“Strong,” “fun” and “real” are the words 27-year-old Zuri Hall uses to describe her personality. The eldest of three children, television personality Hall has previously served as the host of several shows like, MyIndyTV, BET’s 106 & Park, Fashion Police as well as many others on the MTV and FUSE networks. Today, viewers and fans can find Hall on E! News, airing weeknights at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m., as the network’s new correspondent.
The Ohio State University graduate recently spoke with the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper about her journey to exclusive red carpet interviews with E! News, what it’s like being in the TV industry as a Black woman and advice she has for others on building their brand.
Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper: Congratulations on being named a correspondent for E! News! What exactly does your new position entail and how has your experience been thus far?
Hall: My life has changed so much. Every job I’ve had I’ve been so excited about, and every opportunity feels like your big break, but being here, it really feels like that moment. The second my agent told me, I was excited but it was almost like a flood of relief that came over me. Not because I was stressed about getting the job, but because this was the job I’ve always wanted and always knew I could get.
Every day is different, and that’s what I love about it. Some days I’m in the studio and some days I’m out in the field or on location, maybe covering a red carpet. I recently got to speak with Viola Davis right after her historic (Emmy) win. I was about to cry (laughs) and I had to pull myself together. That meant so much to me as a Black woman to have her be successful; to hear what she said and speak with her only an hour or two after tells me what I’m doing is what I’m supposed to be doing.
Are your new coworkers nice to you?
Yes. Everyone is so welcoming and it’s a really well oiled machine here. I was able to hit the ground running and I really appreciate that coming here, everyone wants to work.
In the past you’ve worked for MTV as a host for several shows such as “The Challenge,” and for other networks. Which has been your favorite experience?
That’s tough. Of course, what I’m doing now is my favorite, but I really enjoyed making a couple of appearances on “Uncommon Sense,” it’s hosted by Charlamagne Tha God. He’s an awesome guy and he’s always been a really big advocate for me. It was like hanging out with my brothers but getting paid to do it.
You’re originally from Toledo, Ohio, and began commercial acting, is that correct?
Yes, I sort of fell into acting, and I never considered it a career path. Growing up that’s what I thought I wanted to do, was act. I grew up knowing I wanted to entertain people; I wanted to be on camera or be on stage. I knew I was most excited and alive when I had a microphone in my hand.
Before big-name networks, you got the ball rolling in Indianapolis as the first host of MyINDY-TV, where you hosted the show and emceed several sporting events.
As I was about to graduate from college, just like everyone else, I had no idea what was next, and randomly stumbled upon a post to become the next face of MyINDY-TV. Fate was on my side and the audition was that week. I was working as a receptionist on campus and I asked my boss if I could call off at the last minute, and she was super supportive. I hopped into my ’99 Ford Taurus and drove to Indianapolis, and my audition took all of 10 minutes.
I was offered a one-year contract with the station. I loved that experience. I loved emceeing the Pacers games, there is nothing like it. It snowballed into hosting the Super Bowl Village. Indy was really good to me. It was the start of a career I feel very blessed to have.
You mention self-confidence a lot on your social media pages and YouTube channel, HeyZuriHall. Does this speak to any specific insecurities you had growing up?
So many insecurities. I went to a small private school, mostly with a lot of wealthy white children, and I was none of the above. I’m from a normal middle-class family and didn’t always have the best of everything. I felt like the odd man out from seventh until 12th grade, and for the last few years I was the only Black girl in my class. I just felt different. The kids around me never made me feel bad, but as a child you’re aware about what makes you different, what makes you uncomfortable or what you can’t relate to. Because of that I was a little more reserved. I talk so much now people would never know, but I can be a shy person. I have this outer shell where I’m extroverted, but I use all of the energy on camera and on stage. But in my private life, I’m introverted naturally. Now that I have a platform, I feel like I can talk to those younger who are going through the same things.
What type of personal challenges have you faced in the TV industry as a Black woman?
As a Black woman in the industry, I have definitely felt at times like the underdog, and it was only frustrating because I didn’t feel that way because I lacked talent and experience, but because people looked at me, my skin tone and maybe my gender and didn’t think I could get the job and get keep an audience. I can’t change my skin color and wouldn’t if I could. It was feeling like my race kept people from betting on me when I knew what I was worth and capable of doing.
For those who don’t know, explain the concept behind your blog, #AlphaBabe.
The Alpha Babe movement I launched that mixes glamour with the grind is all about balancing work, life and love with substance and style. The “alpha” comes from a stereotypically alpha female and people make it seem like if you are, you’re going to lose your man, or be a leader but don’t be too loud. I got to a point when I thought, what’s so bad about leading, speaking up and being strong even if it makes people feel uncomfortable sometimes? You shouldn’t dim your light because of other people’s insecurities. The “babe” comes from just something I call my friends. We can be strong and ambitious, but we can also be stylish and pretty.
You’re such a fashionista! How would you describe your style?
My style has definitely evolved at an exponential rate over the past year or so. Back in college, oh my gosh, God forbid those Facebook photos surface (laughs). They’re not bad but just look crazy. It was too much. In recent years I’ve grown more into a minimalist look. My boyfriend is Dutch and has a very European sense of style, and it’s started to rub off on me. Living in New York the last couple of years, I love all black every thing and chic looks like monochrome, creams, browns and neutral colors with a pop of texture, pattern or color. It’s powerful and I want to make a statement with my look before I open up my mouth. It’s not about designers as much as it’s about showing your personal style.
Do you have any advice for aspiring TV personalities?
It’s all about your brand these days. Create content is my advice to aspiring hosts. Who cares if there are a million people doing it; you need to be a million and one.
I even have a blog post up on #AlphaBabe at ZuriHall.com that gives tips.
Fill in the blank … with Zuri Hall
My favorite meal is: My mom’s smothered steak, smothered in onions and peppers with baked mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and green beans.
I can’t leave home without: Deodorant
I like to de-stress by: Reading
My biggest supporter is: My family
My favorite place to shop is: BCBG or Topshop
I can’t go to bed without: Praying
My favorite song is: “Omen” by Sam Smith and Disclosure