What It’s Really Like To Be On the ‘Today’ Show

When you’ve blogged a long while — as I have — it’s challenging to come up with topics you hope will be interesting to your readers. So, when a colleague suggested I write about my experience on the Today show, I jumped on it.

I’ve been on Today twice. Once to talk about midlife divorce, and once to talk about raising three sons. Some people dream about being on national TV — and here’s where you might expect me to say, “But I’m not one of them.” But, unapologetically, I am.

Those of us who throw our work into the public arena and hope it sticks, know the highs and lows of doing that. But, despite the peaks and valleys, we forge ahead. We do that because we have a message we believe is valuable — whether we’re experts in relationships, dog leashes, or the stock market. And we want to share that message.

That being said.

Perhaps one day you’re watching Today (or a show like it) and you see a guest who’s just a regular person (like you) sharing her message. And you think, It would be so cool to be on a national talk show!  But how does that happen to everyday folk like me?

I was asked to be on because — daydream spoiler! — I had a publicist who made it her mission to get me on. But, first things first: If it’s your heart’s desire to be on one of these shows, you have to declare it. You can’t hide in a closet and expect the producers to come knocking, because they won’t. They have too many other qualified guests banging down their door.

Today wants you,” I remember my publicist saying. And those were about the headiest three words I’d ever heard strung together. They were interested in research I’d conducted on women in midlife choosing to divorce which eventually became the premise for my book, Without This Ring. I’d surveyed hundreds of women and the powers that be at Today liked that.  Because, like all media outlets, they like numbers. Big ones.

I was invited on the show again after an article I had written about mothering three boys quickly went viral, garnering over a million views (again, big numbers). I was slightly more relaxed the second time around, but not by much. (This was a year after my first appearance, and Kathie Lee and Hoda clearly had zero memory of ever meeting me before. But, true to form, they were their friendly, this-isn’t-going-to-hurt-a-bit selves.)

The experience is pretty surreal. You arrive at Rockefeller Plaza early in the morning and are ushered through the crowd gathered outside their studios. You’re greeted by a super-friendly page who directs you to hair and makeup —  a long, narrow room with a line of salon chairs positioned in front of a wall of mirrors. My first time there, I glanced into the mirror only to see Christian Slater(!) standing behind me looking just like Christian Slater should — only shorter. Okay, I thought, I’m really here. Because here is where real stars come to do their star thing.

(My second time there, I waited in the green room with Idina Menzel and Christina Ricci. Carson Daly strolled by. A celebrity I recognized — but couldn’t and still can’t name — told me she liked my dress. I couldn’t say, “This old thing?”  because it was obviously brand new. That, and I’d shopped for it like a feral maniac. I mustered a thank you instead.)

I digress.

The hair and makeup folks quickly and magically transform you into someone who looks like someone who should be on TV. When you’re TV-ready — and barely recognizable to yourself — you meet with the producer. If she’s never met you before, she’s doing her due diligence to ensure you won’t embarrass anybody — which you’re already pretty sure you’re going to do.

Before long, someone says, “Five minutes!” That is the exact moment your nervous system goes into overdrive. For a moment, you almost wish the floor would open up and swallow you whole.

You’re then escorted to the set which looks eerily familiar. You realize that’s because you’ve seen it a million times before on TV. Kathie Lee and Hoda make their entrance and they’re lovely and welcoming. People have asked me countless times, “What are they really like?” And my answer is always, “Exactly what you think.” Hoda is reserved but warm, Kathie Lee is a bundle of infectious, chatty energy. And they’re both pretty gorgeous. (At this point, you may or may not attempt to awkwardly embrace Kathie Lee because you’re a huge fan.)

The segment commences and, in a nanosecond, it’s over. And you can’t remember one thing you — or anyone else — said. And everyone is saying, “Great job!” but you have no way of knowing if that’s true or whether they just don’t want you to commit hara-kari in the studio. After you “come to” you realize Hoda and Kathie Lee have already disappeared to another set for their next segment. And, just like that, it’s over.

In case you’re wondering, you’re not paid to appear, but you do get national exposure for your message. They did put me up in an average-ish hotel the night before taping. I didn’t see them there, so I’m guessing Christian, Idina, and Christina made other arrangements.

Being on Today didn’t change my life, but it gave me an interesting life experience. And, as you know if you’ve gotten this far, something to blog about.

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