Hoda Kotb picks up the phone for this interview in the early afternoon. She’s been awake since 3:30 a.m. and filmed two morning shows, but she sounds both alert and chilled out, like she just stepped out of a bath filled with coffee grounds and white wine. When she speaks, her voice is warm and conspiratorial, as if she’s welcoming you into a party and leaning in to tell you where the most interesting people and best snacks are. She laughs, she grows emotional, she sparkles through the phone. Even as an interview subject, she’s a good host.
At 56, the NBC Today co-anchor seems to have the accomplishments of multiple people, across multiple lives—the daughter of immigrants, she worked her way from local TV to NBC, where she served as a Dateline correspondent and later became a morning TV fixture as co-anchor of the fourth hour of Today with Kathie Lee Gifford. She and Savannah Guthrie became the first pair of women to co-anchor Today when Kotb succeeded Matt Lauer, who was fired after reports of serial sexual misconduct. (He denied elements of the allegations.)
This moment—halfway through her 50s and flush with success—is, as Kotb puts her, her “best chapter.” Her fifth book for adults, This Just Speaks To Me, is a collection of her favorite quotes and was released on October 13. (She’s also written two children’s books—one became a Kelly Clarkson song.) She’s a cancer survivor, and a mom of two young daughters. She’s in love with being a mom. She doesn’t care what people think about her body. She likes sunrises better than sunsets. “I know who I am,” she says. And she knows that she’s lucky.
Here, Hoda Kotb—just Hoda, to her fans—tells Glamour about the secrets to her success, why it’s fabulous to be an older mom, and what would happen if we went to drinks.
Kotb with her fiancé, Joel Schiffman, and daughters Haley and Hope.
Make your schedule work for you
I wake up around 3:30—gross. It’s kind of my only alone time, so I do this little ritual: I light a candle, bring out my journal, and start scribbling. I frame it through the lens of what I’m grateful for. If a friend is going through a difficult time, which one has been recently, I’ll write, like: “I’m so grateful that my friend has a track record of surviving the difficult times in her life and she did it again yesterday.” Then I read through all the notes and stuff I need for work and try to do my homework. And then I arrive at work—we’ve been doing our own hair and makeup up until recently, so I do that, do more reading, pick an outfit (make sure Savannah and I don’t clash), go down to the set, do the show, do the 10 o’clock show, and I’m usually wrapped around 11.
And then after usually a few meetings, I try to fit a workout in—whether it’s a run in the park, which I’ve finally mastered with a mask on, or I’ll do a Peloton spin or something—and then it’s time to scoop up Hope and then go by Haley’s school and pick her up. We usually head to the park, have a nice afternoon, come home, and have some dinner. Joel comes home, we put the kids down, Joel and I like to unpack our days, and it’s lights out by 8 p.m. I’m a big bore. I like sunrises better than sunsets anyway. I try to do a “be here now” thing with my kids—I feel like I’ve spent so much of my life being somewhere but my head is somewhere else. I’m a work in progress, I guess!
Hoda using the cult-classic Revlon One-Step (we love it, too.)
It only takes one “yes”
When I was looking for a job initially, I got so many rejections. I didn’t stop to question why so many news directors didn’t think I was good enough, but there were lots of them. There were 27 in a row who said “No no no, you’re no good.” I just kept going until someone hired me—that philosophy worked for me. It just reminded me, you only need one person who thinks you’re good enough. Then if one person does, the doors open, and you bust through. I just decided I was going to outwork everyone. I might not be as talented, maybe I’m not as good of a writer as that one or pretty as that one or whatever, but they’re not gonna outwork me. You don’t have to be the smartest or the brightest, you really don’t. You just have to be the one who doesn’t quit. People give up all the time—of course! Because it’s hard! But the funny thing is, you can outlast people. That’s my only secret—just hang in longer. And here we are.
Learn to have challenging conversations
“It’s hard to hate up close.” That quote probably resonates the most for me during this time. The more you know about someone—not just their political views, but that they have children, or a sick loved one, you start to learn who they are—it’s hard to hate. My friend said to me, “If you’re in a conversation and it’s difficult, or if you’re trying to get somebody to open up to you, try these three words: ‘Tell me more.’” Not like, “Explain what you’re talking about.” No, not like that, but, “Tell me more.” On the third round of that you’ll be surprised what that person reveals to you. I think it’s easy to be angry and retreat, but I think it takes courage to ask.
Know yourself (and invest in a good touch-up spray)
I don’t care about certain things. I’ve worn the same dress I don’t know how many times. I re-wear everything. A lady tweeted me, “I’ve seen that dress 57 times,” and she was right! Our staff even put up pictures of the number of times I wore the dress. I thought it was funny. Like, that’s not my bag! That’s not part of me. There are people who are much cooler than me, who have a much cooler fashion sense than I’ll ever have. It’s not my thing. I’ve had people say to me, “Turn around, you look so much bigger on TV!” I’m a big girl, I don’t care. That doesn’t hit me in my soul.
It’s not like I’m immune to criticism. If I say something that hurts someone’s feelings, that’ll kill me. But in terms of “Your hair’s a mess, why don’t you color your roots?” That’s just Wednesday. And actually, I do need to color my roots. I’ve sprayed the hell out of them. You should see them now, it’s so bad! But I’m too lazy, I don’t want to go! I have to say, I have this great root spray—that Oribe touch-up spray, it’s killer. Why’s it so good? If it weren’t so good, I would have gone to the salon! If we went for drinks, you’d be like “Wow, you have seven stains. Are you seriously sitting there?” And I’d say, “Yes I am. Let’s make it eight.”
Savor the now
The best chapter is the one I’m in right now. The one that I thought I had missed. Before Haley and Hope, before the kids—I’m so happy saying “before the kids!” Even just saying that phrase means a lot to me! I thought I had missed that train, and it was killing me, to be honest. The fact that I got to live the best part of my life late in life is so beyond mind-blowing to me I can’t even—it doesn’t even compute, it’s so big to me. It does remind me that you don’t know when your blessings come. But they come, and they’re right on time.
I just know who I am, I know what my priorities are, I know that my kids are everything. All of a sudden, it’s like your priorities are suddenly super clear. My decisions are all super simple now—if it enriches and helps our family, I do it, and if it doesn’t I don’t do it, and that’s it.
Obviously, you want your kids to have love throughout their lives. I lost my dad when he was in his early 50s, so I know what it’s like to lose a parent young, and it hurts. But I looked at my girls yesterday, and I have to tell you, they were holding hands and walking around the living room together. I looked at Joel and I said, “We did it. They’re going to be with each other forever.” I could see it. My goals now are for my girls. I can’t wait to see whatever they are going to become.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.
Originally Appeared on Glamour