Thomas Roberts is trying out a different shift co-hosting Sunday night’s Miss Universe pageant. The journalist usually starts his days in the middle of the night, as anchor of MSBNC’s Way Too Early. Roberts will do the honors along with Natalie Morales, with whom he often works on sister station NBC’s Today show.
Speaking on a conference call, Roberts said he was thrilled to be taking on the role again (he hosted the last contest in 2013, which crowned the reigning Miss Universe Gabriela Isler in Moscow), stressing there will be some serious entertainment for the folks watching from home. Added to the roster, along with Nick Jonas and Prince Royce, is Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw, who will perform his hit song Fire and the title track off his new album, Finest Hour.
Among the other recently announced celebrities on the judging panel are Emilio Estefan; Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson; Project Runway fashionista Nina Garcia; telenovela stud William Levy; MTV personalities Rob Dyrdek and Louise Rose; Miami Marlins baseball star Giancarlo Stanton; boxing great Manny Pacquiao; and reality stars Kristin Cavallari and Lisa Vanderpump.
Despite the pomp and spectacle surrounding Donald Trump’s blowout, Roberts is taking his job as cohost of Sunday night’s shebang seriously.
“In my experience,” says the journo, who also hosted Miss USA last August, “what I’ve been impressed by is that these are not only beautiful but brilliant young women who are very well accomplished, and a lot have come up through different hardships to earn their titles to come this far and compete on a world stage.”
Physical attributes aside, Roberts thinks the woman who earns the 2014 crown (2015’s pageant is set for December) has gotta have heart.
“Humanity is a large part of what is represented with the title,” he says, citing the circumstances surrounding November 2013’s show, which was held the day after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. The Miss Universe Organization and Dutch development agency Cordaid linked up to create a global fund to help with the recovery.
“Even though Gabriela’s platform is HIV/AIDs, she has been at the forefront educating and telling people how to donate,” says Roberts, a native of Maryland. “So this job isn’t just about the sash and crown; you’re an ambassador of this brand that is connected to a lot of international charities.”
Roberts finds nothing sexist or objectifying about the contest.
“What we’ve learned is that both winners and contestants are women of distinction who have gone on to do great things,” he says. “This is a moment in their lives that changes everything in an instant. They use this opportunity —be it through politics or pop culture. The world is their oyster due to the experiences they have been exposed to.”
The three-hour telecast airs at 8 p.m. on NBC6 and Telemundo51 live from Florida International University.