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Chasing the Story Within: Tara Bernie's Voyage from News Reporter to Yoga Entrepreneur



Does the name “Guy Smiley” ring a bell?


For Tara Bernie, it does. Renowned TV news reporter Guy Smiley inspired her to become an Emmy-winning TV journalist and producer.


And where did she encounter this towering, intrepid figure of the fourth estate? What network?


That would be PBS. NewsHour? No. Sesame Street. Guy Smiley was a muppet.


During our interview, neither of us knew if “Sesame Street” is still on or if Guy Smiley still graces its fanciful screen. But if you’re old enough to remember VCRs and landlines, there’s a good chance you saw a Smiley news broadcast at one point or another.


“He’d breeze in as the roving reporter with the trench coat and the microphone and announce, ‘This Just In!’”



For some reason, that resonated. A lot. The thing is, “he had something to say.” 


“And also,” Tara says, her eyes lighting up, “my oldest brother is named Guy. So no one else on earth is named Guy except my brother and Guy Smiley.” 


Was it a sliver of kismet? Or just a good fit?


Either way, that early vision of journalism—care of public broadcasting—would play a pivotal role in Tara’s life.


Imitating Smiley as a child—interviewing family-members with her thumb for a microphone—meant Tara knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up. The result was an illustrious career, of reporting, producing, kicking butt and taking names, interviewing celebrities including her own idols like Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer, and ultimately winning an Emmy.


Then, on April 17th 2023, she blazed the trail of "business owner.” Between freelance media gigs, Tara is the founder and owner of TB Yoga House in Morristown, NJ.


“And I love saying it, too,” she proclaims without an ounce of self-consciousness. Maybe that abandon is something you develop in front of the camera. 


For over three decades, she was an on-air media personality and producer in both entertainment news and “hard news.”


MEMORY LANE: CLOSED. TAKE DETOUR.



If you ask her about a hard news story that she remembers, Tara conveys a very specific mantra that she absorbed in both California and New York. 


“If it bleeds, it leads.” The list of stories she might remember consists largely of “fires, murders, all that good stuff.” 


I can sort of see why she doesn’t remember much.


It seems like anyone would have to harden their nerves to such experiences. "I am human and you can't help but feel it. But you [also] can't let the emotion get in the way of finding out the who, what, where, when, why. News is news, and you have to cover it no matter what."


Perhaps it takes a certain stomach to work in news, hard or entertainment (which is a distinction I might challenge.) For me, whose most on-the-ground reporting was a bench press competition at Montclair State University, I feel like I would bring work home.


But Tara didn't have this problem, if for no other reason than because the news moves so fast.  After you shoot the show and get it out to affiliates, usually "it was one and done." 


Sometimes a story had "legs," meaning the network would follow the story as it developed and ran its course. But generally, news passed with the day.


Tara preferred it this way.



"I don't know that I could work on a long-form program, like a Dateline or a 20/20,” Tara admits. “I have such admiration for those types of producers because you are immersed; you could be immersed for a year in investigative journalism!" 


These are the kinds of jobs that you might take home with you: when you literally live the story.


Over the years, Tara learned to separate herself from the work. There were some interviews that left her flummoxed, though. 


"Starstruck" is a dirty word among journalists. You're not supposed to make the interviewee—who is often a celebrity in every sense of the word—feel like you are biased in any way, or that your feelings about them outshine your professionalism. This is a great way to make them uncomfortable, even if your feelings are positive.


And on a very practical level, the journalist has a very limited amount of time with these people, sometimes only thirty seconds or three minutes.


"You don’t have time to be starstruck."


That said: "when I met John Mayer for the first time..."


I can’t withhold a smile. In my mind, I rub my hands together. Yes?


“Well, I was a little taken aback because his music means a lot to me. I interviewed him three or four times in my career but that first time...I was like, ‘I can't believe this is happening.’ Butterflies.”


I can imagine it. Tara is human, as we’ve established.


The other big one was literal Superman.


The year is 2016. New York City. The red carpet. Reporters everywhere. Tara is hard at work producing her network's coverage of the Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice premiere. She beholds the seemingly endless stream of artists and celebrities that light up our lives and electrify our passions on screens of multiple sizes.


Among them is Henry Cavill.


Initially, Tara's on-air talent was going to interview Cavill but then when the moment came, “he threw me under the bus. He’s like, ‘Hey Henry, you know what? Tara’s going to do the interview.’” 


A practical joke among entertainment journalists, perhaps. 


"For a millisecond, I wasn't sure I could do it. I had a big crush on him.” 


“Who doesn’t?” I validate. Tara echoes the sentiment.


Her cameraman had never seen her that flustered. "It was a lot." There was some babbling and blushing that took place, but the segment made air, and that's what counts.


For a moment, "I wasn't a journalist; I was a fan."




Human. Definitely human.



FINDING A FLOW


Her trajectory to reporting was simple, straight, clear. First, Guy Smiley. Not long after, internships with Dan Rather and Howard Stern.


Then, she was working at a law firm and commuting to William Paterson College (before it was a university) for their amazing journalism program.


You could say Tara was motivated. “I wasn’t a great student....but I knew this is definitely what I wanted to do.”


Then, a career in journalism that most anyone would place in the “dream come true” category.


The next step was—you guessed it—yoga. 


Wait; yoga?


Where does that come from? Change is human, after all. And as a producer, you learn how to multitask and pivot with ease. But from “fires, murders,” and Helen Mirren autographs to Downward Dog, Warrior Two, Bikram in 112-degree heat, and cats...so many cats...


That’s quite a pivot. Or is it?


Maybe Tara was tired of all of the multitasking. Maybe she needed something quieter, gentler, softer to focus on for a while.


Or maybe not: “As the owner and teacher I’m multitasking every day. In every class, I’m making sure the playlist is good and the sequencing makes sense. I’m making sure nobody gets hurt, making adjustments for every person who needs it, whether it’s one person or the seventeen that can fit in here, I’m answering questions.” And then there’s the business side of it.


“I work Monday through Sunday, morning and evening.”


And it’s effortless right? You’re just a machine. It never gets tiring, does it?


Well not exactly. By Wednesday, her brain starts to ask questions of her body. By Thursday, maybe her body begins to rebel as well. “LIttle body aches and that kind of thing.” 



In moments like these, her own yoga practice is how she recharges. 


“I’m not like, ‘oh my god, I wish it would just stop.’ I’ve never been one to say, ‘I’m so busy, I don’t have time.’ I hear that from people who say, ‘I want to come to yoga but I’m so busy.’ I’ve never said that because, yes, I multitask, but I never multi-task anything that doesn’t fit.”


My inner reply is, “Um, teach me how to do that.” But I save it for later.



THAT’S AWESOME, LIKE LITERALLY, BUT WHY YOGA?


Okay, so Tara doesn’t do yoga to manage her multitasking tendencies, per se. Nor is she “mellowing out” her high standards of achievement. Which would be fine; it’s just not the case.


So. Why. Yoga?


The thing is, she’d always been physical: dancing, sports, exercise classes, yoga as well. So it was already part of her life. But it was about to become a central part of it and then its dominant force, as news media had once been.


She recounts her very first class. It was Bikram yoga: twenty-six poses performed twice each over ninety minutes, all in 112-degree heat.


“I threw up on the way home and had a horrible migraine all night. But I awoke the next morning and said, ‘I can’t wait to go back.’ For three years, I did Bikram four times, sometimes five times a week.”


Sounds pretty hardcore. 


A few years into it, she discovered Vinyasa. This would be her preferred form going forward. “For ninety minutes, I didn’t think about anything except just being here and working my body and challenging my mind.” And there’s music in Vinyasa; there’s no music in Bikram.


In Bikram, there are twenty-six poses; in Vinyasa, there are potentially thousands.


“That was my space for me: walking through that door and hitting my mat...I was just so present, my mind was so completely clear. I relied on it as my form of therapy. I don’t meditate outside of yoga, I don’t go to a therapist outside of yoga...”



But what did you need therapy for, Tara? What happened? Why start a yoga business now? Why devote your life to it? Just cuz?


Okay; before she answers, I think I’ve got it figured out. This highly-intrinsically-motivated woman just—one day, out of nowhere—decided to change careers, saw a post on an Instagram account with a name like Yoga4UrEuphoricLyfe, or whatnot, and for no particular reason, was like, “I’ll do that!”


Amirite? 


If only it was that simple, that volitional, that free. Instead, what happened was out of her control, a tragedy.


The death of her husband, John, in 2017 threatened to shake her free from herself, topple her world, and pull her self-confidence out from under her. 


So was yoga a coping mechanism, an escape from the pain of the moment?


Not escape; healing. Her own, and eventually other people’s, challenging bodies, freeing minds, and celebrating common humanity. But first she had to embrace her own.


“I would lie still on my mat and cry or find movement and release the bodily tension, clear my head so I can make decisions.”


It was working. Tara and her family were managing as well as could be expected. Time passed; yoga took root as a central tenet of her identity. 


And then came the pandemic. 


COVID was like a phone-call we all received, and almost all of us were forced to take it; no matter how many times we ignored the ring, or blocked the number, at some point it got through and delivered its painful message, often more than once.


For ten weeks, “I couldn’t move my body at all,” let alone do a lick of yoga.


She emerged from her affliction stronger than before, but believe it or not, another impediment awaited her. Not a family obligation or an injury but another ailment, this one oddly scarier than the first.


Cancer.


“I had to have my thyroid out and the doctor said, ‘you can’t do yoga for six weeks.’” She protested, but the power of the word itself—her diagnosis—compelled her to relent.



Thyroid cancer is among the most treatable. Hope was with her, even if her yoga mat wasn’t.


“Going back was really emotional, but it was very cathartic; it helped me process.”




HOW TO BE STRONG: LET GO


So how did Tara get through a career of covering murders, wildfires, celebrity overdoses, and all manner of other unpleasantness, the loss of a loved one, and a cancer diagnosis? How does she overcome and carry on? And with two amazing daughters? How did she excel in her field, become a producer, dominate the red carpet circuit, win an Emmy, and then start her own business? Where does this come from?


Probably her upbringing. Tara and her two older brothers, Guy and Budd, were brought up by a single mother. Mom had a great job—performing on huge stages as a showgirl in Las Vegas—but of course, this meant she worked nights. Late nights. The kids had each other, but they were basically on their own.


This led to a high degree of independence and self-sufficiency, borne more of necessity than preference.


Every day, “I had to ask myself, ‘okay, how am I getting to school today? How am I getting myself home? When can I do my homework?’”


There was little time for figuring out what felt right. Things just needed to get done.


I ask Tara, “if you suppress your feelings and it seems to make life easier to deal with, is that strength?”


She takes a moment, cogitating my abstract question. I swoop in and try to help.


“Like is that how you’ve managed to do so much?”


[Truth Bombs Incoming]


“No. I think you become stronger if you let them go. If you’re holding onto them, they just weigh you down. Anxiety, heartbreak, sorrow, fear, why would you want to hold onto that? And it’s the same with good feelings. You can’t hold onto those either. Elation, or utter joy, or complete happiness, or being in love or anything like that.


“Does it feel good, to hold onto that fear, anxiety, pain, and sorrow? Yes, but it’s not sustainable. I think what makes you stronger is identifying that you have these emotions and finding an outlet to let them go, and then you become stronger because you can say, ‘I dealt with it, and it’s gone.’ And what’s coming up? I don’t know. You don’t know what your trajectory will be. So why not just kind of deal with what’s happening right here in the moment and then go forth?”


Deep breaths all around. I’m a little amazed. In this day and age of #HustleCulture and #Goals and #NoExcuses and #SigmaGrindset and #SorryNotSorry, here is a very successful, strong, and wise woman telling me that feelings don’t make you weak; they make you strong.


A perfect final question pops into my head.


“Tara, are you a superhero?”



She smiles, flushes slightly, a mosaic of emotions coming into greater focus. “What does a superhero do? Save lives? Make people feel good? I don’t know. I never felt that way about myself. People tell me that all the time, they’ll say, ‘I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know how you keep going, you’re so strong. You’re amazing [because of] what you’ve been able to do...’ I don’t know what it is. I really don’t.”


She puts one hand up. Her voice breaks; a dewdrop steals across each lower eyelid, escaping down her face in a gentle net of tears.


She continues bravely, balancing the words and the feelings like a complex yoga pose. “I feel like I just do what feels right. I was very fortunate to have that media career. But it was a shit-ton of hard work, really grinding and showing what I was capable of. And it paid off! The jobs I had, winning the Emmy.


“I was able to say this is what I do and this is what I’m good at. And I see TB Yoga House as a space where yoga is the vehicle for people to find whatever it is that they need. And people tell me how great they feel or how this is the first time they were able to do XY and Z. And they say to me, ‘it’s you, Tara, giving it to me,’ and I say, ‘it’s not me, it’s you.”


Another transparent veil. She gently brushes the tears from her cheeks. I sit silent, honored.


“I don’t see myself as a hero. I’m just giving whatever I can and I hope it feels good and is transforming people. That feels really good for me, and I’m so happy for them.


“I’m just being my authentic self. So just being able to give back; maybe that’s my superpower.”


A moment of calm, silence, tender re-centering of the self. I share it pleasantly, and then let her off the hook:


“That’s kind of what I meant,” I say. I haven’t had an interviewee cry in front of me in a long time. As a journalist, you never try to force it, but when it happens, you treasure it.


Tara was inspired as a child; as an adult, she inspires others. Beyond knowing what she can control and change and what gives her joy, she’s just a normal person. Yet she also has to constantly remind others of this fact: that they have this strength inside them, too.


Maybe such reminders are simply the price of being someone who works so hard to reach great heights, yet also strives to remain authentic, passionate, and human. 


Story: Mark Ludas @aulos.media

Photos: Peter Stog for LOKL cafe

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