PEOPLE exclusively spoke with Hager about the new gig, with the 37-year-old former First Daughter saying, “I’m so excited, I can’t believe it. It feels organic and it feels right. It just feels like the right time for me.”
“I’ve been the fill-in which is a fun position to be because there’s no pressure but you could just have a blast,” she added. “So, to take it to the next level is awe-inducing.”
A major benefit for Hager is that she'll be home with her 5-year-old daughter Milla, 3-year-old daughter Poppy, and husband Henry Hager much more now.
“My little kids want me around more,” she explained. “I’m a traveling machine, so to be home and to get to be kind of grounded in one position feels like such an honor. To be around a little bit more feels like the right time for my family too.”
Kotb also spoke about Hager's permanent addition to the fourth Today hour, calling her new co-host "the perfect fit."
“Being around Jenna is like being around the most real person. She says exactly what she thinks and believes and there’s something about her that makes you do two things. You lean in because you want to know more and also you kind of weirdly tell her your secrets and you’re like ‘Oh my God, I just blurted all that out!'” Kotb told PEOPLE exclusively.
“She has this thing that’s special. I know that people try to have it but I think you’re born with it. And Jenna has it and it’s the thing that makes her laugh at herself when she spills coffee on herself. It’s the way that she makes other moms feel good enough because she explains how she’s had the worst day ever and puts it out there.”0comments
Gifford announced her retirement from the show last year, telling viewers, “I went to our bosses here, actually almost two years ago and said, ‘I’m going to do one more year with Hoda woman. I’ll go out. I’ll retire with 10, a nice round number, 10 years with my sun goddess from Egypt.’ And so that was the arrangement until we had some turmoil here in our midst."
Today airs from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays on NBC. Gifford will reportedly stay on until April.