When I met Hilary in Tulum a few weeks ago, my first thought was “Why is her hair so awesome in this humidity?!” followed by “I must interview her.” The life of a morning tv anchor is a weird one. They get up super early, everyone recognizes them, and they have to be pleasant to everyone, all the time. I think you guys will love Hilary’s story!
Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Hilary Kennedy, and I’m from Dallas, Texas. I pay the bills by hosting a nationally syndicated morning show called “Eye Opener” and writing a little style blog for fun. I love a competitive game of tennis with the husband and playing with our two rescue chihuahuas at the park. I also need an intervention for my chocolate habit.
How does one get a job as an anchor on morning tv?
I majored in Television-Film and Digital Media (which, to a parent paying for college sounds like a “ Party Major”), and began working in Dallas hosting local lifestyle shows shortly after graduating. I got my foot in the door by working as the Entertainment Host for the Dallas Stars Hockey Team, and crafted a demo reel to send out. That reel landed me most of my work.
After working on a few taped shows and one live morning show that mainly dealt in lifestyle for several years, Eye Opener was looking for a host for the morning news show. Since I didn’t look or sound like a traditional anchor, I think I was a good fit for their style. I went through two auditions with the current hosts and then worked on a trial basis for two months to test out our chemistry. After that, they brought me in as part of the team.
Can you walk us through an average work day?
My day begins at 2:00 a.m. I stumble out of bed and do a little light stretching before doing my own makeup and dressing for the show. I drive to work and begin looking over the stories of the day at 3:00 a.m., and record traffic for Washington D.C. at 4:30 a.m. We go live on the air from 5:00-8:00 a.m., and then I shoot on-location segments after the show. I also use this time to research and pitch new shoots for the show-writing and producing is also part of my gig.
I usually wrap my morning between 10:00-11:00 a.m. I eat lunch around this time, and then typically have other freelance clients I shoot with booked in the afternoon. If I don’t have other freelance shoots, I hit the gym for spin class or yoga, and then take my chihuahuas to the park. By 5:00 p.m., I wind down with a hot shower and eat a little snack. I do some prayer and Bible reading before bed at 6:30 p.m., and then it’s lights out!
What goes into preparing one five-minute segment?
For an on-location shoot, I research the topic and find the expert we need to interview and set up the shoot date/time and write interview questions. I also craft a “stand up”, which is the intro to the segment. The day before the shoot, I follow up with our expert to confirm once again and give the shoot details to my shooter/editor.
On the day of the shoot, we bring all the necessary equipment, scout the location, and prep our interview subject. We shoot, take footage back to the station to be edited, and then upload it to the web for social media as well. Each segment takes between 2-4 people to bring it to life, which makes for great teamwork.
How does your on-camera look differ from your real-life look? And what beauty products do you swear by for looking good on camera?
You’re pretty recognizable around Dallas. Do you ever feel like you need to watch what you say when you’re out in public? Do you feel like you need to put a bit of effort into your appearance even if you’re just running to Walgreens for chips and nail polish remover?
As the DisneyWorld ride tells us, it’s a small world after all, so I try to be mindful of what I say in public and what opinions I voice on social media. Being a lady and treating people kindly are important no matter what, but in the age of camera phones and SnapChat, we can never be too careful. I used to feel as if I needed to look put-together at ALL times, but I realized how much effort I was putting into a false perception. No one wears a full face of makeup to the gym every time!
I finally gave in to looking like the “real” version of me when I’m not working, and though it can be a bit embarrassing to run into a viewer when I have “ swamp butt” after getting off the treadmill or when buying antacids at the store, I’ve learned it actually opens the door to connect more easily with people who watch the show!
What are some of your favorite stories that you’ve worked on?
I recently shot a segment on Parkour, which is a really cool workout you can do by yourself or with friends virtually anywhere. It doesn’t require equipment or money, which is awesome. And it’s a killer workout! I also interviewed Richard Branson, which was another favorite moment. For being one of the richest men on the planet, he was incredibly down to earth and humble. He’s so handsome and charming that it was hard to concentrate!
Some of the most challenging? The tragedies that go on regularly in the world are always challenging to cover. It’s hard to start your day with “bad news”, and your heart goes out to people who recently lost loved ones or everything that they own. Luckily, we do a segment called “Good News”, and we try to balance the show with stories of success and triumph.
You’ve done all sorts of fun, crazy things for your show. What are some of the weirdest?
I tried every single Pumpkin Spice flavored snack and sweet last year during a segment in October. I made myself horribly sick on Pumpkin Spice Peeps and Oreos! I also tried Aerial Silk Yoga and Lyra Hoop, which are the workouts of Cirque de Soliel performers…and I was terrible at them. (Super fun, though.) I once won a game show contest segment for correctly picking out celebrities based solely on their abs!
Have you ever said anything on air that you wish you could take back?
Ooooh child, yes! I once said the phrase, “I think people shouldn’t poke around in other people’s holes.” I was responding to a video clip where explorers were poking GoPro cameras into snake dens, agitating the snakes, but my response came out SO wrong. My co-workers laughed at me for a week after that remark.
Anyone in the public eye – particularly women – gets more than their fair share of unsolicited feedback and criticism. How do you deal with that?
Oh man…women definitely get the brunt of harsh criticism. I rarely respond to cruel or unfounded viewer comments, because I know they must be unhappy people who are simply looking to pick on someone to make them feel important. Instead, I try to actively respond to the kind comments and thank the viewers who take the time to make our day with nice words. Focusing on the kind remarks is much more fun and reminds me to return the kindness.
Do you see yourself doing this for the rest of your career? If not, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I always see myself working in television in some way…though I think TV is changing rapidly and will be more of a streaming experience and on-demand space. I hope to always work in entertainment, lifestyle and technology. So…in ten years, I hope I’m interviewing Channing Tatum, covering the Oscars, and not covering any more snake hole stories!
What’s something you’ve learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from working in live TV that can be applied to any area of life is to JUST. KEEP. GOING. When we mess up on-air, (which happens way more than I’d like to admit), we have to keep going, even if it’s mortifying, looks stupid, or is the most embarrassing moment of all time. You keep smiling, you address the mistake, or you laugh it off.
But no matter what, just keep going! People soon forget what you think will be remembered forever. Plus, the biggest mistakes often end up making the best stories later on!
Thanks so much for sharing, Hilary! Do you guys have any questions for her?