“I'm not sure how I define success. But I know I've had it.” - Jackie Levin
In this week’s episode host Portia Mount talks to Jackie Levin, storyteller and TV producer. We will follow this midwest native’s extraordinary career in broadcast journalism, from early career intern to the dizzying heights of producer for The Today Show and The Megyn Kelly Show. We’ll talk about succeeding at work and at motherhood in high stress jobs, the importance of self care, taking risks and using continuous learning to evolve oneself.
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Transcript - Jackie Levin
Portia Mount 0:28
Jackie Levin, so good to be with you here. And I think you're the first person that I have talked to who's come out of the media. So I have got a bunch of questions for you. Let's start here. So first of all, you've won all kinds of awards through your career, including four Emmy Awards. Can you talk a little bit about what led you into the media, television and content creation and just overall, what attracted you to the field?
Jackie Levin 0:56
Sure, sure. So thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here. I was very young, I have a brother who's 10 years older than me that, you know, was sort of in the field. And I thought it looked interesting. So I was like, Oh, I could do that. And, you know, followed his path a little bit. And through a family friend, I was able to secure an internship one summer while I was in college, which I think is so key, at least it was back then. And that was a long, long time ago. And I'm from the Midwest, I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and had never traveled to New York before. And so I was offered this opportunity and couldn't figure out how to pay for it. And, you know, I always worked hard and saved my money. But still, it was kind of a tough one. But luckily, I found a very inexpensive place to stay. And we figured out how I could do it. And I got a job, you know, along with interning at the time. I don't think these were paid internships. So I was getting college credit. And it was with Nightline, with Ted Koppel. It was just eye opening for me. I had never experienced anything like that, and never really been around people like that, who were truly the best of the best at the top of their game. And, you know, it was like watching Broadcast News. And I really mean that I'm sure some of these people, you know, were used as kind of, you know, models for movies like that.
Portia Mount 3:00
You're talking about the movie Broadcast News?
Jackie Levin 3:02
I'm talking about the movie Broadcast News. Exactly. I mean, these were just really, really cool people. And what I really noticed, there were really cool women. I think it was a very, this was 1987. And it was an interesting time for women in the workforce. So here's, you know, this little girl you know, coming from the Midwest, not an Ivy League school, I went to University of Illinois, state school, my father insisted on it. I think tuition was $2,000 a year. And I moved to the big city and just for the summer, and I really got a taste of it. And that was it. You know, I went back to college and my senior year, I actually found myself taking incredibly interesting courses that I probably wouldn't have done had I not had this experience. It just gave me sort of a thirst for learning more and more and realized, like, Oh, my gosh, there's so much I don't know, and, you know, suddenly cramming, you know, 13 years into my senior year of college and, and then I graduated without a job because in this industry, you know, jobs aren't waiting for you. You're not you're not cultivating jobs, you know, second semester, senior year, you can't that's not how it works. So I graduated without a job and started waitressing. And I just remember very distinctly, taking the L from my parents house, you know, to Chicago where I was working as a waitress, and just like, I gotta, I gotta, I've got to change this. Then, you know, suddenly, literally, like, I got a phone call from the team that I had, you know, interned with and one person in particular who I had worked with said my, who I think he was then her fiance was looking for an assistant and he was the head of booking for Good Morning America. And I was like, Oh my god, I'll do anything. So I interviewed and literally three weeks later moved to New York. And that was it. I had no place to live. I lived like on the couch of someone I knew through someone else. And then found a roommate, someone I didn't know also, and, you know, we lived in one of those very small kind of railroad apartments where you make the living room, a bedroom. And, you know, and I just made it work. And, you know, I've always been a hard worker and have had that work ethic that I don't care how hard I have to work and how many hours, that's what I'll do to get the job done the right way.
Portia Mount 5:59
So did you spend the majority of your career at NBC? Did you move network or did you move around? And maybe the other question is, how common is it for people to change networks? Or is it pretty typical to stay in a single network and kind of just move around within that network?
Jackie Levin 6:21
Well, I started at ABC. And I mean, I was so lucky. So lucky. And, first I was at Good Morning America for literally 11 months. I mean, it was a great place. And then the team that I interned for was launching this big new show called Primetime Live at the time with Sam Donaldson and Diane Sawyer. And the team called me up and said, Do you want to, you know, come over here, we need, we need like an audience coordinator, they were doing a live audience. And I'm like, I don't even know what that is. But it was basically booking an audience, you know, to sit people who were either connected to the content, or just people wanted to come watch a show, you know, be done live. And so I made that move, but it was within the network. And I stayed, and I moved up, I got promoted there to be, you know, a full time booker and associate producer, I think, throughout like the five years. And, you know, stayed there for I was at ABC for six years in total, I mean, and I was being thrown into stories that, you know, we're major stories and the bookers are typically the first ones out to go and literally book the, you know, prime subject of breaking news stories, whether it's a Gosh, I've been to a lot of places in Texas, and you're thrown, you know, out at the drop of the hat. And you have to have a bag ready to go and you have no idea how long you're going to be places I remember being in Oklahoma, you know, kind of going for the Anita Hill interview and spending a, probably at least a month there. I was in Waco, Texas, you know, when the branch davidians story broke. You know, I've been to Germany, you know, chasing after stories at an Air Force Base,but, you know, you're, you're kind of all over the place. It's truly incredible, but truly exhausting.
Portia Mount 8:31
I was gonna say, it sounds exciting. But it also sounds incredibly exhausting, because you're constantly on the move.
Jackie Levin 8:39
Always on the move. Don't know, when you get back to your apartment and pay your bills. You know, and at some point, think about it, you're, you're kind of being thrown into these god awful situations, in some instances. You know, where people have lost loved ones, and you're just seeing, you know, the worst. And then here you are saying, uh, you know, when you're ready to talk, you know, we would love to talk. it can take its toll. And so it's the kind of role that I think, you know, people can definitely move out of after a few years. So, After six years I followed someone who went to NBC, a senior producer, who was at Primetime moved to NBC to relaunch Dateline NBC, they had had some major issues early on, and the original team was let go, and he moved over to kind of rebuild the show. And so after a year's time, he was able to bring over some people that he had worked with, and I was part of that wave. And that was it. I was at NBC for 26 years, I moved internally within the network to different roles. Sure. But I didn't leave.
Portia Mount 10:01
So two questions. The first question is, in your view, once you were moving over to NBC, was there a defined career path that you were looking for? Or were you just kind of moving where the opportunity was presented? So that's the first question.
Jackie Levin 10:39
For me, actually, it is sort of the story I tell, I took a very nonlinear path. And I was in sort of the booking department and typically bookers, you know, sort of they’re bookers and then where do they go from there? There's associate producers and assistant producers and people who have more experience in the field with tape and shooting, and I just kind of, you know, kind of carved my own path as, as I felt ready, if that makes sense. I loved booking because it kind of opened up the world to me, I traveled to places I never would, but then I wanted, I knew very distinctly, I wanted to move out of booking and I wanted to get into more straight producing. So moving to NBC was an opportunity to do that. All the while, it's something I didn't mention, I always had this very unique role in that I dealt with the book publishing world. It was something that was handed to me when I was at Primetime, when it was starting. And the executive producer said, Hey, make sense of this world. It's a great another great source for finding good stories. Like we would look at newspapers and magazines, and people, you know, writing great nonfiction content, and autobiographies and such make great talent can make great television. So I established contacts with the publishing world over, you know, 100 publishers. And I carried that with me to NBC. So they asked me to continue doing that. But also, you know, said you can move more into the production. So I was kind of doing both, I just kind of made it up, you know, there were people who didn't make it up and followed a very straight path. I just made it up. And I happened to have this great boss, who was willing to kind of do it with me, because he trusted me, and he trusted my work ethic. So, you know, I did that. And then, um, you know, I got married, the year I moved to NBC. And, you know, I didn't see much of that, for me early on with the women who came before me it was there wasn't...
Portia Mount 13:03
They weren't, they weren't married?
Jackie Levin 13:04
There was a big group of women who really, I believe, sacrificed a great deal to get to where they were moving ahead, but they were, you know, either, you know, marrying much later, or, you know, just not married at all. And I'm not, you know, people make their choices. I'm not, I don't mean that in a negative, it's just something I noticed. So, you know, I got married, then two years later, you know, I was pregnant. And, and I expected to, you know, work until the very end and be back in you know, four weeks later.
Portia Mount 13:44
How did that work out?
Jackie Levin 13:45
It did not work out as planned, I just completely was not done, you know, like just, I was head over heels in love with my little boy. Who's now 24, almost 25. And I, you know, I couldn't figure out knowing what I was doing traveling to all these places, like, Oh, my God, how am I going to do this? So I came up with an idea. And I presented it to my boss, and I said, You know, I want to work part time. I want to figure it out. And we talked about it, it took a while, took a long time, nobody was doing it. And I know others had tried and were told no, and...
Portia Mount 14:28
But you weren't deterred by that?
Jackie Levin 14:29
I was not deterred at all.
Portia Mount 14:31
I love that.
Jackie Levin 14:31
And you know, we had a really good relationship. And we talked today he's like, figure it out. And let's see. And so given what I was doing at the time, my job, I said, I kind of sacrificed. I said, I'll lean more into the sort of book world which was more manageable, and I could manage my time and not travel really as much. And so I sort of put aside maybe some of the producing so you know, I kind of set myself on a different path unknowingly at the time, but I made it work. You know, first it was true part time. I was at home a couple days and in the office a couple days, but I tried so hard to make it work that I was working the days I shouldn't have been. And then, you know, we renegotiated, and, you know, they were like, okay, and we called it flex time. So I was getting paid for the work I was doing at home. And then, you know, fast forward, I had my daughter, who's, you know, about to turn 22. When they were first in third grade, I was given an opportunity to move from Dateline to The Today's Show, which was a big move. And I was like, Great, let's do it. And I was ready to go back full time. And I did. So that's actually when other possibilities opened up for me, I became a senior producer at The Today's Show and started seeing myself in a different way seeing like, oh, there is this path, I could be an executive producer. And made it happen.
Portia Mount 16:15
I think that's so interesting. So there's a couple things that I hear as you're talking, Jackie. one of the things that I think resonates for me is one, it sounds like you had your own internal compass, for what you wanted to do, you didn't have any fear about advocating for yourself, which I think is a really important theme that I've heard in so many of the, you know, women like yourself, that I've talked to is you've got to be willing to step out there and advocate for yourself, for the things that you want, even if it's, even if it's been done before, and it wasn't successful, you got you got to make the effort.
Jackie Levin 17:56
Oh a 100%, nobody else is looking out for you but you. And it took me a while to realize that. I mean, you know, I never realized that I was kind of, you know, a big advocate for myself. And, and trust me, it wasn't easy, you know, I had this sort of, I guess, FOMO at the time of, of the others what all these other people were doing. I was just really anxious about traveling and leaving, you know, at the time, my son, and how am I going to do this. And I think as moms, we have all this anxiety about the right way to do it.
Portia Mount 18:29
Jackie Levin 18:30
There isn't a right way, you know, you just have to carve out the path that works for you. I was lucky that I had a boss at the time, willing to be okay with it. But then I have seen you know, the alternative where a few other people did it after me and it was great. And then suddenly, they were dialing it back. And I just couldn't understand that. Like, how short sighted is that? You know, to say like, if people are grownups, if anything, we've all learned it now right? In COVID that you can do your job from anywhere.
Portia Mount 19:02
Oh, my God. Yeah.
Jackie Levin 19:03
You know, I didn't have you know, I mean, thinking back, I think I had a Blackberry at the time.
Portia Mount 19:13
I remember those.
Jackie Levin 19:15
Right, it was really different then. So it wasn't even nearly as easy as now. But, you know, if, if people are, are hungry enough to want to make it work, they're going to make it work. And, you know, it just makes for a less anxious workforce. I think so I tried to follow that as I became a manager, you know, recently, you know, last year before COVID, I had some people on the team who were having issues, you know, with parents, aging parents, and they didn't live in the same city.
Portia Mount 19:48
Jackie Levin 19:49
Yeah, and I'm just like, go, I don't care. You know, do go and if you can do it from there, do it from there. I don't know how happy HR was with that quite honestly but you know what, they're your parents. So I understood it. And I think the rest of the team understood it. And I tried to make those same, you know, agreements for others where I could.
Portia Mount 20:18
I love that. I think, frankly, it makes for better and happier employees, team members when they can attend to their personal situations. Do you think that being a woman, a senior leader made the difference there? Like, I'm curious, because this is a world that I actually know nothing about and there's a lot of, there's a lot of conversation about senior executive women and how good they are or are not to work for. And, you know, we could probably go down a long rabbit hole here, but I wonder what it's like in the media business and what you saw, like, what did you see there that worked well? And what did you see that maybe where there was a double standard if you're a woman?
Jackie Levin 21:32
For sure, boy, that is loaded
Portia Mount 21:35
Totally loaded, but we'll go there.
I really think it depends on the confidence level of the leader, and perhaps their own personal experiences I've had, you know, a female boss, say to me, you know, I remember, you know, when certain big, big news stories were breaking, and I wasn't kind of a part of the mix. So I had this, like, feeling of missing out on the coverage, not being a part of the team. But I was home with my kids. And this, you know, woman was very snide about it, and not supportive. And I think it's because the same, you know, opportunity wasn't afforded to her. And, you know, so it's a tough one. I don't, you know, I really think it's the manager and its upper management and the policies they put in place and how it is to support, you know, their workforce. And we've seen now obviously, men are taking paternity And that, I think, is becoming more and more popular, though. I'm sure. It's still looked down upon, you know, in some industries, and that's really sad to me.
Portia Mount 23:12
Yeah, I think it probably depends on the industry and the culture of the company, but I hope it's, it's becoming more prevalent as we are reading. I hope that's real, because I think for women to be liberated, like, men have to be willing to participate in flex time, paternity leave all of those things.
Jackie Levin 23:38
Yeah, I think you're right. And I think, you know, again, I, you know, I point to COVID as a perfect example of people being able to be at home and get the work done. And hopefully, you know, businesses will learn from that, and then allow for more, you know, for more flexibility, but, you know, the whole sort of female senior leader, it is a tough one.
Portia Mount 24:19
I feel like, if you're a working mom, you sort of have a, and particularly from a certain generation, you kind of get it and so you're probably more likely to be, to give your teams more flexibility. I remember when I was in the agency world in New York, and it was mostly single women at the top of the company and they didn't give a shit. In fact, nobody you didn't really see people married or having kids or when people got married and we're getting ready to have kids. They left the company. Which is also indicative, right, of the culture of like, this is not a culture where that values families, and so people say, Well, okay, I've done my time, and I'll move on to something that's more accomodating.
Jackie Levin 24:20
It's so sad. And that's, you know, it's such a, you know, big part of the workforce, that that you, you know, people would not be able to take advantage of, you know, it was a tough balance, also, you know, with people who don't have kids, and, you know, you could see sort of some resentment. I can understand that, you know, they don't want to have to pick up the load. And so I think it's, I think that, in some respects, the new kind of way forward will, will equalize that, and you know, that people, anyone can do their job, hopefully, from wherever, I mean, we were producing the show out of our, literally the floor of my bedroom. And if that can be done, it was pretty crazy. And, you know, and impressive. So, you know, I'm excited to see what, you know what, what will happen going forward.
Portia Mount 26:02
I totally agree, I think the genie is out of the bottle. And I think that if companies want to keep really talented people, they will have to be flexible. Otherwise, people will vote with their feet, because there are too many opportunities.
I want to pivot a little bit and talk to you about how you're thinking about success now. We're going to talk about the fact that you've got a career transition ahead. And I'm wondering now, Jackie, if your definition of success for you now looks different than when you started your career at NBC 20-26 years ago?
Jackie Levin 26:43
Yeah, definitely. Gosh, yes, I am pivoting. I left NBC recently, well, not so, about six months now. I'm not gonna lie. It was a tough decision, I think all around, but it was the right thing to do. I'm midlife. I'm not shy about it. But you know, I, I've always you know, I've always sort of had sort of a youthful, you know, I hate saying this, because I think it's also negative, you know, I don't look 55. But, you know, I don't feel 55 is more important than I think it's, it's all in sort of your mindset. I think that for me right now, you know, success. I'm not sure how I define it. But I know I've had it. And I'm really proud of that. I'm proud of everything I accomplished throughout the 30 plus years, and I'm not sure like, suddenly it crept up on me. And I had to write a bio for something recently, and I finally you know, wrote down all my accomplishments, and I hadn't done it in a while, and I was like, Yeah!
Portia Mount 28:57
Like, I'm the shit!
Jackie Levin 28:58
So you know, it made me feel really good. And I'm really, I'm excited to move forward into a new space. I mean, you know, I’m playing with a number of different ideas. Now that I'm not working, I built myself a little bit of a cushion to just kind of decompress. I hadn't decompressed in 30 years, I'm not gonna lie for anyone who's left a job, especially being at a place that you considered family. It is, you know, it's traumatizing and, you know, to the psyche, it's, it's really, truly a breakup. And in all respects, so I allowed myself to go through those emotions for the first few months.
Portia Mount 30:06
How did you, can you just talk about like, what was that process? Like, because you were there a long time. And I think a lot of people can relate to being in a company with those relationships you build, those bonds. Is it a grieving process? What's that, like? And how did you process that?
Jackie Levin 30:32
Well, that's a good question. And it kind of goes to, you asked a question a few questions ago, that I sort of ignored about staying at one place for so long. You know, that's not really, nobody does that anymore. That was like our thing. You know, it's like, you're loyal, you're loyal employee. Yes, stay, it becomes family. And for so many years, it was that for me, I went from one contract to a next there, I kept moving up, and there would be no reason for me to leave, I was at the best place, NBC News for God's sakes. But you know, all good things must come to an end. And you kind of like a relationship to grow apart. And, you know, and it was time. It is sort of a grieving process. You know, especially leaving during COVID.
Portia Mount 31:26
That's kind of scary too.
Jackie Levin 31:27
Yeah, you don't get your you know, I'm like, where are my drinks?
Portia Mount 31:31
No one's sending you, there's no going away party, right? You don't even get the rituals of closure when you leave like that, I didn't even think about that.
Jackie Levin 31:42
You do not, and you're like here and gone so I think it was probably harder for me than for them. You know, they were like, okay, bye and for me, you know, it. It was my identity. I mean, I was, you know, Jackie Levin, executive producer at The Today's Show. And my gosh, and, you know, everywhere I went, we had great conversations and people asked, you know, questions about the show, and, and then suddenly, I went from a million miles an hour to, you know, not, and I my whole body and, and mind had to, you know, just adjust and you know, for a long time, I would still get up at 4am. That was my normal routine.
Portia Mount 32:23
All those years, right? Oh, my God, I can't honestly, I'm not a morning person too. So when you talk about 4pm, my soul leaves my body literally.
Jackie Levin 32:31
4am. And then I'd be, I'd go to the gym at five. And I would work out literally for 40 minutes. And then or go running outside in the dark, you know, up and down, like, you know, the avenues in Manhattan and get to my desk, you know, I was the executive producer of the third hour of Today. So the nine o'clock hour. So I got to come in a little bit later than the team that, you know, produces the earlier hours. But I was there by 6:15 or so and 6:30. And, you know, and just starting my day. So it took a while to, really took a while to get out of that. But I forced myself to make a routine for myself. So I would continue working out. I'm a huge tennis player. And I always promised myself if I ever left my job. I would join like USTA teams and just play and I literally joined two USTA teams, and I'm undefeated in singles. Oh, no, I'm not. I lost my first singles match last week.
Portia Mount 33:25
I totally love that Jackie. You're kind of competitive, too?
Jackie Levin 33:32
I'm super competitive. I see how lucky I am to even be able to say that I have this time to, you know, work on my, my head and myself a little bit, whereas I know, you know, two and a half million other women can't say that.
Portia Mount 34:03
All the women who've lost their jobs, since the pandemic, yep, yep.
Jackie Levin 34:07
Absolutely, so it's, you know, that's important to me to think about as I move forward, you know, the type of work I want to do and the types of organizations I want to get involved in, you know, when you work in a news organization, you're very limited in what you can do extracurricularly.
Portia Mount 34:26
Oh, sure, sure.
Jackie Levin 34:27
And so, I, you know, I couldn't go to the Women's March. I couldn't, you know, There were a lot of things that I could not do. And, you know, I understand why, but now I'm, you know, I'm starting to think about all those avenues.
Portia Mount 34:41
That's kind of exciting that you're looking at new possibilities. I'm wondering, Jackie. How are you balancing? Or are you balancing the excitement of the possibilities with any fear or uncertainty? Like do you feel because you like you're so gutsy, ballsy, and that this, you know, you went after your goals. And now you've made this big leap. And I'm wondering, do you feel doubt? how are you dealing with it?
Jackie Levin 35:32
Yeah, oh god, I feel doubt every day. I still wake up every morning, kind of, like, I can't even believe that I'm not, you know, a part of that place. And I thought, you know, I would end my career there. So I absolutely feel doubt because, you know, all of us, we associate our identity so much with, you know, our business cards, quote, unquote. And so yeah, but then, you know, on the other hand, I may have left the job, but like, I took those skills with me. And I took that sort of institutional knowledge. And, you know, chutzpah, as I call it, and, you know, which, you know, I have it and, and I am more confident, I think now than, you know, ever before, and I think that comes with for women, you know, just with age, and so I would, you know, I would argue it gets better as you age. Yeah, I may have broken my foot the other day playing tennis and my, you know, my body hurts. But, um, I know what I know. And I know what I'm made of, and, you know, they can't take that from me.
Portia Mount 36:49
Oh, I love that.
Jackie Levin 36:50
Yeah. And so, yeah, I get down. And, and I look and I see what others are doing. And I make it a point every day to get up and read, read, read and stay abreast of the industry. And in fact, I probably know more about the new media landscape than I would have had, I stayed because I was in my little bubble. But there's a whole world of content creation out there. And I have so much to offer it. And so I'm excited about that. It's just how I position that going forward, which is tough. You know, it is absolutely tough. You learn who your friends are, when you leave a job that comes with some, you know...
Portia Mount 37:38
You're saying something there.
Jackie Levin 37:41
You totally learn who they are. But, um, yeah, so I'm figuring out, you know, how to position myself and continue to tell stories that matter. And that's what we were doing, you know, when I was running my hour, we were kind of The Little Engine That Could, I took over the third hour and actually launched, it became the exec my first executive producer role was launching the Megyn Kelly hour of The Today's Show, and, you know, so that was a hefty lift, and, and had to quickly rebrand that hour, you know, to bring it back to kind of the regular Today team who I had worked with very closely throughout the years because I was a Today person, person. So you know, so we started doing things in our hour, that, you know, just deeper storytelling. You know, refusing to believe that you had to program total silliness. I mean, a laugh is okay, and having fun and levity is super important to start your day. But, you know, people can also handle content that, you know, pushes you a little bit and makes you think and makes you cry at nine in the morning. But, you know, we bring you back around. I mean, who better than Al Roker to do that? You know, so.
Portia Mount 39:24
Yeah. And there have been so many stories like that lately, too, right. Like, there's glimmers of hope, but there's also stuff that makes you sob.
Jackie Levin 39:33
Totally, it's that real, right? You have I think you have to feel to be able to then do something and move forward and kind of act on and help people who are hurting. So I'm really, you know, passionate about those stories. And so I'm trying to, you know, work with people that feel the same way.
Portia Mount 39:58
I love that you are. So first of all, I love that you're so open about what you don't know. And what's your optimism about what's ahead, because I think so many times, women see other really successful women, and they're like, she's got it going on, she's got it all figured out. And the reality is that even the most successful woman has moments where you're trying to say, you are going as far as you can see, right, like you don't, but all the pics, all the pieces aren't there, But I hear you trusting the process that you're going to figure it out. And I think that's, I think it's really powerful. And I think it's particularly powerful. For the earlier career women who are listening in who may feel like oh, my God, like, it's not coming together, or, you know, they're, they've had a big change, they've lost their jobs. And they're trying to figure out what's next. And so, I so appreciate you, you know, kind of opening pulling the curtain back a little bit on that.
Jackie Levin 41:01
Well, I God, I would not have gotten through this period, if not for, you know, people being willing those who are, you know, my friends and total strangers, right Portia. I mean, we just met.
Portia Mount 41:15
We didn't know each other, right? Until, like, you know, like six weeks ago or so.
Jackie Levin 41:19
Exactly, total strangers, being willing to talk and listen and bounce ideas around and help each other. And I think there are, sadly, there was a, you know, a huge number of staffers who lost their jobs after I left. And, you know, I've been trying to help them find new roles, And that makes me feel so good. I, you know, it's karma. And I've certainly not been perfect, you know, I'm not gonna pretend for one minute that I was a perfect manager, and boss, and mom, and wife, and you know, and human being. But I've been, you know, really just spending this time. You know, working on all that, and, and exposing myself to all different ideas and people, because, you know, you just never know.
Portia Mount 42:22
You don't and I love what you're saying about connection. And I think this time has been one of the most interesting times for meeting new people, like I think this is, if someone were to ask me, what would be one of the top three things, good things that came out of the pandemic, I would say, I have been able to connect with people that I ordinarily probably would not have met, because of this time. And I want to hang on to that so much, because it has been amazing just to connect with women all over the all over the world, literally, who are all trying, like, have a vision for what they're trying to do in the world. And I think we should hang on to that.
I agree. 100% I mean, I would have never met you, I don't think I would have like joined you know, but for a friend saying, hey, here's a link to this organization about you know, female leaders, they're doing this program, you should do it, I would have never thought of that.
How women lead, we were in, we were in this program, how women lead, which is for women who were exploring, potentially going on to corporate boards, right? And, and all those women are like, badasses too. Oh, my God. I was like, I don't know if I belong in this group. We were all smart. What was funny. So sort of kind of back to I think our theme here. What was funny was we were all saying that about each other. Just like, Oh, my God, you're the bomb. No, you're the bomb.
Jackie Levin 43:59
Right. Totally, it was incredible.
Portia Mount 44:02
It was incredible. You know, so one I think and I think the other thing is we do need to sort of gas each other up. Right? Like, I think, I think we need women to support one another and to cheerlead each other. I want to pivot a little bit and ask you about failure and how you, you know, Jennifer, and I talk about talk in Kick Some Glass about glorious failure and about how failure is really an important path to creating breakthroughs, oftentimes, right personal, personal professional breakthroughs. So I'm wondering if you have a significant glorious failure that was a that created a breakthrough for you?
Jackie Levin 45:04
Oh, absolutely, gosh. I think that is so important. And again, you know, something I've sort of been leaning into after I left and listening to all these podcasts, your book and like Brené Brown talks about vulnerability.
Portia Mount 45:19
I love Brené Brown.
Jackie Levin 45:20
Exactly right? How to fail and learn from it and be okay with it. I do think it comes with, you know, age, wisdom, confidence, what have you, you know, being afraid to make mistakes, and learning from them and picking yourself up and moving on. When I was younger, every mistake was fatal. And I was such a perfectionist, and I just couldn't allow myself to make mistakes. I still can. I would say professionally, I, you know, I think I suffered, you know, great failure was when we were launching, you know, the new Megyn Kelly hour. And it was, you know, I was super excited. And super was my first role as an executive producer. And I was very determined to make it work. And I and I, you know, I knew sort of content wise, editorially, I knew what I was doing, I think where I failed was managing a team. And not even though I had managed smaller teams, prior, you know, just in really fully understanding what we were about to take on, that it was a startup, and that I had never launched a startup. And, you know, while we were within the kind of confines and comforts of a larger legacy brand, we were still a startup, and I think it was exhausting. And we were all working, you know, 20 hour days. Huge spotlight on us. And, you know, I think I failed to take care of myself, which sounds selfish, for sure. But my mother...
Portia Mount 47:15
No it doesn't at all.
Jackie Levin 47:19
Of course, I'm gonna say that as a woman, but my mother used to say, you know, your grandmother used to say, when I was a young mother, moms had, mothers have to take care of themselves first, so that they can take care of the babies, you know, so that, that you're in a strong enough place to take care of the babies. And, you know, I don't think I was taking care of myself, so I certainly wasn't taking care of others. And, you know, I learned pretty quickly and was able to, you know, continue to learn and evolve as a manager. And, and it was also just such an interesting time to be really managing as Me Too, was 2017. And Me Too, was really, you know, braking at that point. So, there was a lot, a lot I learned in that period. I would say, and, you know, and I think you know, moving forward, I think you have to just try things and take risks. And you know, otherwise you just don't grow. And I've always been a big proponent of evolving and staying current and always kind of trying to change it up a little bit. You know, no matter what you're doing, I'm on the morning show TV. There's only so many ways you can do Mother's Day, but you know, how can we do it a little bit differently this year, what's, you know, the big series we can produce? So, always pushing and pushing the team. I mean, I'm hard. I'm a, you know, a hard driver. I work hard, and I'm probably hardest on myself.
Portia Mount 49:00
So you said that you were a little you were you are a self proclaimed perfectionist, you drive hard. And so I'm curious, the Megyn Kelly show gets canceled. And oftentimes, high achieving women like you can make things happen by sheer stint of will, right, like you're literally like physically, mentally willing things over the finish line. And I'm wondering when the show was canceled, how you kind of put yourself back together, like, how did you resolve it in your mind? What happened given that you're like such a high achiever. You're such a hard driver, you work like you work hard, like that all seems to be part of your core identity. And so this doesn't work out. What are you like what's going on in your head and how are you resolving that?
Jackie Levin 49:54
I honestly don't think I allowed myself so much time to think about it in the moment. And probably not fully until recently, you know, until I left.
Portia Mount 50:09
Within the last six months, when you're now you, you've now exited the matrix.
Jackie Levin 50:14
Correct. Correct. Because it happened, you know, so abruptly, and you know, and she left, and we all remained and had to pivot and rebuild a show, you know, within the course of, you know, four days over a weekend. And, you know, we that's just what we were all kind of trained in, we're breaking news producers, or, you know, we just, we, you know, what we did, and the team, you know, had already been through so much as, as a team, there's a little bit of history before, you know, that we produce Megyn's show, you know, they were producing other stuff, there's a lot there, and I had learned from my initial failures to be as upfront, and transparent and candid as possible as I could with the staff. Because, you know, in our business, everything's public, and we're not just doing this stuff, and, you know.
Portia Mount 51:18
It's true, it's not like, you can hide it, right?
Jackie Levin 51:22
Everything's in the newspapers, and there were targets on our backs. And so, you know, it was, it was a shitty time, I'm not gonna lie. And it was, it was hard for everyone, there were, you know, people that were hurting, personally, and, you know, professionally. And, you know, we just, we, we figured things out, and we moved forward. And, you know, within six months time, the show was, you know, really back on its feet, and, you know, just doing what we do, and, you know, telling good stories and bringing people the news and you know, you had four, great anchors, and Al Roker, Craig Melvin, Sheinelle Jones, Dylan Dreyer stepped in in January and, you know, and took over and, and that was it, the show was a success. we had a great time doing it.
Portia Mount 52:29
Thank you for sharing that. Because I think again, social media has conditioned us to only look for the success, and not to see or pay attention to the setbacks. But the setbacks are real, they happen. And what really matters is how you manage that in the moment. As you were talking, I was recalling a quote from Stacey Abrams that I recently posted on Instagram, which, you know, I'll paraphrase it and this was after she had lost, the governorship was stolen. That's my view. And um stolen from her. And she basically said, Look, I choose to move forward. I'm not looking back, and I'm not standing still, like the only option is to continue forward. And I think I, you know, I think about your example, I think about Stacey Abrams example of and I could probably name a number of others of women who've experienced like, tremendous success, huge setbacks, and then have, like, catapulted into the stratosphere, into something new and something great. And so I, I think our listeners are really going to appreciate your opening the curtain on that, because it's important to hear that these things happen.
Jackie Levin 53:46
They totally happen. I mean, it was not easy, you know, and it was not an easy time, but at the end of the day this is going to sound so I don't know, it's TV. You know I wasn't doing brain surgery. yes, it's our livelihoods. It's my life, I put my entire, you know, I poured my heart and soul into it and sacrificed and missed certain events and all of the above and, but at the end of the day, and if this year has taught me really anything, you know, it is a job and there's so many more important things, you know, in life.
Portia Mount 54:39
You have to save this for your book, and you're gonna you should use all of those relationships you built in publishing and, and we'll have you back on to talk about your book.
Jackie Levin 54:50
Portia Mount 54:51
Hello, I'm totally gonna read it. So Jackie, I have two questions about ageism. The first question is, how much did you see or experience when you were at NBC? And then my other part of this question is, do you worry about ageism, now that you've left sort of the tower, if you will, you've left the safety of NBC and now you're out on your own, trying to create your own venue? How are you thinking about that? What? What's on your mind?
Jackie Levin 1:06:21
Oh, it's on my mind a lot. I think that I, I never personally experienced it while I was working there. At least I wasn't aware of it. I think. So. I think it's a natural part of the workforce now, because I think you have so many generations of people working together.
Portia Mount 1:06:42
You do, you literally have multiple, you have everything from baby boomer down to Gen Z. Gen Z right?
Jackie Levin 1:06:51
So you know, I think it's kind of inevitable. It's sort of like, Oh, you know, Grandpa, you know, which makes me sad, I always welcome the opinions of, you know, others from younger generations, because, you know, I, I'm not, I'm just not savvy on social media. I'm not, you know, it's kind of funny and laughable. So help me, help me understand. What I see now that I've left, I do think that part of my drive to want to create something for myself, is to protect myself from that, in the future. From being totally shut out and not having an outlet. I think that right now, times are very tough. You're seeing a lot of places eliminating a lot of roles. And I think if you really dig deep into who is being eliminated? You know, I think it's we've learned it's women predominantly, a large chunk of women. And then, you know, you have to kind of look a little deeper, and you'll see, I think it's a lot of older people, because when they're looking to make cuts and cut, you know, they're looking to those who perhaps make more than most.
Portia Mount 1:08:17
That's right. A lot of times, it's just about, it's about the salary and...
Jackie Levin 1:08:21
Right. We're like we're told to, you know, go go, go ask for what you're worth, ask for what you deserve. And then Okay, you make too much, gotta go. So, you know, and then jumping back into that workforce. I think it's tricky. You know, so you sort of, have you stunted your earning power? Because you're going to have to take a couple steps back as an older person. If you want to get a role somewhere, perhaps. So I think it's definitely tricky. I'm not saying, you know, I don't know that anything illegal is going on. But you know, is it unethical? Is it real? I think so.
Portia Mount 1:09:04
Yeah. Well, there's, I think, some pretty good data that shows that, in particular, for women over the age of 45-50, that ageism becomes real, it becomes a factor, right. But I have to say, I recently interviewed Cindy Gallop. And we were talking about women in corporate America. And she, and I can't wait to share her episode as well. And she talks about the fact that women need to go and find the gap that exists in that in the industry and go create your own industry. which is what you're doing is like, Where's the gap? Where's the gap, and then go and fill that gap with your own business. Then, when I asked her about her regret, she said, I wish I had gone into business for myself earlier.
Jackie Levin 1:10:01
Same, same. You know, I may have stayed at the party a little too long. I mean, I had a great ride, and I had so much fun doing it and made lasting friendships. But yeah, you know, yeah, there's something to be said for that. So I agree with that. And, you know, and I think it has something real to, to shine a light on, a spotlight.
Portia Mount 1:10:28
Yeah. So that will have to be maybe one of the things that you unpack in your, your new venture when you come back?
Jackie Levin 1:10:36
Portia Mount 1:10:36
Or in your tell-all, or in the tell-all book that we will be reading. Right?
Jackie Levin 1:10:40
Right, that too.
So Jackie lightning round to kind of finish to finish things up, I always loved. These are some of my favorite, favorite questions. Do you like, do you have a favorite motto or favorite saying that you live by?
Jackie Levin 55:16
Portia Mount 55:22
I love it.
Jackie Levin 55:23
I don't know if you can say that. But...
Portia Mount 55:26
Obviously you believe that because you said it really fast. It came out really fast.
Jackie Levin 55:32
I don't know if you can say that I'm sorry if...
Portia Mount 55:33
I can, we can totally say it. That's your motto.
Jackie Levin 55:36
I don't think it's a secret. I have a bad you know, I have a bad habit of cursing.
Portia Mount 55:41
I have a potty mouth too, which I have to really rein in around my kids, though.
Portia Mount 55:52
I love it. So, you know, you talked about a time when you were not taking care of yourself. You know, you're six months out now. What does self care look like for you right now?
Jackie Levin 56:03
Yeah. Well, it's interesting. I would say even at that time, physically, I was taking care of myself, I would still make sure I went to the gym, or, which is for those runs every morning, even for like, 30 minutes, because I felt like it helped me emotionally start my day. But it wasn't enough. I don't think that I was doing enough emotionally to ground myself. And, you know, so now, with the running and with the tennis and all of that I make sure I stretch every morning and I've tried, I've really tried, you know, like short meditations in the morning guided meditation, you know, an app or whatever. Not every morning, I'm not perfect. And half the time I did it, and I ended I'm like, I didn't really even focus. You know, like, what do you mean note. I don't know how to note I'm not focusing, I'm thinking about everything else, you know, in my head.
Portia Mount 56:27
I'm cracking up because I can totally see you being like, wow, this isn't really working. Let's, can we speed this up a little bit?
Jackie Levin 57:22
Yes. And I'm listening to tons of podcasts about leadership. And you know, and and just in that, you know, and learning how to be a better leader and, and everybody's different tactics and, and another really fun podcast called Disrupting Yourself, which I really love.
Portia Mount 57:43
Oh we'll make, we'll put a link to that. We'll link to it, we'll link to it in the show notes.
Jackie Levin 57:49
Yeah. It's good.
Portia Mount 57:51
Awesome. What advice would you give 20 year old Jackie?
Jackie Levin 57:58
Laugh more. I didn't laugh enough. You know, I'm super serious. driven, you know, which is okay, you can be driven, but you know, you got to know when to laugh. And if my husband were listening, he'd be laughing. Because, you know, it tells me still to this day. You know, you gotta laugh more. So, that would be my advice.
Portia Mount 58:22
I like that. Is there a book that you find yourself recommending or gifting repeatedly?
Jackie Levin 58:30
Yeah. I recently within the last six months, listened. That's my other big thing now, audio books. I listened to a book called Cassandra Speaks by Elizabeth Lesser. And I can't remember I may have learned about it from like a Brene Brown podcast or something like that. You know, she's just a really interesting sort of spiritual thought leader. And the book is about women's voices and the stories we've all been told throughout the years that have been sort of male centric, or male voices telling those stories throughout time Eve, Cassandra, Pandora. And if those stories were just told, through a female perspective, how, you know, perhaps certain ideals about women, you know, wouldn't be there. Oh, the crazy, hysterical woman, you know, and such so I really enjoyed it and have told a lot of people and it's so much so that my daughter laughs at me, but I just think it's an interesting concept to think about.
Portia Mount 59:45
Okay, so we're gonna link to that as well. We love, our team loves a good book and in fact, basically every book that gets recommended I ended up buying and so I have this gigantic stack of books Jackie. That I haven't, that I haven't read yet because I can't stop buying books but I love, I love them. So I'm gonna I'm going to add that to my collection. Is, what new habit or belief have you adapted that's made a positive impact on your life?
Jackie Levin 1:00:20
That’s interesting, a new habit. Tennis is an old kind of hobby, but I've really leaned into it, I was only able to play it like, you know, in the summers sparingly and I literally.
Portia Mount 1:01:01
And now you're on two teams?
Jackie Levin 1:01:02
Now I'm on two teams, kicking butts, people 20 years younger than me. So I think that...
Portia Mount 1:01:09
I love how you slip that in under the wire. Crushing their asses.
Jackie Levin 1:01:16
I feel like I should have taken up a new hobby by now. And I just, you know, I haven't other than trying to meditate and stretch in the mornings. You know.... I think yoga, the stretching is the yoga and that's something I actually never did. But in fact, one class I tried and was so antsy I like tiptoed out of it and dropped my phone on the floor, I was never invited back. So yoga has been great by myself. Yes.
Portia Mount 1:01:55
That's so funny Jackie. What's the best investment of $100 you've made recently?
Jackie Levin 1:02:03
Um, I think that I thought about this a little bit. The 19th is a new website publication for women. You know, and for, you know, just diverse groups of people. And I, you know, they recently launched a year ago, I recently invested not $100. Um, so I would say the 19th.
Portia Mount 1:02:35
We will link to it, we’ll link to their website, too, because I love the 19th. Great reporting great stories.
Jackie Levin 1:02:43
Very good. And you know, and I'm excited for them and what they're doing. Vital Voices is another female centric organization that has been around for 25 years, I think maybe Hillary Clinton was one of the founding members. But they are a really interesting organization that I've recently started, you know, donating to. And How Women Lead, actually, you know, it's another, I think, interesting group. So, you know, I'm just really, you know, I've spent 100 bucks here and there.
Portia Mount 1:03:49
That's awesome. Jackie Levin, it has been so fantastic to talk to you. I cannot wait to see what your newest project is going to be. We have to have you back when you're ready to unveil your next act.
Jackie Levin 1:04:08
I would love that. I'd love you to be a part of it.