HLN's Robin Meade Is Cable News' All-American Girl
We chatted with the 'Morning Express' anchor about her thriving career, passion for country music, and long-standing commitment to the troops and rescue dogs.
There are not enough complimentary adjectives to describe the spirit and charm of Morning Express anchor Robin Meade. Her award-winning smile, inherent poise, and keen attention to the daily news cycle have flourished under HLN's cable umbrella for the past 14 years.
Meade embodies the American Dream in every sense of its definition. She's on top of her career game, has found success in her love for music, and gives back to the community in ways most people can only imagine.
We chatted with the brunette beauty about her life's past, present, and future, as well as some unique quirks and regiments that prove how the world of media isn't always pretty.
Check out the full interview below and be sure to start your day with her show weekdays, starting at 6 AM ET.
Zimbio: It's almost impossible to imagine a typical day in your busy schedule, but can you walk us through your morning routine?
Robin Meade: On a work day, I'll wake up around 3 AM. That's if I'm not washing my hair. If I'm washing my hair that day, I'll wake up at 2:45. Here's the dirty little secret: you can tell what day of hair washing it is for any female news anchor with longish hair. Day one, the hair is usually straight and real shiny and down. Day two, it probably gets curled back, but down. Day three, it's starting to get questionable. It's either in a side pony or a side braid...the braid is always the giveaway. I'm not saying I don't shower everyday, but washing of the hair is a process when you have curly hair. If it's a side braid, you better watch out buddy! [Laughs]
Z: How soon after you wake up do you immerse yourself in the news-gathering process?
RM: Thanks to the iPad, I drive my team crazy from the time I'm jumping in the shower to the time someone drives me in. In the car, I'm saying "I just heard this on this broadcast and I want to make sure we have this sound bite" or "I just saw this on Twitter." Luckily for me, I can work all the way into work.
Z: What happens once you arrive to the studio?
RM: The show starts at 6. I'd like so say I give the makeup people ample time to do their job, but I don't. It's terrible of me, but they're kind of like the Nascar pit crew of makeup teams. On a good day, I might give them 15 minutes. Isn't that terrible? I always joke "I'm sure you guys would do a great job, if only I'd give you enough time to do so."
The show is live for four hours, 6-10 AM ET, and if there isn't breaking news, that last hour will play again. If there's breaking news, I've got to jump back in and help. It's six hours of me. I joke that I'm tired of hearing myself talk by the end of it. Obviously, I've been really grateful. I'm just grateful that viewers are watching after all these years and that we've become a morning habit for them.
Z: Do you have any unique newsroom rituals, quirks, or habits?
RM: A female anchor in Chicago told me that if cameras are above your eye level, you'll look thinner, younger, and more awake. That is my little trick. This was before Facebook and everybody knowing their pose and the right side of their face. It's funny because now when you see peoples' profile pictures, everyone raises a camera...as if they know what they're doing. I'm always asking the cameras, "can you move up?"
Z: You've got an impressive music career under your belt. Have you always been a performer?
RM: I'm no Beyonce, but I'm really grateful that I'm at a point in my news career where my bosses understand both sides of my personality and let me express myself through music. Growing up, I was a preacher's kid, so I thought everybody got up and sang in front of people. It seemed normal to me. I remember when the concept of stage fright was introduced to me in third grade and someone said "don't be nervous" and I was like "oh, are you supposed to be nervous?" As I grew, my dad encouraged music in the home and at school, but he was like "I'm not encouraging you to be a rock star or a country star. I don't want you to go into music as a field." So I was in high school by this time and I thought "darn" because I wanted to pursue music professionally. I started writing songs on my own a little bit, but I was like "what am I going to do now?" I remember thinking I was going to be a music teacher and then, funny enough, someone told me in high school that to be a music teacher, you had to learn every single instrument in the band. Whether that was true or not, I don't know, but I was like "oh, hell no. I'm not learning every instrument."
Z: So what led you to a career in journalism?
RM: For a long time in high school, I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I took an aptitude test and mine came back and said communications, reading retention, and creative writing were my strengths. There was also a question with a blank space asking "what field would you go into?" I grew up in a corn field, so I wasn't graced with knowing what types of opportunities there were if I was willing to move to a city. So I glanced over at my friend's paper and she had the same results and wrote down broadcast news anchor. I went "that is a fine idea!" and that's where my whole life came from. Can you believe that?
Z: You've performed with David Foster, headlined a Vegas show, and been featured at special events/concerts. When did you get your big music break?
RM: My family was supportive of [broadcast journalism] as my field of study in college. In the meantime, I still kept up the vocal lessons, performing at pageants, and eventually winning Miss Ohio. The deeper I got into my news career, the more I missed music. I felt like that was another part of my being that I wasn't honestly expressing. When I was in Chicago working as a news anchor, I secretly started making trips to Nashville to dabble in song writing. When I saw myself here at HLN, a lot of my stories kept intersecting with country music stars. I happened to get Lady Antebellum's first CD and I read that Victoria Shaw was one of the producers. I then said to my husband "I'm going to work with her some day." I'm sure he was all "she's tripping...you just opened up a CD and you saw a female's name and thought 'I'm going to work with her some day.'" Well, I must control the universe because a while later I was hosting a live competition show for the GAC Network and Victoria was a judge. You better believe afterwards I cornered her and asked her to teach me how to write songs. She said yes and I kept driving up to Nashville to meet with her. Before you knew it, we basically had half of an album written. She was kind enough and generous enough with her time and she said "do we have a project here?" I said "yeah, we've got a project here!" and through different connections we did two albums for Target exclusively and both of them are on iTunes. I can't go out on tour or be a full-time music writer -- I have to have my butt in the anchor seat -- but I'm so grateful that I get to express that side and that people actually come [to listen]. There's nothing like singing and saying you have a show and nobody attends.
Z: Morning Express is very fair and presents the news in an unbiased way, but there's still room to have a little fun. Do you feel like you have to filter yourself often or have you gotten into a groove?
RM: I've gotten into a groove. A lot of our viewers watch our show and then they go away to different networks. Maybe they have political allegiances, but they have an innate feeling that I'm very strict about making sure that people from both sides have fair times. Not just equal time, but I'm also cognizant of balancing serious stories with light and fluffy. Sometimes there will be a story where you have to comment, but it won't be politics.
Z: We love that you have made rescue dogs one of your missions. Can you tell us about your precious pooches and why you've donated your time to the cause?
RM: I have Reese - she's probably about nine by now. My husband Tim found her on Petfinder and he said he was looking for a dog that was an adult, but still had that puppy face. It just so happens that she was going to be at the neighborhood PetSmart. You go and you just fall in love with the dogs because you feel so sorry for them when they are outside waiting to be adopted. She is just a love. We call her The Buddha because she's a steady presence, very calm, very balanced. She's just a great constant in our life.
Little Tessa...on a Saturday or Sunday when the rescue dogs were at PetSmart, we went to get Reese food. All of the cages were lined up, but they were empty except for one. This little dog was there before all of the other little doggies and she had a pink handkerchief that said Tessa. My husband fell in love -- he's a softie. We decided Reese needed a little sister, so those are our two little rescue dogs. It's one of those things where you can't help but fall in love. They know you've rescued them.
There's an organization I'm particularly fond of after doing a story on them called K9s for Warriors. They're out of Florida and they take rescue dogs, train them for a year, and then match them up with service members who have PTSD. You rescue a dog who then rescues a service member. I just love that...it hits two of my soft spots.
Z: Speaking of the military, your commitment to the troops has been very admirable. We particularly love the Salute the Troops segment. Why does the military hold such a special place in your heart and why have you gone out of your way to make it such a significant part of Morning Express?
RM: A number of family members have gone into the military, whether it be uncles or cousins, and I just said to my mom this weekend: "When I think about people who choose to go into the military, I tell you what, you are a lot more brave than I am. I know right now that you are braver and you do things that I don't do or would be willing to do." Here are people who join knowing that, at times, they are going to be away from their families. The Salute the Troops segment, which we've done every morning, every hour, for a decade, is viewer-generated and it's the least we can do. It's that thank you for these people whose lives rotate around their duty. Just last week we had a salute from a service member who said something along the lines of "I'm sorry I can't be there, baby, congratulations on your graduation." That is a dad who couldn't be there for a high school graduation because he is deployed right now. When you think about the life events that they miss, oh my gosh, they are way more brave than I could ever be. I'm just grateful for it and the staff is, as well. The viewers have responded to it and there are no plans to take it out.
Z: As someone with a seemingly never-ending list of talents and interests, is there an activity that you've been dying to try?
RM: I think you must have sneaked into my house because my husband and I keep a big blackboard in the kitchen that says "fun things to do or achieve accomplish or learn" and there's an entire list. One of them... I haven't done it and it keeps popping up in my mind...is doing improv comedy music. That might be something fun to learn. Second City in Chicago offers adult immersive weekends where you can learn improvisation, but there's also one where you can learn improvisational music like the stuff from Whose Line Is It Anyway?. I just think that would be so much fun in a concert...where you ask people to take things out of their purse and write a song on the spot.
Another thing on my to-do list is learning to swim.
Z: That sounds like a Morning Express segment in the making! Anything else?
RM: I wrote salsa lessons down. I'd also like to try target shooting, just to see if I can do it.