True to her Alex-around-town persona, Good Day Philadelphia coanchor Alex Holley has had quite the crazy January.
Two weeks ago, she hosted Hair O' the Dog, Philly's annual gala for fashion-obsessed millennials, and on Saturday, she attended its old-money counterpart, the Academy Ball. In between quick, glam-gown fittings, Holley squeezed in her regular community service, spending Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the National Constitution Center, helping little ones stuff paper bags with school supplies for children in need.
Conference calls, happy hours, restaurant openings, hair appointments (you all know how hard you are on morning anchors): Holley is always on and out.
Then two weeks ago, the Eagles clinched the NFC championship, so this week our Birds are in Minnesota gearing up to play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
And so is Alex.
"My life is not my own right now," Holley told me last week as she hustled to keep up with coanchor Mike Jerrick. The duo were on their way to film yet another comedic skit to have in the can for Super Bowl week — one of the hallmarks of the lighthearted morning news show. "But I wouldn't want it any other way. I'm having the time of my life," Holley said.
Holley, Jerrick, and reporter Jennaphr Frederick are hosting Good Day live this week from the Mall of America. Our Philly-centric morning show holds its own against national mornings shows Good Morning America and Today — it's been No. 1 in the 9 a.m. hour among the coveted 25- to 54-year-old demographic for the last three months, and No. 2 in the 6 to 7 a.m. and 7 to 9 a.m. segments — because Alex and Mike do things their counterparts would never do. Before leaving for Minnesota, Holley assumed the role of Janet Jackson to Jerrick's Justin Timberlake in a spoof of their infamous 2004 Super Bowl appearance. It will air this week. On Wednesday morning, you will likely see Holley and Jerrick ice-fishing in Minneapolis.
"I know a lot of people can't go to the Super Bowl," Holley said. "I feel fortunate to be able to, so I want to do things in a way so people feel like they are here with us."
Holley is our town's official "It" girl news anchor.
Three years ago, Holley replaced beloved Philadelphia-born Sheinelle Jones, who after spending nearly a decade at Fox 29, birthing three children, and building her own special relationship with Jerrick, left Good Day to take a dream job at Today.
Holley got the coveted Good Day gig after only three years as a reporter and fill-in morning anchor for the NBC affiliate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where she favored cardigans and layers of pearls. During her job interview, she won Jerrick over when she was able to sing Teddy Pendergrass' 1979 hit "Come on Over to My Place."
"There was a chemistry right from the jump," Jerrick said. "What's not to like? Alex is smart, funny, clever, hardworking. She's a good writer and a go-getter. She was just what we needed."
But it took Philadelphians a bit longer to warm up to her all the way. Their biggest complaint: Holley was too young.
"The one thing I heard about Philadelphia before I came was that Philadelphians don't like change," said Holley, who is now in her late 20s. She's wary of giving her exact age because, she said, people focus on the number more than her ability to do the work.
"I set out to know this city and make sure the city knew me. So I decided to go to everything — sometimes I'd go to two events a day. It's hard to dislike someone when you actually know them," she said.
Holley made a name for herself by putting herself out there to the point where it's now literally part of her job — a year ago, she launched her weekly segment "Alex Around Town," reporting from cool places in town she's never been.
And when she needed to, she proved she could hold Good Day together on her own, especially last winter, when Jerrick took a six-week leave to fight depression.
"When he's not there, I take the lead," said Holley, who has developed a few on-air Holleyisms, including a deep-throated "ha ha" and the way she always calls people "dear." She admitted not really feeling like the show was hers until she starred as Bruno Mars in the morning crew's version of "Uptown Funk" in 2015. "It was terrifying because I came from South Carolina, where I was serious, straitlaced, and I wasn't allowed to have an opinion."
Holley has said goodbye to cardigans and hello to the monochromatic sheaths that she wears over sweats and combat boots behind the desk when it's cold. She's able to balance her hard-news background while still allowing her basic fun vibe to shine through.
It's that inner fun persona that keeps her social media popping. Holley's 47,900 Twitter followers and 82,600 Instagram followers get a daily, uber-curated peek at Holley's life: at restaurant openings, sitting in the back of the plane on the way to Minneapolis, hugging her 88-year-old granddad, Ezell.
(There's no boyfriend in the pics — dating in Philly is no joke — but Holley is just fine with that.)
Her phone is in hand at all times, even — or especially — when she's sitting at the anchor desk. After the show, she can usually be found in the editing room, cutting down her interviews to under one minute to post on the Gram. Her social-media presence, Holley said, has been key to her career advancement.
"It's not just important, it's crucial," Holley said. "It's yet another way to connect with viewers. People say that we are on our phones a lot [when we are on air]. But that's how I bring viewers in to the show. If we are [doing a segment] on how long it takes to get engaged, I like to be able to look at my phone and see that it took Cathy's man three months to pop the question, or whatever."
Holley spent a lifetime cultivating what is now her easy, on-air flow.
The only child of municipal judge Glenn and American Airlines consultant Sharyn, Holley grew up in Irving, a suburb of Dallas, wanting to be an actress with a side gig as a waitress.
"We wanted her to be an astronaut or pilot or something with that field," said Glenn. "But she was always very outgoing. She was never shy. We just didn't know what to make of it. She would talk to everybody. What they see is who she is."
When she was a sophomore, she started doing the daily announcements for the MacArthur High School football team. Part of her job, she said, was to come up with creative skits to get the student body hyped about football. She developed an interest in broadcasting.
"I thought to myself, 'I can do this for a living,' " Holley said.
She graduated from the University of Missouri with a major in journalism and the next year took the morning anchor job in South Carolina,
It was her agent who suggested she try out for the Good Day gig.
"I wasn't supposed to be here," she said, laughing. "Not only did I hate mornings, I wanted to go somewhere warm."
After three phone interviews and a trip to Philly, she landed the gig.
As of now, she has no big network plans. In fact, she said, this summer the Holleys plan to descend on Philly from their homes in Texas, Arkansas, and Kansas City.
That's great news for one of Holley's smallest fans.
Two weeks ago, 5-year-old Reese Ward spotted Holley from across the room at the Constitution Center.
"That's the lady from TV," Reese said as she ran to Holley give a hug. Reese's mom, Erin Ward, snapped a photo.
"I think she wants to be an anchor," Ward said of her daughter. "[Holley's] such a great role model. We watch her every morning in my house."