Samantha Brown & the lack of female travel show hosts
Updated: Apr 26
In an industry dominated by men, Samantha Brown has long been on of the few travel television hosts with a long career (which is crazy considering that women account for a staggering two-thirds of all travelers) notable for her work as the host of several Travel Channel shows including Girl Meets Hawaii, Great Vacation Homes, Great Hotels, Passport to Europe, Passport to Latin America, Great Weekends, Green Getaways, Passport to China, Samantha Brown's Asia, and now PBS' Places To Love. The travel media space, in which women-helmed television shows are depressingly hard to find, has often made Brown the lone figure solo hosting a travel focused show, which she has spoken about, saying: ""The visual of a woman confidently traveling is a powerful one....There is a whole consumer base with a massive budget that [they’re] not reaching because [they] do not have a woman."
Originally from Texas, Brown got a Bachelor’s Degree in fine Arts from Syracuse University, after which she moved to New York City, to pursue being on the stage. After years of waiting tables, Brown got her break after a producer spotted her work in a commercial and recommended her to the Travel Channel in 1999 to audition for a new show being developed called “Great Vacation Homes”.
Per Conde Nast Traveler: It wasn't always that way: Rachael Ray and Giada De Laurentiis each hosted popular travel shows on Food Network in the past—namely $40 a Day, Rachael’s Vacation, Giada's Weekend Getaways, and Giada in Paradise—but all are either defunct or on a seemingly indefinite hiatus. Spain... on the Road Again, the Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle on PBS, lasted a single season in late 2008. Another one-season wonder, Bridget's Sexiest Beaches on Travel Channel, featured scantily clad former Playboy model Bridget Marquardt in 2009. And Girl Eat World, starring the not-scantily-clad MasterChef South Africa 2013 winner Kamini Pather on a food crawl around the world, came and went on the Food Network. The first thing Samantha Brown wants you to know is that women do travel—not that mainstream travel media is paying attention, she says. Once the Travel Channel’s lone female marquee host, the spirited 47-year-old recently parted ways with the network, and is now in the midst of filming her forthcoming PBS show, Samantha Brown’s Places to Love, set to debut in January. It’s a loss for Travel Channel viewers, who came to know Brown as the face of the channel early on, along with wandering food fiends Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern. Viceland stands out with a handful of female-led travel-ish shows: Meg Gill currently hosts the suds-focused program Beerland; Hailey Gates explores fashion around the world in States of Undress, and Ellen Page’s Gaycation is currently in its second season. But beyond these stars, women seem to be relegated to sidekick roles across—deep breath here—National Geographic, History Channel, Travel Channel, Food Network, Discovery, CNN, truTV, SundanceTV, Spike, Animal Planet, A&E, Science, Syfy, IFC, BBC America, and MTV. Same holds true for streaming services Netflix and Hulu. Even round-ups touting the best travel shows out there look like a wall of men. We trawled listings for each of these channels, but if there's a woman leading a travel show, she’s extraordinarily well hidden.
While some network SVP's suggest they have a number of shows coming up hosted by women, the number is still minimal, and getting shows made is still extremely difficult. Darley Newman, host ofTravels With Darleyon PBS, had said "“I went to a talent agent—a woman—and she’s like, ‘If you’re not in a bikini on a beach, no one wants to watch you,’” Newman says. That was two years ago. “It was the most depressing thing.”
Let's do better and get those shows made!