Access Hollywood’s Zuri Hall On Hustling, Hosting TV Shows, And Her Podcast Series “Hot Happy Mess”

If there was a visual definition of “hustling” toward a successful career in TV and media in the dictionary, you’d most likely see a picture of Zuri Hall – Emmy Award-winning TV host on ‘Access Hollywood’ and ‘American Ninja Warrior’, and host of a new podcast series called Hot Happy Mess. From Charlamagne Tha God’s and iHeartMedia’s The Black Effect Podcast Network, Hot Happy Mess is jam-packed with fun, informative, sometimes-serious, sometimes-hilarious real talk — about all the things millennial women are “supposed” to be “getting right.”

Each episode features Zuri’s refreshingly candid solo commentary and one-on-one interviews, panel discussions with experts and friends, and hilarious signature segments and human interest stories featuring real stories from everyday people. Guests come from all walks of life — from CEO and brand founder Deepica Mutyala, to TV personality Vanessa Simmons, to Sex Expert Gigi Engle.

We were of COURSE drawn to the title of the series and were intrigued to learn more. So we spoke with Zuri about her own personal career hustle, how she brings this into her podcast series, and why having candid conversations about life and struggles is her sweet spot.

Tell us how the idea for your podcast Hot Happy Mess initially came about? 

My 20s were all about hustle, hustle, hustle. At a certain point I got BURNT. OUT. (I call it “Best Life Burnout”!) I realized that achieving all my goals was only worth it if I was happy while I achieved them. So I dedicated my late 20s, and now early 30s to creating my Best Life, minus the Burnout. And as I went on that journey, I felt passionate about wanting to share it with other mindfully ambitious Millennial women who could relate.

And that’s what this podcast is about: how to live out our dreams while embracing our Hot, Happy, and Mess at the same time. Above all else, I believe in happiness. In figuring out what makes you happy, and pursuing it at full – speed… and being okay with the fact that we’re all gonna make messes along the way.

I believe you can make a bomb ass living, while enjoying a bomb ass life. (And sometimes life is just… well, ass. And that’s ok, too.) The point is to make the most you can out of the messes, and enjoy the magic of the ride! So when the opportunity came to partner up with iHeartRadio and Charlamagne Tha God’s Black Effect Podcast Network, to execute my vision, it was perfect alignment.

I’m the executive producer and host, and it’s a show I’d been developing for nearly a year before having the awesome opportunity to team up with iHeartMedia and the Black Effect Network to bring it to life. The response has been so positive, and it feels good to know we’re creating a community of badass, beautiful women who can keep it real with one another about the good, bad, and ugly of life’s messes, and how we find our “happy” in the middle of it.

What are your favorite topics to discuss? And what have been the conversations that have resonated the most with listeners?

My show is an array of topics: mindfulness, wellness, how to pivot (in work or life), relationships, career, the list is endless. But to make it seamless, we break the topics up into series. Thus far, we’ve talked about Peace + Happiness, Love + Relationships, and now we’re digging into Career + Finance.

I love AND am proud of each episode. A few of my favorites are EP 1: How to Be Happy – in this initial episode, I open up about my personal journey towards happiness and share the moment I realized I was unhappy and the steps I took to fix it. 

In this premiere episode, I also introduce the signature segment – The Groupchat – and two of my besties join me for a super real convo about their journeys to happiness and how they’ve had to pivot to get to a state of being happy instead of constantly chasing it. 

The Groupchat segment (which features my real-life friends) is a total fan favorite because we come together in a safe space, without judgment but with tons of laughter, and our POVs are so varied. I think the variety of perspectives and experiences resonates with our listeners — indeed, something for everyone.

As we built out the podcast, I wanted to include expert panels + discussions with licensed therapists, especially for those broad topics that need just a bit more massaging. 

For example, EP 10: Do You or Your Partner Have Communication, Commitment, or Trust Issues? In this episode, we dig into attachment theory — and the response from our community was EPIC! We had so many DMs + listener questions — and have noticed that most of our convos organically come back to that topic. 

People are really fascinated by the theory and discovering which attachment type they have and how it’s shaped them over the years. In that episode, we also had our signature segment — Real Women, Real Stories: featuring real, everyday women (and the men in their lives) — and I had an honest, hilarious, and very vulnerable chat with real-life newlyweds, who reveal how they got to such a happy place in their relationship. Our listeners loved the realness of the episode, and we make it a point to feature a Real Woman, Real Story in every series. 

Another fan favorite that recently aired was our EP 25: AlphaBabe spotlight with Emmy-nominated Actress & Comedian Yvonne Orji – who is best known as Issa Rae’s BFF Molly on the HBO series, ‘Insecure’. Yvonne took us on a wild ride where we talked about everything from birth charts + enneagrams; to getting candid on why she’s waiting until marriage to have sex; and why we ALL need to unapologetically stand in our truths. The feedback from our Hot Happy Mess community has been incredible — especially with our listeners who are first-generation and feel the pressure to out-hustle the hustle while searching for what makes them truly happy AND prioritizing rest.

What are some of the candid stories you have personally told about your life on the podcast that you never thought you would share publicly?

I’m pretty candid on every episode! I’m a (mostly) open book, and no topic is off-limits. One of the more recent ones would be my personal finance journey. It has been another one of the realest, rawest things I’ve shared. I opened up about just how bad my credit got when I was in my early 20s, because personal financial literacy & credit was never really discussed or taught, where I was growing up. 

There’s so much taboo, shame and stigma attached to money (or lack thereof), so getting to a point where I felt confident enough to reveal that, and also share how I climbed out of that credit hell hole, that was pretty candid. It’s so worth it when women reach out to me saying how empowered or educated they feel, after hearing my story — along with the expert resources that I share on Hot Happy Mess.

What does a typical week look like for you, among the numerous media projects you are currently juggling?

Whew. It’s pretty crazy, which means I have to work extra hard to avoid that Best Life Burnout haha. I work full-time as an entertainment news host + correspondent at Access Hollywood; executive produce + host multiple segments of Hot Happy Mess every week (new episodes every Monday, wherever you get your podcasts!); and also just wrapped my 3rd season with NBC’s hit Emmy-nominated summer competition series “American Ninja Warrior”. All that in addition to trying to prioritize time with loved ones & friends. 

It’s a lot, but I love it all and I’m so grateful for this career and life I’ve worked so hard to create. The keys for me are mindfulness — being totally present in whichever of those moments I’m currently in; and rest on the weekends. I try not to jam pack them with too many social obligations. I’m the Queen of a brunch at home & Netflix moment. I love to relax.

There’s a lot of pressure on women to tick all the boxes and live life the “right” way according to society. How does HHM bust through these narrow ideals with the conversations and interviews you are having? 

We love seeing more and more millennial women taking up space, especially women of color! What does it mean to you to be a thought leader in this way, sharing your own voice and encouraging others to do the same? 

Who are some of your upcoming guests that we can look forward to on the podcast? 

Yvonne Orji, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Simmons, and Tiffany Aliche are some of the high profile names we have booked. But we also have amazing experts and real women stories that we’ll spotlight.

For young women who want to follow in your footsteps as a TV host or podcast host, what is your advice on starting out? 

My words would mostly be of encouragement, due to the fact that the world is so much “smaller” now with evolutions in technology. Particularly for those who are interested in a career in media/entertainment. Now you can develop a global audience from the comfort of your own home. Focus on creating your content, building a following, and utilizing online social + business platforms to make connections with like-minded individuals who may be in the states. Explore opportunities to “collaborate”, if only virtually. They say “your network is your net worth” — so build that network! 

You never know when someone stateside who you’ve developed a professional relationship with might pop up with an opportunity you’re perfect for. And it’s a grind — the USA is a huge country, and each state is practically its own country because they’re all so different, culturally and socially. Also, focus on a particular city, and dial in on building contacts there and then build out. It’s difficult — even for people who were born here — there’s so much competition, but there are also so many opportunities. So be encouraged, and focus on consistency + connection!

Be sure to subscribe to Hot Happy Mess via Apple Podcasts, the iHeart Radio app or wherever you like to listen to your podcasts! Check out the Hot Happy Mess website for more info.