Sitting on a makeup chair in his dressing room at ABC’s studios on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Michael Strahan suddenly bursts into song.
“Out in the West Texas town of El Paso! I fell in love with a Mexican girl!”
Strahan—who just minutes before wrapped an episode of Live! with Kelly and Michael, the morning talk show he’s co-hosted with Kelly Ripa since 2012—is discussing the importance of music in his life. “I wake up and the music that I listen to puts me in the mood to do what I need to do,” he says. “Music controls so much of our emotions.”
And the 43-year-old Super Bowl champion certainly seems to have a handle on his emotions these days. Strahan’s new book, Wake Up Happy: The Dream Big, Win Big Guide to Transforming Your Life, includes 18 rules on how to lead a successful and joyful existence, mixing his own life experiences with valuable advice from various sources. His lofty lessons—which run the gamut from “Do the work. Be excellent.” to “Navigate your life as if it were a Ferrari.”—are made relatable through candid revelations about his own foibles.
“It’s hard to talk about your failures, but we all have them,” says Strahan, who is twice divorced. “I think the only way to write this was to be honest and talk about failed relationships and marriages and kids and all the things that you’re not good at.”
The book, much like the author, can also be very funny at times. (One such moment recalls Strahan as a young teenager, trying to burn off a few extra pounds by working out to Jane Fonda exercise tapes.) Indeed, he has a knack for painting mundane or painful events in amusing ways. Midway through the book, he compares a tedious episode in New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin’s office to “fourth-grade detention.” And at one point during the interview for this story, he draws a line between the current presidential race and All My Children. “I think Trump has brought a whole new interesting take to it,” he adds.
Strahan says he decided to write the book in part because so many people marvel at his boundless positive energy on live TV. “It’s just not a job where I can come in and sulk,” he says, explaining that his on-air chemistry with co-host Ripa is every bit as genuine. “You can’t fake it. I don’t go out to her house for dinner every night, and we don’t hang out on the weekend. But we for some reason have this chemistry to be able to laugh and have fun like best friends in front of a camera.”
Part of Strahan’s daily routine includes morning meditation, something he began practicing during his 15-year career in professional sports. “The hardest part of playing was the mental aspect,” he says, “to convince yourself that you’re going to be successful.”
Few could argue that he’s failed in that regard, but Strahan is loath to see himself as something bigger than a regular, hard-working guy. “I hate when people say, ‘Your brand.’ Ich! It makes me cringe,” he says.
In addition to co-hosting Live! and being a special co-host on Good Morning America, he is also an analyst on Fox NFL Sunday. That doesn’t leave much time for his other pursuits, which include playing golf with pals and Play It Forward, a new Showtime documentary about the life of fellow NFL great Tony Gonzalez that Strahan executive-produced.
And then there’s his new clothing line for JCPenny. Strahan describes his “evolved” approach to dressing as “modernly classic.” Asked about his personal style icons, Strahan cites Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, James Dean, Steve McQueen and David Beckham, “who always looks good.” But he’s also quick to admit that he wasn’t born with an eye for sartorial details. “I look at pictures from the ‘80s and ‘90s and think, What the hell were you thinking?,” he says. For his new retail collection, Strahan personally selects all the fabrics, patterns and accessories with an aim to offer timeless pieces.
“I do it all,” he says of the design process. “I like being authentic, being real, staying connected. I still remember myself as a kid washing dishes, cutting yards and moving furniture. And I don’t want to feel like that’s beneath me, because that’s life.”