Hoda Kotb has worn many hats over the course of her journalism career. She started out as a local reporter and anchor, became a Dateline correspondent, and eventually made her way over to the fourth hour of The Today Show, where she’s been sipping 10 a.m. wine alongside Kathie Lee Gifford for over a decade. As of last year, she also took over as main co-anchor of the entire morning program, and she just published her second children’s book, You Are My Happy. Kotb lives in New York with her partner Joel, and her daughter Haley. Here, she tells us how she gets it all done.
On her morning routine: I have two alarms set on my phone. One goes off at 3 a.m. and one goes off at 3:15 a.m. I’m one of those people who pops up. I don’t usually linger too much. I just hop in the shower. After I get cleaned up and stuff, I light a candle, I put on some cool music, I drink one bottle of water straight down, and I sit down at our kitchen table with a journal. I don’t care if I happen to be running late or if I have all the time in the world, I try to do this one thing no matter what. In the journal, I’ll write the three things I’m grateful for just right there in that moment. Like, one, two, three. And then one amazing thing that happened the day before. It’s almost like a level set. I grab a cup of coffee and the car comes around 4:15 a.m.
On breakfast: I do those egg bites from Starbucks. Have you ever had those? My mom was like, “They’re full of sodium, stop eating them.” But who cares? They’re good.
On waking up insanely early: Don’t hit snooze. Don’t do it. You wanna do it, you think that ten more minutes is gonna be great. It’s never good. Once you hit snooze, your day is no bueno, because you’re already behind. During the day, if I feel kind of like I’m flatlining, those Listerine mints are so awesome. Sometimes I do it during the show, I feel so out of it and I just pop one.
On her nighttime routine: I put Haley down between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Joel will tell me a little bit about his day. I’ll give him a kiss. And I’m like, “Light’s out.” Joel’s like, “Wait, what?” I’m like, “Goodnight. It’s over.” Sometimes I play Candy Crush, to be honest. I do the Soda one, which I like. Sometimes I just do a little mindless that, and then it’s lights out.
I’m a cranky mess if I don’t sleep. I try to get the eight — I mean, you definitely don’t always get it, but I try.
On working out: I have this trainer named Will, he said to me, “What’s your goal?” I said, “My goal is to be able to lift 30 pounds, which is Haley, over and over and over and over again.” So, that’s my workout. I lift 30-pound dumbbells over and over.
On drinking wine at 10 a.m.: Just let it flow, baby. That’s my tip for drinking at 10 a.m.
On staying connected to her Egyptian heritage: It’s when my mom comes to visit. She’s here now and she made basbousa, and she’ll make baklava. Haley’s thing that she always says is “more” whenever my mom hands her anything sweet. Oh, and you know the rule, right? That if you say no to the food then you hate them. So, you’ve got to eat everything.
On managing stress: I try to kind of stay present a little bit. Like, what am I really stressed about? Haley is the great erasure of pain, of stress, of everything, really. I’ll come in kind of stressed out from a day or something and I’ll look at her, and all of a sudden I’ll realize, Oh, this is it. This is what matters. What was I worried about?
On unplugging: We had a Tupperware by the door that we were supposed to drop our phones in when we walked in. That was our game plan for about two days. But I watch Haley watch me. And that’s when I realized, “Wow, she sees that that’s my go-to.” I mean, what if we replaced our phone with an apple. And what if your daughter or your friend saw you always reaching, “Where’s the apple? Where’s the apple?” It’s like we’re crazy. I mean, Haley has a purse and the first thing she threw in it was, “Haley phone.” She threw a phone in it, like, a pink phone. I was like, “Oh shit, what am I doing?” After I order our dinner and put the music on in her room, I put the phone away. Unless it’s some kind of breaking news situation, I try to shut it down until the morning.
On covering both hard and soft news: I got into this business to be in news and I love that part of the business. Working with Kath, I’ve loved every second of it, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that when there was a big story I would look and have a little bit of “Wow, I wish I were covering that.” It was hard not to be part of some of those stories that I felt were really important. So, to be able to do both of these is really cool. To work alongside Savannah at 7 a.m. and to see what true professionalism is all about is cool. And then, to work alongside Kathie Lee and get the laughs is great. So, I feel like it’s the perfect balance.
On her unique childhood habit: I was something like 7 or 8. At 2 in the morning, I would wake up and play Gordon Lightfoot and I would draw cartoons. And my dad would walk in, and he was like, “What are you doing?” I was like, “Look at me, creative, in the middle of the night, listening to Gordon Lightfoot, drawing cartoons.”