Hoda Kotb made history this week when she was named co-anchor of NBC's "TODAY," alongside Savannah Guthrie. Together, the two are the first female team to co-anchor the NBC news program.
Kotb, who joined "TODAY" in 2008 as co-host of the show's fourth hour with Kathy Lee Gifford, is a face familiar to the network and its audience. But she didn't become a household name overnight.
In 1986, the recent Virginia Tech journalism grad was starting her job hunt when she heard about an opportunity at a TV station in Richmond, Virginia. She borrowed her mother's car to drive an hour away to the interview, but was rejected.
"I remember the news director, he took my tape, he put it in the machine, he played it for a couple of minutes and he stopped it and he said, 'Oh, Hoda, you are not ready for Richmond. I don't know why somebody sent you here, but you're too green, you're not good,'" she said at a 2016 SiriusXM Leading Ladies event.
The news director suggested she try a station three hours away in Roanoke, Virginia, that was also hiring. Kotb says she was rejected there before being told by that news director to try her luck at a station in Memphis, Tennessee. Eager to get hired, she drove to Memphis that night only to face another rejection.
"I was in that car driving around for 10 days. I got rejected everywhere. Anywhere you can think of in the Southeast, I got rejected," she said.
According to The Washington Post, Kotb faced 27 rejections before finally getting the "yes" she needed to jump-start her career. Fortuitously, on the drive back home, she got lost in Mississippi and came across a sign for a local television station.
"You know, the whole God gives you a sign — I literally got lost in Mississippi because I was listening to James Taylor and sad and driving aimlessly, and I saw a physical sign that said, 'Greenville, Mississippi, Our eye is on you.' It had like a CBS eye. News center 15, WXVT. I said, 'I'm gonna go there and get rejected,'" Kotb said.
But her encounter with the news director Stan Sandroni turned out to be far different from her past interviews. After watching her tape, Kotb says he turned to her and said, "I like what I see," and hired her on the spot.
"It just reminded me that you just need one person to love you," she said. "You don't need everybody."
From there, Kotb continued to make her mark on the industry. She worked at television stations in Illinois and Florida before landing a job at a CBS affiliate in New Orleans in 1992. It was there where her talent caught the attention of NBC executives in New York, who hired her in 1998 as a correspondent for "Dateline."
Kotb stepped into her most recent position as an initially temporary fill-in for Matt Lauer, after he was fired in November following accusations of sexual misconduct. When she received the news over the holidays that she would be a permanent co-host, she responded with excitement saying, "I am pinching myself."
Her professional journey underlines the power of persistence.
"Sometimes you think you need every single person to think you're good, and you don't," she told SiriusXM. "You need one."
Disclosure: NBC and CNBC are owned by Comcast's NBCUniversal unit.
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