Tamron Hall is known just as much for her closely cropped hair as she is for her journalistic chops. On this week’s “Renaissance Man,” the talk show host told me why in a sea of newscasters with flowing manes, she has embraced her trademark ’do.
“I got the haircut because my boyfriend at the time was in love with Anita Baker and I was in love with him,” she said. “And I cut my hair. This is pre-Halle Berry … I was at Temple University and this man was obsessed. He was from DC, and you know DC brothers love the short hair.”
Well, it got back to the Detroit icon, who, by the way, is a surrogate mother to me. And the singer reached out to Tamron. They’ve become friends, and Tamron has tried to get Anita on her show.
“The beautiful voice and the presence and the elegance are all real. But she’s also very shy … And people see [many performers] for their stage personas and not always for the person that’s behind the scenes.”
But this tried-and-true Texan won’t stop trying to book her. “Every time I mention on my show she’s a dream guest, people go crazy … I will not be canceled until this woman comes on this show.”
I’ve known Tamron since I played for Chicago, from 2002 through 2004, and she was working in that market. And when I call her name, it’s Tam’ron, like Cam’ron the rapper.
“I can always tell when someone knew me before I turned 30 because they call me ‘Tam’ron.’ Everyone after 30 says ‘Tamrin.’ So see, we go back, and I appreciate that,” she said, adding that she doesn’t have a preference. She just doesn’t understand when people call her Cameron Diaz.
“People actually have said to me, ‘Cameron Diaz, Cameron Diaz.’ I’m like, ‘Really?’ And I cannot tell you how many times [it’s happened]. It’s interesting.”
It’s difficult to confuse Tamron with anyone, let alone a blond, blue-eyed actress. She is a singular talent who is smart, gritty and knows her worth in an industry that wasn’t always hospitable to someone who looks like her.
“I’m an unapologetic black Southern girl with the state of Texas tattooed literally on my hip. And I wear those things proudly.”
She launched her career in her home state, worked in Chicago for many years, and was hired at MSNBC where she landed interviews with Barack Obama pre-presidency. She hosted a bunch of shows, including “Deadline: Crime” on Investigation Discovery, and then became the first African-American woman to co-host the “Today” show. The New York Post even called her “the hardest working woman in TV news.”
But in 2017, her slot on the “Today” show’s third hour was canceled, and she left NBC.
“When I was let go at my prior job, I remember going into meetings and … I was literally getting offers that I probably would have entertained my first year out of college. And I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. I’m the first black woman to anchor the “Today” show. I am an Edward R. Murrow winner and I’m an Emmy-nominated person. I’ve worked through the trenches. At one point I had seven shows on four different networks. And you think that I’m worthy of just filling in?’ I don’t need to be the star, but I certainly knew I had value.”
She said she tapped into the integrity she learned from her mother and grandfather, whom she described as having a second-grade education.
“I would take his advice over a Harvard grad any day. Any day.”
And she also took inspiration from her favorite movie, “Rocky,” a flick that made her cry as a second grader.
“We all get knocked down on the mat and we hope that we have the ability to get back up.” She did get up, and pitched the idea of her daytime talk show, which she eventually landed with ABC. It’s now in its third season, and she describes it in my language: hoops.
“I still get that feeling of local news … I’ll compare it to being in college basketball. You have love in the NBA, but there is nothing like love at the college level. For me at the local level, in news, that was like being in college ball, then coming to the national news … it’s a bit different. But this talk show turns out to be the best of both worlds,” she said, adding that it’s not about celebrity but telling stories of everyday folks.
She is also now married and has a son, Moses. She said her husband, music exec Steven Greener, is a sound board for her, and she’s also in therapy.
Though much has changed in the past few years, she hasn’t left her “Today” show roots behind. Tamron is still very close with Al Roker, calling him and his wife, Deborah Roberts, the modern-day George and Weezy Jefferson. She consults him for many things, including her son’s emergency surgery and what to cook for the holidays. Before one Easter holiday, she asked him for advice.
His response: “I get my lamb from my shepherd.”
Tamron said the only shepherd she knows is Moses. “Al Roker lives the finest life, but he lives it because he was raised by a father who drove a bus. [It’s] an immigrant family work ethic. You are not going to outwork Al Roker. [He has] biggest heart of anybody that I know. His family, his children, I adore. If I ever get in trouble — Al Roker.”
We spoke about the strength of Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles. Tamron recounted how much joy it brought to her family when Obama was elected in 2008. I also enjoyed her perspective on the state of the world and America today.
“Reverend William Barber, who I could not speak more highly of … said in a speech that I attended once, ‘If you tell your kids this is the worst of what we’ve seen, you’re doing a disservice to history.’ He’s like, ‘We overcame the Holocaust when the world had to rally to beat back evil. We at a point in the news could turn it on and see black people marching in Selma and beaten brutally. So we have seen the worst of humanity on many, many scales. Obviously, we’re too young to remember those things. But but this is not the worst of what we’ve seen.’”
We covered a lot of ground, both light and heavy in nature, and before I knew it, we were out of time and couldn’t swing my rapid-fire segment, “Gone in 60 Seconds.” But I tossed her one pressing question in the hopes that she’d quickly answer: Who’s the queen of the pixie cut? Toni Braxton, Halle Berry or Nia Long?
Conveniently, my old pal Tam’ron had to leave. “Oh my God. I’m gone,” she said. And this confirmed to me that there’s a secret sorority of short-haired ladies in showbiz and media. And the first rule of pixie-cut ladies is don’t talk about other pixie-cut ladies.
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book, “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.