Alumni Spotlight Society & Culture

Emily Curl and Kevin Schatell: It Takes Two

Best friends Emily Curl and Kevin Schatell met as tour guides at the UGA Visitors Center. They now navigate New York's broadcasting world together and serve as each other's most treasured cheerleaders and sounding boards. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

Friendships forged on campus at the University of Georgia can be among the most meaningful in alumni’s lives.

For Emily Curl and Kevin Schatell, the friendship they began at UGA has been a calming, sustaining force as they navigate New York’s entertainment world—in front of and behind the camera.

“I think when you go into entertainment, it’s painted in a competitive light,” says Curl ABJ ’14, a digital host for iHeartRadio. “‘Scrap your way to the top,’ you know? And it’s so nice to have a confidant and a best friend in Kevin who works in the same industry.”

Schatell is a producer for NBC’s TODAY Show. They work about a block from one another in Manhattan and live in each other’s phones and Zoom rooms.

“Our wins are each other’s wins,” Curl continues. “There’s no holding back. If we do something exciting, we share every detail. There is no diminishing the other’s light. It’s just pure, celebratory success for each other.”

They are finish-each-other’s-sentences kind of friends, and their bond has only gotten stronger in the 12 years since they met as tour guides for the UGA Visitors Center.

“There’s no one I can so ‘be myself’ around than Emily because she is that level of welcoming,” Schatell says. “Thoughtful, intentional, aware. No one has a higher emotional intelligence than Emily.”

Emily Curl and Kevin Schatell are inseparable. They were even named to UGA’s 40 Under 40 list together in 2022. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

Curl was two years ahead of Schatell ABJ ’16 at UGA, but they had an easy chemistry. They found out how well they gelled in exactly the place you might expect two aspiring broadcast professionals would: in front of the camera.

In 2013, they created an entertainment-based talk show on YouTube much looser than the Grady Newsource material they did for class. For a studio, they set up in the Visitors Center at night after it closed (with the permission of Visitors Center director Eric Johnson ABJ ’86). All they had to do was put the furniture back where it was supposed to be for opening the next morning.

They are quick to credit Johnson’s mentorship and trust.

“Eric set up this environment that changed the way that I view working, and I didn’t realize it until later,” Curl says. “He was collaborative, inviting, and calm but not shy about giving feedback. I understand what a great relationship with a manager looks like because of Eric Johnson.”

‘You have nothing to prove. Only to share.’

Schatell has adopted that quote as his mantra. It’s advice a friend gave him at a particularly anxious time during an internship in New York. While Schatell came out fine on the other side, it wasn’t always easy.

“Your worth is not in what other people think of you, and your worth is not getting that one job,” he says. “That, I think, is a little foolproof, evergreen piece of advice for anybody but students especially. Take a breath.”

Three months after graduating, Schatell moved to the city for good. He began his NBC career in the iconic Page Program, which included responsibilities like leading tours, something he was well qualified for.

He also assisted with managing the outdoor stage for the TODAY Show, and he kept that role when he was hired as an associate producer in 2017. Four years later, Schatell was promoted to producer at the show, where he is a driving force behind the venerable and immensely popular morning program.

“Kevin is one of the most respected people at the TODAY Show, but he would never say that,” Curl says. “Hoda Kotb, Savannah Guthrie, the biggest names at the network, want to work with him, and they compliment his work. He can chat with anyone.”

‘It’s your girl, Emily Curl!’

Curl adopted her personal tagline with her first on-camera job at the digital media site Refinery29. She kept it when she moved to iHeartRadio in 2020 and continues to lead with it every time she grabs a mic.

“It’s funny that Emily works at iHeart because that is the No. 1 word to describe Emily: heart,” Schatell says. “It’s in the little moments. It’s in check-ins on how your family is doing or calling back to that thing you did that other day. But it’s also the big things.”

For instance, stars like pop singer/songwriter Tate McRae and Grammy-winner Lainey Wilson both specifically sought out Curl on red carpets—greeting her as “Your Girl.” Payback for Curl’s kindnesses when they were unknowns.

Curl moved to New York just a few months after graduating. When she interviewed with Refinery29, the company thought she was already living in the city. In truth, Curl had decamped to Atlanta. When she got the job with one week to prepare, she packed everything she could carry into two suitcases and crashed on a friend’s couch before getting her feet underneath her.

It’s that ability to improvise, work hard, and think fast that serves her well as a celebrity interviewer.

“The biggest thing that I tell students is to get good at anything, you have to practice,” says Curl, who mentors students from UGA—often with Schatell—anytime she can. “There are so many tools available now, and it’s easy to consume media. But you need to find your voice.”

“The essence of what we both do is ask questions,” Schatell adds, not quite finishing Curl’s sentence but deftly playing off it. “Emily asks questions on camera, and I’m prepping our hosts. That work has made us more thoughtful, and it’s inspiring. And it’s made us even better friends.”