About Hoda Kotb
Hoda Kotb was born on Aug. 9, 1964 in Norman, OK to Sameha and Abdel Kotb, Egyptian immigrants who met while attending law school in Cairo. Kotb grew up in Morgantown, WV, but her father Abdel's career often took the family overseas, including Egypt and Nigeria, where they lived during a year-long sabbatical. A bright and popular student, Kotb spent the main part of her adolescence in Alexandria, VA, nabbing the title of Homecoming Queen at Fort Hunt High School, from where she graduated in 1982. Her heart set on a future career as a news reporter, Kotb matriculated at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), where in 1986, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in broadcast journalism. That same year, she secured a coveted summer stint as a news assistant with CBS News in Cairo.
Upon her return to the States, Kotb pounded the proverbial pavement, demo tape in hand, as she crisscrossed the south by car, facing slamming rejections from TV affiliates in such markets as Richmond, Roanoke and Memphis. But Kotb's determination ultimately paid off when was hired in 1986 as an on-air anchor for WXVT-TV, the CBS affiliate for Greenville and Greenwood, MS. During her three-year tenure, she also juggled duties as a morning anchor and general assignment reporter for WQAD-TV, the ABC affiliate in Moline, IL. Kotb continued to gain professional ground as a weekend anchor and reporter for WINK-TV in Fort Myers, FL, a post she held until 1991, at which time Kotb accepted a choice position at WWL-TV, the CBS affiliate in New Orleans, LA, where for six years she served as an anchor and reporter for the 10 p.m. news broadcast.
Kotb snagged her first high-profile career coup when she was named a correspondent for "Dateline NBC" (1998- ) in 1998. With her new job, Kotbe traversed the globe, covering an impressive and eclectic array of domestic and international stories, including the devastation wracked by Hurricane Katrina and the South East Asian tsunami, the war in Iraq, racism in Alabama, and the ever-explosive conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. During that time, Kotb had also flown to Burma to conduct a top-secret interview with Aung San Suu Kyi, the imprisoned, internationally recognized leader of the war-torn nation. The historic moment marked the first time in 11 years that Suu Kyi was interviewed by an American television network.
In 2004, Kotb became host of "Your Total Health," a weekly syndicated series focused on the latest cutting-edge treatments and scientific breakthroughs in modern medicine. In 2005, she married UNO Tennis coach Burzis Kanga, but the union ended two years later. At the same time she was stinging from divorce, Kotb was forced to undergo a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery for breast cancer in 2007. The charismatic news figure became an outspoken advocate for breast cancer awareness, turning her own personal crisis into fascinating news fodder, documenting her fight to find a cure for her disease. When doctors proclaimed Kotb cancer free, the footage was aired in a series of elucidating, top-rated "Today" news segments.
It was in the wake of her diagnosis that Kotb claimed to have summoned the gumption to charge into the offices of NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker and demand a promotion. Zucker obliged, and in August 2007, Kotb joined NBC correspondents Ann Curry and Natalie Morales to become co-anchor of the highly anticipated, unprecedented fourth hour of "Today." Curry and Morales eventually left that particular hour, leaving the door open for a new co-host for Kotb. In April 2008, Kathie Lee Gifford replaced them both. By all outward appearances, it was an unlikely duo. Gifford was a former beauty queen, Broadway chanteuse and actress, best known as Regis Philbin's loud-mouthed sidekick who had talked endlessly on-air about her two children on their top-rated morning talk show "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" (1985-2000); Kotb's career was steeped in hard news and straightforward, no-frills broadcast journalism. Producers of the "Today" show admitted the odd-couple pairing was a risk, but the gamble was worth it.
The outrageous, over-the-top Gifford and the calm, even-keeled Kotb had an effortless, on-air chemistry. The show's fourth hour became something of a mid-morning happy hour, where Kotb and Gifford tipped back chardonnay and other wine varietals, gabbed about hair and make-up tricks, and often broke out in impromptu Top 40 dance numbers. Many critics mocked this particular hour of "Today," calling it insipid and pointless; a veritable throwback to the stereotype of the bored and boozed up 1960s stay-at-home housewife. Its initial lukewarm ratings put the show on slightly shaky ground, but as the on-camera camaraderie between Kotb and Gifford grew, the show took off, garnering enviably high ratings among its target female demographic. In 2010, the fourth hour averaged two million daily viewers. Additionally, Kotb and Gifford amassed thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers. The show became so popular, it was spoofed in a "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) skit. In October of that year, she put her inspiring story of loss and resilience to paper, penning the best-selling memoir, Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer and Kathie Lee, asserting her oft-plied motto and personal credence that her life after cancer was better than it had ever been before.