She’s poised and polished as co-host of MSNBC’s “The Cycle,” but off camera, it’s a different story for Abby Huntsman.
Between trips, falls and everything in-between, Huntsman admits battling gravity can be a challenge: “Like, I am that person on the street, always in bad weather, where, like, the umbrella goes inside-out, you slip all over the ice.” She adds, “I usually try to laugh because now I don’t even think about it as embarrassing moments, because sometimes, you can’t help being clumsy.”
Despite her success, the 29-year-old Ivy League grad, who recently launched her new NBCNews.com interview series with candidates’ spouses called “Two Spoons,” is quick to offer some self-deprecating tales. Like the time she ate shellfish, which she’s allergic to, while on a date, and had her own reenactment of a scene from the 2005 movie “Hitch,” starring Will Smith.
“[Smith’s character is] allergic to shrimp, and he’s on a date, and his throat, and his lips, and his ears all blow up, and it’s this whole scene. I had the same exact experience. It was not so pretty,” she exclaims. But, Huntsman laughs to ITK, “There was a second date, which says a lot. Yeah, that was a bad experience.”
We wanted to learn more about Huntsman, who will be celebrating her fifth wedding anniversary this year with college sweetheart Jeff Livingston, so we asked her these questions.
Hometown: I grew up all over the place. I was born in Philadelphia, and then I moved to Taiwan, then Utah was mainly my growing up years — it’s where my family’s from. And then, I went to four high schools, so I moved to Virginia, and then back to Utah, and then to Singapore, and then back to Virginia again. So we moved around quite a bit.
College attended: University of Pennsylvania.
What did you want to be when you were a kid? I wanted to be an actress on Broadway. I grew up doing musical theater, so I was a pretty strong-willed child.
My mom put me in an audition when I was 7 years old, and she just said, “Go and do your thing and perform in front of the director.” And I was lucky enough to get the role, and that changed my life, because it really — that was my passion. I loved performing; I loved singing; I loved the idea of playing a character totally different than yourself.
Favorite hobby/activity: I have a golden retriever that I got a year ago that has changed my life. He is my best friend, so if it’s not hanging out with George, it’s [because] I’m really active. I love being outside running. I love just moving. My husband and I, if we have a day off, we’ll spend the day just walking the city of New York. You know, we’ll walk 12 miles in a day.
After work you’ll find me: Listening to music.
Favorite band: It’s always what I’m in the mood for. Literally, I could go from listening to, um, you know the latest hits from Avicii or whatever to, you know, a Josh Groban Broadway tune soundtrack. And maybe this is embarrassing to admit, but I listen to Taylor Swift all the time. I listened to her when she was first just getting started; I always loved her stuff. So I’ve been a Taylor loyalist from the beginning.
Favorite food: I love cheese. Put a cheese plate in front of me, I’m the happiest person in the world. Also, chocolate. I think cheese and chocolate are my favorites, but I try to be, I’m a pretty healthy eater.
Most hated food: I cannot touch mayonnaise — everything about it. My dad doesn’t eat mayonnaise, so I think I grew up having no mayonnaise in the fridge.
Most memorable moment: My wedding day.
Most embarrassing moment: In seventh grade, I ran for president of my class and got one vote — that vote was mine.
What you like about D.C.: I love the history of D.C. I love what it stands for. When you’re there, it feels patriotic. I’ve always loved that.
I remember as a little girl, my dad would take me in his Chrysler convertible, I was probably, you know, 4 or 5, and we’d go, and we’d have picnics every Saturday on the lawn of the Capitol. And we’d fly kites and eat Twinkies, and that was sort of “our thing.”
What you dislike about D.C.: The worst thing about D.C. is the politics.
[After ITK points out that politics help keep Huntsman employed, she responds:] That is true, if there were no politics, we’d have far less to talk about. Isn’t that a funny thing? You know, we hit on them all the time in the media, but yet, we also crave it. If there’s controversy or a crazy sound bite from a politician, we eat it up, so it’s a really ironic situation.
Celebrity crush: Well it was [New England Patriots quarterback] Tom Brady, and I’ve since walked that back. I’m not very happy about everything that’s happened there. George Clooney has always been my guy.
I have a fear of: I have a really bad time with heights. That, and I’m also claustrophobic. So flying is not so fun. It’s like the worst of both worlds. I fly when I have to, but yes, I have at times canceled trips last-minute because I just don’t want to fly.
Biggest pet peeve: My biggest pet peeve is insecurities. I think that insecurity is the worst quality, and we all have it. I’m insecure about a lot of things, but it’s a pet peeve of mine because I think it holds so many people back from being a good person.
Best advice given: The best advice probably, and this goes for career but also just life, is that you can only be yourself. I’m probably one of, if not the, youngest hosts here. You’re always trying to learn from the best, and you, at times, question yourself and try to be like those that you admire. And what I’ve found, the longer I’ve been doing this, is I can only be Abby, and I can only better what it is I can do. And the minute you try to be somebody else, whether that’s in life, or in your job, is inauthentic, and it’s a turnoff to people, I think.