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Tamron Hall Reveals How Her Work as a Crime Reporter Inspired Her Latest Project

Tamron Hall

Every weekday afternoon, millions of people watch Tamron Hall on her eponymous daytime talk show.

But inside her New York City home office, three very special people watch over her: Oprah Winfrey, Coretta Scott King and Maya Angelou.

Speaking to Parade via Zoom, Hall notes the custom portrait hanging prominently behind her. It was crafted by Jesus Salgueiro, who’s married to Winfrey’s personal chef, Art Smith. “It was a gift,” she explains. “And whenever I do anything in this room, it’s served me well. Watching is a theme of my life.”

Indeed, this is the spot where Hall wrote her first book, the aptly titled 2021 thriller As the Wicked Watch: The First Jordan Manning Novel. It became a USA Today bestseller. Now she’s following it up with the second book in the series, Watch Where They Hide: A Jordan Manning Novel. This time, the story’s protagonist, a famous TV crime reporter, investigates the case of a wife and mother gone missing. “We see her being bolder and more unapologetic than ever in her pursuit of the truth,” Hall says. “She’s in the face of danger and compromising her beloved career as a reporter.”

In both books, Hall, 53, adheres to the concept of writing what you know. Just like the Manning character, Hall left her hometown in Texas to take a job at a local TV station in Chicago. Both women also are dedicated to the crime beat: Hall hosted the weekly newsmagazine Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall on the ID Channel from 2013-19 and regularly discusses true crime stories on her current show. (Hall’s older sister, Renate, was murdered in 2004; the case remains unsolved.)

“The first book opens with Jordan standing in front of a crime scene where a little girl was murdered, and that really happened to me,” she says.

Crime coverage aside, Hall has endeared herself to viewers because of her on-air candor and oh-so relatable stories. Yes, she was the first Black woman to co-anchor NBC’s Today show when she was brought on to co-host the show’s third hour in 2014. But she was let go from the show and the network just three years later at age 46. On the personal front, she’s a proud late bloomer who wed music executive Steven Greener in early 2019 and welcomed her son, Moses, a few months later.

That fall, on the cusp of turning 50, she officially pivoted and launched her Emmy-winning talk show, Tamron Hall. “I pitched the show not on being a unique person,” she says, “but having a unique journey.”

Just before starting her chill weekend gardening at her home (“I’m waiting for the tulips to come up!”), Hall talked about it all with Parade.

<p>Disney Entertainment Television/Fadil Berisha</p>

Disney Entertainment Television/Fadil Berisha

Mara Reinstein: Happy Friday. How did the show go today?

Tamron Hall: We had [actress] Amber Riley and [singer] K Michelle. But we taped it last week. We are live three days a week so I have all these shows twirling in my head. Like, I know I just did a big exclusive interview with a woman who went viral because she did a 50-part series on TikTok about marrying a guy who turned out to be a pathological liar. My brain right now . . .

So you’re saying you don’t have 23 hours a day to yourself?

Oh my god. I’m the executive producer! Just today I had a meeting at 9:30 this morning with our wardrobe team because our fashion is a big part of the show and we do an up-and-coming fashion designer series. Then we had office hours on Zoom and the producers told me the topics they’re working on, and I gave my thoughts. And then I did scripting and had table reads for each show. Now I’m here.

How do you find time to write Watch Where They Hide? What’s your process?

Every word of this book I wrote, and it’s all inspired by real crimes that I’ve covered on the ground—including one that I covered when I was pregnant. In terms of the process, I have a collaborator. I dictate the story and the ideas, even in the middle of the night. And my collaborator helps me structure each chapter. I want the book to have this Nancy Drew-slash-Sex and the City feel, which is why every chapter starts with her in stilettos. I was also told by my publishers that Jordan is the first Black female protagonist written by a Black female journalist in the crime space.

<p>HarperCollins</p>

HarperCollins

Looking at your own background, how were you inspired to start reporting?

I remember vividly watching the local news with my father [Clarence], who was in the military. I wasn’t doing great in school and going through that teenage angst stage. He said, “If you get your grades together, that can be you.” And he pointed to this woman, Iola Johnson, who was the first Black woman to anchor the news in Dallas-Ft. Worth.

Related: Meet Tamron Hall, Crime Novelist! The Talk Show Host Tells Us Why She's Expanding Her Horizons With Her Debut Novel, As the Wicked Watch

Was it difficult being in the trenches as a local reporter?

I don’t know a woman—certainly not a Black woman—who instantly walked in the door and got an Emmy. It requires work. I tell people all the time that my grandfather was born in 1901. He could not read but I make my living with words.

When and how did you decide on what kind of journalist you wanted to be?

Well, Jordan is a popular reporter who is tempted by the anchor seat. I was that person. I was in Chicago reporting the news and then suddenly an anchor was out on maternity leave. The news director came to me and said, “Do you want to fill in?” There was this dilemma of well, Who am I? Am I an authentic journalist if I’m sitting behind the desk versus being out in the field? So I worked through the trenches of my profession and let my career guide me.

When you finally got Tamron Hall in 2019, was it difficult to switch from reporter mode to revealing details about your life?

No, because I had been on the Today show for so many years, and the third hour was wired to that. So much of morning TV is smiling and trying on outfits and “Hey we’re doing a Mother’s Day show, so what is your mother’s favorite thing?” One of the last big things I did on [Today] was go back to my hometown of Luling, Texas. The morning is the most intimate part of your day, so whether it’s local or national, you are getting into your personal life in a very different way—especially compared to when I was at MSNBC or NBC News. The big difference with the new show is that I was by myself and had to connect with that audience.

Given what happened at Today, it’s fairly surprising that you’re so open and casual about it on your show. Why go about it that way?

I think because for much of my life, I felt like an underdog. Most of us are underdogs, right? My mom [Mary] was a 19-year-old single mom who later went on to marry my dad. That’s an underdog. Most of the women in this business were told they’d never have the career they wanted. And I recognize that on the great journey of life, we’re not always going to get picked. I know standing on the sidelines. In this instance, I wasn’t upset. I wasn’t shaking my fist. I recognized that it’s OK not to be someone’s choice. You just have to be your choice.

So, you never had imposter syndrome doing the show?

I remember during the first season, I wouldn’t walk out the big doors. I came out of the rafters and walked through the audience. And then Tyler Perry said to me, “You need to walk out of your own doors.” So the biggest transition wasn’t talking about my personal life; it was recognizing that I had accomplished something through support. I had navigated life. I had earned this chance.

You also took home two Emmys in 2020, and both trophies are now displayed on the show’s set. Did you place them there because the wins felt so validating?

Those Emmys are me saying something that society doesn’t often want us to say: I’m proud of myself. The world will tell you it’s ego or hubris. I struggled with that for a long time. But I want people to know that there’s always one more act.

Tamron Hall accepts the award for Outstanding Informative Talk Show Host at the 49th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Variety/Penske Media via Getty Images)<p>Michael Buckner/Variety/Penske Media via Getty Images</p>
Tamron Hall accepts the award for Outstanding Informative Talk Show Host at the 49th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Variety/Penske Media via Getty Images)

Michael Buckner/Variety/Penske Media via Getty Images

You became a mom at age 48. In retrospect, are you glad you waited?

I can’t say that I’m glad because it wasn’t wholly a decision to wait. I’m glad [Moses] is mine. I’m glad he still has all his limbs. I actually just took my first parenting class because I have a 4-year-old who is very self-confident and I’m trying to figure out how to make sure he keeps his confidence while also listening to Mom and Dad.

Related: Tamron Hall Gives Birth to a Baby Boy—Her Adorable First Pic Has Our Hearts Swelling

How did he change your overall outlook in life?

The biggest difference between being a mom in your 50s versus your 30s is perspective. I’m much more aware of my response. Like, do I need a level-10 response for a level-2 problem? I know urgency. I’m also not going to allow people to pull me into response. That philosophy allows me to be an executive producer and to have the time to write the series and go last weekend to a Harlem Globetrotters game with my son and then to the circus the next day. I know how to figure it all out.

You’re also a passionate cook, no?

I’m inspired by my father. He did all the cooking growing up and even made our lunches. After he passed away [in 2008], I went home for the holidays and for the first time, we didn’t have two turkeys or the ham and the sweet potato pie. So I set out on a journey to learn to cook for my entire family. Now I have a cookbook coming out [in September] called A Confident Cook because now I can cook four or five days a week. I did an entire holiday meal for my family in my little New York City apartment, and it was great.

Five days a week?

Well, I’ve also had frustrating deliveries living in New York City. Like, did you backflip my pizza off your head?!

Given all your life experiences, do you think everything happens for a reason or do you have to go out and make opportunities happen?

I’ll be Switzerland and say both. You have to make opportunities for yourself. The universe will open the door but the universe wants you to push it open, too. I also lead with my faith and believe that God has placed me in this life. That faith guides me, and I’m greatly focused on self-will and the choices that we make to not only better our lives but better the lives of others. So I want to be a disruptive person—even when I don’t plan it.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. 

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