There are a lot of people, including Kelly Clarkson and Drew Barrymore, clamoring after Ellen’s crown. Why should we watch you?
Right now in daytime television, which predominantly female viewers watch, there is no show about relationships, no show about fertility. Nothing like that. The only show that talks about relationships is “Dr. Phil.” And I jokingly say: “If you’re there, you’re in trouble. It’s already over.” Here, you have this daytime audience, and no one’s talking about the very first thing we ask anyone, which is: “Are you gay, straight, dating, want to date somebody? What’s going on?” We saw this opening to have these serious conversations that are just life.
What’s the first thing you did after leaving NBC?
I prayed, I talked to my friends and my family, and I went to sleep. I woke up the next morning, and my phone’s like, people calling, calling, calling. I gave away clothes to Housing Works because I wanted to shed a layer — I’m sure therapy might reveal why — and I gave them a shout-out. That was very calculating of me. I admit it, because guess what? We don’t own that often as women. By midday I was told that my departure was trending. [Housing Works began to trend, too.] And when the reaction came, that began a process of me owning my own life. Social media gave me a platform to show what I was doing. I had a voice still, which is very important as a black woman in this business.
Were you getting offers?
That was February. In June, I was in L.A., and it was the first major pity party that I had, realizing that the job offers I was getting — for a woman with 25 years experience in this business — were very much in line with somebody maybe their first year out of college. And it took me aback. I had this little moment of sadness because I realized that, even in 2017, how many spots are occupied by women? How many spots are occupied by women of color? And so it becomes a numbers game.
What situation had been laid out by NBC when you decided to quit?
I was told I could stay, but there was no defined role. I would be an anchor on the “Today” show, but we didn’t know when I would be on, and I could stay at MSNBC, but we didn’t know what time. So I was demoted. Period. I never imagined being demoted would end up being a blessing.
Was it a fast decision on your part?
No, because there were things that had happened over the course of a year, where I knew or believed that they wanted something else in that slot.