NEW YORK — Jillian Mele was already in full makeup and wardrobe when I walked into the Fox News office she shares with Fox & Friends weekend host Abby Huntsman just after 4 a.m.
Morning news hosts live in a world alien to those on 9-to-5 shifts. But Mele became accustomed to the predawn hours during her 10-year stint on Philadelphia television, when she woke up early for NBC10 and the now-defunct Breakfast on Broad on the network formerly known as Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia.
Mele, 35, joined Fox News in April and began cohosting the 5 a.m. hour of Fox & Friends First in October. The Glenside native also provides news updates on Fox & Friends, where she's seen by 1.6 million viewers a day, according to Nielsen. She keeps an odd schedule that involves mad sprints down hallways in heels and stretches of silence in a dark room waiting for her next segment.
"Honestly, I don't get flooded more with any of that stuff than I did when I talked about Philly sports," Mele said. "Yes, I'm doing this in front of the country now instead of just the Delaware Valley, but one way or another, it doesn't faze me."
Mele, who has drifted from sports to news throughout her career, is a straight-news anchor on a show that makes no qualms about providing right-wing viewpoints for its largely conservative viewership.
"I have people coming up to me all the time asking me if I'm a conservative," Mele said. "I consider myself a news anchor, and I always say to people you shouldn't know what I am."
But most days, she does her news updates from the confines of Fox News headquarters in Manhattan. Here's what her days are like:
Mele's alarm goes off at 1:15 a.m. Like many journalists, her first move is to scan the latest news on Twitter before showering and heading to work. Once there, she picks an outfit from the extensive wardrobe hanging in her office and heads to makeup. Despite the early wake-up call, she allows herself only one cup of coffee, which she drinks in her office as she reviews guests and segments for that morning's show.
Mele heads to Studio J, where Fox & Friends First is taped. The set is quiet — just a few crew members to move cameras and mic her up. Things liven up when cohost Rob Schmitt arrives. They've worked together for only a few months but have become fast friends — even though Schmitt mocks Mele's boring social life by sending her grandma emojis.
"Rob's a great guy, and we have terrific chemistry on camera, which is so important for an early-morning show like ours," she said.
Mele makes her first of many moves on the set. She's not part of the next segment, which involves Schmitt interviewing Fox News contributor and conservative talk show host Tammy Bruce, so she scans through email and browses Twitter.
Mele interviews Emily Compagno, a legal and sports business analyst, about a New Orleans Saints season ticket holder who sued the team over players protesting during the national anthem. Writers and producers do most of the story selection on her show, but in this case, Mele, an avid sports fan, suggested the story to her staff.
During a commercial break, Mele looks at Twitter and is amazed at how many people are upset that she's never seen a Star Wars movie (which she revealed in an earlier segment).
"We're clear," floor director Ashlee Foster announces, which kicks off a mad dash for Mele to get into place for her first Fox & Friends news segment. She has to remove her microphone, grab her stuff, and head down 12 stories to Studio F, the expansive, two-story streetside studio where Fox & Friends is taped. She sets herself up at small table behind the main set, where she typically remains throughout the show.
Mele has just a minute or two to review the stories she'll be delivering during her first news update. She goes over the copy written by her producers as her makeup gets a quick touch-up. Then she heads onto the set for the first of typically six updates she'll deliver during the three-hour run of Fox & Friends, at the top and bottom of every hour.
After delivering her headlines, Mele makes her way back to her nook behind the set, where she grabs a granola bar and looks over her next news update.
She has a question about a segment involving former White House aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman having been physically removed from the White House. "We're using the word reportedly, but I think it's worth citing the source," Mele tells a copy editor in the studio's main control room, who updates the report to cite the Wall Street Journal as the source. "Thank you," she says.
After her second news update, Mele returns to her crowded desk. In theory, Mele could be anywhere, including the spacious green room, when she's not needed on the set. But she chooses to remain close to the production in case a segment's timing changes.
"This is when the day starts to drag," Mele admits after delivering two more news updates. As she waits for copy to be finalized, she interacts with viewers on social media. In recent weeks, she's had back-and-forths with fans over Malcolm Jenkins and the national anthem protests, her wardrobe choices, and a light segment on National Cookie Day.
After her final update was pushed back 20 minutes for an extra weather segment, Mele joins the rest of the crew for a cooking segment. Mele is a vegetarian, and despite having grown up in the Philadelphia suburbs, she admits she's never eaten a cheesesteak.
Mele concludes her work day with an appearance on the Fox & Friends Facebook program After the Show Show and heads back to her office, where she immediately changes into something more casual, in this case a flannel shirt and jeans. By 11 a.m., she's generally back in her apartment, where she eats her largest meal of the day before succumbing to a much-needed nap. Mele largely avoids news until around 4 p.m., when she begins to prep for the next day's show. She also tunes in every day to watch her colleague Bret Baier on Special Report at 6 p.m..
"It is the absolute best roundup of all the day's top stories," Mele said. "For me, it's a must-watch."