Her office near Astor Place bustles with swirling cameramen, chatty editors, and speed-walking assistants, but Nancy Redd, host of HuffPost Live—a live-streaming network that uses the HuffPost’s stories, editors, reporters, and bloggers as its real-time script—is an oasis of calm. It’s par for the course for this newly-minted New York City mom (she made the move from Los Angeles a year ago), who delights in her buzzing work environment and the joy of second-time motherhood. Redd gave birth to a girl just four months ago, whom she named Nancy. “I come from a long line of Nancys and Amandas and I wanted to honor the women in my family this way,” she explains.
Her enviable job is a mix of producing and hosting lifestyle segments focusing on parenting, relationships and body image, and she has conducted interviews with such varied personalities as former Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, celebrity chef and “Top Chef” judge Hugh Acheson, and actress Sarah Michelle Gellar. She makes her home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with her husband, actor Rupak Ginn, baby Nancy, and a 3-year-old son, August.
On the day of this interview, Redd—who also happens to be a Harvard grad, a former Miss Virginia, and a best-selling author of several books—had just finished a segment about breastfeeding, a topic she knows well. “There are so many wonderful nursing moms here at work—we have a room for pumping that we share, divided up with curtains—and we talk, we complain about the ‘bad boob’ and have such a great time,” she says with a laugh. It’s this charming blend of sensitivity to hot-button topics mixed with genuine humor that makes her segments so poignant and popular.
You’re one of the original hosts of HuffPost Live. Tell us about a typical day.
Well, each day is different, but for the most part I start off on email. I get up with the baby and nurse, check my messages, and respond. I brainstorm titles for the segments I’m working on and then when I come in to work I head over to makeup. In real life, I don’t wear a lot of makeup, but it’s an interesting plus to have this perk here. A little burden is lifted as I sit there and relax and gossip. Next up are meetings to plan segments, and then I’ll do the live spots in front of the camera.
What kinds of stories are you working on now?
I have one coming up on kids and adults with Tourette syndrome and one that’s called “What I Miss About Being Fat,” which is a profile of a personal trainer who used to weigh 300 lbs.
What kind of angle do you look for when you’re researching a potential segment?
In general I cover body image, health, and all things parenting, but I like to look for stories that are under the radar, or topics that have to do with chance. For example, I just booked a segment about a woman who has three sets of twins, but didn’t go through IVF and has no history of multiples in her family. I mean, what are the odds of three twin pregnancies—and each one is boy-girl! I’m also very interested in body politics, which could include things like piercing your baby’s ears or circumcision. But for that last one, I want to look at it from the perspective of adult men and ask them how they feel about their circumcision and whether they regret it or not.
Who has been a mentor to you and what’s the best advice you received?
It sounds weird and a little embarrassing, but [my mentor is] my husband. He’s my best friend—we met in college and sort of grew up together. He’s my cheerleader, always the one to push me and say: “You can do this.” He eases my worries and gives great advice, too. The best [advice] I got was when I was being contacted for this job at HuffPost Live. I was working in Richmond, VA at the time when the call came in, and my first reaction was [to say] “no.” I said: “I can’t do this, I’m the heaviest I’ve been and I feel out of the game.” But my husband insisted and reminded me that this was my dream gig. He said: “Just charge the plane ticket to our credit card and go!”
You’ve recently moved here from Los Angeles. What do (or don’t) you miss about it? What do you like to do for fun in the city?
It’s been a great transition to New York because my husband grew up here and has family in the city, so our circle grew so much wider with all this help and love. I have to say, I don’t miss driving! We moved here when I was pregnant and I didn’t like being behind the wheel at that point. It’s so much easier to get around now—no more car, just hop on the subway. And New York is the best when it comes to date night because everything is open late… My husband loves to take August to the museums and we both enjoy the parks, particularly Riverside. My husband grew up going to Hippo Park, so we always go there. But for the most part, we stick to our little “home,” a two-block radius on the Upper West Side. We go to Manhattan Diner and Szechwan Gourmet, [which are] easy places with the kids.
What are some of the joys and challenges you’re facing with your kids right now?
We’re potty training [my son] right now, so that’s challenging for sure. And there’s the pumping! But breast-feeding is so much easier with the second child—you know what you’re doing. And this baby just doesn’t cry! It’s strange, so I Googled it to see if something was wrong. But my mother-in-law told me that her needs are being met and that’s why she’s so good.
How does your parenting style differ from your husband’s?
Well, we’re definitely on the same page, but our styles are yin and yang. Everyone who knows me might think I’d be the disciplinarian because I’m pretty hardcore and definitely Type A. But I can’t help laughing when it comes to my son. I have to hide my smile when I’m disciplining—so my husband does more of that.
Tell us about the books you’ve written.
I started writing in college and that work became my first book, The Girls’ Guide to the SAT. I later stumbled upon the idea of writing a body book for young women that didn’t have drawings or cartoons but actual, un-airbrushed pictures of real girls. I mean, I always wondered what nipples or cellulite or dandruff really looked like! I hired a photographer and posted ads on Craigslist to recruit people to sit for shoots, and that became Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers.
You were Miss Virginia in 2003 and won the swimsuit competition in the Miss America pageant. What kind of body image advice would you give women today?
When I first started writing on this topic, there wasn’t much information out there. But today, I’d tell girls and moms to take advantage of these great women who are brave enough to take a picture and post it and say: “This is me in a bikini—like it or not!” Take solace in those “mommy tummy” Pinterest boards and know that we should celebrate all body types and be proud. I also want to remind girls that you’ll never be the same weight all the time—it goes up and down—but it’s important to love your body, even though it can be a hard journey some of the time.