“Picture that woman. I don’t want to say I was scared shitless, because I knew I could do it. But I also knew I wasn’t very good yet.” – Megyn Kelly [Vanity Fair]
HER ROLE MODEL is Oprah Winfrey, and one of the things Megyn Kelly took from watching Winfrey is, “She was just so good we couldn’t ignore her.” It wasn’t about being the first African-American woman to slay daytime TV, or a woman doing the hosting job usually for men. As Kelly sees it, “Just get to the table and then do better than everybody else.”
Ms. Kelly has earned her viewership through ratings that are challenging Bill O’Reilly.
But Megyn Kelly’s star has been on the rise since inhabiting the 9 p.m. ET slot two years ago. In the third quarter, Kelly beat O’Reilly in the advertiser-coveted 25-54 demo, snapping his 10-year streak (Fox’s record-breaking GOP debate helped lift Kelly’s numbers). [The Wrap]
The first reward for Kelly in 2016 is a big, glossy Vanity Fair cover that is usually saved for primetime stars and Hollywood actors.
Megyn Kelly’s Fox News show is required watching for anyone interested in current affairs and politics. Sure, she has her prejudices, but they don’t run along right-wing lines or Republican ones, necessarily. This week she previewed the Michael Bay film “13 Hours” with the men who were there during the Benghazi terrorist attack. She questions Hillary Clinton’s role in the attack still, positing that this film could dog the Democratic frontrunner.
Political shows succeed not just because the host parrots the viewers’ belief. People are looking for someone not in the tank, who may have biases because everyone does, but can also be fair. It’s a tough tightrope to traverse. Kelly doesn’t always succeed at it, but more times than not she can surprise with her no bullshit demeanor towards her guests.
And she owns her sexuality in a way that feels real and lighthearted. When Facebook C.O.O. Sheryl Sandberg recently came on the show to talk about how men who helped more with the housework had happier family lives and more sex, Kelly (who has talked about her breasts on the Howard Stern show and posed for racy shoots in men’s magazines) cheered. “We have been selling it all wrong in the past! More action, all right? That’s all you need to know, guys,” she said to the camera, giving a thumbs-up. “Do some laundry.” [Vanity Fair]
More than anything, Kelly exudes confidence and purpose, now that she’s found her “zone of genius.” If you want to know what that is read the profile.
Meanwhile, Ailes saw that he had a star on his hands—if only she weren’t so determined to be perfect. As she recalls, he called her into his office and said, “Go out there and make some mistakes…. And don’t be afraid of taking risks. You’re trying too hard. And I have news for you. You don’t need to be perfect. No one will like you if you are, by the way.” Kelly concluded that, for her, taking risks chiefly meant using humor at her own expense. “Or even humor at all,” she says, “telling a stupid joke and maybe they won’t find it funny. Which happens a lot, by the way.” An on-air colleague, whom she doesn’t name, told her that trying to be funny was too risky, and attempted to talk her out of it. Kelly listened to Ailes instead, and it unlocked her voice. It was their Up Close & Personal moment—without the romance and all the mushy liberal ideals.
The star-in-the-making was groomed by appearing weekly on The O’Reilly Factor, during which she and O’Reilly developed a bit of shtick: sassy daughter takes on cranky old Dad. (He would, and still does, call her “Miss Megyn” and has sometimes referred to her as an “anchorette.”) Over the years, she has challenged him on everything from the number of opportunities given to African-Americans to how to talk to women more respectfully: “You have a penchant for that term ‘Calm down’ [to women]…. It’s patronizing.” Her ammo has been simply to have facts at the ready. “I’ve told him many times on the air, ‘You’re arguing with your heart and not with your head.’” […]
Megyn Kelly has arrived.
Why do I watch her? It’s not to have my own views validated, and sometimes I fast forward though that’s hardly novel for me when watching the hours and hours of political shows over a week. Kelly is pro, a talent, and a first rate mind.
A woman of a generation that feels labeling yourself a feminist isn’t required because what she’s accomplished stands alone and beyond her gender.
In the smaller political arena within Fox News itself, Kelly, it seems, has taken the same, rather delicate tack in pursuing women’s empowerment: to fiercely pursue one’s needs while rejecting anything that sounds like lefty dogma. Her team is made up mainly of women, many of whom are pregnant or have just had a baby. “I’ve said to all of them, ‘If you feel overwhelmed, please come and talk to me and let’s try to find a solution.’ I don’t want all the young mothers to be driven off the show because they feel they have to choose between devotion to the show and devotion to their child.”
A lot of Hillary Clinton supporters still haven’t faced that there are many women out there that cannot relate to the “war on women” chant because it’s not their experience. Abortion isn’t in their top 10 issues for 2016, either. In fact, Kelly won’t talk about her position on abortion with anyone (except her husband).
So is setting her sights beyond the political dogfights.
Megyn Kelly wants to do what Charlie Rose and Oprah Winfrey do, in-depth interviews, and that’s exactly what’s in the works for her at Fox.