Marley Ungaro sent this photo of her husband, Lt. Andrew Ungaro, and their daughter, Langley, to an online contest seeking the nation's 'hottest dad.' (Courtesy of Andrew and Marley Ungaro)
Lt. (Dr.) Andrew Ungaro after being named the top 'Hot Dad' with, from left, Marley Ungaro, 'Today' show co-hosts Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford, and iVillage's Liz Zack. (NBCUniversal)
Watch the post-show winner’s interview: http://www.nbcudirect.com/meet-the-hottest-dad-in-america/
When a website solicited nominations for a national “Hot Dads” contest, it got a rack of entries — about 1,500 — showing shirtless men displaying their abs while holding their toddlers, soldiers preening in their uniforms and random 30-somethings mugging for the camera.
Mixed in with that lot came a photo from a Navy wife in Portsmouth, Va. It shows her husband posing with their teenage daughter — no abs, no aquaflage, just T-shirts and smiles.
Something about the simple picture of Lt. (Dr.) Andrew Ungaro resonated with the judges of the contest, which is run by iVillage, a woman-focused website that’s part of NBCUniversal. The photo earned him a victory in the contest’s military category; a follow-up interview helped him claim the title of “America’s Hottest Dad,” which he was awarded during a “Today” show segment that aired June 14.
Ungaro wore his uniform this time. The award came with a week’s vacation to the Caribbean, a $100 gift card, a gift bag, a crown, a sash — and a very small swimsuit.
“I’ve worn the sash and the crown,” said Ungaro, a dive medical officer with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Expeditionary Support Unit 2 in Little Creek, Va. “I assured them I would wear [the swimsuit] at some point.”
Diver doc dreamboat?
Ungaro, 38, joined the Navy Reserve in 2006. He had returned to school after an eight-year career in textiles and wanted to be a doctor; the Navy helped pay his way.
He moved to active duty in 2010 and almost immediately sought a nontraditional medical career.
“I was working with a great group, ... but I thought I needed to do something more, and I had some friends that were heading to dive school,” he said.
That put him on his current career track. He wasn’t expecting a detour into daytime network TV.
“I found out about the contest about a week and a half ago,” Ungaro said hours after the TV taping. “My wife said, ‘Hey, would you be available to go to New York next week? I entered you in a contest, and you won your division ... .”
'Just for the heck of it'
Marley Ungaro said she barely remembers sending the photo in. A blurb during the “Today” show about the third annual contest — an Air Force dad won the first one, in 2011 — caught her eye.
“I’m going to submit Andrew’s picture, just for the heck of it,” she remembers thinking. “Oh, you know, he’s not going to win.”
She was sure he wouldn’t, really, because other entrants had rallied relatives and Facebook friends to vote for their particular “Hot Dad,” and her husband trailed far behind. She didn’t know the contest relied on judges for the final say.
Two weeks before the sash-and-crown ceremony, the Navy wife got an email from iVillage informing her of the military-category win and asking her and her husband to head to New York. Her husband tried to keep things quiet at work, but eventually word got out.
“I was in the pool on base the other day, and a master diver loudly announced, ‘I’m with the hottest military dad,’” Andrew Ungaro said. “It’s only going to get worse.”
Their son Grey, 10, bragged about it. Daughter Langley, 14, did the opposite.
“She didn’t tell anybody at school,” Marley Ungaro said. “When it came out, and she had one tiny photo of him in her phone, everybody asked to see it. They didn’t understand how he was a hot dad when they saw the picture.”
The staff at NBC didn’t have that problem when, weeks after their 18th wedding anniversary, the Ungaros found themselves on a TV set with other handsome fathers.
“They were telling me, ‘Your husband’s pretty much the prettiest of them all,’” she said.
The judges agreed. The Ungaros said they hope to take their vacation — to Scrub Island Resort, Spa and Marina in the British Virgin Islands — when his Navy schedule and her art business permit.
If nothing else, the trip offers an opportunity for the lieutenant to wear the swimsuit awarded to “America’s Hottest Dad.”
Or, as the he put it, “America’s Hottest Dad with Wives that Entered Them Into This Contest.”