Sharon Tay sits calmly and comfortably on the retro couch on the set of “MSNBC Hot List.” In between rehearsals, she’s talking to one of the production assistants, asking him about R&B music.
“I really like Usher. Is he still cool?” she asks around.
As two cameras are being tested to Tay’s left and right, she chats with the crew, all of whom are planning to go out for margaritas after their first taping.
Not that MSNBC’s two new entertainment shows need any more of a celebration. On Friday, January 28, MSNBC threw a launch party at the “Hit Factory,” which counted celebrities, network executives, and press people as its guests.
“I loved the party, and the support has been great,” says Tay, “But it was so weird. I walked in and there were cameras and the paparazzi taking pictures of us.”
Tay says she’s much more used to being on the other side of the velvet rope. “Just because you live in L.A. people think you’re really used to this sort of thing. I’m not like that. I’m really low key and I can be shy. I’m usually on the other side, conducting the interview as opposed to being the subject.”
Insecurity seems like a hard thing to imagine after meeting Tay. She seems totally at ease in front the camera. She walks from her desk to the production studio with the assertiveness and focus typical of news people, and the glamour of a Hollywood starlet.
Her career has likewise been a mix. Her last job in California was anchoring for “KTLA Morning News: First Edition” and “Early Edition,” where she was doing hard local news. “I was anchoring the weekday morning new shows, so this is a total shift. I’ve always been this hybrid in the business because I had to be newsy, but I also have this really bubbly personality. I think I’ve been successful in bringing the two together in some way, with some spurts of energy in between.”
Such energy may just be what MSNBC needs on the weekends. The cable news network has not had an entertainment news show in the past—let alone two— although it reports entertainment news regularly during the day.
Tay will be hosting two shows, one on Saturdays, called “MSNBC at the Movies,” and another on Sundays, “MSNBC Hot List.”
“The Saturday show is all about the movies opening that weekend— most people are too busy to plan that far ahead. We’ll let you know what’s on and what the buzz is. We won’t tell you what to watch or not, but we’ll help you make up your mind.”
The Sunday show will cover more of a variety.
“MSNBC Hot list has something for everyone, for girls and guys. It will feature lifestyle news, travel information, hot bands, hot downloads, and hot tech stuff,” she says. “It will basically be everything hot in the entertainment world, except for gossip.”
Tay says the show sets itself apart because it will keep people in the loop without talking about the dirt— like who’s splitting up or having an affair. “We’re giving people an alternative,” she says.
She’s also not easily star-struck, which she thinks makes her a better interviewer.
“The good thing about working and living in L.A. is that you get to mingle. I’ve met a lot of really great people who have become my friends. Arsenio Hall is one of my good friends, and he’s an icon in the business. I also know a lot of music-industry people, managers of great artists… I think about them as my friends, so I don’t like to name drop.”
And as much as she hates delving into the lives of stars, Tay is reluctant to answer personal questions (Tay won’t say if she’s single or attached). She will only share that her big loves are her two Labrador Retrievers, and that she is currently adjusting to living in New York.
“I moved [to New York] during the snowstorm and it was terrible. I moved from California, and it was like ‘What am I doing in this part of the world?’”
She’s also looking for an apartment, and is getting used to pedestrian life in the city— which means manually carrying grocery bags instead of putting them in the trunk of a car.
In the meantime, Tay says she’s really just grateful for the opportunity. “Can I tell you just how excited I am?” she asks again.
"MSNBC At the Movies" airs Saturdays at 12 noon ET, and "MSNBC Hot List" airs Sundays at 12 noon ET on MSNBC TV.