Meet Natalie Morales: Hoboken Resident & NBC Today Show Anchor
Story by: Rory Chadwick of Hoboken, NJ
The other day as I was drinking an evening glass of wine at a local restaurant, I overheard the folks next to me talking all about the celebrities that live or are assumed to be living in the Mile Square city. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop but I was fascinated by the topic and kept on nonchalantly listening. The couple next to me spoke of rumors that LL Cool J and 50 Cent all had places at the W. Then they went on to NFL, NHL and NBA stars in our community. Then came the actors and so on. The couple was explaining to each other how each celebrity probably felt about the town and truthfully I got a great laugh at some of their thoughts.
Then it clicked in my head! “I know a local celebrity, let me ask them what they think about our town and some of the local happenings and so on and make a story out of it.” I emailed my friend Natalie Morales, correspondent / anchor of The Today Show. Natalie was all thumbs up about my idea and recently spoke with me for my exclusive story for TheBokenOnline.com I asked Natalie the following questions and her responses are below.
RC: TheBokenOnline.com is a resourceful site within Hoboken that focuses on where to eat and drink and also focuses on Hoboken happenings. Have a look at it and please give me your impression about it? Do you think this is a site in Hoboken that people should use?
Natalie Morales: It is a great site. Just discovered it thanks to you, but so necessary too because I always am looking for something to do with the kids. I do think it’s a great resource for the neighborhood from all the news on local politics and happenings around town to even learning your favorite recipes from our local restaurants. I will be sure to check it out now that I know it’s there.
RC: I see that you were born in Taipei and that you graduated from Rutgers University. How long were you in Taipei and at what age did you move to America and where in America have you lived?
Natalie Morales: My father was in the military (Air Force, Retired now) and during the Vietnam War, he was based out of Taichun, Taiwan. It was such a beautiful place to live, he decided to move my family there. I was all of about a year old when I left Taichun, so I have no memory of it but I do have a lot of super 8 film documenting those first days of my life. It does seem like a beautiful place and someday I dream to go back and explore. As a military family we moved on average every 3 years. So after Taiwan my dad was stationed in New Jersey (McGuire AFB), followed by international assignments to Panama, then Brazil… then we moved stateside for 3 years to Dover, DE which was followed by Madrid, Spain. I lived in Madrid the longest and during my formative years (12-17) so I consider it the place I really grew up. Unfortunately, my father got transferred my senior year to Dover, DE again and that meant starting over with just a year left of high school, which was not an easy transition. That then led me to Rutgers, where my dad is also an alum.
RC: I see that after college it looks like you were working for Chase Bank? What happened that made you go from banking to journalism?
Natalie Morales: I was a journalism major in college and had internships, but when it came to getting a job during the last recession in the 90′s… well, times were tough for journalism majors. So I decided partly to continue my education through a management training program at what was formerly Chemical Bank, which then merged with Chase Manhattan. It was a real-world lesson in economics, and not just professional but personally. I managed to save money during those 2 years and decided when the program was up that it was time to really make my move and find the job of my dreams, which was working in broadcast television and eventually reporting. From Chemical, I got a job at Court TV first in production and marketing, but that led to other things that eventually allowed me to launch my reporting career at News 12 The Bronx.
RC: When did you move to Hoboken and what made you want to move here?
Natalie Morales: I moved to Hoboken from Connecticut after getting a job at MSNBC in 2002. I had been working in Hartford as the morning anchor at the NBC O&O, WVIT, but when I got the job at MSNBC I knew I would have to live closer to the city. We looked all over NY and NJ and having studied at Rutgers and spent time in Hoboken, I remembered it was a really cool little city that was the best of both worlds. We found a house we fell in love with at first sight, and next thing I knew I was becoming a Jersey Girl.
RC: I see you’ve run the NY Marathon 3 times in addition to other marathons and triathlons, Hoboken is full of runners, do you still compete and can you offer any advice to local runners on how to train for marathons?
Natalie Morales: I do compete all the time, though I haven’t done a marathon since 2006. I’m sticking to half marathons now because they’re not as demanding to train for and more recently I have started doing triathlons. My advice is always to set goals for yourself that are attainable, of course, but that are big goals and require lots of hard work getting there. Also, get your friends and neighbors involved. My block on Garden St. is about the healthiest block in town because we all motivate one another. It takes a village as they say, sometimes to keep one another motivated too. It helps having a workout buddy or partner also, and my husband is very committed to fitness and running, so often we sign up for things and then run together.
RC: What are your 3 favorite restaurants in Hoboken, NJ? And out of the 3 which one would be your favorite and your favorite restaurant what is your favorite dish?
Natalie Morales: My favorites are Cucharramama, Zafra, and The Dining Room by Anthony David. My tops would be Cucharramama. I love the authenticity of the South American cuisine. I recently had my birthday dinner there and had an incredible appetizer to start which was a small pepper filled with sweet potato puree and topped with a Manchego Cheese sauce. Amazing. The Chef from Cucharramama recently cooked at the White House for the Obamas, that’s how good it is. And Zafra is a close second because it was my first dining experience in Hoboken. In fact, based on that meal alone I knew Hoboken was going to be a great fit because it had the cultural diversity I was looking for as well as all the benefits of a great city, though with a more suburban feel. The Dining Room is also a favorite … I love the entire menu, and the fact it’s BYO is really a bonus.
RC: Hoboken has had its ups and down recently in politics, any thoughts of the past, current and possible future of Hoboken politics?
Natalie Morales: I’m disappointed, as so many in Hoboken are, over what has been one too many political disasters in town. It is infuriating as well to know our tax dollars are not being put to better use. I can’t believe there are not more schools and playgrounds being built as our town continues to bust at the seams. I have no idea what the fix is, except to ensure there is real accountability at all levels of our government, but something needs to happen now. The great news is that there are so many people who love this town and believe in it as much as we do, so rather than defect, as so many have in the past, they’re sticking around and trying to make it better. My hope is with enough people like that in town now, who want to see change for the better, that day will soon come.
RC: When not reporting for “The Today Show” what do you enjoy doing? Do you have any hobbies?
Natalie Morales: Running through town along Frank Sinatra Drive and hanging in Hoboken’s parks with my kids. We also enjoy “stooping” with the neighbors — meaning a glass of wine, the kids playing, and all of us hanging out on our stoops.
RC: Being a correspondent on a nationally televised news show that starts early in the morning I have to assume you’re an early riser? Can you walk me through your day from start to end, ie when you get up, how do you get to work, is there a make up session every day, what happens during commercial breaks, how do you prepare for the stories you are going to speak about?
Natalie Morales: I get up at 4 am and hit the ground running. A car picks me up in the morning as it’s too early for mass transit. The perks I suppose of getting up before the rooster crows, I suppose. I’m usually in by 5 at 30 Rock and from that moment on it’s all about preparation. From reading the papers, to hair and makeup, and getting ready for my segments that day. I’m on the air Monday-Friday, hosting the 9 o’clock hour of Today, but I usually have earlier reports or segments as well, so every day is different and I’m ready for anything. To prepare for my stories and segments it just means a lot of reading, which thankfully, is my favorite part. I love nothing more than getting to my papers with a few cups of coffee. At 6 am I start off with a 2 minute web report (Today in 2 minutes) which we upload on our website and MSN. Then when the show starts I’m usually busy with getting ready for my parts. Even during the commercial breaks we are always moving and busy. Whether getting my questions for the next segment or sometimes just shaking hands with our crowds outside, we are always “on.” When the show is over at 10 am, I usually have a few things to do whether researching or writing upcoming stories to shooting pieces. Finally, I try to fit in a workout in the city before going home. Find it’s easier to get it done here and then go home to the kiddos for my real job, being Mom.
RC: Have you ever had any live bloopers that you can recall that make you laugh?
Natalie Morales: Oh dear, have I! I was filling in for Ann at the newsdesk once and had a story involving research on Alzheimers. It was published in the “Annals of Neurology,” or something like that… of course I read it as “Anals.” Al and Matt nearly choked they were laughing so hard and they would not let me ever live that one down. I’ve had, unfortunately a couple of bloopers It is live tv, you know. We can’t all be perfect (and that would be boring anyways).
RC: Do you see yourself living in Hoboken in the near future, is this a place you will want to call home for years to come?
Natalie Morales: This is the longest I’ve lived anywhere, so I think I’m staying put for a few more years. It is just such a great neighborhood and my kids love being able to walk to anything. I would have a hard time commuting again too, so for now, we’re here.
RC: When you are not in Hoboken, what are some other NJ towns that you like to visit?
Natalie Morales: We tend to go into NYC more than other parts of NJ.. .but sometimes we do take road trips to the Jersey shore (Long Branch) and I also love cycling now up 9W through Englewood and up to Piermont.
RC: Do you go to the NJ shore in the summers on the weekends or do you prefer other beaches in other states?
Natalie Morales:Sometimes, but not that often. We used to have a house in CT and enjoyed the beaches there, but we just sold it. We’re looking forward to getting out and about NJ more this summer.
RC: For those reading this story that want to pursue a career in Journalism, do you have any advice?
Natalie Morales: To understand the tremendous amount of sacrifice and work and passion it takes. A lot of people look at what I do and think it’s a glamorous job. Yes, there are glamorous moments, but don’t forget my wake up time as well as the long hours and weekends, holidays we are working. There are no real holidays in news, so we’re always working. You have to really love it to be good at it, and that’s why I do what I do. This is my passion and in the end, the sacrifice is well worth it. But there are many sleepless nights and days away from your family that can make it challenging.