Sheinelle Jones’ grandmother changed the trajectory of her life.
The co-host for NBC’s “TODAY” recounted how her maternal grandmother, Jo Brown, gave her the gift of time, which ultimately helped her to follow her dreams and work in the news industry.
When Jones was a little girl, her grandmother would frequently drive her around town. The two would take their time and talk about everything they saw. Her grandmother frequently asked her to read the street signs. So often, in fact, that English became easy for her in school.
“I remember coming home one day in middle school and I was like, ‘oh man, English is easy,’” Jones told Brzezinski during a discussion about role models in honor of Women’s History Month. “And the next day, [my grandmother] walks with me to class and talks to the principal. And next thing you know, I'm in AP English.”
While Brown was juggling many roles including raising four kids and being the president of the school board, Jones said she still made time for her.
One day, Jones told her grandmother she wanted to be a news reporter.
Her grandmother loved the idea so much that she became proactive in making it happen. She figured Jones needed to be a young woman who read, was kind, curious and nice.
“She made you think,” Brzezinski noted.
Jones’ grandmother went the extra step to call the secretary of her church to start running teleprompters.
“So, I look back and I'm like, ‘thank you, grandma.’”
Jones went on to exceed her and her family’s dreams. She spent a decade at a Fox affiliate in Philadelphia before joining NBC News in 2014. Jones takes her job at “TODAY” seriously and also spoke candidly to Brzezinski about the pressures and challenges that black women on TV particularly face.
“Being an African-American woman doing what I do, I feel a sense of responsibility that there's pressure on me that I didn't realize I had,” Jones told Brzezinski. “If we're talking about a story and you know, a lot of African-American folks will watch and say, ‘Okay, what’s she gonna say, will she represent me? Will she represent me well?’ And so I always feel like I carry this,” Jones said.
Jones emphasized, however, that she considers it a privilege. “I do feel like, when I walk into a room, I'm not just walking in as myself,” Jones said. “I'm walking in as my grandmother who rooted for me. I'm walking in as my ancestor's wildest dreams…I gave myself chills just talking about it.”