Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb on Changing TV for the Better
Morning television has long been known as a competitive landscape, but for Today show co-anchors Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, coming to work is more like catching up with your BFF.
Kotb officially joined Guthrie as Today’s co-anchor in 2018, as a replacement for Matt Lauer who was fired for allegations of sexual misconduct, and with her appointment, she not only ushered in a new era inside NBC's famed Studio 1A, she also made history with Guthrie as the first female co-anchor team in the over six decades that Today has been on the air.
“From the second we were next to each other, I don't think there was a question in anyone's mind that Hoda was the right person to be there,” says Guthrie. “The fact that we ended up being the first two women to do the show together was almost secondary to the fact that we were just so happy to work with each other. We really leaned on each other in that moment, and honestly, in every moment since then. That's what I pinch myself over, more than anything else.”
Kotb says she’s still surprised at the overwhelming support that they receive from longtime Today viewers. “People will give me a thumbs up, like ‘Way to go!’ And I'm like, ‘About what?’” she jokes. “But they see it as something that hasn't been done in morning television.”
Over the last year, Guthrie and Kotb have also noticed that other morning shows are starting to follow suit. “Now when we do cross talk with some of our local affiliates, we've been seeing more pairings of two women anchors,” says Guthrie. “Of course, we're not saying that's because of us, but it's been great to see that the old way of thinking about things has finally passed.”
So for InStyle’s February “Badass Women” issue, we caught up with the co-anchors to talk about breaking barriers, getting up early, and yes, what really goes on in the Today show glam room.
How does it feel to be trailblazers at NBC?
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: We both came up in local news, where there was always a male and a female anchor. But now it’s about who’s right for the job. No one questions whether a female anchor would be able to do a tough interview or cover the news. There’s no one path to success anymore. And we’re just so happy to work together and lean on each other.
HODA KOTB: The other day someone came up to me and said, “My daughter gets to see you both on TV, and she thinks this is just the way it has always been.” Obviously, we’re on equal footing with men — we go toe-to-toe all the time!
SG: I also think that we stand on the shoulders of a lot of really courageous female journalists who came before us. We work with some of them, like Andrea Mitchell, who was covering the White House and chasing presidents around the country when there was so few women in that role. Our society as a whole has changed a lot, and happily, journalism is reflecting that.
What qualities do you admire most in each other?
HK: Savannah is smarter than anybody else in the room, but she’s vulnerable too. She feels the same insecurities that everybody feels, and she’s open about it all. It shows that you can be a badass and have a soft center. You don’t have to walk around as hard as a rock.
SG: I admire Hoda’s generosity. She walks into every single day with her arms wide open, looking for somebody to hug. It's great that she works at the Today show, so more people get to have that hug, but even if she was working at a coffee shop in a small town, she'd still be the most popular, kind, important member of the place.
Your roles require you to be incredibly nimble — one minute you’re singing with Dolly Parton, and the next you’re reporting on the impeachment hearings. How do you keep up the pace?
HK: I remember that day with Dolly. Savannah was playing the guitar, singing “Jolene,” and then put the guitar down and started the news.
SG: That’s actually one of my favorite parts about the show — there’s a little bit of everything. Hoda could be doing a revelatory interview and then two hours later she has a lampshade on her head or is weighing herself on national TV. Almost every day we look at each other and laugh, like, "I love this show."
How do you do it on days when you’re not in a good mood?
SG: We don’t always wake up smiling. Well, Hoda does, but most people don’t. I joke about her being Ms. Happy Pants. But actually I don't want to make it seem effortless because I think it's very effortful. She's giving something of herself.
HK: We’re not navel-gazers either. Our job isn’t about us; it’s about what we’re talking about. And everybody shows up to work when they’re having a crummy day or if their kid is sick. They just do their job, and so do we.
SG: The show is actually a great discipline for that. You're not going to sit around and mope when the job is to, you know, not mope. If you're in a funk, it'll snap you right out of it. Every day we walk in here knowing how lucky we are to get to lead this show. And there's a wonderful group of people who lift us up, from the makeup artist who literally puts special effects makeup on me to cover up the giant zit on my forehead to my colleagues who are backing me up on-air.
What is it like to start each day in the glam room together?
HK: They can’t shut us up! Our producers try to have the morning meeting with us, but when they walk in, we’re always talking, already knee-deep in our own shit.
SG: We laugh a lot — sometimes we laugh until we cry. And then sometimes we just cry, especially if we’re talking about something real in our personal lives or something serious that’s going on in the news. A lot of times the makeup artist will have to do our makeup twice.
What’s the most badass thing you’ve ever done?
HK: I’ve done two badass things in my life — Haley and Hope. I’m in my 50s. Becoming a mom was a moment that I thought had passed for me, but I got to reach back in time and grab it.
SG: There you were at that point, single, in your 50s, and you just said to yourself, "Why not? I have all the love in my heart, why couldn't I do it?" That took major guts, courage, and vulnerability, to put yourself out there like that.
HK: And now Hope is crawling and I don’t want to miss any of the highlights!
SG: In my career the most badass thing I’ve done was leave TV to go to law school. It was a big deal to detour completely off a path and just hope it works out. And then I quit my job again to go back to TV with no job offers and a ton of student debt. It was, well, crazy. But it worked out, so we can call it badass!
How are you teaching your daughters to be badass women?
SG: I’m trying to teach Vale to be confident but kind.
HK: We want strong kids, but we also want them to have vulnerability. I don’t want my daughters to always go busting through doors to get what they want. I see the power in them, though. They’re determined. I mean, get out of their way, man.
Photographed by: Christopher Sturman. Hair: Laura Bonanni Castorino (for Kotb) and Kelly O'Neill (for Guthrie). Makeup: Mary Kahler.
For more stories like this, pick up the February issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Jan. 17.