L+A: How did you know you wanted to get into meteorology/weather forecasting?
When I was a little girl I wanted to be a scientist and it wasn’t until I was about 9 or 10 that I had narrowed it down and decided specifically on meteorology. I would watch the weather on TV but remember at that time we had to wait until the daily news came on. I would watch and be so interested but it was never anyone that looked like me and they also weren’t scientist, so at that time I hadn’t specifically thought about that particular field. I didn’t know any weather forecasters or meteorologist at that time
I was the first person in my family to go to college. When I started choosing schools I was looking for schools that had a meteorology program; so I had spent hours on top of hours going through catalogs at the time since there wasn’t internet of all the different universities across the country. I settle on a few schools and got accepted and ended up going to Florida State University.
Prior to college I had an internship at the national weather service which was a government position. My pastor at my church knew how interested I was in meteorology before going to college so he had friends that worked for N.O.A.A. in Maryland. He called around, ask if they had any type of internship programs, which they did in fact have and not to long after that I was starting my internship the summer before college.
L+A: How much did you learn at you’re internship to prepare you for college and a career?
I was working alongside actual meteorologists who had masters and even Ph.D.’s. It was a big office that had nationwide weather forecasting, river forecasting, N.O.A.A. radio, etc. So the first summer I worked with them then I came back on my winter break, and the following summer. It was an amazing experience, I felt that I had truly gotten such a head start over so many kids who had never seen half of what I experienced at this internship that they would’ve seen later down the road.
The best part was they basically let me plan my internship and do anything I wanted except actual weather forecasting because you had to be a meteorologist; but I was able to learn what exactly they did when I would sit in on their meetings, map discussions and bring up charts. They let me take all the ancillary test that would qualify me to do a lot of things in the future as well.
I got certified to brief pilots, I was able to be on the N.O.A.A. weather radio and do the broadcast for them, communications, etc. I was thoroughly trained at this internship which was so exciting because not only was this a government paid internship, but I was learning so many things for those 2 years that truly set me up for the future.
L+A: What led you to do TV?
There was a change in the government a newly elected president and etc., so they cut the weather internship program out of the budget, mind you I was supposed to get a job out that but my chance now were slim to none. I’m now in my senior year and my friends kept telling me you should do TV but I brushed it off because remember I said I hadn’t seen anyone that looked like me so I didn’t think it was personally for me. Eventually I said okay I’ll take a class and see if I like it. That spring semester I took a class for broadcasters. You learn things like how to anchor, how to do sports, weather, etc. I enjoyed the class it was cool. That summer I was graduating and I applied to this local TV station who just so happen to start a broadcasting program, and I ended up getting it out of a bunch of people.
this was a major stepping stone and I was learning more about meteorology and how to broadcast on TV. I had to make recording and that’s basically was our resume back then. I was about to send it off to another station and it just so happen I was walking past the bulletin in school for a job posting in Chattanooga, Tennessee for a weekend meteorologist. I called set up a time to stop by and let them see my tapes and love them. Before I got back home to South Carolina the station called and offered me the position, but I was also up for a position at the station I was currently interning for in Tallahassee, the problem was they weren’t ready to make a decision right away. I decided to pack up my stuff and was move to Tennessee. The rest is history!
L+A: Do you find that women like steer away from becoming a meteorologist?
I think it depends honestly. However I will saying there are more women now on camera doing meteorology now then there were when I was coming up. There are also more universities and programs specifically for broadcasting and meteorology now.
I was just recently at a weather conference who has the first African-American president of the organization, but I was talking to a lot of the students who came and asked them career questions like "if they wanted to be on the broadcasting side or the non-broadcasting side?" A lot of the young women would say the cant see themselves on camera whereas the guys it was the opposite. It all really depends.
L+A: What was your experience like meeting Obama and being at the white house?
It was honestly such an out-of-body experience, myself along with a few other meteorologists were invited to chat with the president and other officials about the state of the climate. So every 4 years the government issues a climate report to see things like tracking, global warming, etc. and they present it to the president.
Funny thing is we really only got to spend about 5 minutes with the president. Lucky for I had a few minutes extra because the man was trying to fix my mic. When you watch it on TV it looks like it’s just the two of you but there’s secret service, people with mics, people counting down, camera men. I thought to myself if I ever get a chance to ask him anything else I want to ask him about Hawaii, because he and my husband’s grandfather are both from there. As the guy is trying to fix my mic the president goes “you know if you would’ve worn a tie like me you wouldn’t have anything to worry about” so I made a comment about my husband being a kamaaina which is a word for locals in Hawaii. He looked at me funny and he said so you married a local boy and he was telling me about how Michelle always said she married him because she could get free trips to Hawaii ha-ha! I always thought if I met him I would breakdown because this is something I would ever see in my life and having been a little closer to the civil rights struggle, it’s a big deal!
the best part aside from being around the president is that we got to spend the entire day in the white house, I was there from about 7 AM to 7PM that evening. We got to meet the dogs and take pictures. It was just an overall an amazing experience. At one point I was reporting the weather from inside the white house at the podium due to their being a lock down because someone had gotten on to the white house grounds; so as I’m reporting the weather I’m reporting what’s going on during the lockdown as well. I was woman of many hats that day! Ha-ha
L+A: Have you ever faced any type of discrimination as a woman of color within your industry?
Of course! You know being in college I didn’t face too much backlash or issues in school, I mean there were professors that did care about anyone! One thing I vividly remember from elementary school; about 4th grade, I was always great student but I was having trouble with math. I was making C’s in math and my mother was getting concerned because I was an A/B student. My math teacher who was a male teacher who paid attention more towards the boys then the girls and I told my mom that. My mother addressed my teacher and it never happened again. That was the biggest discrimination I face in my education
when I got out into the world of course there was the typical “when you see a black girl on TV” I had people call the station I was at saying “get that N-word off the television”. It was never anything directly towards me though. The second time was when I was working in St. Louis and I was hired as the morning and midday person. The chief person was at night. The guy who was there just so happened to be Caucasian. He started to see all of this adulation from the public and management and felt threatened by me because he thought I was coming for his job. He would do little thing like ridicule my works, be unpleasant to me, etc. It took me a while to figure out what the issue was with him, but I realized from observing him and speaking with peers that he was just simply insecure. I decided I was going to kill him with kindness and to act as if I needed his help. I would find times when he was vulnerable and ask him questions about his daughter and then I would talk about my family; eventually he loosened up. I could say that he was discriminating against me as a woman of color or even as a woman, but I know that in that moment as a black woman I felt otherwise.
“These we’re all a lesson of how to climb over walls and fences in your life and not let these things stop you from being you and doing the things you want, knowing you have that right to”
L+A: Do you think the support you had helped you along the way?
Absolutely! Fortunate for me my family has always been supportive. Parents, aunts, uncles, friends, teachers, etc. I’ve always had positive support, I never experienced anyone telling me I couldn’t do something. I carried that through life.
“I find that with some people why they never achieve the best that they can is because they’ve been told they can’t over and over. Until you get positive reinforcement you sort of sit back”
L+A: what was that feeling when you found out you were inducted into the broadcasters hall of fame?
that was a huge honor for me! Side note you also realizing how long you’ve been working when you get into the hall of fame ha-ha. It was a tremendous honor and I felt as though my body of work had spoken for itself over the years and you realized over time how much you’ve contributed.
L+A: L+A: What would be another big accomplishment that you’re proud of?
I get to work with Wednesday’s child and that I’ve been honored for a lot. To me that’s also amazing because you’re giving back and changing people’s lives. I’ve done so many things over the years, that’s the biggest accomplishment and the greatest happiness is to see those kids get families.
L+A; what’s the best advice you’ve ever received from a woman?
My mom said “Be a leader and not a follower”
Photo Credit: @janicehuff4ny