Morning Show Host Transformations That Turned Heads

When the first national morning show premiered — and the first morning show hosts made their debuts — in 1952, its creators never imagined it would have as big of an impact on news as it did. "There was an almost universal belief that no one would watch television right after they got out of bed," an early producer of the Today show, Sylvester "Pat" Weaver, wrote in his autobiography (via CNN). 

From Good Morning America to CBS This Morning, it's crazy to see how far morning entertainment has come, and television's beloved on-air talent have transformed their lives right along with it. These hosts have become some of the biggest names on television, and waking up with our favorite hosts has become a morning ritual for people across the country. "A morning show has such a loose format that it allows for casual conversation and interaction that makes your essence particularly obvious," Katie Couric told the Harvard Business Review, so it's no wonder that heading off to work without hearing the latest gossip or breaking news from them can throw us all off of our routines. 

These are the biggest morning show host transformations that turned heads across the country.

Morning show host Hoda Kotb found success and became a mother

Hoda Kotb has become the BFF to many who start their mornings off by watching her divulge the latest gossip on the Today show's fourth hour. However, she had to come a long way before landing this national gig. After graduating college, Kotb was rejected by multiple stations and drove all over the southeast for a job before one news director finally believed in her. "Sometimes you need every single person to think you're good," the morning show host told SiriusXM. "You don't! You need one."

As her television career grew, her family did as well. In 2018, she adopted her first child along with her now-fiancé Joel Schiffman, and, after years on the Today show, she debated even returning. "I've worked for, like, 30-plus years of my life and now I get this," Kotb told Us Weekly. "Do I really want to be working while I'm doing this?"

Though Kotb has interviewed some of the biggest names in both politics and entertainment, being a mom is her greatest accomplishment. "The most exciting part of the day is after work when I'm holding her," she said. "Not when I'm interviewing someone, even if it's Beyoncé."

Katie Couric is one morning show host who's been unapologetically herself

As an anchor on the Today show, Katie Couric gave audiences a sense of who she really was off-screen. "I said '... I'm going to wear what I want to wear' and I'm not there to adhere to someone's view of what a woman on television is supposed to look like," the morning show host told The New York Times. "I'm there to be myself, and if viewers respond to me, great."

After Today, she jumped into CBS evening television, becoming network television's first solo female anchor. However, it wasn't what she had hoped for. "Anchoring the evening news is quite a restrictive job," Couric told the Harvard Business Review, adding, "There's not as much wiggle room to have a personality and be yourself."

From there, she found her way to daytime television with her own show called Katie to discuss topics she thought were important. While the show was canceled after two seasons, Couric learned a lesson. "I think what I realized is that I'm first and foremost a journalist with a personality," she said. "I'm not a personality who happens to be a journalist."

Kelly Ripa went from soap opera star to morning show host

Though Kelly Ripa began as an actress on All My Children, she quickly became a favorite morning show host. "Kelly's honesty comes through that little piece of glass into people's homes," Anderson Cooper told The Washington Post. "It's not even like you feel like you have a relationship with her. You do have a relationship with her."

Ripa began as a recurring guest on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee before replacing Kathie Lee Gifford as co-host in 2001. Since then, the Live with Kelly star has had her fair share of co-hosts. When Michael Strahan left the show to work for Good Morning America in 2016, drama unfolded that tainted Ripa's otherwise bubbly and spotless reputation. She disappeared from the show for days, saying she needed time off to process the news.

Fortunately, Live with Kelly fans can rest easy knowing that the stunning Kelly Ripa likely isn't headed anywhere anytime soon. "I can't imagine leaving here," she said.

Morning show host Savannah Guthrie was first a lawyer

Savannah Guthrie is usually around to greet viewers each morning on the Today show. A lawyer before becoming a morning show host, she never thought she'd be able to combine her love for television and law. "I'd love to have my law degree, and I'd love to work in television," Guthrie told iVillage. "And if I really thought big, that's what I would try to do."

With a law degree, Guthrie started working on Court TV before getting her morning gig on the Today show in 2012 (via Biography), and she hasn't stopped working hard since. After becoming a mother, she found herself as the author of a children's book that quickly made multiple bestseller lists (via Refinery29).

Between book signings and a talk show job that forces Guthrie to wake up at 3 a.m., how in the world does this woman find any free time? "This job is completely rewarding and demanding," Guthrie said. "And it does afford me the opportunity to be home midday. As a working mom, that is a dream come true." She's proof that you can have it all!

Morning show host Ginger Zee discovered her purpose

Meteorologist Ginger Zee shocked the world when she divulged that her personal life was far from what viewers saw on screen. "People see me for 30 seconds at a time and they see someone who's got a hair and make-up team that put them together and they're looking right in the world, but it's not," she told the Chicago Tribune.

As Zee's career stared taking off as the first female chief meteorologist at a network level on Good Morning America, she was dealing with an abusive ex-boyfriend and depression. Just ten days before beginning her new morning gig, she checked into a mental health facility. Zee's recovery led to her releasing a memoir to show others that they're not alone in their mental health battles. "The clouds are there at this time, but they won't last forever," the meteorologist told ABC News. "They can't, and they won't. That's how the atmosphere works."

Now with two children and a faithful husband by her side, the morning show host has finally found her purpose in something she never had before. "I've found that in family," she told Guideposts.

Morning show host Kathie Lee Gifford chased her dreams

Kathie Lee Gifford has always been a fun morning show host to watch. From her years on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee to her years working alongside Hoda Kotb on Today, she took over television for some time. She also took on a few movie roles, appeared on Broadway, released multiple albums, and even wrote New York Times-bestselling books. However, Gifford has admitted she wasn't living her dream on the Today show. "Maybe it is someone else's dream job," she told AARP. "But there was a more powerful dream within me that had yet to be fulfilled. All I ever wanted to do, from the time I was a little girl, was sing and be in movies."

When Craig Ferguson came on the Today show to guest co-host alongside her in 2017, he suggested they write a movie together. That, along with the unfortunate passing of her husband in 2015, is what drove Gifford to leave morning television and chase her dream while she still could. She told Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, "After my husband passed, you really realize that you're going to run out of time."

Jenna Bush Hager went from being a teacher to being a morning show host

Jenna Bush Hager may be known as one of President George W. Bush's daughters, but she's definitely made a name for herself since becoming a morning show host. However, before working on television, Bush Hager was a teacher. "I knew that I wanted to make a difference," she told Today of her first job. "And it felt like there was no better way to do that than to teach."

In addition to influencing young people's lives as an educator, her passion for making a difference led her to write a book, and it quickly became a New York Times bestseller (via Harper Collins Publishers). Before long, she was launched her into the spotlight and became comfortable on television.

After working as a correspondent on the Today show for some time, she was offered a position to co-host alongside Hoda Kotb in the show's fourth hour as Kathie Lee Gifford's replacement. It seems Hager has been enjoying the fun role each morning since. "This week has been the opposite of work for me," she divulged after five days on the job.

Lilliana Vazquez forged her own path as a morning show host

Hosting Pop of the Morning has been a dream come true for style expert Lilliana Vazquez. "I have been grinding it out in this business and in this industry for a decade," the fashionista told BUILD Series in January 2020.

However, coming from a business background and competing with personalities who had degrees in journalism was something she had to overcome. "What I did know how to do was really focus in on the thing that I was passionate about and that I had a voice for and that I really wanted to tell stories about, and for me, that ended up being fashion," she said.

In 2008, Vazquez found her voice writing The Cheap Chica's Guide to Style blog, which, after receiving a lot of attention, led to her becoming a fashion correspondent for Access Hollywood and the Today show. Vazquez later received a job hosting E! News in 2019, and she's perfect for the role. "I've spent the last six years on the Today show doing fashion and entertainment and lifestyle [correspondence], so luckily for E!, I'm a morning person," the morning show host told the network.

Gayle King gained national recognition as a morning show host

Gayle King has worked on television for decades, though many only know her from CBS This Morning. Like many aspiring journalists, King started out at small television markets across the country before securing a job with the national morning show, which was never her goal, surprisingly. "I liked having a sense of community. I liked being a big fish in a little pond," she told Time after being named one of their most influential people of 2019.

The O, the Oprah Magazine editor is proud to be a part of one of the most-watched television news shows, though the reality of it all still hasn't hit her yet. "I've never felt that, 'Oh, now, that you're on national news, you've made it,'" King added.

Known as Oprah Winfrey's BFF, King made national headlines when she interviewed R. Kelly in early 2019. The morning show host's calm demeanor during his outburst mid-interview gained her serious recognition in television journalism, but she explained that it's all part of her job to just listen as others share their stories. "Everybody has a story to tell," King told CBS Los Angeles.

Former morning show host Megyn Kelly won't let anyone stop her

Megyn Kelly credits her law background for being able to hold her ground during tough interviews and for getting her a national gig at Fox News (via Business Insider). Her network show, The Kelly File, was one of the highest-rated cable news programs (via The Hollywood Reporter). However, it didn't last.

Following Kelly's departure from Fox, she struck a multi-million dollar deal for her own morning show Megyn Kelly Today. However, after one year, a controversial comment the morning show host made ended the show's run. "It's generally unpleasant to be the subject of the story as opposed to covering it," Kelly told Entertainment Tonight. The following year, the movie Bombshell hit theaters, depicting Kelly's unfortunate life behind the scenes at Fox. "While the movie Bombshell is loosely based on my experience during the sexual harassment scandal at Fox News, I have nothing to do with this film," Kelly clarified on Instagram.

But, like everything else in her career, Kelly didn't let all that stop her. In 2019, she launched her own set of interviews on her YouTube channel to continue sharing important stories with the world.

Morning show host Mika Brzezinski fell in love

Morning show host Mika Brzezinski has shared that being fired from her job at CBS News in 2006 was devastating. "I cried a lot," she told Marie Claire. She thought to herself, "I'm almost 40, I'm losing my looks, and I can't get a job because I feel like damaged goods. How did I become such a cliché?"

Just when Brzezinski thought her career was ending, she received a chance to be on national television. "If you're meant to be somewhere, you do whatever it takes," she said.

The following year, Brzezinski was given the opportunity to co-host for the last-minute fill-in show called Morning Joe. After host Joe Scarborough realized the great chemistry they had together on-screen, the show soon received a permanent spot on MSNBC. "We were in the middle of such a great conversation, and they were counting us down, and I said, 'Keep talking!'" he told CBS Sunday Morning of their first show together.

And their conversations didn't end when the cameras stopped rolling. After years of viewers speculating on their cozy-looking relationship, the two became engaged and tied the knot in 2018. "It makes sense now," Brzezinski told Vanity Fair.

Morning show host Meredith Vieira stumbled into television

It's surprising to hear that journalism was something Meredith Vieira, who has spent decades on television, accidentally fell into. Her senior year, she took a journalism class just for fun, and she had to create a radio documentary. When the head of CBS Radio heard it, he had to speak to Vieira. When he asked her what she wanted to do after graduating, she said she didn't know. "He said, 'I do. You're going to have a big career,' and he hired me," Vieira told the Wall Street Journal's video series Secrets of Wealthy Women.

Vieira later worked on Today before landing spots as the first moderator for The View and as the host of multiple game shows. "I thought what made me an effective host was the fact that I was a journalist," she told the Los Angeles Times, adding, "I knew how to relax [contestants]. I knew how to ask them questions. I knew how to listen."

So would this morning show host ever head back to news? "No. I never say never, but I'm not looking for it," Vieira said, adding, "I find the times right now very difficult and depressing."

Robin Roberts is a morning show host who used to have a very different dream

Growing up, Robin Roberts aspired to be a pro tennis player. "I would dream of being at Wimbledon... Well you know what? I did get to Wimbledon," Roberts told Entertainment Weekly. "I didn't have a tennis racket in my hands, I had an ESPN microphone. It still was every bit as gratifying."

When Roberts was unable to make it as an athlete, she realized she had to compromise. "Everyone always says, 'Follow your passion.' Well I'm passionate about sports," she said. "I had an interest in journalism and I thought I'd marry the two. Quickly it changed, though, to being passionate about journalism and storytelling and that sports was just one of my many interests."

After years at ESPN, Roberts made the switch to news, waking up Americans as a host of Good Morning America. "I acknowledge and say to myself ... find a way and I think that's what I've done all my life I've found a way to achieve goals that I've set for myself," the morning show host said.

Morning show host Diane Sawyer has learned to simplify her life

Diane Sawyer has kept viewers informed with breaking news for decades. "[Her job] doesn't stop — which is also the most wonderful part of the day," she told Harper's Bazaar. "It's adrenalizing, and adrenaline is addicting, and that's why we're there — we like it, we need it, we want to know."

Beginning with a fast-paced career in politics, Sawyer turned to journalism to share important stories with the world. Having hosted both CBS Morning News and Good Morning America, she's interviewed some of the planet's most powerful names. As a busy woman, Sawyer has learned not to complicate things — on television and in her life. "It's one of the great joys: uncomplicating your life," the Emmy award-winning journalist said. "If you want to keep the propulsion, you can't have all that complication anymore."

It seems too good of a philosophy coming from someone who has conducted interviews in countries experiencing war (via ABC News). However, the morning show host is all about going with the flow. "I have done it my whole life — go out there and just see what happens," Sawyer told Harper's Bazaar.