Hoda Kotb on facing divorce and breast cancer in the same year — and why style helps even in the worst of times

After battling through a double dose of personal crises, Hoda Kotb pulled off the greatest success of her television career- making the fourth hour of the "Today" show into a hilarious, mid-morning cocktail party. We spoke to Hoda about her new memoir aptly titled, Hoda Kotb: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer and Kathie Lee. Find out why she decided to write the book and about her faith in the transformative power of a great dress.

As an Emmy-winning journalist, you've perfected the art of telling other people's stories. What made you decide to tell yours?

I'm much more comfortable saying, "It's in the rearview mirror, I'm moving forward," but every now and then you meet someone and they change your life. I was on the plane home from a "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" segment. I'd recently had surgery, and I didn't feel good. I just wanted to curl up and go to bed, but the guy next to me starts talking. "So," he says, "What's Matt like?" and on and on. I'm thinking, Jesus this guy. . . what is he doing? By the end of our conversation I'd told him I'd had surgery and that I had breast cancer, but that I hoped when he gets off this plane he didn't say, "I met this woman with breast cancer." I hope there are 4 or 5 things he thinks of before that. And he said, "What is wrong with you? Look, breast cancer is part of you. It's like going to college or getting married or working at NBC. Don't hog your journey. It's not just for you. Think of how many people you could have helped on the plane ride home." And I looked at that man and I bawled.

Wow. An unexpected epiphany.

It really was an epiphany. You can put your stuff deep in your pockets and go to your grave or you can help someone. That was the day I decided I was going to talk about it.

What is the most important piece of advice you'd give someone going through something similar?

If at the end of the day you are still standing, even if you're shaky or teetery, you get a four word takeaway: You can't scare me. Those four words are incredibly powerful. After my surgery I had this fearless feeling. I went up to Jeff Zucker, the head of NBC, and Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, and I did something I'd never done before. I actually asked for a promotion. I'd heard about this new hour of the "Today" show starting and I said I think I should be considered and here's why. I honestly think if I didn't get breast cancer I wouldn't be anchoring this show. I wouldn't have had the guts to go ask.

One of the things I love about your book is that you also talk about struggles at the other end of the spectrum…. Like hair. Yours always looks great, by the way.

Oh lord, it takes five flat irons, a hammer and a gallon of gel to get it into shape.

"Weather-sensitive" you call it.

Yes! Exactly.

It's funny that you say your hair is a lot of work because your on-camera style seems so easy. Lots of dresses in saturated color.

I love color! Especially jewel tones. They just put you in a good mood. I love dresses because they make my life so simple. Diane von Furstenberg, Tori Burch, Kay Unger, David Meister. Fit is a big part of it. I'm 46-years-old and I finally figured out what to wear. When I feel bad and I'm in the makeup room saying this is not going to be a good day, I go to the closet, put on a dress- yesterday it was Trina Turk- zip it up and it feels like heaven. It changes you.

So something as small as a great dress can help you change direction.

Absolutely. Change doesn't have to start with something overwhelming. I heard someone say once that the way you spend your days is the way you spend your life. If you want to know what your life is like, just look at your Monday. It's probably similar. If you change Monday, then Tuesday then Wednesday, pretty soon it's a week and then a month and then it's a year and pretty soon you are a different person. But the change itself doesn't have to be that big of a deal. It's something we can all do.

One last terribly important question: Shoes or bags?

I love a cute shoe but I don't have a ton. I have a lot of Kate Spade and have you seen the Cole Haan Nike Air? A genius idea. I've been told many times that I need more bags. My bag is so heavy. There's a lot going on in there. I reached in and pulled out a stick of cheese the other day. I kid you not.



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