In an elusive field like television, there’s rarely a linear path to success. But when Whitney Reynolds graduated from college in three years and jetted off to her internship at Good Morning America immediately after, we’d say it was clear she was on the path.
Fast forward to now, Whitney has become a full-time television host and executive producer of her very own show that was moved to NBC within its first year on air. And the best part? She’s doing it on her own terms. “I wanted my show to change the world of talk TV. To create conversations that motivate and assist our viewers to be their best selves and help others along the way. To know they are not alone with what they are facing. I am finally in line with my vision.”
With an abundance of passion, wit, and smarts, Whitney is featured on The Everygirl today to tell us about how she learned to ignore the naysayers, follow her gut, and turn her passion into an Emmy nominated show in only a few years.
Name: Whitney Reynolds
Current title: Host and Executive Producer The Whitney Reynolds Show
Education: Baylor University
You graduated from Baylor University in just three years! Tell us about what it took to accomplish this and why you chose to finish early. If you could go back in time, would you change anything?
I went to Baylor after meeting an intern at Good Morning America in NYC on a high school trip. She explained how Baylor was a great school for communications and I was hooked. Baylor is extremely expensive and I was taking out loans to put myself through so I found ways to maximize my hours each semester. Now don’t get me wrong, I had a blast in my years, pledging Pi Phi, doing the half time sports radio show, and working in the video department of BU Athletics.
Immediately after graduation you moved to New York City to intern at Good Morning America. How did you land that internship?
The TV industry is about connections, so if you don’t have them… make them! I went on a few trips to NYC prior to moving there and got tickets to every show I wanted to intern with. Before and after the tapings I networked like a crazy 15-year-old.
I went on a few trips to NYC prior to moving there and got tickets to every show I wanted to intern at. Before and after the tapings I networked like a crazy 15-year-old.
What were the most valuable lessons you learned as an intern? What advice do you have for current interns hoping to set themselves apart from other job applicants?
I always wanted to be on air and it was explained to me that “so do a million other pretty faces.” By the end of my time at GMA it would have been really easier to get a behind the scenes job however I was told to “move anywhere America that will put you on air.” And that’s what I did.
Tell us about what happened next. Where did you land your next job?
I lucked out and got my first job at a NBC stations outside of Dallas. They originally hired me as a reporter/ producer but during my third month I landed a seat on anchor desk of their morning show. It was an absolute dream come true. I was 21 at the time!
The Whitney Reynolds show began as an online talk show that was moved to NBC within its first year! First, tell us about how you created the show. What inspired your vision for it and what was the primary goal behind it?
I always knew this is what I would do, I just didn’t know how to get there. I always say, if a door closes climb through the darn window. My story would not be what it is today if I didn’t keep pushing through all the no’s. My show now is topic based however it did not start out that way. I knew if I grew each year, hit my numbers, and landed a good network eventually I would shift my focus to making a difference with every show! This once dream is now my reality.
I always say, if a door closes climb through the darn window. My story would not be what it is today if I didn’t keep pushing through all the no’s.
How did you accomplish so much so quickly in that first year?
No matter what, create a good product. I am my own worst enemy because I am always wanting more. I compete with myself and always want to be a better host, wife, and overall person than I was yesterday.
In 2012 the show made some changes and moved to PBS Stations in Chicago and The Quad Cities—what brought about that change and what was the transition like?
I knew once we got this platform it was time to start making my mark in this world. No more fluff, sexy, or senseless interviews, my true dream was unfolding. I never wanted to be “famous” or just another host, I wanted my show to change the world of talk TV—to create conversations that motivate and assist our viewers to be their best selves and help others along the way and to know they are not alone with what they are facing. Now I have finally aligned my work with my vision.
How has the show evolved since then?
I have built up a strong team that is on the same mission. I have learned that you must surround yourself with the best!
What does a day in the life of Whitney Reynolds look like? What does your job entail on a daily basis?
24-hours before taping a show we review all the research we’ve have done leading up to this topic. Sometimes you only get one chance to get the question and response right so it is crucial we know the flow. The day before we also have my clothes and flowers dropped off for taping. On the day of our shoots I always go on a run; it’s a great way for me to focus. From there I head over to Robert Jeffrey Salon and get my TV hair going on with Kristen, my stylist. She’s been with my show since conception and also does a little extra prep with me while I’m in her chair. She always seems to find some questions I wouldn’t have thought of.
From there I head into the studio and meet with my team and makeup artist. My staff starts setting up and I finish up my final touch-ups. My supervising producer Sheryl Rosen preps me during makeup and into our pre-team meeting. In our team meeting we going over must get shots, potentially big moments, and also we make sure each person understands the seriousness of the topic. Most shows we cover are very sensitive.
Our guests arrive around 2 p.m. and we start shooting until 5 p.m. After we do a post meeting and I head home. Typically my husband and I do a date night after because my hair and makeup are on point.
Is there anything you think people would be surprised to know about your job?
Not only do I host and executive produce The Whitney Reynolds Show, I also own it. I know that sounds weird but its always been the case since I started it back in to 2010.
Tell us about a particular challenge you’ve faced in your career. How were you able to overcome it?
When I first started the show we were online so jumping into the TV world was tough and we had to fight our way to the prime time spot we now have. Some things in life you can sweet talk your way into but this was not one of them.
When we first moved to PBS we had to hit target numbers and were given one chance on a Sunday afternoon. I did not have a huge marketing budget so my husband (boyfriend at the time) and I hit the streets. We did all sorts of gorilla marketing, hand shaking, and social media pushes. Get this… it worked! Not only did we hit numbers but we had solid stats to go to advertisers. This was one of those moments where you must have tunnel vision on the prize.
Working in television for many years, you’ve covered a wide variety of stories. What are some of the most memorable?
One show that has changed my life is one we did honoring veterans. This topic is close to heart for many reasons but one thing I love about my show is we always bring light to tough topics and show a different side. The whole topic on this particular episode was what we do to help our veterans when they get home from serving. This show is one that inspired me and ended up landing us our first Emmy nomination.
I just wish in the early stages I could have slowed down a bit more and enjoyed the small and big victories.
What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?
Calm down, you will get there. At this age I was always trying to be “Older Whitney.” I am a firm believer that you must work hard for what you want but also trust the desires that God has put in your heart. So with work and following your dreams, it will happen! ENJOY IT! I always knew I would one day be a talk show host, I just wish in the early stages I could have slowed down a bit more and enjoyed the small and big victories.
Whitney Reynolds is The Everygirl…
Favorite place to take out-of-town guests in the Windy City?
We are obsessed with The Green City Market during the summer. We tend to take our guests to brunch in our Lakeview neighborhood at Anne Sathers and then make our way to the market. From there we go walk on the lake towards downtown and then hit the shops on Michigan Ave.
Church at Soul City and then trying out a new lunch spot, ending the day watching Football and snuggling on the couch with Dave and Miss Puffy Doo-Little (our 11-year-old Shitzu).
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
It has been a dream of mine to sit down with Oprah—and when this happens forget lunch I am conducting a full on interview!
Biggest guilty pleasure?
Birthday cake even when it’s not my birthday. Something about eating a slice of fluffy cake with thick icing and the Happy Birthday inscription just makes my heart and taste buds very happy.