Early Adapter: Natalie Morales

Longtime Today show anchor Natalie Morales gets honest about embracing change, finding balance, and rising to new challenges.

natalie-morales

If anyone knows how to embrace life’s inevitable changes, it’s Today’s West Coast anchor, Natalie Morales.

Moving every few years during her childhood — her father was a high-ranking Air Force officer and later a U.S. diplomat — taught Morales, 44, to be at ease when meeting new people, to adapt to change, and to live in the present. “When people ask where I’m from, it’s tough to answer — I’ve learned to say, ‘Well, I’m living here now, so I guess I’m from here.’ ”

Growing up in Taiwan, Brazil, Panama, and Spain was the perfect training ground for a budding journalist, she says, “because seeing the world at a young age opened my eyes and made me curious. It made me want to explore and experience new things firsthand.”

That deep curiosity and willingness to venture into new territory sparked her recent coast-to-coast move from New York City to Los Angeles for her current role with the Today show, as well as hosting Access Hollywood and Access Hollywood Live. It’s a shift she pursued because “there’s a time in your life when it feels like it’s OK to try something new and different.”

The lessons she’s learned from facing new challenges — whether in her career, in training for a marathon, or in being a mom — are invaluable to Morales. They’ve guided her recent steps into new territory and made her a role model to her friends and family, and her viewers, too.

Q&A

Experience Life | You recently switched jobs and coasts. How did that happen?

Natalie Morales | It was a natural evolution, really. I had been with Today for 14 years — and MSNBC before that — and was traveling to Los Angeles regularly for the show. I knew changes were happening around me there and saw an opportunity to be based here as the West Coast anchor, so I shared that
I was open to it.

My husband and I had long talked about moving west, and we wanted to do it while we were still young and our kids — they’re 12 and 7 — could transition easily. It was just a perfect time.

EL | Change has been a constant since you were a little girl. What’s your philosophy for embracing it?

NM | I always look at change as an opportunity. You have to live with an open heart to new experiences, relationships, and people in your life and be willing to embrace them wholeheartedly.

At the same time, you have to keep your eyes wide open to all the possibilities, because change can be scary — especially when changes you make affect other people.

EL | What’s your advice for navigating these big life changes?

NM | Plan and anticipate. If you see a potential change coming — if you feel like you might need a job change, for instance — think about where you see yourself. If you could pick the ideal job, what would it be? For me, that means visualizing.

You have to see yourself in that position. It’s funny. I never thought I would be at the Today show, but I remember one day when I was doing local news in Hartford, Conn., somebody told me they thought I’d be good on Today. At first, I thought that was crazy, but the more I started thinking about it and imagining it, I realized, I could do that! and I want to do that!

In planning for our move to the West Coast, I would imagine what it could be like if this was actually my life. Putting the possibilities out there made them seem less intimidating and more exciting.

EL | You’re reporting a lot of entertainment news now, but still covering headline and breaking news for Today. How do you shift gears between the genres?

NM | Being a journalist is about having curiosity and talking to people to find out what the real story is, and that’s the skill set I bring to every story I report on. It doesn’t matter if the story is about a group of trapped Chilean miners and the people rescuing them or an interview with Clint Eastwood about a new film. They’re all people with stories filled with ups and downs.

My job is to find out and relay what each person’s journey is about. Our journeys are what connect us and reveal our humanity to one another.

Entertainment news certainly isn’t the deepest reporting I’ve ever done, but I’m having so much fun — there’s just this energy here. It’s a nice change of pace and I’m really loving life right now.

EL | How do you balance it all when you’re juggling so many different jobs and family responsibilities?

NM | Like everyone, I struggle to have balance. In fact, I think it might be impossible. I just have to accept that some days are going to be crazy busy and keep the little silver linings in mind — like Fridays, when I finally sit down with my husband and sons and we have a good dinner together without having to rush out.

While there’s not much downtime right now with doing three shows, I try to focus on what’s best for me and my family. That means staying 100 percent focused on all the things I need to get done until my kids get home — work, a workout — and then shifting my attention to being Mom.

It’s challenging. As much as I try to put my phone down and be present, that’s the thing I struggle with most.

I also have to remember that it’s impossible to be everything to everyone and it’s OK to say no. That’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned. I’m a people-pleaser and have a hard time with that, but there are certain times — like my weekends and family time, going to my kids’ soccer games — that I hold sacred.

EL | Fitness is often the first thing to go when life gets hectic, yet you’ve somehow trained for marathons and triathlons. What advice do you have for making health and fitness — and yourself — a priority?

NM | Make time for it! Fitness is my therapy, so to feel my best, I go for a run, do some strength training in my gym at home, or go hiking with my [Access Hollywood] cohost Kit Hoover during our breaks most days. Something is always better than nothing.

For me, being happy is tied to being healthy, and vice versa, and when I make time for myself, I’m a better mom, a happier wife, a better person. I just feel more complete. We all deserve that.

is an Experience Life staff writer.

Photography by Kwaku Alston

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