MSNBC’s Newest Online Host, Janet Mock, Says 'Yes!'

MSNBC’s Newest Online Host, Janet Mock, Says 'Yes!'

This weekend the longtime boyfriend of transgender author and activist Janet Mock upstaged her Friday debut as a host of an online show for MSNBC. He popped the question, and Mock revealed the news — and showed off the ring — to her fans and friends on Instagram and Twitter, declaring, simply: “I said YES.”

So far, Mock hasn’t updated the public with details on her Facebook accounts or her blog, and there’s no comment yet online from her fiancé, New York photographer Aaron Tredwell (or their cockapoo, Cleo).

Tredwell met Mock early Easter morning of 2009 at a bar in Manhattan, and as she described their first encounter in an article on XOJane, she caught him looking at her as she twirled on the dance floor. “He's a fantasy come true, and I want him to want me,” she recalled.

They went for a walk on Houston Street. Over lattes and a cinnamon roll, they shared their stories: He’s from North Dakota, takes photos, and trains dogs for a living; she’s from Hawaii and works as an editor for a popular website. She told him she wants to tell stories that matter.

After a month of casual dates, Mock revealed her own story, saying, “I was born a boy.” She told him what she called her “whole story,” because she was falling for him. Her revelations includded “I knew I was a girl from my very first thoughts”; “I began presenting as female from age 12”;  “I took hormones in high school”; “I flew to Thailand to have surgery at 18.”

Afraid, worried about what he would say, Mock waited for him to react. And his reaction, as she described it, provoked tears: “Can I hug you?”
Mock credits her relationship with Tredwell and his desire “to know me, to ask me questions about my past, force me to retrace steps that have made me the woman I am today” for inspiring her to write her best-selling memoir, Redefining Realness. 

The author has parlayed that success and the popularity of her Twitter campaign, #girlslikeus, into broader exposure. Earlier this month, Mock made her debut as a special correspondent for Entertainment Tonight, interviewing Golden Globe nominee Jeffrey Tambor about his role on Amazon’s Transparent.

And Friday, she debuted as the host of one part of an online experiment by MSNBC. The cable network launched a Web portal, Shift by MSNBC, that will live-stream half-hour programs about politics, technology, and popular culture, with the potential of being picked up for TV broadcast. That last one is Mock’s assignment, a weekly talk show called So POPular.

Mock welcomed her viewers to Friday’s premiere installment by describing her goal right at the beginning: “I’m Janet Mock, here to cover all things culture, from art and entertainment to literature and anything trending in the zeitgeist. Our goal is to discuss the things that you pretend you’re too smart to like, in an effort to expand the idea of what is considered political and worthy of analysis. Every Friday, we will have fun, we will be cheeky, we will discover mine, or … ” Mock clearly recognized she had just made her first flub and she hadn’t been a host for a full minute.

But she plunged ahead and turned her flub into a self-deprecating moment of levity: “Or mine nuggets of truth from the cultural topics and experiences of our time, and I will mess up the TelePrompTer often.”

Most notable about the debut episode was that Mock’s guests were a more diverse group than is generally seen on television. Of her five guests, one was a white man, three were women of color, and one an African-American man.

Mock’s broad smile was infectious, her laugh rich and genuine as she welcomed her first guest, Sherri Shepherd. The actress is famous for her recurring role on NBC’s 30 Rock, seven years on the syndicated talk show The View, and a stint on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, and she also appeared on Broadway in Cinderella.

“I am so incredibly grateful to Barbara Walters because she made a lot of my dreams come true,” Shepherd told Mock. The actress recounted a long list of celebrities she has met on The View, from Meryl Streep to her biggest fan, Bill Clinton. Shepherd also talked about meeting her music idols, Janet Jackson and Prince. Calling the latter her “crush,” Shepherd revealed that she told the pop star she always wanted to make love to him. Mock and Shepherd shared a fun, “girl-I-get-you” laugh.

Their conversation wasn’t all laughs, as Mock deftly changed the subject to America’s racial divide, pointing out that Shepherd is a single mother. “I have brothers who are black men. I know how heavily it weighs on me. How has that affected you?” Mock asked.

“I am constantly in prayer over my son, and going, How do you talk to your child about these kind of issues, and still make him feel like he can conquer the world?” Shepherd replied.

Shepherd also talked with Mock about her return to her roots in stand-up comedy and her line of wigs that she sells on QVC. “710,000 last time,” she boasts.

Mock smoothly switched gears as she moved from the celebrity interview to a segment with political analysts about the Sony hacking controversy and chatted in her “Screening Room” with two movie critics about the films to see or skip.

Unfortunately, skipping parts of Mock’s premiere was unavoidable, as the online streaming of So POPular was marred several times by technical glitches. The gremlins interrupted her guests, cut off the host in her teases and introductions, and negatively affected the overall quality of the viewing experience.

Despite that, and the limited set with just two cameras and a simple backdrop, the show boasted first-class production values, including the host.  Mock seemed eminently comfortable in front of the camera for what was ostensibly a live show that will be available on the Internet to replay all week.

Click here to watch the debut episode of So POPular.