Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
CLOSE ×

Search

Leaving AARP.org Website

You are now leaving AARP.org and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

10 Quick Questions for Julie Chen Moonves

‘Big Brother’ host gears up for Season 25

spinner image julie chen moonves against pink background
Jen Serena/CBS

When CBS launched the reality show Big Brother in 2000, TV journalist-turned-host Julie Chen Moonves wasn’t sure the series would last the season. “That first summer, I heard rumblings that if things don’t turn around, the network could cancel it midseason,” says Moonves, 53. I said, “Well, how does that work? You just open the door and say, ‘Go home’ to the house guests? So not only did I not think I would have a Season 2, I wasn’t even sure if Season 1 was going to be completed.” Fast forward, and Season 25 of Big Brother kicks off Aug. 2. Moonves reveals what she’s learned from the show, the secrets to successful hosting and how she thinks she’d fare as a contestant.

What were your thoughts when they first asked you to host Big Brother?

Lots of questions. The only thing that really existed on the air even close to it was Survivor. My first question is, What is this? The next [questions were] Why me? Why don’t you get a professional game show host or a singer or an actress to do this? They said it boils down to two things: We need a journalist, because they have to be able to know how to ask the right questions and know how to do it on live television in a designated amount of time. We know your talents. We know you could do this. I had been doing that [same type of work] because I was the news anchor on [CBS’] The Early Show.

What’s the secret to being a good host?

Being a good listener and reading the temperature of the room, and knowing when to throw away the script. … You have to be able to be fast on your feet. Jeff [Probst, host of Survivor] makes it look easy, Phil Keoghan [host of The Amazing Race] makes it look easy, and that’s the beauty. … We can’t draw eyeballs to us, we have to draw the eyeballs to the [contestants].

spinner image julie chen moonves with group of people on set of big brother
Moonves hosts the long-running reality competition show “Big Brother,” which begins its 25th season on Aug. 2.
Courtesy of Shawn Laws O’Neil/CBS

What have you learned from Big Brother

I’ve learned so much, [including] not to take myself so seriously [and] you can’t judge others. Of course, with [the Big Brother contestants], that’s what everyone does. It’s like high school, junior high school sometimes. These are all young kids trying for something — maybe it’s fame, maybe it’s money — maybe it’s someone who’s not so young who is going through a divorce and needs money to provide for her children. At the end of the day, you cannot judge the decisions someone makes in the Big Brother house or in life because you haven’t walked in their shoes.

How do you think you’d fare on Big Brother as a contestant? 

It depends on what decade in my life [I would have competed]. I know at this point I would not fare well, because over the last 24 years, the competitions [have become] next level. They are so hard physically. Maybe when I was in my 30s, I could compete physically and mentally. But now, at age 53, there’s no way.

Is there a reality show you’d like to compete on?

I would go on [The] Amazing Race with my sister — again, 10 years ago. When Amazing Race came on the scene, my sister and I were like, We could clean up. We travel well together. We speak shorthand. We’re good at puzzles. We’re smart. We’re physical. We have a good sense of humor and we speak another language. You take us to China, we’re good. We speak Mandarin, which is my first language. I wanted to do Dancing With the Stars at one point, but these joints [now] say no.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

Do you have any other talents that we don’t know about?

I’m a really good mimic. If I didn’t do all this, and if I were right out of college, I would probably apply to be on Saturday Night Live. I don’t have a stand-up bit, but I’ve been told, ‘You’re a very good mimic.’ [I mimic] family members, my husband, my kids. … I’m rusty now, because since I started my walk with God a few years ago [Chen became a born-again Christian during the COVID-19 pandemic], I’m like, Oh maybe that’s not what I should be doing. I do it in jest, but when I do it, everyone laughs until you imitate them. Then they’re certainly not laughing.

Tell me about those cute dog posts on your social media.

Mei Mei and Mochi are my fur babies. They’re Labradoodles. They are salt and pepper, sugar and spice. Mei Mei we got seven years ago when my son [with husband and former CBS CEO Leslie Moonves] turned 7 as a birthday present. Mei Mei means two things — little sister and beautiful — in Mandarin. We wanted to get a friend for Mei Mei, so we got Mochi a few years later, only to realize Mei Mei is a one-woman show. She was not happy when we brought Mochi home. But Mochi is all spunk. She thinks she’s Ricochet Rabbit, and he’s such a rascal. One is demure and sweet, and the other one’s a rascal. So there is a perfect blend for this family.

Your son’s now a teenager. How’s that going?

What’s difficult is discerning when is he pulling my leg and when is he telling me the truth. Charlie is very smart and he’s very charming. He keeps me on my feet with that. Also now I know — he’s my only child — what my parents went through. How do I always find a way to say “yes” to him within the proper boundaries, and when I have to say “no” to him, get it through his head that this is not to strip you of joy, this is for your own good, and have him understand that? It’s hard. Social media is the hardest thing. … I have three grown stepchildren. They help me parent him. Thank God for them.

spinner image julie chen moonves with other hosts from the talk, each holding an apple
Moonves, far right, co-hosted “The Talk” from 2010 to 2018.
Craig Blankenhorn/CBS

Having been a panelist on The Talk, are you interested in hosting another talk show?

No, not like before. Weekly on my IG [Instagram], I do a seven- to 15-minute panel talk show, God 101, looking at today’s problems through a biblical lens for solutions. Sometimes I do an offshoot of that where I talk one-on-one with former houseguests and celebrities about who God is to them and how he has touched their lives. The [TV talk show] schedule isn’t right for my schedule being a mom to a teenager. I know now I could never do both at the same time. Barbara Walters once said to me, “Remember, Julie, us women, we can have it all, but we just can’t have it all at the same time.” When I was pregnant, Maria Shriver said to me, “You take as long as you need for maternity leave, because once you’re back in that newsroom, they don’t care. … Then the second time you need to take parental leave is when your kid is a teenager, because that’s when your kids need you the most.”

spinner image Member Benefits Logo

More Members Only Access 

Watch documentaries and tutorials, take quizzes, read interviews and much more exclusively for members

View More

How did it feel when you hit your 50s, especially as a woman in the TV spotlight?

I felt ready. To be completely candid, I got a lower facelift before I turned 50. Being someone in the public eye on television, where women get judged much more harshly than men do … I made a preemptive strike. Before I turned 50, I started seeing gravity in the fight. I felt prepared mentally, because with me, and I think a lot of women, I felt like if I look in the mirror and I don’t feel like I look good — even if everyone else thinks I look good — then I don’t feel good. I started feeling that way. I definitely saw gravity winning. Physically, I also felt ready because self-care and health is one of my top priorities. I still wake up with injuries. I wake up like, Why does that hurt? But that’s aging. So guess what? I have to do 20 minutes of stretching before I do however many minutes in the gym. It is what it is. 

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?