Julie Chen is a CBS producer and television personality for CBS. She married Les Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corporation, in 2004. On Friday afternoon, the New Yorker published an exposé by Ronan Farrow detailing six sexual harassment allegations against Moonves.
Shortly after the allegations surfaced, Chen released a statement supporting her husband:
I have known my husband, Leslie Moonves, since the late ’90s, and I have been married to him for almost 14 years. Leslie is a good man and a loving father, devoted husband and inspiring corporate leader. He has always been a kind, decent and moral human being. I fully support my husband and stand behind him and his statement.
Here’s what you need to know about Julie Chen:
1. Julie Chen has Been the Host of ‘Big Brother’ Since 2000
Julie Chen, 48, has hosted the US version of Big Brother since it debuted in 2000. The show, in which a group of contestants live in isolation inside a house without any access to the outside world, is currently in its 20th season.
Each season of Big Brother typically brings back familiar faces. With season 20, however, CBS cast an entirely new cast.
“It’s the 20th season, let’s start fresh. Let’s bring it back to what made Big Brother so great. You like to discover new people to love and new people to hate,” Chen told the Hollywood Reporter last month.
In the early seasons of Big Brother, Chen earned the nickname “The Chenbot” by many fans of the show for her deadpan delivery and her chronic use of the phrase “but first.”
2. Chen has Worked at CBS for Almost 20 Years on a Variety of Programs
Along with her hosting gig on Big Brother, Chen serves as the moderator and co-host on the CBS daytime talk show, The Talk, alongside Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Eve, and Sheryl Underwood. The Talk covers current events and contemporary issues and can be seen as CBS’ version of The View. The Talk won Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show Hosts Daytime Emmy in 2017.
Prior to her work on The Talk, Chen worked on the now-defunct CBS program, The Early Show, in multiple roles. From 2002 to 2010, she served as co-anchor, and from 2010 to 2011 she worked as a Special Contributing Anchor.
Chen has interviewed everyone from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to actors such as Tom Hanks and Angelina Jolie. She spent time as a foreign correspondent in Kuwait and Qatar during the Iraq War.
Chen got her national start as the anchor of CBS Morning News in 1999. During a three year stretch until 2002, she also worked on CBS This Morning.
Before gaining a national audience, Chen worked at WCBS-TV, a CBS station, in New York from 1997-1999.
3. Prior to CBS, Chen worked as a Reporter in Dayton, Ohio & Faced Adversity Due to Her Chinese Heritage
In 1995, Chen took a job as a reporter for WDTN-TV, a Dayton, Ohio, news station. It was there where Chen encountered challenges due to her Chinese heritage.
During an episode of The Talk in 2013, she said her boss told her: “You will never be on this anchor desk, because you’re Chinese.” This was in response to Chen asking if she could fill in at the anchor desk when anchors were on vacation. “Let’s face it, Julie, how relatable are you to our community? How big of an Asian community do we have in Dayton,” Chen recalled her boss saying.
He went on to add: “On top of that, because of your heritage, because of your Asian eyes, sometimes I’ve noticed when you’re on camera and you’re interviewing someone, you look disinterested, you look bored.”
While searching for a new job, Chen, then 25, recalled an agent telling her that he wouldn’t represent her unless she had plastic surgery on her eyes.
Partly due to comments from her boss and pressure from the agent, Chen underwent plastic surgery to make her eyes appear larger.
Before going through with the surgery, Chen had multiple conversations with her family. She wanted to find out if the surgery would be seen as a denial of her heritage. On the show, she recalled how certain family members said they would disown her if she had the operation.
WDTN-TV apologized for the racism Chen experienced shortly after Chen revealed her surgery on The Talk. “We are sorry to hear about what happened to CBS’ Julie Chen in 1995 when she was a reporter at WDTN-TV. The station was under different management and ownership during that time. At WDTN and WBDT, we don’t tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind,” WDTN president Joe Abouzeid said.
Even during her initial stint at CBS, her current company, she found that she was getting paid less than other general assignment reporters at WCBS-TV. She told Buzzfeed that she remembered her boss telling her: “You’re lucky we’re giving you this shot.”
From there, though, Chen quickly rose up the ranks onto the national stage. Her rise came after years of wondering if she could do it, largely due to external forces telling her she couldn’t.
“My whole life I’ve been told, ‘No. No. No. No. No. You can’t do this. Okay, maybe we’ll let you slide in here but don’t expect to be treated equally to the others,’” Chen told Buzzfeed.
4. Chen Grew Up in Queens, New York as the Youngest of Three Girls
Chen was born and raised in Queens, New York as the youngest of three girls. Chen told Buzzfeed that her older sisters, Victoria and Gladys, were very close, but she wasn’t “cool enough” for them. Chen spent much of her childhood around her mother, Wan Ling Chen.
“My mom was my best friend. To this day, whatever my mom says is law. I have so much respect for her. She’s the wisest, most level-headed person I know,” Chen said.
She fell in love with the idea of working in news after seeing a reporter of Asian descent on the local news. She said that, for her family, seeing an Asian person on TV had a big impact on them.
Chen graduated from St. Francis Preparatory School in 1987. From there, she wanted to grow as a person, so she applied to schools on the other side of the country. Chen attended USC and earned a degree in English and broadcast journalism.
After graduation, Chen took a job at ABC News’ Los Angeles bureau as a news assistant. While at the Los Angeles bureau, Chen contributed to Anatomy of a Riot, a primetime special centered around the Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King verdict.
Before her experiences in Dayton, Chen spent time working as a producer on ABC NewsOne, ABC’s affiliate station.
5. Chen Married Les Moonves in a Private Ceremony in 2004
Chen began dating Les Moonves in 2004. At the time, Moonves wasn’t yet divorced from his wife of 25 years, Nancy Moonves. Nancy had filed for divorce in April 2003.
Before the divorce was finalized, Nancy Moonves told the New York Daily News in June 2004 that she wouldn’t watch CBS because of her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s and Chen’s relationship. “I don’t want to see [Chen]. It’s not healthy for me or my kids.” She also said that Les started his relationship with Chen without telling her. “I felt that everybody knew what was going on. And everybody did know. Except me.”
Nancy conceded that she knew her marriage with Les was going to end. “But the way it happened was not correct, it was not moral,” she said.
Weeks after the divorce was finalized in 2004, Chen and Moonves married in a private ceremony in Acapulco, Mexico on December 23, 2004.
Chen gave birth to their first child Charlie, on September 24, 2009. She is also the stepmother to Moonves’ three children from his previous marriage.