows up to work with a blazer. I was like, “Always bring a blazer to work.” Ann Martin was like Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Oprah, all rolled up into one in Greenville. That was her thing. She was out, and it was a big deal. I still remember. I was like, “Oh, my gosh. This is my big break. I can do this.” It was single anchor show, and the teleprompter was really big in front of me. I go, “You got this. This was me trying to pump myself. You got this.”
It said, “I’m Hoda Kotb, Ann Martin is out sick.” I’m like, “Come on, come on.” The red light came on, and they queued, and I looked right at the camera, and I said, “Good evening, I’m Ann Martin,” I was like, “Oh my god.” Everybody knew I wasn’t Ann Martin. After that, I was thinking, “Did I just say I’m Ann Martin? I don’t even know my own name to start the news that I’m supposed to be delivering?” For me, when I mess up, when I have a flub, I keep on messing up. That’s what happens to me. It’s like one and then another, and then you’re thinking about the one behind you. Then, you mess that up.
It’s like you’re on a toboggan, screaming down the mountain, like just end this nightmare. When the nightmare was over, after 30 minutes, I still remember I was looking around in the studio, and the floor director was like, “Okay. Nice try.” He took the microphone off to shake off the cooties. I remember I walked into the newsroom to get my pink slip, because that’s what was coming, and Stan wasn’t there. I was like, “Oh, my gosh. He’s not here. Now I have to go home, then not sleep, and then come in and get fired.” That’s what I was thinking.
Everyone has a vice when life is crummy. I go to the grocery store and look for something to eat. I wanted junk food, anything that made me feel better. I remember I was looking in the aisles, and I was in the ice cream section. This woman walks up to me, and she looked crazy. Her hair was nuts. She had two teeth or three. She goes, “Oh my God. I just seen you on TV. I felt so sorry for you.” I was like, “Oh God. Oh no.”
Just to show you, I remember I went home, didn’t sleep, woke up, walked in to work, and Stan goes, “Well, I seen what you did. It was bad, but Ann’s sick again, so why don’t you try one more time.” He gave me another go. That showed you at that point I was trying to pump myself up like, “You got it.” Then, it totally pancaked, but it’s not the pancaking part. It’s the what happens after.
That’s the lesson. It’s not how many times you fall because you’re going to fall a gazillion times. Everyone notices the recovery. Now when I mess up on the show, or if I feel like I want to do the real newsy part of it, and if I mess that up, I try not to … I try to literally erase it from your mind. If you are rewinding the tape … I just went to see Steve Harvey two days ago. We were talking about the Miss Columbia debacle thing.
Christina: I felt so bad.
Hoda: Right? He was talking about … I said to him, “How do you stop …” He had talked to Miss Columbia. It’s going to air on Tuesday. I said, “How do you not rewind the tape in your head?” Whenever I do a big, major flub, sometimes I’m like … even later, it’s over, I’m out, I’m having fun. I’m dancing. I go, “Oh, my god.” You remember it. You ever have that? You’re talking to your friend, and all of the sudden it hits you and you go back. It just happens. He talked about how he’s trying so hard to push through that stuff.
We all make mistakes. Some of them are big, and some of them are little, but it’s the recovery part, I think, that really matters. Steve did … you have to watch Tuesday, it’s a good show. I just saw it. It’s a good one.
Christina: We’re giving you guys lots of good business nuggets. I hope you are taking notes. You talked about sometimes you still do the news, the hard news. How big of a transition was if for you? You were hard news, Dateline. You were war zones and things like that. Now you’re drinking wine and laughing.
Hoda: What happened? I know. Laughing and scratching. Here’s the thing. I was doing news. I was fortunate enough to get to cover a lot of different things. They sent me to Baghdad after the statue fell in Iraq. I didn’t even tell my mom I was going. I know mom would have been like, “No.” Anyway, I did that. I went to Burma. I went to the tsunami in southeast Asia, Afghanistan, the west bank in Gaza. I got to cover the globe. It was fascinating. Then, when this opportunity came up, I thought, “I like covering hard news. I really do, but I think sometimes your heart gets…” It’s hard.
Christina: It’s hard. It has to be. I don’t like watching the news anymore. I turn it off. It’s just not a happy thing.
Hoda: I think, for me, it was standing in front of something that was broken, whatever it was, a tsunami, a war, whatever, and telling people about it. Half the time, I felt like I wanted to be doing something. I would have rather been the Red Cross than me sometimes standing there. You’re watching this in front of you. When this show came up, I thought, “What about doing something that makes people feel better?” We get to do something that lightens the load, doesn’t add extra burden.
I started thinking about maybe this will be the right thing for me, but I was so newsy in my head that I had trouble … when I first started with Kath, I had a lot of trouble knowing how to do it.
Christina: I was going to say. How do you transition?
Hoda: Right? I’m sitting next to Kathie Lee, and she’s just babbling on and on. I’m like camera one, camera two, where are my notes? Okay. I have my earpiece in. Thank you. Okay.
I remember one day, we were sitting out on the plaza, and I had all of our notes. I had the ear piece in. I had camera, two, and three. All the sudden, she’s going on and on. In my ear, they say thirty seconds to the sound bite. I was nodding. She looked at me, and she goes, “I’m right here.” I remember, I looked. She goes, “I’m right here. Get rid of your cards.” I go, “No.” She’s like, “Get rid of your cards.” I’ll never forget it. I took the cards, and I threw them up in the air, and the whole show fell on the floor.
I looked at Kathie Lee, and for the very first time, we talked and listened. All the sudden, it hit me. I was like, “You can do everything right, and it’s still not interesting.” You can be right on time. Here’s a perfect example how you can be right and not do well. I was filling in on the nine before anything started, and it was the 9 o’clock show, and I remember I was sitting there. I had my notes, and I was going to do it just right. Every interview I ever did was right questions, out on time, look at me, I did it.
I was getting ready to do my interview, and a friend of mine named Amy Rosenblum, who is a producer, went down into the control room where they can see what you’re doing. Before my segment, Amy said to the senior executive producer, “What do you think of Hoda?” Amy was my cheerleader.
He said, “Oh, no. She’s dull. She’s no good.” She goes, “What do you mean?” He goes, “She’s dull. She doesn’t have blah blah blah.” Amy came running up the stairs, and goes, “They think you’re boring.” It was like thirty seconds before I’m talking to these people. I go, “What?” “You’re boring. Shoosh it up. Get excited.” I was like, “Get excited. Stand by.” I was like what is she talking about.
I think the subject matter was serious, so it wasn’t like I could be like, “Whoo!” When it was over, I said to her, “What did you mean? What was that?” She said, “You have to be the you who you are in my office. You have to be who you are,” because I would rather than be right than be me. It taught me this … just in life. If you are who you are authentically, and you make mistakes, it’s okay. If you’re trying so hard to be perfect … there are a lot of anchors who are perfect, but you don’t have any traction with them. You don’t feel them, because they’re almost untouchable.
I’ll never forget it. I thought … it took me … I was twenty some years in the business, and I didn’t know how to be me. I was afraid, because if they didn’t like me on the air, then they really didn’t like me in person. If they didn’t like me on TV when I was doing the other stuff, who cares. That wasn’t really who I was. It was somebody else. It reminded me. I think no matter what your profession is, whoever you are-
Hoda: -I think if you can be who you are and admit when you don’t know something, it’s okay. I think we’re so busy trying to be perfect.
Christina: We’re glad that you brought up the real Hoda.
Hoda: I can’t believe you have no notes, by the way. You’re so good. Most people, when they do interviews, have something.
Christina: I do, you just don’t see them.
Hoda: Oh really? See, you were honest. Excellent. Oh, you do.
Christina: Just a little something something just in case I got nervous or anything.
Hoda: Not you.
Christina: How about role models? So many people look up to you, but I’m a firm believer. My mentor is watching, I’m going to say hello.
Hoda: Who’s your mentor?
Christina: It’s just somebody out in California, who’s-
Hoda: Who shall remain nameless.
Christina: -nameless. On my phone, it’s stealth when it comes in.
Hoda: Oh really?
Christina: No. People pay him a lot of money for consulting. So I can’t say the name, he just helps me out. Anyway, it’s really important, especially these students, to find somebody who’s done what you’ve done ahead of you and to learn from them. I’m going to use the analogy if you’re a third grader, a fifth grader is awesome.
Hoda: You’re right.
Christina: Who is that to you?
Hoda: I think in our business, it’s Meredith Vieira.
Hoda: Yeah. You know why? She has done every single thing in our industry. She was on 60 Minutes, so she did hard news. She was on The View. She was on the Today Show.
Christina: She’s done game shows.
Hoda: She’s done game shows. She’s on her own show. She’s transitioned seamlessly, and she always stayed exactly who she is. There’s not one ounce of her that is pretentious or thinks … she always goes, “I don’t know.” She’s always interested. She’s more interested in being interested than interesting. Some people are busy babbling on all their accomplishments. She will ask you a thousand questions, and she does it with everybody, whether you’re an intern, a producer, her friend, her family.
When I watched how she transitioned, I thought, “Wow, if that’s possible for someone to do that in our business and forgive you for laughing and scratching and having wine and then knowing the next day you might be doing news,” and saying I can still believe that person … I think we’re all multi-faceted. I think we’re not in a box, any of us. I do think it’s probably her. You know, often when you’re in any job, you think to yourself, “How will I ever do that as if it’s never been done before?” It is true. If you can find somebody, and look, a lot of either interns or other … they’ll ask me, and I’m always happy to help.
If you ask someone and they’re not happy to help-
Christina: You don’t want to be with them anyway.
Hoda: -then move on. They say if the door doesn’t open, then it’s not your door. Bye. There will be somebody that you’re meant to connect with and have a relationship with.
Christina: I think most people want to help others.
Hoda: Yes, and if you don’t, it’s horrible karma. There are people who horde. It’s their info, and in every market I worked in, people were very helpful.
Christina: I have found that too. Just asking. I think I told you earlier, my friends are texting me. They’re like, “How did you get Hoda Kotb to come one?” I’m like, “I asked.”
Christina: Yeah, ask. I feel that way with mentors too. Most people would do anything to help you.
Hoda: Yeah, they really would, and I think you’ll find it. As you go up … I thought when I got to the network it was swimming with sharks. I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like. I have to tell you, the group of people I work with-
Christina: You guys look like you are just an amazing family.
Hoda: This is how you can tell how grounded people are. Al Roker and I went to go cover Mardi Gras one year.
Christina: That’d be fun.
Hoda: Tough assignment. Anyway, we were there, it was late, and we got on a late flight. We didn’t get home until way after midnight. Al had to be in to do Wake Up with Al at that point at like 5 or whenever it was. I was in the makeup room, and he came busting through. He was like, “Hey, Good Morning,” and he’s dancing. I go, “You are always in a good mood. How’s that possible? You’re always in a good mood.” He said, “you want to know why I’m in a good mood? You know why I’m always happy?” I said, “Why?” He said, “Because my dad drove a city bus, and I get to come to 30 Rock every day.”
Christina: That’s awesome.
Hoda: It’s as simple as that. Matt’s the same way. Matt came from … everything was just modest, and whatnot. Everybody’s grateful to be there. You can feel it. You don’t have that thing where … I’ve never once heard Matt say to anybody, “Get me, fill in the blank.” Ever. In fact, he was thirty seconds away from his segment starting, and there were a couple of our guys, prop guys, and people who work on the floor, in the way. He goes, “Hey, guys. Excuse me.” He’s never like, “Look out! I’ve got …” He’s very calm and cool and respectful.
There’s something about the people you surround yourself with that matters.
Christina: I totally agree with that. Let’s do some fun. Tell us a day in the life of Hoda Kotb. I don’t know how you sleep.
Hoda: I get up at four. Why?
Christina: Think about that. If you want to be the next Hoda Kotb.
Hoda: I get up at four, and I have the cutest dog ever, Blake Shelton, because I’m borderline stalker. Borderline is the key word.
Christina: It’s not stalking until you get caught.
Hoda: It’s not stalking until you get caught. That is so sad but true. I was watching one of those Ted Talks one time, and they were talking about the five keys to happiness. I said I’m going to try to do every one of these five things every day, so this is who it works into the day. The first one is write down three things you’re grateful for, specifics. Not like my mom, my boyfriend, my that, Peggy Fox. Not like that. You’re supposed to write a specific.
The guy who held the door for me when he had three bags in his hand.
Christina: I love this.
Hoda: The young woman who came up to me and said x, y, and z. Then, you’re supposed to write one thing that happened to you that was fantastic the day before. If you had the worst day in your life, you have to think of the one great thing that happened, so you scribble that thing down. You’re supposed to do a few minutes of prayer or meditation, thirty minutes of exercise, and one random act of kindness every single day.
I think if we all did one thing, and not … look, we all do things for our family, and that’s awesome, but sometimes doing something for someone who doesn’t expect it … it’s really something. That’s the morning time. Then, I try to go to the gym. It’s not pretty, trust me. I pat around. I have conversations. I’m like, “Just do something.” I try to do thirty minutes of something. I go into work, and then I start hair and makeup before Kath, because she comes in a little after me.
I get in the chair, and they’re blow drying, and that’s usually when I start reading what’s on the show, which really doesn’t matter anyway. The notes are there. We’re like, “What is this? What’s happening?” I read notes, do hair and makeup, and then our producers come in, and they go through what we’re going to talk about and chat. What we like, what we don’t like. Kathie and I go down into our dressing rooms, which are right across from each other, and we pick outfits.
Christina: I was going to ask you how do you coordinate that.
Hoda: Muy importante. Kind of like we did today.
Christina: Can I tell everybody? I did email her assistant that I was wearing orange.
Hoda: I had no idea. I don’t read emails. Anyway, so we coordinate just so it’s not … sometimes, we wear crazy patterns, and people let us know how bad it is. My mom often picks out my dresses. My mom has a great sense of fashion, so she’ll send, in a box, a dress, and literally, when I’m on the way out in the morning at five by the time I leave, I see a box from my mom. I take it with me without opening it. I take it to the studio. They open it there. I don’t try it on nine times out of ten. I zip it up before I go on the air, and Boom. Every time. It’s like the weirdest thing.
If anyone needs fashion advice, ask my mom.
Christina: I was just going to say. I’m going to give you my address.
Hoda: She has a great sense. We do the thing. We do the show from ten to eleven, and then after that, it depends. Sometimes there’s a lunch thing that we’re supposed to do. Sometimes there’s a shoot. Sometimes there’s an evening event, and that kind of stuff. I try to tuck in by eight thirty.
Christina: Oh, jeez.
Hoda: I know. My boyfriend’s like this, “Oh, so we’re eating at five again?” He’s getting used to it. He’s with the program. Anyway, so that’s kind of a typical day.
Christina: Is the show … do you use teleprompters, or you just go?
Hoda: We do. We have bullets in the prompter. It’s like four or five words of what’s going on. I have to tell you, for someone who was married to a teleprompter before, and then suddenly had to figure out life just being free wheeling, it’s a little tough in the beginning. Now, it’s easy because it is talking and listening. They say one of the skills that we all need most is just to listen. I was thinking, for all the time I was in our business, I was always trying to think of the next question. That’s what I was doing when someone was talking. I was thinking of the next question.
I was missing so many important things, because I was like, “Uh huh.”
Christina: Okay, I got the next-
Hoda: Ready. I’d go in, and I was thinking wait a minute, they just gave me some information that I should have been paying attention to and used it for the next thing. It’s taught me a lot about that too.
Christina: All right. Our time is almost running out.
Christina: Of course, we have to talk about the book.
Hoda: Oh, okay.
Christina: I have to tell you-
Hoda: All right.
Christina: -I got an advance copy, which is kind of cool, from your publisher.
Hoda: Thank you.
Christina: After reading it, you could have titled the book “Ut Prosim, That I May Serve.”
Christina: You really could have. You guys will all read it. The one that really resonated with me was the family. I always say it wrong.
Hoda: Yeah. There are seven stories in the book, and each one is somebody who was trying to find their sweet spot in life. They were trying to find where they fit in. Think about how life is sometimes. Look, you grow up in a house, you go to a college because it’s nearby. You meet a cute guy. He lives nearby, so you get married. There’s a job opening at the mall. You take it, and five years later, you’re like, “How am I still working at the mall here.” These are people who put their hands on the steering wheel of life and made choices. Sometimes, you wonder if you’re taking the path of least resistance, like it’s convenient so I’ll just stay here, or if you’re choosing.
Everybody in here had courage and guts and moxie to choose. This one family that you’re talking about, they’re a couple who were married and they’re in their fifties. They had a great life. They had no kids. They didn’t want kids. They were skiing in Aspen, having wine, money to burn. Whoo. Your life is awesome. The husband went to Haiti, and he walked through an orphanage. He was touched.
He called his wife, and he said, “Oh my gosh. I cannot believe these children who are here.” This couple, who, again, swore off kids, ended up adopting three children. They have a beautiful family, and they cannot imagine their life any other way. It took them until in their mid fifties to know where they belonged. It’s funny because sometimes you don’t know what’s missing in your life until you get it. Then, when you get it, you say, “How did I live all those years without it? How did I make it this far without that?”
They have a beautiful family and it makes you realize, it’s kind of a Sandra Bullock story. That kind of thing. Makes you realize what is still possible in your life. Hopefully there’s a story for each person in the book, something for each person.
Christina: Love it.
Hoda: What do you mean? Is it over?
Christina: I know.
I hope you enjoyed our interview and are inspired to keep working at the things you love. Learn more about me and my journey to success by downloading a free chapter of my book HERE,
To Your PR Success,