The untold truth of Hoda Kotb

Before she was named co-anchor of NBC's Today Show, Hoda Kotb was best known as co-host of one of its segments, Kathie Lee & Hoda. Over the years, Kotb has transformed from a girl with a difficult to pronounce name into a successful woman who has become a household name. Such a meteoric rise to the top doesn't come without its challenges, however. Kotb's journey to becoming an icon is a truly inspiring one.

She's a cancer survivor

In 2007, Kotb was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo a mastectomy and breast reconstruction. After her initial diagnosis, Kotb kept her illness a secret from the public until a man she met on an airplane inspired her to share her battle with others.

"I sat across from him… and he asked me why I was wearing a compression sleeve," she told People. "I told him what I had and he said, 'Don't hog your journey, it's not just for you. Think of how many people you can help.' It's because of him I was able to do more good than I thought I was capable of."

Her illness also forced Kotb to change the way she looked at her life and at her career. "Before getting sick, I always felt very lucky to have my career," she told Health. "I felt kind of like I didn't deserve it. My illness empowered me in a way I didn't expect. Before, I never would've asked for my current job…. But it gave me courage… suddenly, it isn't so scary."

She's an adoptive mom

Kotb's battle with cancer left her unable to conceive children, but she didn't let that stop her from realizing her dream of becoming a mother. "One of the things in my life I've always wanted was to be a mom," she told People. "Sometimes in your life, things just don't work out for whatever reason, so you say, 'Well, I wasn't meant to have that.' But it was really hard to come to terms with it."

Instead of accepting that she couldn't have children, Kotb turned to adoption. She brought home her daughter, Haley Joy, in early 2017. "It's one of those things where you think you've done it all, you think you've felt it all," she said. "But I just didn't know that this kind of love existed."

Kotb's realization of her dream to be a mother was even better than she had hoped for. "I felt like, in my life, I've had joy beyond what I could imagine, but this is beyond like a dream," she said on Today. "Like you have your dreams, and then this."

She's great at karaoke

People who have heard Kotb's soothing voice on television probably won't be surprised to learn that she also enjoys singing, although she claims not to be very good at it. "I'm a huge karaoke person even though I have the worst singing voice," she admitted to Good Housekeeping. Fortunately, Kotb's lack of faith in her singing abilities doesn't prevent her from indulging in her hobby. "When you love doing something, who cares?" she said.

Kotb might not think she can sing, but a video of her performing a Blake Shelton number at a Nashville karaoke bar proves that she's a talented performer.

She was rejected from dozens of jobs

Kotb may be mega famous now, but it was a long road to achieve that level of fame. In an interview with author and public speaker Christina Daves, Kotb talked about the overwhelming rejection she faced in her early career. After graduating from Virginia Tech, Kotb was confident that she'd nail her first job interview. "I thought my life was going to be great," she said.

Far from landing the job, Kotb was told that she was "not ready" and "inexperienced." Disappointed, Kotb went on a series of interviews, only to be turned down each time. "I stayed in that car driving around for 10 days," she said. "I kept driving and getting rejected and driving and getting rejected. I got rejected in the whole southeastern United States of America… I got rejected all the way through the Panhand… 27 news directors had rejected me to my face."

She finally landed her first job in Mississippi, and the rest is history. Kotb offered advice to others pursuing their goals. "Everybody doesn't have to love you," she said. "You just need one person. You only need one."

She's pretty messy

She might look put together on television, but in real life Kotb is far from organized. "I'm in my apartment looking at my kitchen and it's revealing," she wrote in Modern Luxury. "Every cabinet door is open and has been since the last time I needed something inside. In this drawer: two old BlackBerry phones, a turkey baster, an old checkbook. Is that a driver's license? Yes — expired in 2013. I think I'm just wired to be disorganized."

Kotb's purse is even more chaotic. "Jammed in it right now is a shawl, Coffee-mate, Mindy Kaling's book, about eight headphones, an orange, a fleur-de-lis ornament, a million contact lenses, a Dum Dum lollipop and on and on," she wrote.

Fortunately, Kotb says that, while her "space is out of control," she isn't really bothered by it. "Except for when I'm exhausted," she added. "I get to the door — and I need my keys. That's a nightmare." Anyone who has ever dug for something at the bottom of their bag can relate.

She has an insatiable sweet tooth

Kotb also admitted in Modern Luxury that she can't help but indulge her sweet tooth. "I will eat an entire box of Entenmann's black-and-white cookies, and to save myself from scarfing down the second box, I escort it out of my apartment and give it to the first person I see," she wrote.

Kotb has an unusual and ingenious way of battling her "dysfunctional love affair with sweets." When she can't resist temptation, she sprays her sweets with Windex. "Even if I find the will power to throw away something sugary that I really want, it's not enough that it's sitting atop the other garbage in the trash can," she wrote. "I have to douse it with a cleaning agent — most often Windex — so that I will get sick if I eat it."

She has struggled with her weight and body image

Kotb long struggled with her body image, something that wasn't helped by being on television. "I struggled all through college," she told Prevention. "I started really putting on weight after my dad passed, and I just didn't realize it. I was an athlete in high school, so I didn't know I was big until one of my bosses came up to me and said, 'Hey, Hoda, maybe you ought to get on the treadmill.'"

Her relationship with her body changed after she had cancer and she became more confident. "I guess I feel freer now than I ever did before," Kotb told Health. "I don't think I ever wore a bikini before I got sick. But now I feel like 'OK, this is my body,' you know? 'Have at it.'"

She's the daughter of immigrants

Kotb was greatly influenced by her experiences growing up as a first-generation American. Her parents were immigrants from Egypt who moved to the United States in order to achieve education and career goals. Kotb wrote in her book, Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee that her name has been frequently mispronounced throughout her life and "has always triggered a guessing game" about how to say it and where it comes from.

In spite of being raised in America, Kotb said that she often felt different growing up. School was especially difficult. "When you have a weird name and your hair and skin are different and you don't blend in, it's a long year," she wrote. "You have to work extra hard to make friends. And just when you do, it's time for the next grade and a new roll call."

She's a sports fanatic

It might surprise some people to now that Kotb is a huge sports fan. She revealed in Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee that this love was inherited from her parents. As recent immigrants, the Kotbs went to their first football game and began "absorbing every detail about this very American sport — one they would come to love for life."

When it was announced that Kotb would be one of NBC's three hosts at the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics, she was thrilled. "It's a little daunting," she told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "To be part of the coverage is beyond an honor… I'm so excited."

She journals in order to stay positive

Kotb believes in the power of positivity. In an interview with InsideChic, Kotb revealed some of her secrets to staying happy. She said that the key is to remind herself of how blessed she is. "First thing in the morning, I try to scribble in a journal real quick, literally for 10 minutes or less," she said. "I write three things I'm grateful for and one great thing that happened in the last 24 hours."

She added that "literally if you write down those three things your brain starts to change." According to Kotb, beginning your day on a positive note makes you "start looking for the good things in the course of your day."