Bailey Monte had toyed with the idea of becoming a journalist, but at 11 years old, she had no idea that the career opportunity of a lifetime would land in her lap — or, more precisely, ambush her at her school’s office.
“I wasn’t asked to do this, I was bombarded,” she laughed.
Now 13, Bailey has been the TODAY show’s “kid correspondent” for the past two years, doing interviews and putting together show packages. She has done pieces on the annual candy expo, the toy fair, and kids and etiquette. And most recently, she interviewed a genuine music superstar: teen queen Miley Cyrus.
It all started because Bailey’s aunt, Jennifer Gentile, is a producer at TODAY. One day she approached Bailey in a panic, asking her to be the correspondent for the candy expo segment.
“A couple years ago, I had the idea that we should have a kid report on the Chicago candy expo,” Gentile said. “I was thinking of my own kid, but when that didn’t work, I went to Bailey’s school and asked her to help me out for the day.”
Though Bailey agreed, she said she had no clue what she was getting herself into. TODAY producers were thrilled with the spot the Chicago native did in her hometown, and invited her to appear live on the show.
“I hadn’t processed how big the TODAY show actually was,” Bailey said. “But as soon as I got to New York and saw the full size of the show, I realized how lucky I was to get this experience.”
For the show’s producers, Bailey seemed like a natural.
“She was so easy to work with,” Gentile said. “She doesn’t act like a kid or take herself too seriously. She’s so poised — even if she’s nervous, it never shows.”
The teen reporter keeps it together, but admits that she does feel a jolt of anxiety five minutes before each taping. How does she handle it?
“I do jumping jacks, run in circles and sing annoyingly loud,” she said.
Bailey’s most exciting — and nerve-racking — experience has been interviewing Miley Cyrus. Gentile accompanied Bailey to the interview, and other reporters assumed that she, not Bailey, was the reporter.
“Everyone thought I was the correspondent and asked if Bailey was my daughter, waiting for an autograph,” Gentile laughed, adding that people were taken aback to find out the truth.
“It was really cool to be asked to interview Miley, and it was really interesting because of how big she is,” Bailey said. “She was a really normal person, really nice and very mature.”
Being a TODAY show correspondent has been a whirlwind for Bailey, who said that she may swap out her career goal of being a print journalist to being an actress, after her brush with being on screen. But, she says, she hasn’t tasted what it’s like to be a big star just yet.
“Someone came up to me at an indoor pool and asked if I was on the TODAY show,” Bailey said. “Other than that and a few other people, I don’t really get recognized and nothing has changed.”
But she does say that she’s learned a lot — particularly about how difficult it is to memorize scripts and how much work it is to put together a segment. And even though she’s young, she hopes to be respected just like her adult counterparts for the work that she does.
“Before people see me in action, they don’t take me seriously,” Bailey said. “It’s nice when people see my work and it’s not just ‘Oh, she’s so cute’ — it’s ‘Oh, she’s so good!’ ”