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Natalie Morales Biography

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Birth Name: Natalie Morales
Born: 06/06/1972
Birth Place: Taipei, , TW

She was born Natalie Leticia Morales on June 6, 1972, in Taipei, Taiwan to her mother, Penelope Morales, a native Brazilian, and her father, Mario Morales Jr., a Puerto Rican-born military man stationed with the U.S. Air Force at its command in Taichung. She grew up fluent in both Portuguese and Spanish, further imprinted as her father's reassignments saw the family living for periods in Brazil, Panama and Spain, where Natalie spent much of her teen years, before a transfer back to the U.S. landed the family in Dover, DE. After graduating high school, she matriculated at her father's alma mater, Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, NJ. She graduated summa cum laude with a dual degree in journalism and Latin American studies but found difficulty landing work amid the economic recession of the early 1990s. Instead, she signed on for a management training program with the financial institution Chemical Bank, which soon merged with Chase Manhattan Bank. She spent two years completing the program but decided against a financial career and took base-level behind-the-scenes work with cable channel Court TV. In 1998, it proved a springboard to a job with a new extension of cable company Cablevision's locally dedicated regional news channels, News 12 The Bronx, where Morales cut her teeth on-air as a morning anchor and field reporter. Also that year, she married Joe Rhodes, in private life going by Natalie Morales-Rhodes, though she would continue to use her surname professionally.

In 2000, the good-natured reporter made the jump to the NBC-owned-and-operated station WVIT in Hartford, CT, where she continued to hone her specialty as morning anchor as well as reported on local angles of such monumental events as the 2000 U.S. election and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In 2002, she took a job with her parent news division NBC News and its 24-hour-cable channel MSNBC. She crossed over to national broadcast coverage when NBC appointed her to their coverage team for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece, and also reported on facets of the Bush administration's war in Iraq. Put on the radar for advancement to a higher-profile showcase, Morales joined NBC's popular morning flagship show "Today" as a news correspondent in 2006, and just two years later, was elevated to co-host of the show's third hour. The broader national audience would see Morales become the focus of a number of national Latino organizations, named Groundbreaking Latina in Media by Catalina magazine and the National Association of Latina Leaders in 2007, while Time Warner's People en EspaƱol tapped her as No. 1 on its 2007 list of the "Fifty Most Beautiful People."

In August 2010, Morales led NBC/MSNBC's on-the-ground reporting on 33 Chilean miners trapped underground, and she went on to pen the forward to Manuel Pino Toro's Buried Alive: The True Story of the Chilean Mining Disaster and the Extraordinary Rescue at Camp Hope. Also that year, Morales expanded her imprint to NBC's primetime entertainment fare, taking an ancillary role on the reality/game show "The Marriage Ref" (2010-11), serving as fact-checker assisting a celebrity panel in deciding disputes between real couples. Seemingly everywhere, she also began an affiliation as co-host of Miss USA/Miss Universe pageants, both broadcast by NBC. In June 2011, with the departure of Meredith Vieira as "Today" co-host, the show's news desk anchor Ann Curry moved into Vieira's slot and Morales into Curry's, while NBC News correspondent Savannah Guthrie joined Morales and Al Roker as co-hosts of the show's third hour. In fall of 2011, Morales added to her duties a correspondent's job with NBC's new primetime news magazine show "Rock Center with Brian Williams" (2011- ), joining an esteemed roster of correspondents that included Curry and Matt Lauer, former "Today" hosts Vieira and Harry Smith, Richard Engel and Ted Koppel. Only a year into her duties, Curry was unceremoniously removed as Lauer's co-host in June 2012, leading to much speculation that Morales was a shoe-in to replace her. Shockingly, it was Guthrie who replaced Curry, leaving Morales in her position as news anchor.

By Matthew Grimm