Tamron Hall makes us feel unproductive. It’s just a fact. The Today Show news anchor and star of Deadline: Crime With Tamron Hall, which airs every Sunday at 10 PM on ID, deals with serious world issues on a daily basis, but has a remarkable ability to remain objective and present all sides of a story (plus, we’ll just say it, she’s gorgeous).
In light of the tragic events of late, we sat down with Hall to talk about everything from mentally preparing for reporting on tragedies, to her experience in covering the election. It wasn’t all serious talk though; Hall also let us in on her nightly ritual (eating ice-cream) and told us that – when she started her career – she was told her eyelashes were “too long and too distracting” to become a news anchor. It’s official: She proved them wrong. See below for the interview we’re particularly proud of this week…
What would be your ideal food day?
Oh, okay. I’d start off with the most amazing pancakes ever. I’m still in search of them. I’ve had good pancakes, but I haven’t had my final pancake. I’d start off with warm syrup drizzled over my pancakes, but I want the butter to look like in the commercials, where it sits on top of the pancakes and doesn’t fully melt. Bacon – I’m a bacon snob, I’m a Texas kid – so really great bacon, and of course a mimosa. I don’t drink a lot during the day, so mimosas are my ultimate guilty pleasure. My lunch would include, if I were in New York, Casa Mono. I love it because it’s a neighborhood restaurant, but at the same time you could see anyone from around the world walk in. It has that cozy New York feel, and the menu changes every day. Dinner would be at Pig & Khao. It has a very similar vibe to Casa Mono that, in my ten years of living in New York, I now find to be my common thread in dining, I love that adventurous energy – it’s still approachable, but you know you’re getting this sublime food experience; you’re not getting your average pizza or pasta. I live for dessert. I don’t care what it is, as long as it has sugar. I don’t do fake sugar.
In terms of diet and wellness, how do you practice beauty from the inside out?
I practice transcendental meditation every day. I grew up in a very religious home, and I went to church every Wednesday night, Sunday school, and Sunday service. Now that I can call my own shots, I go to church every Sunday. I don’t believe in organized religion. My church happens to be Baptist, but I don’t subscribe to one faith necessarily. I subscribe to love; I know that sounds very idealistic at this point in time in our society, but any place I can go and clear my head and pray is a sanctuary for me. I have a book called The Path of Light that I’ve carried around with me since I was eighteen. It’s a spiritual guide that I meditate to twenty minutes a day.
In terms of exercise, I ride my bike from the studio home. I hate exercise, and the notion of the gym. I’m like, “The gym? What is this language you speak?” I’d rather get my exercise walking. I do Pilates; I’ve practiced Pilates for about twelve years, but haven’t been doing it as much lately because I discovered the West Side Highway bike path, which is phenomenal. I just love it. It can be pretty frightening, but for the most part, I love to bike around the city.
How do you always start your day?
My go-to breakfast is very tragic; it’s nothing compared to my dream breakfast. I usually make a green smoothie of some sort – kale, chia seeds, and yogurt…I try to mix it up. I’m often seen googling shake recipes. If I showed you my phone, it consists of about thirty screen grabs of various recipes that I‘m planning to make, like a peaches and cream smoothie. I try not to have anything really substantive, because we have cooking segments every show, so we have breakfast in the morning early on, and then we’ll have something like short rib week, or 99 ways to do a short rib. We have some of the best chefs in the world on our show, so who can say no? I try to keep breakfast light, and I cook a lot now.
Have you always been very into cooking?
My father passed away eight years ago when I moved here to New York and he was the cook in our family. I jokingly say that I didn’t have a woman cook for me until I went to college in the cafeteria and I was like, “Women cook?” (Laughs). My dad would bring my brother and I lunch to school. He made every meal when I was growing up and I did not learn to cook – I took it for granted. When my father passed away, I went home for the first holiday without him, and we had nothing. We’d gone from this family who would have everything – fry a turkey, roast a turkey, have a ham, have a biscuit spread – to having maybe a cinnamon roll or something in the fridge [because no one could cook]. I vowed that day that I would learn to cook – and that we would never spend another Christmas at home! (Laughs) So now our Christmas is a beach casino somewhere and we love it. But after that, I learned how to cook. Someone gave me a fancy Le Creuset set – I didn’t even know what it was or how to pronounce it – but I said, “If someone is giving me such a fancy cook set, I have to learn!”
So now I usually always come home during the day and cook my lunch. I don’t have loyalty to one thing – sometimes it’s even what we cook that morning on The Today Show – but I prepare my own lunch everyday. I tell people news is a lifestyle; you can’t unplug. So when I walk in my door, I’m doing my research, I’m reading the papers…It’s an ongoing machine. I’m up at 4am every morning, but I usually only have dinner around 830 or 9pm. I know, it’s bad for you, but I don’t want to live my life with the early bird special! There will be time for that, just not right now.
I like to have dinner out. There’s a great little Italian restaurant near my house and I like to dip in there and have a bite. I end almost every night with ice cream. I get my ice cream shipped in from Texas (from Blue Bell); it’s a splurge, I realize that. I live my life and end it with ice cream. I love wine – I have a couple of wine club memberships. That’s my next goal. My true maturity level will be being able to discuss wines.
I quite enjoy cooking. I love cooking for my friends. It’s communal, it reminds me of being with family, and it’s also a form of therapy; it heals you from the inside out. You can relax and open up a couple bottles of wine, take your shoes off, and play music. It’s a lovely night.
In a time where there is so much content in the world, what is your definition of good content?
Good company. I’m very lucky to surround myself – not from anything particularly good I’ve done in this life – with things that I’ve been blessed with, like good friends from different walks of life. Many of them grew up with very modest backgrounds, and made it here to the city with their own hard work, and their own judgment and devices, so I define good content as good company. My friends range the gamut. I have a lot of friends who have launched small businesses; we talk about our successes and failures, our ups and downs, and with all of those things, I’ve learned a lot from them. They are my good content.
During a week such as this, how do you approach reporting what’s going on without becoming emotional? What’s your biggest personal priority when covering something like the tragedy in Orlando?
My personal priority is to answer the questions you want answered, and ask the questions you want answered. When you have forty-nine people senselessly murdered, I would not lie to you and pretend it did not have a great impact on me. You have Mothers and Fathers, Sisters and Brothers, pleading for an answer; they just want to know where their loved one is. I cried my eyes out Sunday night, and I’m okay with that. And I was still able to, the next day, get on air and ask those questions. So, I no longer, after being in this business for twenty-five years, try to separate normal human emotion from integrity. I hope that I am able to provide both.
How do you prepare mentally in a situation like this?
You can’t. I, Sunday morning, like the rest of us, woke up to the news and I instantly called in and said I’m available, I’m in town, and I’m ready to go. I was immediately told to come in and I was on air, as things were unfolding. It was truly breaking news. There is not a lot you can do to prepare or read up on. I have covered these types of stories before, and can recall all the facts on gun control and on terror. All of those things are there, but you don’t know why it’s happening, so all of the information you have stored really doesn’t matter until you know more.
Do you feel that as a reporter you always need to remain objective, or are there times you can be subjective?
I think, 99% of the time, absolutely, I’m mainly objective. That’s my job. In cases like forty-nine people being killed, or during Hurricane Katrina – when there were people on the roofs of their homes, and you had government officials saying it was all okay – you don’t have to say, “Wait a minute, what’s the other side of the story?” There is no other side to a senseless murder. There is no other side to government failing us. There’s a why: Why did this happen? But you don’t have to say, “Wait a minute, on the other hand…” There are stories that do not require us to be objective and say “Well, what about that lynching? Was that okay?” No it was not and the occupation does not require that of you. You’re not required to be artificial intelligence.
But, I take my job very seriously. I believe that with the current debates that we are having in this country, it is my job to present both sides, and allow the person at home – the voter, the viewer – to draw his or her own conclusion. I don’t have to do it for them, and I have never felt compelled to, not once in my career. I’ve never felt compelled to lead someone to a certain answer.
What has been, throughout your career, the best advice and the worst advice you’ve ever received?
The worst advice I’ve ever received is that someone (a man) advised me not to become a news anchor because my eyelashes were too long, and they would distract the viewers. On career day as a young journalist, I scraped up my money and went to this big conference for young journalists, and the great feedback I got was that I would not or should not become an anchor because my eyelashes were too long and too distracting.
The best advice I received came late, and it’s this: Don’t read the comments section of any story that mentions you! (Laughs)
What’s an issue that’s really important for you right now and why?
Domestic violence. My sister’s death remains an unsolved homicide. We don’t know what happened to her the night she was murdered, but I do know she was in a long-term domestic violence situation, one I witnessed in my own home. And a few years ago, following the death of my father, I started speaking up and my family has well. We as a family have become united to show people what we went through and what we’re going through. We decided together to make a difference.
I believe that some of the mistakes and decisions we made then – that for years I called mistakes – other families make those same decisions every day, and they don’t know. If I had the information back then that I have today, I wonder all the time if things would have turned out differently. But I do know that our story, and what happened with our family is something that can be shared and ultimately help others.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve experienced in covering the election?
The most surprising thing is that people are surprised. (Laughs) We’ve been divided by design – we live in a democracy, and I believe I’ve watched some of the rhetoric just increase over time, and the vitriol, the demonization – on all sides – and inevitably it had to turn into something. We’re all asking ourselves, what’s happening? What are we doing? I heard today someone reflecting on the days after 9/11 and how we pulled ourselves together, and we had a Republican president – George Bush – visit a mosque to reassure people that we aren’t enemies. I think we may be on our way back to that moment, where we realize we’re in it together. These labels divide us to the point where we don’t see each other anymore. It’s democracy baby!
On a lighter note, you’re hosting at the Aspen Wine & Food Festival. Is this your first time?
I went last year; the festival is so communal. It doesn’t hurt that it’s in Aspen, but everyone is walking around with this common enjoyment of food. Going back to politics, one of the organizations I work with is called Common Threads. The organization tries to help low-income families while using food as a common ground; we learn through each other culturally through food. In many ways it gives me the feeling that good food is good content. I feel it and I love it and it means a lot. So I’m looking forward to it.
Is there a childhood recipe your Dad made that you really loved?
My dad made the best pecan pie – he knew the right amounts of sweet and salty. It wasn’t too thick (I hate thick pies) – it’s not about size, it’s about flavor! He would always make a delicious chocolate cake. Chocolate cake is my favorite. He was unique in that he was a great cook and he could bake – and he loved to barbecue. He was a trifecta.
What would your last meal be and who would it be with?
My last meal would be with my mother, my three nieces, my nephew, my brother and his wife. It would be barbecue from my hometown in Texas. My grandfather was pit master – he barbecued every day of his life for other people, for their enjoyment. So it would have to be barbecue – and it would have to be outside, whether it was nice or not.
What are some of your favorite restaurants in New York?
I love Casa Mono; I love Buvette. I’m very picky. I’ve been enjoying Bespoke Kitchen. It’s a unique concept. They ask you if you want something savory or light, you pick your protein, and they create a bespoke meal. It’s in the West Village (I discovered it while on my bike). So, if all three of us ordered steak, we’d get three different steak dinners. I love Mary’s Fish Camp; I like Perla a lot. I love a good burger – I used to eat a burger every other day, and I had to wean myself off. I’m also still searching for the holy grail good Mexican restaurant in New York. There is good Mexican, but I’m searching for my kind of Mexican – the Holy Grail, Tex-Mex, New York restaurant.
In the same vein as what’s the new black in fashion, what’s the new potato for you right now?
I’ve weaned myself off of jeans. It’s very controversial. (Laughs) That’s my new potato – no jeans. I’m a Texas kid, so I love my jeans – and I still have my Levi’s from the 7th grade – but I have made a conscious decision to wean myself off of them. It’s your crutch. You end up buying all of these jeans, and then you just still go back to one or two pairs, and you don’t wear other things in your closet! My new potato is no jeans. Now if I only I could keep it!
*Tamron Hall, photographed at Pig & Khao in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann