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Zuri Hall: “Cultivate a Peaceful Tone for Your Morning”

Establishing healthy boundaries with my loved ones, and practicing respecting theirs; weekly or monthly therapy sessions, so I can check in with someone to help me process, explore, and protect my emotional state and needs; and also — having a good cry every now & then! Sometimes it can feel like it’s for no reason at all. […]

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Establishing healthy boundaries with my loved ones, and practicing respecting theirs; weekly or monthly therapy sessions, so I can check in with someone to help me process, explore, and protect my emotional state and needs; and also — having a good cry every now & then! Sometimes it can feel like it’s for no reason at all. But if you feel the urge to let it out, and you’re in a space where that can be done comfortably for you — let it out! Nothing wrong with a good, strong cry on occasion. It’s very cathartic.


Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?

As a part of our series about “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Zuri Hall. She is quickly becoming one of the most in-demand talents in the entertainment industry today. An Emmy-winning TV personality, producer, writer, and actress, Hall is a correspondent for Access Hollywood, co-host of its companion show All Access, and sideline reporter for NBC’s American Ninja Warrior. Hall first rose to prominence during her four years as a full-time entertainment correspondent and fill-in co-anchor for E! News. She previously had overall deals with MTV, and Fuse TV — where she was the co-host of the daily music countdown show Trending 10. A multi-disciplined creative artist and producer, Hall also created, co-produced and starred in the digital series “What’s Good with Zuri Hall”, an E! News original series that took a bite-sized deep-dive into pop culture topics that celebrated and explored diversity & culture in Hollywood. She has appeared opposite Jen Aniston, on AppleTV+’s The Morning Show; and made various other scripted appearances including on E!’s The Arrangement, TV Land’s Nobodies (executive produced by Melissa McCarthy), and the comedic digital series Hashtaggers. Hall studied improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/17b31cb75bc3a91532a80ec7c58354d4


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series Zuri! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Sure! I grew up in Toledo, Ohio in a very loving family with my parents and two brothers. I was a bit shy — quiet whenever I wasn’t on stage or in front of a camera, but those two things were always my opportunity to show the more extroverted side of my personality. From a very early age I was a proud bookworm, and absolutely loved theatre and the performing arts.

I’d write plays when I was in elementary school, and then have the neighborhood kids line up at my front porch to “audition” to be cast in my next front yard production I was planning to direct! Haha… At age twelve I tested for and won an academic scholarship to attend the private, independent country day school on the other side of town; I’d take the yellow school bus from our home in the inner-city to the ‘burbs, for the next six years — through high school graduation.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I knew from a very young age that I wanted to pursue a career in entertainment, so I’ve been working at it ever since — ever since those front yard plays and living room musicals I used to produce! Acting & writing are my first loves, and I also focused a lot on singing/songwriting throughout my high school and college years. I was on a full academic scholarship ride at Ohio State University, and nearing graduation… I stumbled across an online announcement that a local TV station in Indianapolis was holding auditions to cast a “Face” of their smaller sister station; so I hopped in my ’99 Ford Taurus during a hot “almost summer” Ohio (with no working A/C, mind you) and drove the three hours from Columbus to Indianapolis.

Long story short: after driving back quite a few times for elimination-style rounds and competition… I beat out the hundreds of others who competed, and landed a one year, part-time position with the station! From there, my career in TV hosting began to snowball; soon I was emceeing for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, and the MiLB’s Indianapolis Indians (in addition to my original work at the CBS affiliate’s sister station). II climbed the local news ladder, with stints in Dayton, OH, and anchoring the evening news for the CW affiliate in Dallas, TX (I even worked the weather wall!).

My goal was to be national by the age of 25 — and that happened, when at 24 in Dallas I flew out to NYC to audition for the cable music channel, Fuse TV. They offered me a contract to co-host their music countdown show, so off I went to New York! I spent a year there, then MTV; and left NYC to move to LA for one of my dream jobs — hosting & correspondence for E! News; after five awesome years there, I decided I want to hit that next goal of entertainment news hosting at the broadcast network level — and I joined Access Hollywood, in addition to my sideline reporting duties for NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior”. I’ve been here for over a year now, and I’m loving it!

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My parents have been and continue to be my biggest fans! They sacrificed a lot and worked long hours to put my brothers into the private school that I’d won the scholarship to attend — so that we could all stay together. My

Papa was also my “#1 Fan” (you can have more than one, right?! haha); he was my mother’s father — and he was such an advocate for me, and a source of motivation. Papa would drive me to my rehearsals, and be front row at every performance; his endless words of encouragement, and books he thoughtfully picked out for me (always with a handwritten note in front book sleeve; he helped me craft work-related emails as I took my first steps into the professional space after graduating from college; the list goes on & on.

Papa was even the one who agreed to pick me up one early morning and “sneak” me to the scholarship testing for that country day school! My parents were (understandably) concerned about the tuition fees, and initially hesitant to get my hopes up if I tested. I’m pretty sure by the time the early morning pick-up came for the scholarship testing day, my parents were very much aware that Papa was scooping me up to take me… but in dramatic fashion, I still like to pretend that he was my getaway driver to the next chapter of my 12-year-old life (which is what I very much told myself at the time), haha. Although he passed on 8 years ago, the lessons he taught me (and beautiful emails and letters he wrote me) live on — I feel his presence, often.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

“Their Eyes Were Watching God”. It’s a 1937 novel by a queen of the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston. Janie (the main character) is a woman on a journey to self-discovery and liberation; those themes resonated with me from an early age in my teenage years. I’ve always sought to find and maintain my independence and, like most of us, the bumpy, winding road to realizing and then being brave enough to own the truths of your essence and life. As I read about Janie’s journeys to liberation and love, Hurston’s writing was really etched into my mind — one that had only just begun her own journey.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.”

I like to look at life as a series of new beginnings. It’s the attachment to things — the way things used to be should be, or might be — that can cause so much suffering for us. That quote by F. Scottt Fittzgerald resonates so much with me because it’s a reminder to be brave and bold; and to never fear the opportunity (or necessity) to begin again.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

This past November I launched my podcast “Zuri Hall’s Hot Happy Mess” — in partnership with iHeartRadio and Charlamagne Tha God’s Black Effect Podcast Network. I’m the executive producer and host, and it’s a show I’d been developing for nearly a year before having the awesome opportunity to team up with iHeart and Black Effect to bring it to life. The show is all about celebrating your magic in the middle of life’s messes — learning to embrace the “hot”, “happy”, and “mess” of our lives at the same time; instead of putting off our living for some yet-to-be-determined date when things are “all right”. And we really focus on Best Life, minus the Burnout.

My show is a fun mix of solo commentary; expert panels + discussions with licensed therapists; funny group chat segments (with my real-life friends); real stories, featuring real, everyday women. It’s catered to mindfully ambitious Millennial women, but I’ve been so inspired and encouraged by women and men of all ages telling me they’re listening in, and loving it. The topics we discuss really are for everyone: mindfulness, wellness, how to pivot (in work or life), relationships, career…. The list is endless!

In addition to Hot Happy Mess, I’m super excited because we’re gearing up for Season 13 of American Ninja Warrior, on NBC! I’m so grateful and honored to be a part of our team. This show helps so many people because we highlight amazing stories of triumph over tragedy; the art of perseverance; and the pure thrill of watching these ninjas do amazing physical feats of athleticism.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In our work, we talk alot about cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

● Set Intentional Time for Rest + Restoration

○ I’ve gotten into the practice of blocking out time on my schedule… maybe an hour on a weekday, or sometimes a full 3–4 hours on a weekend day (when I can swing it). And the title of that “appointment” is quite literally: “RELAX + REST”. You know how sometimes we get so busy that we forget to eat? We look up and it’s the afternoon, and your stomach is growling… but you’d been too busy to notice until then! It’s the same with “doing nothing”. Unless I’m intentional about my commitment to not doing anything, it’s easy to look up and realize I’ve “somehow” filled up every nook & cranny of my days with something. In a recent episode of Hot Happy Mess, I explore the idea of “Niksen” — the Dutch lifestyle concept of “doing nothing”. I highly recommend it! (The podcast, and the concept haha)

● Cultivate a Peaceful Tone for Your Morning

○ I’m not a morning person! I don’t sleep in as late as I used to, but even still — I’m one of those “I’d happily not utter a single word for the first 3 hours of my day if I didn’t have to” kind of people, haha. The less-than-stellar habit of hitting snooze a few times, and then being forced to jump head-first into a whirlwind of a day, is definitely a habit I had (and still struggle with sometimes). But my best mornings are the ones where I show up for myself. I commit to waking up just 30 minutes before I have to do anything for work, or others. I lay in bed, wide awake (sometimes I light a lavender-scented candle, on my nightstand first). Then I start with a short prayer of gratitude, and then read a few pages (whether it be a novel I’m enjoying, the Bible, or even a magazine); then I do a short meditation (5–7 mins) to set the vibe for my morning. The key, for me, is only using my phone when needed — usually for a guided meditation; and making sure I don’t check any emails, notifications, or calls during this first 30 mins of my day. It’s a nice, calm way to ease into my morning without sensory overload.

● Explore a Hobby or Activity, Purely for Enjoyment

○ This is one I’m still working on. For a significant chunk of my 20s, it was “work or nothing!” — which was not ideal for my mental wellness. With so much of my identity and daily life tied to work, it meant that my happiness and mental wellness was extremely linked to if things at the office or studio were going very well or not. Pouring into the other pillars of our life is a great way to ensure that even when one pillar is a little shaky (or completely caving in!), we are still steady and finding value and self-worth in the other pillars.

○ For me, it’s usually writing — or (don’t judge me) dancing like a maniac in my bathroom mirror while blasting my favorite songs, haha. I’ve also started to paint more. When one of those life pillars is something you do purely for the sake of enjoyment, it creates a fun (and in my case, creative) environment to go to for positive energy and entertainment. The satisfaction and lack of pressure that comes with doing something purely because you enjoy it, is so rewarding.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

I really enjoy the Meditation Studio app (by Muse). They have wonderful guided meditations, and you can customize the gentle sounds you hear underneath your guide — from birds chirping, to chimes, to gentle music or ocean waves; it’s a nice, long list. And the meditations are clearly organized by collections — they even have courses, so you can commit to a multi-week meditation course in an area that’s important to you. From Burnout and Stress to First Responders and First Date Jitters… Job Interview Prep, to Relationship Mindfulness. There’s something for everyone, and for many emotions and thoughts that you may need a little guided encouragement for. I highly recommend the app!

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Drinking more water (one of my least favorite things to do!); getting my heart going with some good cardio at least 3x a week (I enjoy light, morning mile-long runs at the park when I have the time); and yoga + stretching to feel limber and develop core strength… which keeps me comfortable, and feeling less “tight” physically after long, busty workdays.

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

I think healthy eating is easier said than done. And for a significant portion of the American population, it just doesn’t feel realistic, unfortunately — healthier, organic foods are pricey. And the average American can’t necessarily afford to consider that for their families when the bigger issue of just keeping food on the table period is a major, and legitimate concern. Fast, healthy options at affordable prices for working-class families (like the one I raised in) is something I would love to see more of.

Apart from that — when we do have information on healthy eating (and the means to integrate it into our lives), I think the reason we sometimes hesitate to commit is: 1) it takes time & intent (something we often don’t have much extra of), and 2) THE BAD STUFF TASTES SO GOOD. Trust me, I say that as someone who is heavy on that

second belief — I’m big on all the pasta, extra cheese on everything, and so. much. wine. Oh and just about every variation of meat & potatoes you can think of (I’m a proud Midwestern girl!).

For me, moderation is the key. I don’t deprive myself of anything I truly want…. But I eat slowly to savor my meals and make sure I’m giving my body time to realize it’s full (I very rarely walk away from a meal feeling uncomfortably stuffed). And if I know I’ll be indulging for dinner, I try to keep it light & lean for lunch — maybe a heavily massaged kale salad with grilled chicken and almonds (but, yes, you better believe there will be Parmesan cheese on it!).

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Establishing healthy boundaries with my loved ones, and practicing respecting theirs; weekly or monthly therapy sessions, so I can check in with someone to help me process, explore, and protect my emotional state and needs; and also — having a good cry every now & then! Sometimes it can feel like it’s for no reason at all. But if you feel the urge to let it out, and you’re in a space where that can be done comfortably for you — let it out! Nothing wrong with a good, strong cry on occasion. It’s very cathartic.

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.

That it works! “Smile” by Nat King Cole is a go-to song for me. I read a long time ago that just the simple act of smiling can immediately improve one’s mood a bit. I agree. As goofy as I felt at first, I started forcing myself to crack a smile when I felt down or needed an instant mood boost in a public or professional setting… it helps! I also have a fun promise to myself (that I recommend others try, with a song of their own) — anytime I hear “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire (one of my favorite songs), I have to smile! I’ve been doing it for years now… and it’s a fun, unexpected way to have to crack a smile no matter your mood, whenever you hear that beat drop!

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Daily prayer, if only for a few minutes — with a focus on gratitude, and thankfulness. I also enjoy listening to sermons via podcast, at least once a week. And finally, reading spiritual literature (for me, that’s often the Bible and Christian Lit) — but it also includes a lot of non-religious, but highly spiritual reading that explores universal truths on love and humanity; universal themes that seem to resonate and rise to the top of most major religions.

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

I feel most connected to God, and the divinity of Mother Nature when I’m outdoors. Even a simple walk in the park, done with mindfulness, is so enjoyable — the natural rhythm of this beautiful world of ours… the birds, the trees, the sky blue, and vibrant greens. It’s really unbelievable how humans can spend so much time just trying to recreate the God-given beauty of the natural world around us. So stepping outside is a way I love to reconnect and feel spiritually well; it’s also great, according to attention restoration theory (a topic we explore in an HHM episode about how not to let social media take over our lives, or be used as a detrimental tool).

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I’d love to inspire a movement of kindness and grace, with much less emphasis on the material things; and more emphasis on community and connection. Society gets us all so caught up in the rat race of competition and comparison, and social media exacerbates that problem; it’s unhealthy, and it affects most of us. It also polarizes us. Hoda Kotb shared a great quote with me recently, saying one of her favorites goes something to the effect of: “It’s hard to hate someone, up close”. I agree. A movement that creates a safe space for us to be kinder to one another, and get to know one another with compassion and grace… well, that’s something I can get behind.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Former First Lady, Michelle Obama. She’s such an inspiration and an amazing role model. Watching the way she moved with strength, grace, and style in the White House during 8 of the most formative years of my young adult life — that was something truly special. Especially, to see myself reflected in the halls of the most significant four walls of our nation. Social justice & impact, and humanitarianism are two causes very near & dear to my heart. I have such a passion for working with underprivileged and inner-city youth (as I was one, myself) — and I can’t wait to do more.

Having an opportunity to sit down with Mrs. Obama to get the unedited, off-record version of “Becoming”, and explore more ways to use my platform and abilities for the greater good?? I can’t think of a better lunch date! For some reason, I’m now imagining this lunch over In ‘N Out… I’m clearly flexible on our dining options, haha.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can keep up with me on Instagram: @ZuriHall, and ZuriHall.com. And you can give “Hot Happy Mess” a listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts (and visit hothappymess.com for more)! I really love engaging with my listeners + followers on social media, so feel free to drop me a line. 🙂

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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