By Mia Weber
If you were asked to describe the ultimate BFF—someone to celebrate your successes and sympathize with your sadness; someone to offer an honest opinion on the latest fashion trends, as well as sound advice on health and wellness—what attributes would you give her? Would she be a loving mother? A successful businesswoman? Perhaps she’d have an academic background in psychology and also a passion for style and beauty? Just for fun: It would be pretty cool if she could tell some stories about going on tour with a famous boy band back in the late 90s, had a cute little dog to hang out with, and could give your face a photo-ready contour in under five minutes, right?
Enter Bobbie Thomas—style editor for the “TODAY” show, doting mama to 9-month-old baby Miles, bestselling author, co-founder of Woosh Beauty, and all-around self-described “Professional Girlfriend” (or #ProGirl, for those of you following along online).
For the past decade, Thomas, 41, has been most recognizable for her work on “TODAY”; she’s a contributor on a variety of topics and has a recurring weekly segment called “Bobbie’s Buzz” on the portion of the show hosted by Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb (whom Thomas counts as close friends—KLG hosted her wedding and baby shower and Hoda has been known to stop by Thomas’ apartment for evenings of spaghetti and YouTube browsing). Each week, Thomas uses her brand of relatable glamour to share product picks that range from the practical (awesome baby gear) to the wacky (spray-on nail polish).
“I’m not a celebrity… What I do is share information and I want women to feel like I’ve done the homework for you and curated this,” Thomas explains from her cozy home office, with her hair in rollers as we prepare for our photo shoot. “I really look at myself more as that ‘Professional Girlfriend’ and that guide.”
Sharing—be it beauty tips or a roadmap to high self-esteem—has long been a part of Thomas’ professional path. Through her education and early on in her career, “sharing” meant sharing information and resources to help those in need. Raised bi-coastally by divorced parents in Rhode Island and in Los Angeles (with LA becoming her home base once she reached her teen years), she completed her undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Idaho and went on to work towards a master’s in marriage, family, and child therapy from California State University at Northridge (CSUN). While at CSUN, she also spent time as a volunteer at the Valley Trauma Center (a rape crisis facility) and visited local schools to speak to students about issues like sexual harassment.
“I needed to accumulate hours if I was going to go through with licensure and become a therapist…[and] part of that was talking about preventative measures and going to schools and talking to kids in PE about sexual harassment, etc,” she explains. “And it was a lightbulb moment for me, actually, realizing that I could affect change before [something] happened, instead of in the space of trauma, which was aftercare.”
During the late 1990s, Thomas’ 20s were influenced by an up-and-coming celebrity scene in LA with friends like Fergie (a longtime pal who wrote a forward to Thomas’ book) and Justin Timberlake (a fun fact that we uncovered: during N*SYNC’s heyday, she was his bandmate JC Chasez’s girlfriend for three years and appeared in the band’s “I Drive Myself Crazy” music video) to name a few. As time went on, she was able to use her natural gift for public speaking and her window into the glossy side of the entertainment industry to land TV and magazine gigs, carving a unique path to a job that didn’t quite exist yet. A pivotal moment came when she was offered an opportunity to be an advice columnist in J-14 magazine—she found that she was able to make a tangible link between the work she was doing with young people in schools, America’s fame-obsessed culture, and her access to young celebrities on the rise. In her “Bobbee’z Buzz” column, she answered teenage readers’ questions on “boys, body, beauty, and you” and found herself exploring the inherent links between inner confidence and outer beauty and style.
“[Bobbee’z Buzz] was a mixed bag of coming-of-age questions, but also ‘how do I do my makeup?’ and ‘what should I wear?’” she recalls, noting that she would sometimes turn to famous pals like Fergie, Jessica Simpson, P!nk, and the members of N*SYNC for insight as she wrote. “It was my way of using fashion and beauty in a smart way… Especially for these girls who were a little bit younger and needed to feel more confident in their own skin.”
Empowering women remains a driving force in what currently makes Thomas such a compelling figure on “TODAY”—and her message is clearest when it comes directly from her own experiences. Case in point: Last summer, Thomas and her husband, Michael Marion (a lawyer whom she met through a friend), welcomed their first child—a healthy, adorable baby boy named Miles. And while they’re the epitome of family bliss now (complete with Chica, their long-haired Chihuahua), the road to parenthood proved challenging as Thomas found herself undergoing IVF in order to conceive. It was a journey that wasn’t easy but that she felt very strongly about sharing through her distinctive position on national TV.
“I was in an emotional rut, at first, trying to absorb that having a child may not be an option for me. And then I found myself at work whispering to colleagues: ‘Oh, I’m doing IVF,’” she explains about confronting her issues with fertility. “There was this irony that, here I was, about to walk out in front of a camera on live, national television to share things that I feel might help women but yet, in the hallway, I’m whispering about this personal challenge…I thought: ‘No more whispers! Why do we do this?’ [Fertility] is something that more women should feel comfortable talking about, because if the topic isn’t taboo, you get more support…from family, from friends, from professionals, from doctors—and from other women! And especially from other women who have gone through this and understand it uniquely and intimately.”
In sharing her IVF journey with “TODAY” viewers, Thomas hoped to remove the stigma surrounding infertility and help others experiencing similar challenges. She also received a level of support from fans that struck an emotional chord. “I feel like the journey became a communal thing, where so many women were commenting on Facebook and offering prayers or support,” Thomas says, adding that hearing from women who were undergoing IVF right alongside her was especially moving. “There’s this personal commitment that I made to myself when I found myself on the other side [of IVF]—I just never wanted that side of the fence to feel like I’ve abandoned them.”
Thomas has since taken infertility awareness on as a cause that’s close to her heart by spreading the word about a resource called MyFertilityFacts.com (learn more in the slide show below). Her goal in championing their “Know More. Start Asking” campaign is to show women that they have options and that they’re not alone in struggling with infertility. “We’ve worked so hard to have these options—again, options, options, options—[they] make you such a happier person,” Thomas says, noting: “There’s no better example for a kid to be around than someone who’s thriving. I’m lucky and I want to give back.”
It’s evident in the big, beaming smiles on her and her son’s faces as they snuggle on her serene, pillow-laden white couch and indulge in playtime on the floor of Miles’ nursery, that she is indeed thriving in her role as a mother. Thomas glows as she recounts silly moments at home, having dance parties in the living room while Miles tries to figure out where the music is coming from (pro tip: The magic of Sonos speakers) and she readily share her delight that her husband has always been a champion for the happiness of their family. But she’s also not shy about discussing motherhood’s hurdles—she had trouble with breastfeeding (she swears by Gerber’s BabyNes infant nutrition system–see slide show below) and she has yet to find that illusive equilibrium between the personal and the professional.
“It’s an ongoing challenge to find balance…I think the fact that I’m just striving for that balance, I have to believe, makes me a good mother,” she says of the quest to straddle the realms of work and home. “I care about Miles, but I also care enough to make sure that I’m the best possible woman I can be, to be an example for him to see. I just want him to witness a strong human being and a happy, healthy family where we chase our dreams, and he was one of them.”
So far, whatever parenting balance that Thomas and Marion (Thomas admits that she’s better at sticking to a schedule with parenting tasks, but that he’s better at toughing it out through challenges like “cry it out”) have been able to strike seems to be working just fine for their son. By all accounts, Miles is a curious, sweet, and playful little boy who’s starting to sculpt his own unique personality.
“It’s amazing how you see a person develop so early in life… He’s always smiling, he always seems to be in a good mood,” Thomas gushes of her little dude. “And I think what’s amazing is that he is persistent. When he does want something—a specific toy, or to get somewhere—he does not give up and he has lungs. He will scream and army-crawl until he gets the prize, and if he can’t, I’ve seen him turn red with frustration just trying to. It’s amazing to see willpower in someone that young!”
Of course, it’s easy to deduce where Miles gets his strong will from. Determination and a deep-rooted inner strength is part-and-parcel of Thomas’ core mantra. The very chic umbrella that covers just about everything she does today is a belief that true style comes from within and the exterior follows to match that. “I’m so grateful to have a style philosophy that is based on the inside. I’ve been working in this bubble—I should say, industry—of fashion and beauty and women’s lifestyle topics that can, at times, feel very superficial,” she explains. “I just couldn’t help but consider how psychology and style are connected—throughout my whole career it’s been so important and a passion of mine that women know what’s under the dress, because you have to love that first.”
Thomas continually used her passions to fuel her career as she progressed from her J-14 column to become a regular face covering the red carpet for E!, the Style Network, NBC, CBS, and more, as well as a columnist (“The Buzz”) for In Touch Weekly magazine. In 2013, she also added bestselling author to her resume with The Power of Style: Everything You Need to Know Before You Get Dressed Tomorrow, a two-part guide to discovering and executing your personal style from the inside out. And over the past year, while pregnant, she developed and launched a cosmetics line called Woosh Beauty (see slide show below to learn more) with her best friend, Andrea DeVos Abraham (also a new mom), which consists of innovative beauty essentials in the vein of “why-has-no-one-made-this-yet?” Available now through HSN and at wooshbeauty.com, Woosh is full of products that are meant to be fun but that are also designed with the intention of streamlining a woman’s beauty routine (see the sidebar at right for Thomas’ take on some of the line’s standout hits).
With such a colorful resume, it would be easy to assume that Thomas has an action-packed summer in the works or that she’s already cooking up her next business venture. However, her answer to the question of “what’s next?”—like much about her life story—is pleasantly surprising. “Right now, I’m loving this gift called Miles and I’m in this mom space,” she says with a dreamy look on her face. “I feel grateful on a daily basis—there’s nothing else going on that could be more important.”
To learn more about Bobbie Thomas, visit bobbie.com!