Going from freelancer to full-time at your dream job? Check. Finding your person at age thirty-six and getting married? Check. Recovering from a bout with COVID in front of the whole world? Check, check.
If ever there was a time for Brooke Baldwin to go into cruise control mode and dig her heels into stability, it would be now. Instead, on February 16, 2021, Baldwin announced that she’s walking away from her job of thirteen years as a CNN news anchor.
“No, I don’t have another job to jump into. And yes, I am feeling very vulnerable,” she said during her announcement. (You think?)
But this courageous move to explore the unknown didn’t brew overnight. In 2019, Baldwin started a #40before40 challenge on Instagram where she pushed herself to do something new and uncomfortable every day leading up to her 40th birthday.
The idea to write a book wasn’t far behind as she pitched the concept to HarperCollins. So, even as Baldwin closes one chapter of her career, she now ushers in the chapters of her debut book Huddle: How Women Unlock Their Collective Power .
So what exactly is a huddle?
“Huddle,” a term Baldwin flipped from being a masculine sports reference to a female collective, figuratively, brings the powder room to the locker room to make a powerful impact.
In her book, Baldwin describes a huddle as “A place where women can be energized by the mere fact of their coexistence. A huddle is where we can lift each other to succeed, thrive, and if I may-get amazing [stuff] done.”
Reflecting on a conversation we had a couple of years ago, I couldn’t resist asking Brooke if turning 40 had anything to do with her new (un)direction and desire to tell stories in a way she hasn’t done on her own television show.
Apparently, it did.
Baldwin shared that the milestone birthday and setting daily intentions in such a public way was a catalyst. The result? A new path outside of an anchor chair and a deeper dive into amplifying female huddles and shining light on their badassery.
Baldwin describes the journey of writing Huddle and the conversations the book sparked as “life-changing.” She traveled all over the country to interview and share stories from high-profile huddlers such as politician Stacey Abrams, film director Ava DuVernay, and coding supermodel Karlie Kloss, in addition to local trailblazers leading the way to support the next generation of women.
Along this path, Baldwin shared in her book that the very first interview she did with six of nineteen Black newly elected judges in Harris County, Texas was a shield-shattering experience—admitting the conversation cracked her wide open.
As she ventured into storytelling in a more unscripted and undefined way, she had to toss the “armor” she wore as a news anchor (reporting death, destruction, and divided political parties).
Baldwin credits the judges for challenging her to believe in herself and her project. In the book she writes, “They brought me into their huddle and I left feeling the spirit of something bigger.”
Baldwin also credits the benefits of huddles later in her professional life for helping her get to a higher level of success in her career. For example, in mid-September 2018, when Hurricane Florence was brewing and heading towards the Carolinas, she was bumped from her own show by three male prime-time anchors covering the story.
An in-office huddle with CNN colleague and friend, Alisyn Camerota helped her confront her boss, who thankfully listened. As a result, he tasked Baldwin to cover the next major hurricane, without hesitation. Her gripping coverage was submitted for the notable Peabody Award. Baldwin said, “One of my career highlights almost didn’t happen had she not been actionable and had a huddle.”
While office huddles may not be as much of the norm these days, Baldwin notes that huddles are an important way women lift each other up, whether in-person or virtually.
And, in her book, captures the connection between friendships helping to reduce stress and boost mental health.
Baldwin was one of the earlier public figures to get COVID at the onset of the pandemic. She recalls being forced to sit quietly with it. “With our ‘busy’ lives, we don’t stop to pause, and It becomes uncomfortable to deal with.”
“When we can’t physically be together, women show there is power in the huddle are forced to huddle in ways in which social media and technology is the connector, she shared with me.” (Hello Zoom!).
“Having learned we can’t do it all, we need it,” said Baldwin. Also adding, “Doing it virtually can even draw deeper connections and draw a deeper connection because there is more intention behind it.”
This connection is also critical for women working in male-dominated industry. When it comes to dealing with the struggles and stereotypes women face, Brooke, said, “Keep pushing to become the leader you are and continue to build the table. If you already have access to power, give a way for other women.”
Brook emphasized that women can pull each other up, lean on one each other, link arms and create an entire new table (channeling the sentiment that we are not free until we are all free).
This anthem of inclusion is an unmistakable theme Baldwin carries throughout Huddle. Baldwin expressed that she wanted to make sure women of all shapes, size, and color know they are included in the huddle.
So, what’s next for Baldwin?
‘Whatever I do next, I want to be able to show up fully as myself and be in full alignment with my next.” (Even with CNN being a privilege.) She shared ideas to springboard off the book Huddle and possibly create an unscripted TV show about the desires to huddle, in addition to doing more storytelling like a doc series on a streaming platform (hint, hint, Netflix!).
Ultimately, Baldwin may be leaving CNN, but her journey has just begun. Staying true to her declaration two years ago to “use her voice in a more vulnerable but powerful way,” she’s inspiring women all over the world to do the same.