When Lauren Sanchez left Fox to start contributing to “Extra,” she was ready for her TV career to take flight. But she did not reach her dream destination.
The 53-year-old TV host and helicopter pilot, who catapulted into the public eye via her relationship with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos starting in 2019, recalled in an interview with WSJ Magazine the moment she felt like her career was crashing down in 1999. She didn’t get her dream job: a role on Barbara Walters’ daytime talk show “The View.”
“It was one of the most devastating days of my life,” Sanchez told Derek Blasberg in the interview published Wednesday.
Sanchez recalled bonding instantly with Walters while auditioning for “The View,” though she admitted clashing with original cast member Star Jones. Their differences may have cost her the role. Instead, journalist Lisa Ling took the coveted spot alongside Jones, Meredith Vieira, Joy Behar and Walters, who personally phoned Sanchez to tell her the disappointing news that left her in tears for days.
Sanchez said Jones later apologized and that Walters remained a mentor.
“She [Walters] really helped me with my career. Not only as someone I looked up to, but really guided me when I was up for ‘The View,’” Sanchez told WSJ Magazine after Walters died in December.
“Producers were trying to make me dress extra conservative and she saw me and said, ‘What happened?’ She said, ‘They will try and make you ordinary. Don’t let them. Then, if you fail, at least you fail as yourself.’ I never forgot that.”
She found the silver lining in the career setback.
“It turned out to be a good thing because I wouldn’t have had Nikko,” Sanchez said of giving birth to her first child, who is now 21, with former NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez.
“Everything happens for a reason,” she said.
Before TV, Sanchez initially wanted to be a flight attendant. At age 18, she moved to Los Angeles with hopes of working for Southwest Airlines. Her weight prevented her from landing the role.
“Back then, they weigh you, and I weigh 121 pounds,” she told WSJ Magazine of a required weigh-in she failed back in 1989, during the time weight restrictions were common in the industry. “They said, ‘You need to be 115.’”
Today, she said, she’d clap back, saying: “I don’t want to be a stewardess. I want to be the pilot!”
Her relationship with Bezos has also taken flight, with the duo jet-setting to the likes of the Taj Mahal, hiking with King Charles in Scotland and getting chatty with Leonardo DiCaprio at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art gala.
Sanchez cut her teeth in Hollywood at age 29 when she landed a small role as a TV reporter in “Fight Club” in 1999 doing a breaking news segment on underground boxing clubs.
“Jared Leto calls me hot — I peaked!” she quipped.