Stay­ing Ahead of the Mar­ket with Melissa Lee

This month’s celebrity cover story is CNBC’s An­chor, Melissa Lee.

Athleisure - - Contents - WITH MELISSA LEE

We had the plea­sure to sit with CNBC an­chor, Melissa Lee for this month's cover story and shoot in NYC. We were ex­cited to dis­cuss all things jour­nal­ism, fi­nan­cial news and mar­kets, and spe­cial projects. It's in­cred­i­ble how she fits that into her daily rou­tine, work­out habits and style on set and off.

ATH­LEISURE MAG: When did you first learn you wanted to be a jour­nal­ist and broad­caster grow­ing up?

MELISSA LEE: I’ve known since mid­dle school! I started de­vel­op­ing an in­ter­est in the school pa­per and I even an­chored the morn­ing news­cast, which was a daily 5 minute, closed-cir­cuit broad­cast in the morn­ing. The sta­tion was called GNPS TV News, which stood for Great Neck Pub­lic Schools Tele­vi­sion (I’m sure there is an in­crim­i­nat­ing take of me out there some­where.) One day my mom said to me, “You could be like Kaity Tong some­day” (Kaity was a star WABC an­chor at the time.) That pretty much sealed the deal! Not to say I didn’t flirt with other pos­si­ble ca­reers -- I had a strong in­ter­est in medicine and spent sum­mers do­ing lab work on col­orec­tal cancer and Lyme dis­ease. But I al­ways came back to jour­nal­ism!

AM: Our in­ter­net game is pretty strong, and we dis­cov­ered your mother was once a sports­wear de­signer… so we guess ath­leisure is sort of in your genes?

ML: My mom was a de­signer, and stud­ied at the Fash­ion In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy. She stopped de­sign­ing be­fore I was born, but she made clothes and Hal­loween cos­tumes for my older sis­ter, younger brother and me. We also made a lot of clothes for dolls and stuffed an­i­mals! So I started learn­ing about and ap­pre­ci­at­ing, cloth­ing and fash­ion at an early age.

AM: What was it like go­ing to Har­vard, what pro tips did you de­velop work­ing at 'The Crim­son' that you still use to­day? What was it like work­ing on the

on­line-side then as well?

ML: The Crim­son was like a full-time job and it was a great train­ing ground for the ba­sics of jour­nal­ism. In fact, many of its alumni are work­ing jour­nal­ists at the New York Times, Wash­ing­ton Post, NPR, Dow Jones and many other or­ga­ni­za­tions. There were so many lessons I learned there- it re­ally was sink or swim! But a cou­ple of lessons stand out: 1. How to cold call to find a source or in­for­ma­tion. I think this skill gets lost in the age of Twit­ter and email, but pick­ing up the phone and calling peo­ple in a par­tic­u­lar dorm or on a par­tic­u­lar team, get­ting them not to hang up the phone on you, and coax­ing them to ac­tu­ally tell you in­for­ma­tion is a skill. 2. Net­works are im­por­tant. The Crim­son alumni net­work helped me find in­tern­ships. Through those in­tern­ships, I was in­tro­duced to pro­fes­sional or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Asian Amer­i­can Jour­nal­ists As­so­ci­a­tion. Lever­ag­ing the net­work avail­able to you, and then grow­ing that net­work, is key.

AM: Host­ing mul­ti­ple shows def­i­nitely seems chal­leng­ing! What is a typ­i­cal day like for you?

ML: Host­ing mul­ti­ple shows def­i­nitely re­quires a strict daily rou­tine! I wake up at around 6am, have break­fast, read emails and prep for what I think will be the big sto­ries of the day will be. Then I hit the gym and get into the stu­dios in En­gle­wood Cliffs, NJ by 10:30am for hair and makeup. Af­ter that, it’s a race un­til the end of the day: eat lunch (yes, I have a set time for lunch, which I eat at my desk while prep­ping for the show), on air for Power Lunch from 1-3pm, brain­storm with the Fast Money team on what the show's lead should be, and leave for the Nas­daq Mar­ket­site by 3:30pm to be on the air at 5pm.

AM: What some dif­fer­ences be­tween host­ing “Fast Money,” and co-host­ing “Power Lunch.” Do you have a fa­vorite?

ML: The two shows have two com­pletely dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­tites, so host­ing both al­lows me to flex my dif­fer­ent an­chor “mus­cles.” Power Lunch is an en­sem­ble cast, so I have two co-an­chors and our task is to pro­vide anal­y­sis on stocks in the news, in­vest­ing, and var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal sto­ries and how they might im­pact one’s port­fo­lio.

On Fast Money, I am the solo an­chor so I have more im­pact on what sto­ries we tell and how we tell them. FM fea­tures a panel of four pro­fes­sional traders/ money man­agers and it was cre­ated to be the post-game, af­ter-mar­ket show, where we dis­sect in­ter­est­ing stock moves and mar­ket news with a look to the next trad­ing day. It’s also al­most en­tirely un­scripted -- from the con­ver­sa­tions we have to the in­ter­views, so you have to be on your toes! You never know what any­one will say!

Mak­ing me choose a fa­vorite show is like ask­ing which of your chil­dren you love more. But, with that said, Fast Money will al­ways have a spe­cial place in my heart be­cause it was my first per­ma­nent an­chor job, and I’ve been host­ing it for about 9 years, so I feel I have re­ally helped evolve the show into what it is to­day.

AM: For our busi­ness and en­tre­pre­neur au­di­ence, what are some of your best prac­tices in pre­par­ing for things that you know will be vari­able and change in real time?

ML: My phi­los­o­phy is to build your base of knowl­edge. Read ev­ery­thing that you think is in­ter­est­ing, or might be of in­ter­est in the fu­ture. So for in­stance, of all the prepa­ra­tion I do ahead of any team events one show, I would say I might not use 70% of the in­for­ma­tion. But that 70% goes in the knowl­edge bank so when the un­ex­pected hap­pens, I can re­call that in­ter­est­ing story about con­sumer credit trends or the anal­y­sis of drug price in­creases this


AM: How long can you go with­out be­ing con­nected to Wi-Fi? Do you un­plug at cer­tain times of day?

ML: I try to pro­tect cer­tain times of day by un­plug­ging: while I’m work­ing out, meals or time with friends and fam­ily. I try not to re­spond to any work-re­lated emails on week­ends, and on va­ca­tion, I try to check emails only a cou­ple times a day. (No­tice I say “try”- it’s an on­go­ing bat­tle!) AM: What sets fi­nan­cial news cov­er­age and anal­y­sis apart from re­port­ing on other in­dus­tries?

ML: I think the chal­lenge for fi­nan­cial news jour­nal­ists is mak­ing the num­bers per­sonal. Many peo­ple are put off by the num­bers in busi­ness news com­pa­nies’ earn­ings re­port, eco­nomic data, stock prices, in­ter­est rates etc.

Mak­ing me choose a fa­vorite show is like ask­ing which of your chil­dren you love more. But with that said, Fast Money will al­ways have a spe­cial place in my heart be­cause it was my first per­ma­nent an­chor job, and I've been host­ing it for about 9 years...

They may think it’s hard to un­der­stand. But all of that in­for­ma­tion tells a story. How many wid­gets is a com­pany sell­ing and is the com­pany sell­ing wid­gets at a faster pace than last year? How does an in­ter­est rate hike by the Fed­eral Re­serve im­pact what a con­sumer pays on her credit card debt?

We have a tremen­dous re­spon­si­bil­ity be­cause the sto­ries we re­port im­pact peo­ple’s money- peo­ple’s 401k plans, how they save for col­lege, what stocks they buy. And build­ing fi­nan­cial free­dom and wealth can have pro­found ef­fects for a fam­ily. No other area in jour­nal­ism has that im­pact.

AM: What do you en­vi­sion your au­di­ence is?

ML: I know CEOs, bankers, traders, port­fo­lio man­agers all watch us. But I like to think that we are also ac­ces­si­ble to the av­er­age at-home in­vestor, so I of­ten think that I am talk­ing to my mom!

AM: What are some of your fa­vorite guest in­ter­views you've done thus far?

ML: Many of my fa­vorite in­ter­views were part of doc­u­men­tary or long­form re­port­ing. I did a story about mine safety and in­ter­viewed a third-gen­er­a­tion coal miner (thou­sands of feet un­der­ground, in the mine) named Shag Jr. who chose to be a coal miner de­spite the risks. The rea­son was sim­ple: you can earn a six-fig­ure salary with a high school de­gree. It was the best job avail­able to him, and he viewed his job as a ser­vice. Who makes sure the lights go on when you flip the switch? Coal min­ers, he said.

I also in­ter­viewed Cyril Rhamaphosa, now the pres­i­dent of South Africa, dur­ing my Coca Cola doc­u­men­tary. His in­vest­ment firm, Shan­duka, owned the only black-owned bot­tler dur­ing Apartheid, a time when Coke chose to stay with the coun­try and take a side. with the coun­try and take a side. Rama­posa re­counted sto­ries of march­ing with Nel­son Man­dela in the fight for equal rights. I felt like I was tak­ing a trip back in his­tory.

AM: How did you get in­volved trav­el­ing the world shoot­ing doc­u­men­taries? Are there any mem­o­rable sur­prise mo­ments that hap­pened dur­ing pro­duc­tion?

ML: I have pitched al­most ev­ery doc­u­men­tary I have done, so it was as sim­ple as hav­ing a good idea.

Trav­el­ing abroad al­ways has its sur­prises. Dur­ing a trip to Capetown for my Bit­coin doc­u­men­tary, my pro­ducer and I trav­eled to a town­ship called Khayelit­sha, which is a very poor area where peo­ple live in tin homes and barely have elec­tric­ity. Armed se­cu­rity ac­com­pa­nied us. The kids of the town­ship were very ex­cited to see a cam­era crew and crowded around us. But, one young boy pulled a gun on my pro­ducer! (I was shoot­ing some­thing on cam­era while this hap­pened and found out about this after­wards.) For­tu­nately it was a toy gun! But given the sto­ries we had read about the crime and given what our se­cu­rity de­tail told us about the area, that prac­ti­cally gave her a heart at­tack!

AM: Tell us about your lat­est doc­u­men­tary, "Bit­coin: Boom or Bust." Are you bullish on blockchain tech­nol­ogy and/ or cryp­tocur­rency?

ML: The doc­u­men­tary ex­plores the elu­sive and con­tro­ver­sial world of bit­coin, the cryp­tocur­rency that sparked a global frenzy. We tried to an­swer a cou­ple of key ques­tions: Is it the fu­ture of fi­nance, a bub­ble or worse? I think the tech­nol­ogy be­hind cryp­tocur­ren­cies, blockchain, has real prom­ise. Cor­po­rate Amer­ica is start­ing to use blockchain to track prove­nance of art and prop­erty, or im­prove ef­fi­cien­cies in their sup­ply chain. I be­lieve there are

places in the world where cryp­tocur­ren­cies will have a role-- places where peo­ple go un­banked, where there is tremen­dous volatil­ity in their lo­cal cur­ren­cies. But I think there are still ques­tions as to whether crypto is a good in­vest­ment.

I’ve done a num­ber of doc­u­men­taries on CNBC and what was so ex­cit­ing about this one is the topic- I’ve never re­ported on a topic that is so di­vi­sive. Bit­coin is ei­ther a to­tal bub­ble or the fu­ture of money. And the doc looks and feels very dif­fer­ent from more tra­di­tional doc­u­men­taries. Check it out on CNBC, Hulu and Ya­hoo.

AM: Do you have some sug­ges­tions for younger jour­nal­ists in fi­nan­cial news, and gen­er­ally?

ML: Don’t be wed­ded to any par­tic­u­lar me­dia. In other words, make sure you love re­port­ing and telling your story, whether it’s on­line, in print or on TV. And for those who are in­ter­ested specif­i­cally in tele­vi­sion, re­mem­ber your ca­reer is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not how fast you can get on air- it’s how long you can stay on air.

AM: With such a busy sched­ule, how do you take time for your­self?

ML: It’s re­ally im­por­tant to me to pro­tect per­sonal time. In this day and age, you are ac­ces­si­ble all the time. And that tends to mean you are in “work mode” to vary­ing de­grees all the time. That is not healthy. So un­plug­ging at cer­tain times of day and mak­ing sure you’re do­ing some­thing for your­self ev­ery day (that’s any­thing from go­ing to the gym, to tak­ing a walk, to calling a friend) is im­por­tant.

AM: How would you de­fine your style on air ver­sus when you’re out and about run­ning er­rands?

ML: On air, I like to be on the edgier spec­trum of busi­ness at­tire- an occa- sional leather jacket, a pants suit with a lay­ered neck­lace. I also like to ad­just my hair and makeup ac­cord­ing to my wardrobe. But when I’m just run­ning er­rands it’s def­i­nitely jeans, t-shirt and maybe a leather jacket. And I am a fan of ath­leisure when I’m just go­ing to the gro­cery or shop­ping!

I also try to give my skin and hair a rest on week­ends, so very lit­tle to no makeup and a pony­tail!

AM: When it comes to work­ing out, what is your fit­ness method of choice?

ML: My fa­vorite car­dio is row­ing, but I try to use a cou­ple ma­chines a week to mix it up. I also like to al­ter­nate long, steady car­dio with HIIT. And weights are a must!

AM: What would we find on your playlist?

ML: To­tally eclec­tic with an al­ter­na­tive bent: Muse, Imag­ine Drag­ons, Lana del Rey, Elle King, Beyoncé, Bebe Rexha

AM: What phil­an­thropic ef­forts are you en­gaged in to give back to oth­ers/the com­mu­nity?

ML: It’s im­por­tant to me to stay en­gaged with Har­vard. I’ve been an alumni in­ter­viewer for four years now, in­ter­view­ing ap­pli­cants in the NYC area. It’s in­spir­ing to meet so many amaz­ing stu­dents and even more hum­bling to find that even some of the most qual­i­fied kids don’t get ac­cepted. I think of it as my way of help­ing shape the fu­ture of an in­sti­tu­tion I love.

Our Sept Cover shoot was shot at 865 United Na­tions Plaza #3C cour­tesy of Louise Phillips Forbes of Hal­stead Prop­erty.

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