“I made more money working at Ponderosa than I did at my first (broadcasting) job…”
In 1986, Hoda Kotb – the high-energy television personality who made history this week after she was named co-host of “Today” – was motoring around the southeast, sleeping in her mother’s car and repeatedly striking out. The recent Virginia Tech journalism graduate was hoping to land her first job in front of a camera. But every time she walked into a television station with her audition tape, she walked out disappointed.
“I was in that car driving around for 10 days,” Kotb recalled in a 2016 interview. “I got rejected everywhere, anywhere you can think of in the southeast.” Twenty-seven television stations passed. “Finally my mom needed the car and I had to go home.”
Heading back to Virginia, with melancholy James Taylor spilling from the car speakers, Kotb got lost in rural Mississippi. When she spotted a small local television station in Greenville, she decided to try one last time. The station manager liked her taped and hired her at $12,000 a year.
“I made more money working at Ponderosa than I did at my first job,” Kotb said in a 2009 commencement speech at West Virginia University. “I couldn’t pay my bills. I had to juggle which bills I paid. But I was in love.”
Kotb was born in Oklahoma. The family relocated to Morgantown, West Virginia, where her father taught at West Virginia University. When she was 12, the family moved to Alexandria, Virginia.
“In seventh and eighth grades, I looked really strange,” Kotb told the Journal. “I wasn’t black or white to the kids in school, yet I seemed to be both and neither, which made assimilation on the school bus and in the cafeteria particularly difficult. I never talked to my parents about any of this.”
In interviews, Kotb has spoken often about how her immigrant parents fully embraced their new homeland. “My parents made us red, white and blue when I was young,” she told Media Bistro in 2009. And despite her early trouble landing a job in broadcasting, Kotb has said she never considered her ethnicity as a factor holding up her career.
“[W]hen I was rejected so many times, it wasn’t because of my background. It was because I wasn’t good. I knew that. I never dawned on me maybe they don’t want me because of ‘X,'” she said. “It’s not a racial thing for me. I didn’t see the world that way. So when things didn’t go my way, I just assumed I’m going to get mine somewhere else.” https://goo.gl/6Hw1fH