Why Natalie Morales Left the ‘Today Show’ in New York and Moved to the West Coast

Natalie Morales of the Today Show left her post on the NBC morning news program in 2016 to serve as co-host of Access Hollywood. Moving with her husband and two sons from New York City to Los Angeles, the journalist had a personal motivation for uprooting her family to the West Coast.

Natalie Morales attends the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards
Natalie Morales of the “Today Show” | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

A cause close to Morales’ heart

Morales has previously shared that her mother-in-law, Kay Rhodes, suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s, being diagnosed in her mid-50s.

“She had shown some symptoms for years before being diagnosed, but what we all mistook for absent-mindedness clearly and quickly progressed into the devastating disease,” Morales shared, according to Wag Magazine. “Though my father-in-law had long saved for their golden years, with plans of travel and great adventures, instead he found himself acting as a caregiver.”

The decline in her mother-in-law’s health was devastating to those around her. “She did live more than 15 years, though her quality of life was zero,” the NBC star explained. “She could not walk, talk and had long lost any recognition of her loved ones. It was devastating to see the decline and heartbreaking to see a once beautiful, vibrant and very social woman, disappear before our very eyes.” 

Morales has become a champion for the cause, working closely with the Alzheimer’s Association and spotlighting the need for more research. “The more we learn now the better we are at planning for our future and doing all that we can to better educate and prepare for ourselves or our loved ones,” she said.

Morales makes a move

Married to husband Joe since 1998, the couple has two sons, Josh, 16, and Luke, 11. The effects of the devastating illness on her mother-in-law had an impact on their family. “We are much more mindful about taking healthier approaches in life,” Morales told Working Mom in 2018.

The experience of witnessing what her family member went through motivated Morales and her husband to prioritize their lives and decide what would bring them the most joy. Ultimately, they decided they wanted to relocate. 

“It was more of a bucket list thing for my husband and me. My kids were going into seventh and second grade. It seemed like it was time for a change,” the former Access Hollywood star said of moving to California from New York in 2016. “I grew up an Air Force brat. I moved every three years on average. So after living in a small town for 15 years—I loved Hoboken, NJ—I thought my kids needed to get out of their comfort zone.” 

The decision prompted the Today co-host to approach producers with the idea of being their West Coast correspondent for the show. “[I went to my bosses, and] I was like, ‘Listen, things are changing, my role is changing; what do you think about this? We have always talked about needing more of a West Coast presence,’” she revealed. “I presented them with this opportunity and this role, and they went for it.”

No regrets

Though Morales left Access Hollywood in April 2019, she is still a steady presence on Today on both coasts and very thankful that she decided to make the move. 

“I don’t want to have regrets from not experiencing other things and having other opportunities,” she said. “So, for me, the change of living a life that was perhaps a little more fulfilling and fun, and being home more often with the kids, rather than being on the road covering tragic breaking news stories all the time [was a no-brainer].”

See Morales in action weekday mornings on the Today Show!