There are many people from small towns who dream of making it big in their own way. Tamron Hall is one of those people whose determination catapulted her to the television screen nationwide from her humble beginnings in a small town in Texas. For Hall, making it big meant connecting to the characters she saw on her screen as a little girl. It meant decoding the world around her, asking tough questions and always staying true to her roots.
Hall hosts News Nation on MSNBC weekly from 2-3pm ET and appears as a guest host on Today. The award-winning journalist says that news has always been a part of her life; the connection to people and their stories has always been at the heart of her passion.
Outside of the newsroom, Hall is well known for her signature style, but can find humor even in that. She enjoys hanging out with her girlfriends and admits to having a true love affair with food. Hall is also national advocate against homelessness, illiteracy and domestic violence, a subject that hits very close to home for the host, who lost her sister in 2007. She has been recognized by Day One, a New York-based advocacy group for victims of domestic violence, for her support of their efforts.
Here, the news host talks about the news industry’s landscape, her interests, and the importance of hard work.
EBONY: Is there a particular moment or story that led you to realize news was the way you wanted to communicate with the world?
Tamron Hall: I wouldn’t say there was a moment or story but like many families back then, my family had 35 channels, and we’d spend our evenings in front of the TV, talking about the evening news. My dad was in the army so what was happening internationally and nationally was always important to my family. The thread that has always connected my family was the news. Looking back, I’ve always enjoyed hearing about the lives of other people, their experience through their jobs, their lives and their children. It’s always been a treat to hear about others.
EBONY: How have you seen the news industry change over time, particularly in regard to diversity?
TH: If it’s a company that’s moving in the right direction, you will walk into their corporation and see more Black people, more women, more Latinos and diversity in general. News cannot be an isolated island to examine diversity. What I would counter that idea with is to look at the diversity in life, and hopefully we’re seeing everywhere that there is more gender equality and representation of different backgrounds.
EBONY: What do you think are some of the most important topics in our country today that can help move the national dialogue forward?
TH: The economy. This is what we know this will move the election. This is the question that people will ponder when they go to vote in November. We have millions of people without work, people that are at an age when they may never be able to reenter the work force other than with part time or jobs that don’t fit their skill set. Immigration and our dependency on oil are also important topics, but the economy will continue to be at the forefront.
EBONY: You lost your sister in 2007 to domestic violence and are a known advocate against domestic abuse. Cases like this sadly continue to happen, and many go unheard, particularly in the black community. How do you think we can help to fully address this issue and begin to grow and heal?
TH: The best that I think we can do part in our community is try to counter some of the images of women we are being fed. I love the complexity of hip-hop and the blues, but some of the messages and images in music present ideas of what women should be, not what we are. A lot of the images tell young women that we are objects, we are up for grabs, and we can be mistreated, misused and traded.
I do believe more women in positions of spreading information such as journalists have to find a way to connect with younger Black women and say ‘look, I have TI on my iPhone and I love Jay Z and even Young Jeezy, but some of these messages the music sends has got to be balanced in your head, because this is not a way of life.’ This notion that you can have everything you want if you can drop it low enough and the objectification that we’re seeing I believe adds to low self-esteem in women which can sometimes contribute to domestic abuse. Then some women find themselves in situations where they are too afraid to leave or unable to find support. We are presented with a unique situation in the Black community in that we have embraced the beauty of hip hop, the real rawness of it, the real fun of it, but we also have to address the damage it has done. We have to look at what it’s done to our black girls, especially when it comes to domestic violence.
EBONY: What is one current news topic that you are constantly coming back to learn more about?
TH: I’m pretty lucky in that we have ranges of topics we are able to cover and we are able to step out of the world of politics. I feel like I am the luckiest girl in the world. We get to talk about the things I’m most interested in, that I feel our viewers would be the most interested in as well. There’s not one single topic, but the Trayvon Martin case has been one we’ve definitely been following. It’s in the hands of the court now, and we’ll learn even more soon.
EBONY: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
TH: I’m definitely a foodie. I’ve started taking cooking lessons. Prior to that, it was eating, because I love to eat. I base everything on food. My mom teases me about that because my whole life evolves around planning my meals all day. I also have a great circle of friends that are from different backgrounds and we hang out. I don’t have children so I don’t have to go to 100 soccer games, although that is something I wouldn’t mind doing one day. I try to have a balanced, happy life.
EBONY: You’re well known for your fierce hairstyle and fashion. Where do you draw your beauty inspiration?
TH: I’ve had the same hairstyle since I was 18. I cut my hair then so that I could look like Anita Baker because my boyfriend at the time liked her. I laugh about it all the time, but, for whatever reason, a lot of people think that I wear a wig. I get emails and tweets about people commenting on my hair being a wig. It’s one of the strangest but most entertaining things I’ve read about myself online. An anonymous person on Twitter once threatened to slap my wig off. [laughs]I was actually more offended that he didn’t think my hair was real than wanting to slap it off. My hair was solely inspired by my college boyfriend, who was in love with Anita Baker at the time.
EBONY: Your show wraps, the lights in the newsroom have dimmed. What do you feel most proud about as you head home?
TH: I feel absolutely proud to be in this building and to be able to host a show. I’m a kid from a small country in Texas. My grandfather was sharecropper. I was raised by a single mom until I was two years old and she married my amazing stepfather. I tell young people all the time that there’s nothing exceptional about me. I worked hard but I didn’t always get straight A’s. I’m not perfect. Without makeup I look like Bart Simpson [laughs]!
A lot of times, people think there has to be exception about themselves in order to succeed and I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I’m proud of my hard work. Working hard won’t always lead to the exact things we desire. There are many things I’ve wanted that I haven’t always gotten. But, I have a great satisfaction in the blessings from my mother and father, who instilled a great work ethic in me both personally and professionally.