Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, 43, may have been the only woman in media to make Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People In The World and she may be dominating the ratings, but it wasn’t an easy road getting there.
Kelly worked as a lawyer for 10 years before even making the huge career change to TV. Kelly practiced law as a corporate litigator at Jones Day for nine years and was an associate in the Chicago office of the law firm Bickel & Brewer LLP.
“I started off as a lawyer for almost a decade before I decided I was completely burned out,” Kelly told Business Insider at Time magazine’s gala, where she was honored. “When choosing a new profession, I just said to myself: ‘What can I do that would utilise some of these skills, but that I would enjoy a little more and will also be fun and still intellectually stimulating?’ And this was an obvious choice.”
“So I just called up [Fox News chairmain] Roger Ailes, asked for a job on the air, and he said ‘Here ya go,'” Kelly joked.
In reality, Kelly had to start from square one.
“I cold-called a bunch of people and then Bill Lord of WJLA, the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C., was the poor sucker who put me on the air when I stunk up the joint, but he gave me my first break,” Kelly explains. “I stunk at first, but got better and better, thanks to him. And also thanks to Roger Ailes, who ultimately put me on the air every day, multiple times a day for a couple of years, until I got better.”
Brit Hume, longtime ABC News correspondent and retired chief White House correspondent, was Kelly’s first mentor and the man responsible for getting her audition tape to Ailes in the first place.
Hume recalled to Time:
“Ten years ago, my wife Kim, then Fox News’ Washington bureau chief, walked into my office carrying a videocassette. ‘You have got to see this,’ Kim said. It was the audition tape of a local TV reporter then named Megyn Kendall. She was a lawyer and new to the business, but her tape displayed as full a set of the qualities of a network correspondent as I had ever seen: great looks, strong voice, authoritative yet cheerful presence and obvious intelligence. In other words, limitless potential.
But there was a problem: we had no openings, which was quickly pointed out to me when I enthused about her during a phone call with Fox News chair Roger Ailes and other executives. ‘Please,’ I asked Roger, ‘just look at the tape.’ I suspected he would see what I had seen. He did, and an opening was created. From the start, Megyn gave us insightful Supreme Court coverage, and she was among the first to spot flaws in the false rape charges against the Duke lacrosse players. She was too good to last as a mere correspondent, and she didn’t. The rest, as they say, is history.”
In addition to Brit and Kim Hume, Kelly credits Ailes for helping her become the powerhouse she is today.
“My boss, Roger Ailes, has been a huge inspiration,” Kelly told Business Insider. “People who don’t like Fox always wonder whether there’s been some editorial imprint by Roger, but I can tell you in the 10 years I’ve been there, that has never been the case. However, he has many times given me advice on how to connect with an audience, how to be my real self, how to tear down the wall between myself and the viewer, and that’s helped me.”
Kelly added: “Television is just like typing — there’s no way to get better without doing it a lot, over and over.”
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.