By Rashida Ashley
The bustling career of Ohio-native Zuri Hall is on fire! The multi-hyphenate is the TV-host of NBC’s Emmy-nominated prime time shows ‘Access Hollywood’ and ‘American Ninja Warrior.’ Hall also hosts her own holistic wellness + lifestyle podcast Hot Happy Mess, and YouTube channel titled, Hey Zuri Hall which focuses on dating and fashion style for young millennial working women; all while navigating being an Emmy Award-winning television personality, actress, producer, and business executive. Hall has made many guest appearances on shows such as Apple TV’s The Morning Show, E!’s” The Arrangement, TV Land’s Nobodies and the comedic series Hashtaggers. Her career and fashion style have been featured in numerous high profile publications. In our recent chat with Hall, she dishes on one of her biggest idols, what it means to be an ‘AlphaBabe,’ the positive impact of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, plus more.
One of the most inspiring people in your life is Oprah Winfrey. When it comes to your career, how has Oprah impacted your drive for achievement and goal of becoming national by age 25?
Oprah has inspired me the way she has for so many people from a very early age. She was just an awesome example, one of the first for me growing up, of a black woman on daytime television five days a week, whose meteoric rise to the heart of mainstream America I really admired. It didn’t matter what your race, your background or your socioeconomic standing was, everybody loves Oprah. She has this really rare ability to connect and make people feel heard and seen. That’s something that is really important to me. I consider it my life’s mission. I’ve always been that way ever since I was in school and in classrooms, I always wanted to go out of my way to talk to or hang out with the kid who may have felt alienated or a little outside of the social circles because I know what that feels like. I’ve been that kid very often. So, I always admired Oprah for that ability. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and speak with her quite a few times in interview settings, and she’s always been so kind and so gracious. She made me feel the way that we’ve seen her make other people feel, so it’s awesome to meet someone who you respect and admire, and they actually live up to the hype.
Your lifestyle brand AlphaBabe was created with the intention of seeing strong ‘alpha’ women being celebrated and encouraged to be strong and unapologetic because it is a fact that that wasn’t seen at one time. Can you speak on how your brand has celebrated and encouraged women to remain true to themselves and how that has changed for women everywhere?
About seven-ish years ago, I really didn’t see as much of that as I do now. What’s awesome is that as my brand evolves, it’s really encouraging to see more conversation and more empowerment groups and communities in that space. We’ve seen women rise in ways that we’ve always been capable of, but now mainstream media and society is starting to get behind that. That’s really exciting.
I just wanted to get to a place where we could celebrate being an alpha and a babe. Celebrating our more dominant, leadership-focused personality traits. Our ambition in the workplace, whatever that is for you, but not being afraid to take charge and lead and not apologizing for it.
And then also lean into the babe of it all, to our feminine nature and our softer side, and hold space for self-care and self-love, and to be and feel delicate if we want to feel that way. I really believe in duality. I don’t think you have to choose.
And so, it’s been awesome. I’ve started to see that evolution around me in the workplace and on social media, which has been great. So at this point in my life, I’m really focusing now on helping women carve out space. Because of all that ambition, I ended up getting really burnt out in my 20s. So now with my podcast Hot, Happy Mess and a lot of my social media initiatives and content, it’s really about balancing ambition with mindfulness and wellness, and how do we achieve our goals and make sure we’re happy, well and healthy while we do it. So now in my 30s, it’s navigating a career while also prioritizing self-care and self-love.
How do you show up for and celebrate the AlphaBabes in your life?
I’m not the best at it. I’m trying to get better, but what I’ve tried to prioritize when celebrating the women in my life is just being intentional with giving them the time that they deserve and the time that they sometimes need because I need and deserve it too. We’re all so busy, so it’s easy to get caught up and you look up and it’s like, oh my god a month has passed and I’ve not really caught up with one of my best friends in the world who’s more like a sister.
For black women in particular, we have this conversation around always having to be so strong and always having to wear the capes; and I’m loving the memes and the TikToks and the Reels that are like ‘No, I’m a damsel in distress now,’ ‘Nope, come help me,’ ‘Please, I need a break.’
For me, showing up for those strong women in my life means calling them and checking in, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. I literally have Google Calendar updates for myself that say ‘Call two friends today’ and reminders for checking in on them and just creating space for them to emote, to vent, to complain, to cry, to laugh, to joke or whatever it is they need in that moment. Because I’m so blessed with really amazing badass friends and women in my life, we all just assume the others are doing fine. And that’s not necessarily the case. Some of the closest people to me would be surprised to know that there were certain moments in my life where things have gotten really dark or really hard or I’ve cried more than they could have ever imagined, and that’s not a ‘woe is me’ thing, that’s more like I know I’m not the only one, we’re all having moments like that.
As the conversation around mental health and mental wellness evolves, and people start being more honest about their struggles, I think it’s more important for us to go out of our way to show up for each other. So, to show up for the Alpha babes in my life means to hold space for them to not always have to be alpha, to not always have to be strong. And let them know that I will support them because they certainly do the same for me.
You are one of the hosts for NBC’s American Ninja Warrior along with Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila. What is it like being a host on the show?
Oh my gosh, it’s so much fun! Those two are like my big brothers. At this point I feel very blessed. We’re wrapping up filming of my fourth season with the show and the show’s 14th season, which currently is just so rare and unheard of. It’s hard to stay relevant in TV and it’s a really competitive space. So to have a show that just keeps growing year after year, averaging millions of viewers, there’s been an entire community built around this sport.
People have Ninja gyms in their backyard, in their local communities. They travel the country doing ninja tournaments leading up to the show, and they have really embraced me with open arms. What is most special for me is being on the sideline, as the person who gets to talk to these ninjas first, whether they do really well on the course, or they may sometimes fail miserably or unexpectedly. It’s like I’m the shoulder to cry on. Sometimes I’m there celebrating with you. I’m cheering and I’m crying with the mama because they did it, they hit the buzzer. I very much feel those emotions with the ninjas and their loved ones.
At the end of the day, yeah, it’s a sport and yes, these ninjas are doing impressive things, but we’re telling really important stories and so many of them have gone through so much in their life, that just getting to the starting line is an accomplishment, an achievement in itself. We have people who are running this course while also living with and battling Parkinson’s, knowing he probably won’t get past the second or third obstacle, but he doesn’t care because that’s not what it’s about. It’s about getting up and doing it anyway. We have ninjas who have lost parents to terminal illness, to cancer, and are running in their honor. I have celebrated with family members one season on the sidelines and a season or two later, those grandparents have passed away. So, to be able to be a part of this family for long enough that you get really invested in these ninjas stories is just so special. It’s so much more than I could have ever hoped for when I signed on. It definitely feels like a family. So I feel very blessed to still be a part of it.
Your YouTube channel titled “Hey Zuri Hall” is designed for young millennial working women and is geared towards dating and fashion styles. What are some of the most memorable and fun moments that have impacted your audience?
At this point, I’ve kind of slowed down with YouTube. It’s been dormant for a little bit just as I focus on the podcast Hot Happy Mess, Access Hollywood and American Ninja Warrior. But more than anything, my YouTube channel has been sort of my direct go to for people who are either following or supporting my career or want advice of their own. The things that tend to do the best or what people tend to be the most interested in is love, dating and relationships: and when I say relationship, I don’t just mean romantic. One of my top performing videos to this day that I still get emails about it, even though I put it up years ago, is how to deal with mean girls and bullies. It blows me away and I’m so grateful that I made the video. I had no idea that it might still be affecting or helping people today.
I received the most beautiful email from a mother, probably a year ago, thanking me for that video. She explained how her daughter had been going through a rough time in high school and how these girls were being really cruel and unkind to her. So, she showed her daughter my video and she cried because she felt like she was understood and no longer alone in what she was going through. It breaks your heart but then it also feels good to know that in small ways you can help someone feel a little less alone or a little more empowered.
I think we’re all dealing with our own versions of that [bullying] in everyday life. The sad part is that it doesn’t necessarily change even after you graduate. You go into the workplace and into your communities, and we always have to navigate the people around us. So, I think we’re all just trying to figure out relationally how to understand one another and how to be more understood. We all know what it feels like when we feel misunderstood. So, YouTube really is just a place where folks can come to connect with me more directly and get a more vulnerable, raw look at my life. And sometimes I’m sharing the good, the bad and the ugly. Through that I hope that someone else might, you know, feel a little less alone in their journey.
For real time updates on Zuri follow her on Instagram @zurihall