Gayle King’s Quarantine Routine Still Involves Waking Up at 3:24 AM

The CBS news anchor talks returning to radio, Zooming with Oprah, and the pitfalls of working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

gayle king recording from home
Image courtesy of Gayle King.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many news anchors and talk show hosts have adapted to working from home, from Anderson Cooper to Andy Cohen, Wendy Williams to Jimmy Fallon. Everyone is doing their best to press on and get up-to-date information to their audiences, including Gayle King.

And even though she’s working from home, the journalist says not too much about her routine has changed, thanks in part to the fact that she has added a third job to her already full schedule. In addition to being an anchor on CBS This Morning and Oprah Magazine‘s editor-at-large, she’s now a radio host. Live every Thursday on SiriusXM, listeners can call in to Gayle King In the House to speak directly with King about how the virus has impacted their lives.

In her Culture Diet, King talks about returning to radio, Zooming with Oprah Winfrey, and the pitfalls of working from home during a pandemic.

What made you decide to get back into radio with this SiriusXM show?

I’d done radio years ago and I’ve always loved it, even though my first love is TV. I love the intimacy of radio and I love that it’s topical and live, so you can talk in real time about what is happening. That’s what really drew me. They reached out to me and said, during this time of Covid, we’d like to have a voice on the radio that’s open to hearing all different points of view—to hear what people are thinking, how they’re reacting, how they’re getting through. I said, I would love to do that! Believe me, I wasn’t trying to add another job to my plate. But they said ‘We’ll bring all the equipment to you, you won’t have to do a thing!’ So I’m sitting in there at my kitchen table. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

Has your longtime assistant, the very social-media friendly Joseph Zambrano, been helping you remotely?

No, Joseph got a promotion! He is now our digital director at Oprah Magazine. He and I still work together, but I have another rock superstar, Alexis Bravo, who is my assistant at CBS. But now she’s become producer, technician, photographer—she shoots the interviews and does the scripts. She’s a one man band. She’s now also with me on the radio. You know who knows stuff? These 20 and 30-somethings! I like hanging out with them. Joseph and I, we’re no longer day to day the way we were, now it’s Alexis and me.

Are you quarantined in New York?

Yes. In this petri dish, which I have to say is terrifying. It’s so emotionally and spiritually draining. Everybody who’s worked with me, we’ve all been working since mid-March. I have a very, very small group of people, and I feel comfortable with the people that are here. We’re just all trying to plough through.

What’s your daily routine like? Has it changed much since quarantine started?

It’s pretty different, but also the same in terms of what we do. We have to get on the air, which I have to say isn’t a small feat because all three of us, Anthony is in his house, Tony is in his house in Brooklyn where all the cool kids live, and I’m on the Upper West Side. There are some technical challenges to that. I like the camaraderie and collaboration at the table when you can see each other face to face, so we have to navigate all of that. I actually think it’s working. Do I want this continue much longer? No! Who knows how long it’s going to be, nobody really knows. It’s interesting how you adjust to things.

What’s the one activity that’s been keeping you sane or grounded in quarantine?

Thank goodness for the “Zoom Zoom,” I call it. I can talk to my favorite son, favorite daughter. I can talk to Oprah on a regular basis with Zoom and FaceTime. For Mother’s Day, they did a virtual brunch for me. It’s not the same because we’re always together on Mother’s Day. Either I’m there or they’re here. They both live in L.A. so we did a virtual Mother’s Day brunch and they hired a magician from London who just popped up on the screen and was doing tricks. It was fun! And we celebrated my son’s birthday. He goes to Red Lobster so we had Red Lobster delivered to all of our homes and did a Red Lobster birthday party. Tomorrow is my daughter Kirby’s birthday, I don’t know what to do. I’ll leave it up to her fiancé to figure that one out! You just adjust, but I can’t wait until we can see each other in the flesh. You know, I find myself missing people I don’t even like! Just this morning, we had the most amazing case on CBS This Morning that Anthony Mason had done. He was born and raised in New York, and he was going to some familiar places from his childhood in Central Park, and he filmed how deserted it is going to the museum, the Alice in Wonderland statue, Grand Central. All those times we were bitching and moaning about crowds? Won’t do that anymore!

Has your daily wardrobe changed at all these days?

I still get dressed every day because we’re on the air, but I don’t have to worry about what’s on the bottom. I don’t have to wear Spanx if I don’t want to, and let me tell you, I don’t. You only see from the top up, but I’m not sitting there in sweatpants. I still have on a cute outfit even if you can’t see it! I’m dressing more casually since I’m at home, but I’m definitely getting dressed. And then we go from CBS to the magazine, and people can still see you on the Zoom or on Slack, so you want to look like a human being.

What time do you wake up in the morning, and what’s the first thing you read?

I still get up at 3:24 A.M. I still have to do hair and makeup, all that good stuff. I consume news 24/7. I’m always reading something, looking at something. I do a variety of things. CBS, I believe, is a very good resource for news, so I don’t have to go far!

What books are on your bedside table?

I have a lot of stuff I have to read for work. I read the Alicia Keys memoir that just came out. That I just did for fun. We had John Grisham on so I read his book. The thing is, CBS is very good when it comes to books. Authors find us a very good place to be. We have a very smart audience that likes to read so we have a lot of authors on the show. I call it my “homework,” so I’m still doing that. You’d be surprised how fast the days go. Listen, all the days run together. I have to literally force myself to go, “What day is it?”

You’re very active on social media, but who do you enjoy following the most?

I don’t really follow anybody. In terms of where I actually go to look and see what they’re doing, I don’t do that. I have people that I follow, but I’m not really looking to see what are they doing. I don’t even look at my stuff after I post it.

That sounds healthy!

Blake Shelton said something to me that I think is really interesting. I interviewed him for a Grammys special, and he said that he has no social media because he finds that it’s just the accelerator on hate. I thought, god, Blake that is so good and so true. I don’t like to take in negativity or toxicity. I don’t think I get that much hatred, but when you do get it, it can be very debilitating and I don’t want to take that in. I only try to put out good in the world. I really do feel that my life is kind of “do no harm.” That is how I live my life on all levels. I’m not trying to be snarky or bitchy or condescending, I only try to put out things that I think are funny or interesting, so I’m not sitting there monitoring social media—mine or anybody else’s.

What’s the last thing you Googled on your phone?

A song I heard on the Disney sing-along. I watched that the other night, and that song, “You’ll Be In My Heart,” I love it. And I thought, who sang that song originally? It was Phil Collins! I said, I’m going to go put that on my iPod right now! That sing-along gave me goosebumps, it was so damn good. I forgot how pretty that song was.

What other TV shows have you been watching?

I love Issa Rae’s Insecure. I just think she’s funny. I’m a big TV junkie, so I watch a lot, a lot of TV. I have a lot of catching up to do. Friends were telling me about the movie on HBO with Hugh Jackman, Bad Education. That was good. I want to see Jerry Seinfeld’s special, I want to see #blackAF. Billions restarted, I like that show. There’s another thing on HBO called Run, I like that. I like Cedric the Entertainer’s The Neighborhood, that’s a comedy. I have such eclectic taste in terms of TV and music. I don’t stick to a genre, I like all sorts of stuff. I just talked to Andy Cohen about the Real Housewives reunion. I said, “Andy, the Atlanta Housewives reunion? Yowza!” My taste is all over the place!

What was the last movie you saw in theaters?

I do love going to the movies, but I can’t even remember what it was. That’s a very good question. I remember the theater was dark, and I had my popcorn and raisinets, but I can’t even tell you what I was watching. It’s been that long. I have a big screen TV and it’s very nice, but it doesn’t replace the big screen at the movie theater.

Do you remember the last concert you went to?

I was doing a piece on Celine Dion in October, so I went to Ohio for that. God knows when I’ll go to a concert again! But my last concert was Gwen Stefani in Vegas, for a bachelorette party. That was fun!

What’s the last piece of art you either bought or ogled out in the world?

There’s an artist in South Africa who I really like, Nelson Makamo. He was on the cover of Time magazine. Ava DuVernay was a guest editor. I have his piece, and it’s hanging up at the end of my hall. I see her every day—a little girl dressed in yellow, which is my favorite color—and every time I see her, that makes me happy. CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on an artist named Kadir Nelson, and he just painted something called “After the Storm” which is about coronavirus. I looked at this painting and I was so haunted by it. I reached out and thought, boy how much does that original cost? He’s going to do prints on it. I immediately reached out, and now they’re putting it up for auction. They got such a huge response after the Sunday Morning piece that I think once it goes to auction that’ll knock me out the box. I love that piece, but once I heard that, I just folded up my pocketbook and left the room! I think it’s going to be a doozy.

Are you into astrology at all?

No. And that’s a fast “no,” too. Somebody says, “What’s your sign?” and I have a big old eye roll. “Capricorn. Now what?” No. I’m not a big astrology person. But I know people believe!

What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed?

Probably pee. That’s always good. A good way to end the day is to make sure everything’s flowing alright.

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