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CONVERSATIONS WITH GIGI STONE WOODS
She is a sheer delight and inspiration. Getting to know this media maven revealed that deep down Gigi believes dreams DO come true; but not without sacrifice, a fearless attitude and some sly tactics.
Can you share with us a little about your process, getting ready for a story? What is the hardest part about what you do?
I have spent many years working as a TV news anchor, correspondent, and producer at NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, and Bloomberg TV. I also privately media train executives and performers, helping them crafting the message they want to convey to their audiences. Sometimes that’s the public, the media, press interviews, shareholders or staff. Sometimes it’s at a public event, in front of a crowd.
For me, the most important part of the process is exhaustive research and preparation. I want to learn as much about a topic or interview subject as possible, both so that I can best understand and empathize with their situation and make sure their complete experience comes through but also because doing that work in advance lets be more nimble when I’m there in front of them. If I feel confident about what I know, I’m able to ask better questions and that means a better interview.
My job is to create the most simple, effective, humanizing, and entertaining content I am able to write and present. The hardest part is weeding through “spin” and misinformation while making sure I nail down the facts. The job of a journalist is to know which end is “up,” even if everyone else is pointing in the other direction.
Growing up in your family…Did you always feel that you were allowed to be your whole self with them?
Gigi: Yes! I grew up alone with my mother and never got the chance to know my father. As a result, my mother and I have a wonderful and close relationship.
Meagan: How do you reveal yourself through style and wardrobe?
Gigi: My style has evolved so much over the years. When I was younger, I really wanted to stand out from the crowd and make a statement with my clothes—for better or often for worse.
It took some time to find out what worked for me, apart from what magazines were telling me was “in” right now. I’ve learned to embrace that, especially now that I’m a wife and mother and have a million things to think about before I even consider what I’m going to wear on a given day. I love classic, beautifully tailored, and well-made clothes with gorgeous fabric that I can wear through the seasons. I have a particular soft spot for brands like Erdem, Joseph, Dolce and Gabbana for special occasions and Hedge, for tennis and golf.
Meagan: Where do you think your strong work ethic has come from? Tell us the steps you've taken since college and the projects you've been doing.
Gigi: After college, I got my Master’s Degree in Journalism from Columbia University. Storytelling was always a passion, and I wanted to chase that. So I started the program thinking I would learn to make documentaries highlighting issues facing women and marginalized communities around the world. But while I was there, I decided to work on Columbia’s nightly newscast and fell in love with the thrill and quick-thinking involved in reporting the news. Right away, I felt like I’d found an occupation perfectly suited to my personality. It’s a cliche, but it didn’t feel like work to me at all.
As I got closer to graduation, I sent a “reel” with examples of my reporting to about 50 TV news stations in small cities across the country. The only one that called me back was in Missoula, Montana. I was told I was one of two finalists for an on-air reporting position and that the salary would be low. (How low? They told me that I would be eligible for food stamps.)
In the end, I didn’t get the job and I was devastated. So I got into a car and drove to different cities to introduce myself to networks in person. I called all the news directors and told them I was in town for a meeting with their rival TV station so that they would feel compelled to meet with me.
It worked. I convinced a news station in Wilmington, North Carolina, to hire me as an on-air reporter. Wilmington turned out to be an amazing place for me; the perfect launch-pad for a career in television. The gig there led to a news reporting job at NY1 News back in New York where I worked as a “one-man band,” meaning I was both a correspondent and a camera person. I had to set up the camera and run in front of it to stand there and report the news, usually from Queens, the Bronx, or Staten Island. From there, I got hired at ABC News. It was my dream come true to be part of the Good Morning America and World News teams, but I paid a price as I worked my way up the ladder. I spent many years working seven days a week, traveling 300 days a year, living out of a suitcase. I missed countless birthdays, holidays, and weddings. The job is a sacrifice, and I still feel so fortunate to have done it.
Meagan: In the book, Alice in Wonderland, the irresistible Cheshire Cat, says ‘we're all mad here’. It’s a wonderful quote because it's absolutely true. We are! Except when we meet people we don’t reveal these characteristics of our personality for a very long time or even to anyone other than family. How are you a little crazy?
Gigi: I love to laugh and have fun. Even in a dire situation, I can find some inappropriate humor. I also definitely leave the house with two different socks on and won’t notice a giant piece of tomato stuck to my face.
Meagan: What is the best compliment you've ever received?
Gigi: If someone thinks I have a good sense of humor, I will be their friend for life. But I also think it’s a huge compliment when someone just asks me for advice; it means they trust my opinion and respect what I have to say. That’s the highest praise.
Meagan: What was it like to grow up in Manhattan?
Gigi: There are incredible cultural opportunities growing up with such easy access to some of the world’s best museums, theater, ballet, and opera. It was wonderful to grow up in a global melting pot, exposed to so many different backgrounds and cultures. It also made me a more independent person. From my first job at the age of 15 working at David's Cookies, to career internships at media companies like MTV News and the public defender's office, I wasn’t afraid to hustle and get out there. Of course, the irony is as a little girl I often remember yearning to live in the suburbs with a white picket fence, a big family, and a Volkswagen Subaru.
Meagan: This is actually my daughter’s question… Do you have a secret that you would be willing to share with us?
Gigi: What a fabulous daughter you have. I didn’t learn to drive until I was in college and had to take Driver’s Ed at the local high school, but still didn’t really learn how. When I got my first job as a reporter in North Carolina, I had to enroll in Driver’s Ed there. Mortifying! One time I got into a minor car accident because I was so intently listening to the audio book Maya Angelou's autobiography. Her voice is mesmerizing.
Meagan: What is one of your simple or guilty pleasures in life?
Gigi: Guilty: I can easily eat an entire jar of almond butter with a spoon. I live for hip-hop videos. I go very deep into the rabbit hole researching conspiracy theories. If Area 51, the grassy knoll or Jeffrey Epstein were "Jeopardy" categories I could possibly beat Ken Jennings.
Simple: hanging out with my husband and children is my happy place and the thing I love doing most. I also really love reading and riding a bike outdoors in the country.
Meagan: I believe that books can be medicine for the heart and soul. For me, books create a way to not only escape, but you get a chance to experience something a character is going through and you can learn from them. You can identify with their situation and it really does make you feel like you're not alone therefore gaining empathy. What have you read recently or what is one of your all-time favorite books? What did you like about the characters? Do you feel you need to be an empathetic person to be successful as an anchor?
Gigi: I love to read books that make me cry, and I relate most to female characters who have overcome adversity. I admire characters who can overcome hardship or loss with grace. The protagonists in Toni Morrison’s, Jane Austen’s, or Zora Neale Hurston’s books are some of my favorites. The same characteristics draw me to characters in theater and movies. I like to say we are all a little bit Effie White from "Dreamgirls." I also have found some of the best life answers in everything from heartbreaking books like Viktor Frankl's "Man Search for Meaning" to happy children's books like "The Little Prince"
Meagan: What is a lesson you have learned lately?
Gigi: Treat everyone with love, including those who are unkind to you. I try to forgive them and send them positive energy because life is too short and precious to hold on to resentment, anger, or regret.
Meagan: As adults, we never stop growing and changing. How do you feel you are growing?
Gigi: You couldn’t pay me to be in my 20s again. I love the wisdom and peace that comes with life experience. I have learned to be so much calmer, more zen, and more satisfied than I used to be. I find I get more joy from life’s small pleasures. And more than anything, I have learned to no longer have FOMO.
Meagan: What scares you?
Gigi: Obviously, I think 24/7 about the health of my children and family. The idea of anything disrupting their safety and harmony is what scares me most.
Meagan: What are you most proud of?
Gigi: My sweet angel children are my greatest accomplishment, along with the life that my husband and I have created for them so far. We’ve been able to give them unconditional love and stability that we didn’t always have growing up ourselves.
I am proud of my ability to be resilient and bounce back after hard times. I am proud of my willingness to take on challenges and opportunities even when I am afraid of them. I used to wear a bracelet that said “fearlessness” and would secretly rub it as I was about to go do something I was afraid of.
And overall, I always try to be kind and honest and a good, loyal friend. I have kept many close female friends for more than 20 years that are still my best friends to this day and that is a source of pride as well.
Meagan: What endearing term did your mom call you growing up?
Gigi: Ma cherie (“darling” in French)
BIO: (stats…or a concise list of accomplishments/pride points)
Gigi Stone Woods is an award-winning, national TV on-air host, anchor, correspondent, and producer from ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, and Bloomberg TV. She creates, writes, and produces her own programming. Stone Woods has interviewed countless Fortune 500 CEOs, politicians, and celebrities. She has covered presidential elections, the financial crisis, and major global and national breaking news stories, as well as red carpet events including the Academy Awards and New York Fashion Week.
Stone Woods works as a freelance TV news anchor for national news programs on NBC News and MSNBC and appears as a business expert on various networks. She is the on-air host and co-producer of Hiring America, a nationally syndicated career advice TV show.
Stone Woods has worked as an anchor for ABC News and as a daily correspondent for Good Morning America, Nightline, and World News. At CBS News, Stone Woods anchored CBS Moneywatch, and CBSN and appeared as a correspondent on CBS This Morning.
At Bloomberg Television, Stone Woods co-hosted Bloomberg Enterprise, a program profiling the CEOs of fast-growing companies. She also created, produced and hosted the Inspiring Women In Business interview series on Bloomberg TV.
Gigi Stone Woods works as an on-air media trainer, TV consultant, conference moderator, media message writer, and press advisor through her company, Stone Woods Media. She teaches executives and corporate spokespersons how to best communicate their message and connect with an audience. She helps them prepare for public speaking engagements and media interviews, while creating and delivering a compelling story that resonates across various media platforms.
She received her master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.
Stone Woods is on the board of directors of education non-profit The Opportunity Network and is on the corporate advisory boards for various media companies.