Childhood & Early Life
Willow Bay was born Kristine Carlin Bay, on December 28, 1963, in New York City, U.S., to Deidre L. Bay and Eugene A. Bay, into a middle-class family. She attended a local all-girl Catholic school in New York City. Her mother called her “Willow.” She was bullied in school because of her nickname, but she later used it as her professional name, to honor her mother.
Ever since she was a kid, she was highly influenced by the field of journalism. She also had a strong inclination toward writing and initially aspired to be a sports journalist.
She later moved with her family to Andover, Massachusetts, and attended the ‘Philips Academy,’ a high-profile college preparatory school. She was academically good.
Willow became independent quite early in her life. Even during her early teenage years, she thought of paying for her education to avoid burdening her parents.
She was 15 and in high school when she decided to join ‘Seventeen’ magazine for a journalism internship. However, the people at the ‘Seventeen’ office thought she was a model, and she was thus directed toward a modeling agency. Soon, she was hired as a model for ‘Seventeen.’
Working as a model, she found a way to pay for her education. Following her high-school graduation, she attended the ‘University of Pennsylvania,’ from where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English. After graduating, she joined ‘New York University’ and obtained her MBA degree from the ‘Stern School of Business.’
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Although she was modeling professionally and managing her studies in business management, she still wished to be a journalist someday. While in her sophomore year of college, she earned a major modeling assignment. She was offered a job as an exclusive model for ‘Estee Lauder.’
She also attended non-fiction writing classes at the ‘University of Pennsylvania.’ During her freshman year of college, she also worked as a part-time journalist at a local newspaper. However, her modeling job consumed a lot of her time and she had to quit the newspaper job.
She signed with ‘Ford Models,’ one of the most reputed modeling agencies in the country, and continued modeling through most of her 20s, before she embarked on a full-time career as a journalist. From 1983 to 1989, she worked with ‘Estee Lauder,’ as the official spokesperson for their cosmetic line.
In the late 1980s and the early 1990s, she reconsidered her career choices and asked her agent whether she should quit modelling and take up journalism. He laughed it off and asked her to cover fashion news instead. Willow tried doing so but hated it.
Eventually, in the late 1980s, she began her journalism career by doing small-time gigs on cable TV channels. She worked as a host for a travel program and also worked as a freelance correspondent for shows such as the ‘Today Show’ and ‘Live with Regis and Kathie Lee.’
In the early 1990s, her journalism career took a sharp turn as she began working as a co-anchor for the ‘ABC’ show ‘Good Morning America Sunday.’ She worked there for 4 years. During her tenure there, she also worked as a correspondent for shows such as ‘World News Saturday’ and ‘World News Sunday.’
In 1991, she earned her first major journalism project when she was hired as a co-host of the ‘NBA’ show ‘Inside Stuff.’ The show, which she hosted with Ahmad Rashad, featured the entire week’s news, along with special stories of the ‘NBA’ tournaments. Thus, with this, she fulfilled her childhood dream of being a sports reporter.
As her career progressed, she was seen appearing in many more shows on leading networks. She was hired by ‘CNN’ for hosting their shows ‘CNN & Entertainment Weekly’ and ‘CNN & Fortune.’ In addition, she was also hired to anchor the daily evening news show called ‘Moneyline.’ Hence, with back-to-back journalism projects on national news networks, she created a strong portfolio as a journalist.
In 2005 and 2006, she worked briefly as a freelance journalist for ‘NBC News’ and ‘MSNBC.’ She also worked with ‘Lifetime Television’ and served as a host for the show titled ‘Spotlight 25.’ In addition, she also served as the executive producer for the same show. It was her debut stint as a producer.
In 2003, her book titled ‘Talking to your Kids in Tough Times: How to Answer Your Child’s Questions About the World We Live In’ was published and was hugely successful.
She later moved to Los Angeles, California, when she was hired as a senior editor at ‘Huffington Post,’ an online news portal and blog. She played a big role in the expansion of the portal in terms of non-political news coverage and new verticals.
While working there, she collaborated with ‘Yahoo! News’ and interviewed well-known public figures such as Warren Buffet and Bill Gates for a series of interviews called ‘Newsmakers.’ She also interviewed Dalai Lama.
Additionally, she has interviewed celebrities and public figures such as Prince Edward, Michael Jordan, and Oprah Winfrey.
In the more recent years, she has associated herself with higher-education institutions. She has been serving as the dean of the ‘USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism’ since 2017. With this, she became the first female dean in the history of the school.
She and her husband, Bob Iger, have started a scholarship worth $1 million at the ‘Ithaca College,’ to provide financial help to needy students.