Learn how reality TV and talk show host Julie Chen juggles her career and family life while maintaining her mental and physical well-being.
As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, TV host Julie Chen has used her strong heritage to build a thriving career in a competitive broadcast television industry, while balancing motherhood and a family. Her mental fortitude and determination allows her to pursue her ever-evolving dreams and write her own life rules.
“Believe in yourself and you can do anything.” Chen not only preaches but has practiced this motto her whole life. Do not be fooled by her collected persona, successful career and happy home; she has worked hard to build her world from the ground, up. She continues to maintain her vitality through exercise, quiet time for herself and learning to bend when life throws curveballs.
Chen’s determination for a healthy lifestyle is a daily commitment, and it starts every day at precisely 5:30 a.m.
“There is something to be said to having a set schedule, which I finally learned at this stage in my life, and I’m 45 now. I like it, even on Saturdays and Sundays I wake up and stick to my schedule because otherwise you look at Monday morning like it’s death,” Chen says.
Her “typical” day always begins with exercise from 6-7 a.m., alternating between yoga and Pilates. She then devotes 30 minutes to traction, which promotes spinal and neck health. It’s her 90 minutes of “me” time.
“I always feel so much better; I love seeing the sunrise, and I love having that quiet time,” Chen shares. “By the time my husband and my son are awake, I’m happy as a clam, because I got my workout in. I got my quiet time in and I’m ready to be there for them.”
Chen’s drive is something she learned early in life. She was the youngest of three girls. Her father worked long, 12-hour days and was dedicated to the family. Her mother taught her to believe in herself and that she could do anything. Chen credits her family and cultural background as the foundation that shaped her values and defined her persistence in life.
“Figure out what you are good at and how you can make the most of the situation you are in, and just don’t look back.”
“The Chinese people have an incredible work ethic. Failing is not an option, slacking off is not an option, not studying is not an option,” says Chen. “That’s not an option in our culture, and that certainly was not an option in our house the way my parents raised me.”
Chen’s journey to her now glamorous Hollywood life was paved with a few bumps along the way.
Since she was about 14, Julie will tell you she had a dream to anchor the nightly news. But upon graduating from USC with two bachelor’s degrees — one in English, one in journalism — that dream seemed to be less of a reality than she hoped.
“I set out trying to get my first reporter’s job in a small market, and I got a whole pile of rejections,” recalls Chen.
With her hopes of being on-air dwindling, she took a desk assistant job at ABC network news in Los Angeles, where she had freelanced in college. Four years later, she had worked herself up to the position of news producer. That’s when she was faced with the challenging decision between continuing her secure career behind the scenes of news or taking a risk, moving away, swallowing the harsh pay cut and trying her luck at reporting.
“I realized that if I wanted to give up on my dream, then I should just give up on my dream, but I wasn’t prepared to do that,” Chen shares. “I just realized, I really better wake up and get focused and get on some sort of track … by happenstance, I got noticed by a small-time agent. She got me my first job in Dayton, Ohio.”
After three years of reporting in Ohio, she landed a job at the local CBS station in New York, where she was eventually noticed by the network executives and invited to join the cast of The Early Show.
Chen was on her way. She was 29 and had her eyes on eventually becoming a foreign correspondent for 60 Minutes, but CBS had a different plan for Chen, one that included their latest project, a new reality show, Big Brother.
“I got the phone call on June 4, and they made me an offer for a job I didn’t even know existed. I didn’t know what Big Brother was, and I turned down the job,” says Chen.
Her decline was not well received.
“I was told that if I didn’t take the job they would consider it an act of insubordination, because I work for CBS network,” Chen recalls. “Well, when you put it that way, I don’t want a reputation as being a troublemaker, so I said ‘OK.’”
What she didn’t know is how much of an impact this decision would have on her life, both personally and professionally.
Fast forward nine years later to 2009, 39-year- old Chen gave birth to her first child. She was sharing her time between New York and California hosting Big Brother — now in its ninth year — and continuing her news role on The Early Show. That same year, she received a call with an invitation to serve as one of the hosts for a new daytime TV talk show.
“After the first season of The Talk, I resigned from the news division, because I can’t do three jobs and raise a kid and be married,” Chen says. “That has been much easier on my lifestyle because giving up the news, I didn’t have to fly back to New York every week. The Talk and Big Brother are about 250 feet away from each other. I literally get off set from one show, and I just go to the other show.”
Throughout her life, Chen has embraced change. Adaptability has become natural to her.
“I use an analogy I learned very early on from a woman who is like my unofficial life coach — she is a feng shui master. She once told me, ‘You have to be more like bamboo, strong but flexible.’ I can complain as much as I want about any given situation, but if you don’t have power to change it, you’ve got to be the one to change,” Chen says.
One thing that keeps Chen driven is her desire to “have it all,” something her mother instilled in her from a young age. She embraces her professional work and is candid about not feeling guilt for balancing a career and family.
“I know that becoming a mom three months before turning 40, I was already a very career-minded person,” Chen says. “The time I do get to spend with my son, I’m a much more complete and happier person.”
Chen helps sustain her busy schedule by penciling in time for a weekly massage or acupuncture and chiropractor visits. She also drinks a custom blend of Chinese herbs daily for digestive health and mental balance.
But when the stress of her chaotic life becomes too much, the key to her mental relaxation is simply to breathe, using a tip she first heard of while working on the set of The Early Show.
“One trick I love is called the ‘four, seven, eight,’ shares Chen. “You inhale for four counts, hold your breath for seven counts and exhale for eight counts. Right after I started practicing that, it helped me sleep, to turn my mind off.”
Chen believes there are no shortcuts to long- term success and works hard to continually evolve her career and personal life each year.
“Be your own worst critic. You’re going to nit- pick and see things that no one else is going to see, but if you see it and you correct it, you will be the best at whatever it is you do,” Chen says. “You have to put in the hours; you have to put in the time.”
Can’t get enough? Check out 5 on balancing a buy life with Julie Chen!
Tweet @JulieChen and @hlmsmag about her #HLMSmag story.
Jodi Marsh is Executive Editor for Healthy Living Made Simple.