The Newscaster’s Blossoming Year
By Christine Stoddard | Photos by C. Camarena
On November 2015, Ainsley Earhardt of Fox News sat in a hospital bed with a view of the FDR Drive and the East River. Unbeknownst to her, the anchor and correspondent was on the cusp of becoming a household name. But for the first time in her adult life, Earhardt was not thinking about her career. Instead, she let the joy of long-awaited motherhood completely consume her. Friends and family from Fox News and her native South Carolina streamed in and out to see Earhardt and her newborn daughter, Hayden. They brought cards, gifts and enough flowers for the room to double as a garden.
Still, among the constant throng of visitors, one moment stands out.
“My parents are here and we’re watching TV,” says Earhardt as she sets the scene in an exclusive interview with Metropolitan. “We were watching Fox when the [hosts] start congratulating me for having a baby. They put a picture of my baby on the news.”
Suddenly, Earhardt’s identities as a broadcast journalist and new mother collided. The moment set the tone for 2016, the year that Earhardt says all of her dreams became reality—and in New York City, no less—just as she had always hoped.
Fast-forward to February 2016, mere days before Earhardt was scheduled to return from maternity leave. That’s when Roger Ailes, the chairman and CEO of Fox, promoted Earhardt to co-host of Fox & Friends. Her daughter Hayden was just four months old when she replaced Elizabeth Hasselbeck on the curvy couch with Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy. Since Earhardt’s arrival, the program’s viewership has spiked 30 percent.
“It took 20 years to get my dream job,” she says. “Now I’m finally able to breathe. It’s the best time in my life and it’s all been worth it.”
Prior to starting her New York adventure, Earhardt worked in local markets. She earned her first reporting job right after graduating from the University of South Carolina at local station WLTX-News 19 in Columbia, South Carolina. From Columbia, she moved to a station in San Antonio, Texas.
“Our profession is crazy,” Earhardt says of the broadcast television industry. “The hours are all over the place and you don’t get paid a lot in the beginning. You miss out on what your friends are doing on the weekend. But I was passionate and willing to make those sacrifices.”
From San Antonio, Earhardt made the jump to Fox News in New York City joining the channel’s signature morning program after spending nearly a decade working in less prominent roles. Starting in 2007, she reported on weekend and overnight shifts.
“I’ll never forget when my dad asked if I would get paid more because I worked on the weekends,” says Earhardt. “I said, ‘No, Dad. But that’s where you have to start.’”
Her first glimmer of stardom came in 2013. That’s when Earhardt was named the co-host of Fox & Friends FIRST, the 5 a.m. weekday show. The role allowed her to fill in on Fox & Friends and anchor on weekends before she scored the position of weekday co-host. “Sometimes I can’t believe how good God is and how blessed I am,” says Earhardt. “There are only five main network female anchors and I get to say I’m one of them. I still pinch myself because I can’t believe it.”
THE JOURNEY TO MOTHERHOOD
Earhardt also marvels at her chance to become a mother. Though she had wanted a child for years, she was not sure about the timing. She always prioritized her demanding career.
“I remember focusing so much on my job and putting off having a family until I was at the place where I wanted to be in my career,” says Earhardt.
Then she married Will Proctor, vice president and wealth advisor at Neuberger Berman, in October 2012. Feeling supported at Fox, Earhardt and her husband tried for a baby. Unfortunately, their efforts were not fruitful the first time and Earhardt suffered a miscarriage. The couple was desperate to try again. “I would see moms with their babies pushing strollers on the street. And I said, ‘Please, Lord, let me have a healthy, viable child,’” says Earhardt.
When she got pregnant the second time, she kept going in for ultrasounds out of fear she would lose another baby. Earhardt was reassured when the doctor repeatedly told her how healthy her child was. “When I heard that heartbeat, I couldn’t wait to be a mother,” she says. Happy and relieved, she announced her pregnancy on Fox & Friends FIRST in June 2015.
Still, Earhardt will never forget the struggle of trying to plan her career and family in her thirties. She learned that sometimes plans make no difference.
“We tell God that this is when it’s going to happen and God says, ‘No, that’s not going to happen,’” says Earhardt.
This is what she recommends to other ambitious city women balancing career and family dreams: “Just try; just do it. It might not come as easily as you want it to. Embrace it.”
BRINGING UP BABY
Of course, much of what Earhardt has planned has happened. Now she has the glamorous job, the baby and the husband of her dreams, all in the city that has captivated her since childhood. As a little girl in South Carolina, Earhardt remembers watching Big Apple events on television. It didn’t matter if she was soaking in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or witnessing the Rockefeller Center Christmas-tree lighting—she was enchanted.
“Events like those are magical to me,” says Earhardt. “They represent something so much bigger than New York City. They represent America.”
Now that she’s a mother, Earhardt sees these events as treasures to offer her child. She recalls a recent conversation with a woman at church, who said that in other parts of the country, you can read books about Renoir and Van Gogh to your child. In Manhattan, you can take your child to the museum across the street to see the artists’ real works.
“It’s educational raising children in New York City,” says Earhardt, who cites the ballet, concerts and the zoo as just a smattering of the city’s many gems.
Though she has lived throughout Manhattan and in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood, today Earhardt calls the Upper East Side home. She considers it the ideal place to raise her daughter.
“The Upper East Side is more my personality now. It’s very family friendly,” she says. “I love to go downtown, but being a working mom makes it harder now.” She lists the schools, restaurants and museums among the neighborhood’s perks. Earhardt also appreciates her church community and her proximity to both the airport and Long Island. “It’s the perfect neighborhood,” she adds.
Earhardt grounds herself in the neighborhood through church and her daughter’s activities. Though only 15 months old, Hayden keeps a dynamic schedule with music and swim lessons. Soon, Earhardt plans to enroll her in French lessons, too.
“Now that I’m a mom, I am a lot busier,” she says. “My schedule is jam-packed. I’m not only taking care of one person but two.”
Earhardt, who has the help of a nanny, takes pleasure in spending time with Hayden. Often it means multitasking (like taking a phone call from a magazine writer while her daughter is napping). While she understands some women do not want children, Earhardt cannot imagine another choice for herself.
“It’s such a fun experience,” she says. “You see life through someone else’s eyes—your child’s.”
She remembers how seeing rain and feeling snow for the first time struck Hayden with awe.
She tells the story of Hayden’s first encounter with a furry friend.
“I breezed into a store with Hayden in my arms and she just started cackling. I turned around and saw there was a lady in the store with a dog,” she says. “Hayden had never seen a dog up close. The dog was all excited, wagging its tail. I thought, ‘That’s so cool.’ I love that she loves animals.”
AN AUTHOR AT LAST
Earhardt thinks Hayden inherited her love for animals from her. After all, when the television journalist first sat down to write a children’s book, she wrote it about her dog. That book, however, was not meant to be.
When Earhardt met with her publisher, she was urged to write about her life. After thinking about it and going back and forth, she recognized the beauty of something her father used to do for her when she was little. Since Earhardt’s mother left home early for work every day, her father was in charge of breakfast. He took it upon himself to introduce a new poem, prayer or phrase to his children every morning. He wanted to educate and encourage his brood before they went about their tasks for the day. That tradition inspired Earhardt’s first book and New York Times’ bestseller, Take Heart, My Child.
Earhardt could not have predicted the storybook’s popularity. In fact, she was terrified that the title would flop. She recalls urging people on air to come to her first book signing.
“I was scared no one would show up, but at the Barnes & Noble, people were lined up for hours,” she says. “We sold out of the book in two days, so we were rushing to print more. We were calling different printers around the U.S. Originally, the publisher planned to print the book in China, but I said, ‘No, keep jobs in America.’”
More dreams to come
Even with all that has happened since late 2015, Earhardt is not done dreaming. She hopes to author at least two more books and continue reporting big stories on Fox & Friends.
“This is a glorious time in my life,” she says. “I have my dream job and I became a mother. New York is where dreams come true.”