Since the late September debut of Megyn Kelly’s Today Show, we’ve seen her discuss Stephen Curry’s favorite dish with the basketball star’s wife (it’s chicken parm), rub elbows with the female cast of SNL, hang out with a police dog, and dish on whether or not it’s possible to pull off Mom Jeans. For anyone who’s paid attention to the mega-watt TV star’s career over the last decade, you could practically hear this screeching, 180-degree pivot from her not-so-distant biting journalism days.
Oh yes, Kelly’s sharp tongue has certainly been dulled, and according to a recent in-depth interview between her and Elle Magazine reporter, Mattie Kahn, Kelly is delighted to be sitting in the warm-and-fuzzy inducing Today show chair.
“I'm not trying to orchestrate anything one way or another over here. I'm just trying to help people live better lives and talk about issues that I care about...in a way that's smart and compelling and dynamic and, at times, provocative and surprising and, at times, just pure fun,” Kelly stated in the interview.
When asked about whether the “extra joy” Kelly had found in her new gig surprised her, and whether she was “itching to let this all out” while at Fox, she got real honest. Yes to all the above, she said, adding that she “hadn’t felt joy for a long time.”
“When you live in a world full of vitriol and combat, you get used to it,” Kelly told Kahn. “It just turns into a slow burn of unhappiness. It seemed like there was one crisis to the next for a while there, which burned up a lot of emotional real estate at work and at home… I'm really good at compartmentalizing. If something is going bad at the office, I don't bring it home with me. I developed that skill as a lawyer. But it was starting to seep over. Compartmentalization wasn't as effective as it had once been because it had just reached such a huge magnitude.”
For Kelly, removing herself from that figurative journalistic combat zone — and “the darkness of politics” — has been a blessing. She’s admittedly happier, and honestly, who wouldn’t be happier cuddling up to police dogs, hanging out with Morgan Freeman, and telling inspirational, feel-good stories? Especially when on the other side of the fence you’ve got a snarling president and fiery, palpable hate coming at you from every direction.
Sometimes, for some people — for at least a portion of their lives — the grass truly is greener elsewhere and it’s OK to break out the lawn chair.
Megyn Kelly. Photo courtesy of Business Insider
“If you didn't know her before Donald Trump unleashed his Twitter account on her, you knew her after. I think that may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Megyn Kelly is a very smart woman. She knows journalism and was not going to be swayed into going down the Donald Trump rabbit hole,” said media expert Christina Nicholson, a former TV reporter and anchor who covered news in NYC, Miami, and Fort Myers, Fla. “People go nuts if you have a political disagreement — no matter how minor. On morning and daytime TV, things just aren't that serious. I think she is looking for something a little easier, less stressful, and new.”
This transition will certainly be a challenge, and it will be interesting to see how Kelly fares in the apolitical spotlight. We’ve seen a little bit of clashing already.
For example, her questioning Jane Fonda about her plastic surgery, and Fonda’s immediate bristling; and her lack of excitement over the eclipse compared to the eagerness of co-stars Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer.
“Even though we knew her before her new role, she is a whole new brand now. She's going from serious coverage to lifestyle; from an audience mostly made up of men to women,” said Nicholson. “It's a challenge.
It's a challenge because it's almost like starting over again. There's no doubt she is good at what she does, but she is in a new niche, with a new audience.
In that sense, the “get to know you, like you, and trust you game” is essentially starting all over again for Kelly, only she has a “past life,” if you will, that may make it more difficult to win people over.
Many people try to reinvent themselves, said Nicholson, but rebranding doesn’t always work out as seamlessly as you’d like.
“For example, the Kardashians are a hit, but Kris Jenner's talk show was not. It was a different demographic,” she said. “When you change your fan base, you're taking a risk. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn't.”
For Megyn Kelly, the fence hop may work. We’ll just have to wait and see whether the audience is willing to get to know this new, friendlier side of her, and, more importantly, whether they like it.
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.