Multiple Engagements, a Controversial Pregnancy and A-List Friends: Inside Lauren Sanchez's Life Before Jeff Bezos

How she went from local TV journalist to the alleged cause of the world's priciest divorce proceedings.

By Billy Nilles Jan 18, 2019 11:00 AMTags

Life for Lauren Sanchez used to be a lot simpler. 

Boring? No. Rife with at least one big secret? Perhaps. But simpler? No doubt.

And then last week, world's richest man Jeff Bezos, he of the $140 billion dollar Amazon fortune, announced that he and his wife MacKenzie Bezos were divorcing after 25 years. And suddenly, Sanchez's world—and the public's interest in it—grew exponentially. 

Immediately after the Bezos' released their joint statement making clear their intention to go their separate ways, multiple reports began to surface, claiming that the Amazon CEO had been secretly dating the former TV news anchor, with the National Enquirer releasing texts purportedly sent between Bezos and Sanchez, revealing the alleged true nature of their relationship.

And just like that, the (alleged) other woman role was filled and a narrative was born. And everyone was asking, "Just who is this woman swept up in Bezos' orbit?"

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A third-generation Mexican-American who was born and raised in Albuquerque, NM, Sanchez moved to Los Angeles after high school, where she attended El Camino College before transferring to University of Southern California, where she majored in communications. Beginning her broadcasting career with an internship at local network KCOP-TV, working as desk assistant while finishing her studies at USC, she worked her way up to national gigs on Extra and Fox Sports Net before returning to the place that gave her a start in 1999 as their 11 o'clock anchor, becoming the first Hispanic female to do so. 

"I was just trying to make my way; I was just trying to get through," she told The Hollywood Reporter of her achievement in 2017. "I never really thought about it until people started saying, 'Wow, this is kind of a big deal.'"

Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

While she was building her career, she was also busy in the dating scene. Since the revelation of her relationship with Bezos, much press has been devoted to Sanchez's prior relationships, with a former friend telling Page Six that the TV personality's first high-profile relationship came when she was just an intern. According to the source, who no longer maintains a relationship with Sanchez, she got engaged to sports broadcaster Rory Markas, who went on the become a play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Angels and sadly died of a heart attack in 2010. She allegedly left Markas when she switched jobs.

In the time between that relationship and her marriage to soon-to-be ex-husband, talent agent and co-CEO of WME Patrick Whitesell, she was linked to former NFL players Anthony Miller and Tony Gonzalez (with whom she has a son, Nikko, born in 2001), former LA Lakers player Derek Fisher, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Henry Simmons, with whom she was allegedly engaged to and living with when she began dating then-Endeavor agent Whitesell.

Jeff Vespa/WireImage

Just as her career seemed to be reaching a new level as she landed the hosting gig on Fox's new reality series So You Think You Can Dance in its first season in 2005, so too was her personal life as she tied the knot with Whitesell that August in a ceremony attended by some truly high-profile guests. 

"Matt [Damon] and Ben [Affleck] don't get to see each other often, so we sat them together," she told People of the big day. Among her new husband's clients also in attendance were Affleck's then-wife Jennifer Garner, Jessica Alba and Hugh Jackman, who sang "Mack the Knife" at festivities. After a kiss that wedding planner Marianne Weiman-Nelson described to the publication as "long"—"You could tell they're in love, she added"—the pair danced a rumba courtesy of training from Sanchez's SYTYCD colleague, choreographer Mary Murphy.

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"I'd always ask my friends, ‘How do you know it's the right one?'" Sanchez told the magazine. "Then when I met Patrick, I told them, ‘I so get it.'"

While pregnant with her first of two children with Whitesell, Sanchez was replaced as host of SYTYCD with the show's current emcee Cat Deely, after which she stepped away from her career to raise her family. Son Evan was born in 2006, with daughter Ella arriving in 2008. A year after Ella's birth, Sanchez returned to work, rejoining Extra as the weekend anchor and special correspondent, while also working on Good Day L.A. in Los Angeles.

And in 2010, while interviewing STYTYD head judge Nigel Lythgoe for Extra, Sanchez learned that her pregnancy might've had something to do with her replacement four years earlier. In video obtained by RumorFix in 2012, Lythgoe said, "I always wanted you for the show. It was [former FOX president of Alternative Entertainment] Mike Darnell who said, 'She's pregnant. We've got to let her go.' I mean, that should be illegal."

In an interview with the outlet, Sanchez said, "Finding out that I was fired because I was pregnant was devastating...After that interview I called my husband and I was bawling on the phone." She added that she'd considered legal action, going so far as to retain Gloria Allred, only to find out the statute of limitations had expired.

A spokesperson for Fox told RumorFix at the time, "There is absolutely no truth to these allegations. The video, which is nearly three years old, depicts comments that Nigel Lythgoe himself has stated were made in jest."

"Who's laughing? I wasn't laughing," Sanchez rebutted. "And, by the way, who makes fun of firing a pregnant woman?"

Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

While Sanchez was back at work, she also began to follow in the footsteps of her father Ray, who had worked as a flight instructor and mechanic who helped rebuild planes, but learning how to fly. "I was always in the hangar growing up but knew nothing about flying," she told THR. "I went into flight school and I had an instructor who asked, 'So what do you know about flying?'" Her answer? "Stay away from the prop."

By 2011, she was flying planes and then sought out certification as a helicopter pilot, which she admitted was tough. "I literally cried — and I don't cry," she told the outlet, opening up about a time when she almost gave up. "You go to school for a year, take a test, then you do a check ride — you go up with an instructor, and they take you through the emergency procedures. If you lose your engine, he turns off the throttle, and you have to get down. It's like life. It's good if everything goes right, but if shit hits the fan, can you survive?"

She earned her license in 2016 and quickly formed Black Ops Aviation, partnering with Steve Stafford and his Studio Wings production company. Her new specialty? Aerial filming. Through her new gig, she consulted on Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, filmed a commercial in the Bahamas and Cabo for high-end residential developed Discovery Land, and worked on Catherine Hardwicke's upcoming film Miss Bala, starring Gina Rodriguez

"This space is dominated by men," she told THR. "But there's nothing physical about flying a helicopter. You can be 5-foot-1 or 6-foot-4. There's no reason more women aren't in this."

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And after meeting Bezos, her new career also allegedly became a way for her beau to see her. According to one recent report in the Enquirer, Sanchez was working on a documentary for the billionaire about his space exploration unit Blue Origin—a film project that the outlet's source alleges would likely never see the light of day, labeling it "the $50 million alibi."

As for how she and Bezos even met in the first place, reports state that it was through Whitesell. A source told Us Weekly that the talent agent "introduced Lauren to Jeff and suggested they work together on a documentary." The two men have reportedly known each other for years and worked closely together in 2016 while promoting Manchester by the Sea, which starred Whitesell's client Michelle Williams and was distributed by Amazon.

Todd Williamson/Getty Images for Amazon Studios

According to the publication's source, Whitesell and Sanchez "were having problems in their marriage for the last year," but "were trying to work things out." Whitesell was said to be "totally blindsided" by the alleged affair. 

However, as People reported, both Bezos and Sanchez's spouses have known about the relationship for some time, with a source telling the outlet, "Their families dealt with this in the fall."

"The world is catching up to it, but it has had zero impact on their relationship," the insider told the publication. "They've never been stronger."

While Sanchez's future with Bezos remains to be seen—wedding talk has already begun, according to Us Weekly—there's at least one place she can go to get away from all the noise and media frenzy: Her chopper.

"I want to be in a helicopter all the time," she told THR. "Life can be so chaotic with so much going on. Lift off and you're in an energy space that no one else is in. It's calming. When I'm up there, I'm completely satisfied. I'm like, 'This is where I need to be.'"

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