In honor of Women’s History Month in March I want to take this time to highlight women in media who are breaking barriers. Being a black woman in the media is hard because just like in any career, you have to be the best and look good while doing it all. This is for all the young ladies making their dreams come true and recognition that they deserve.
Social Media: @KeishaNicole
Career: Radio Personality at 97.9 The Box Houston
How did you find your passion and how would you say you got your break into the entertainment industry?
So I didn’t find my passion or purpose until I go out of high school. I’m from the LA area where I went to Long Beach City college and I got into the radio program there. I got a radio show on campus and it was small, a campus radio station and not that many people listened because it was online, on internet radio. At the time in 2004, 2005 people like K.Dot who’s now Kendrick LaMar, Jay Rock from TDE, Mila J would come on my show and nobody knew who they were yet and we were all trying to come up and help each other. So I got a internship at 93.5 K Day and K Day is the very first hip hop station founded in the country. So my class had a field trip there and I had my resume in my back pocket and I gave it to the promotions director and that day at the station Nas was doing an interview with a jock there and he invited us to an album listening party. So we had went to the listening party and I was thinking like “oh man this is dope,” and that night the promotions lady was there and we talking and building and she offered me an internship the next day. It was crazy because I was working at CVS and going to school and when I got the internship I quit because I knew if I got in this building I was going to work my way up. I didn’t know how but I knew I would work my way up. To my internship to home, the drive was an hour and a half because of LA traffic is crazy, an hour and a half there and an hour and a half back. I had just bought a new car and had a car note and I just remember being broke. I just remember every single day I would think how would I get back and forth to this internship but everyday something would happen.
Like sometimes the jocks would give me a $100 bill and they would make me go get their food but they would let me keep the change, God just made sure I was good no matter what. My best friend started working there and we started carpooling there because she had a job and I was just an intern. I was able to intern in sales and then fill in for the receptionist because she didn’t want to be there all the time. Then I ended up getting the full time position as the receptionist and then one day they fired everybody because they were going in to a different direction but you always need a receptionist. One day Harry Lyles said you have a great voice do you want to be on the radio and I said yea, I give the jock my air checks to critique me but I would love to be on radio.
So he said ok you’ll be on air this weekend and I said huh and he said yes learn the boards and you’re going on air this weekend, your spot is from Saturdays 6-10pm. I really wasn’t prepared for this.
My receptionist job would be from 830-5:30 so I would get off and get something to eat and come back and the rapper Yo-Yo had a show from 6-10 and I would sleep on the couch and train with Yo-Yo. I have to credit Yo-Yo a lot because she created jobs for me here and there like watching her kids and running errands just to make money. I did that for 3 years I did that and then my program director said to me you know what you’re the first to get here and the last to leave and you get paid the least and I was like man he’s right, this ain’t going no where. A lot of our shows were syndicated and I felt like it was no room for growth so I quit and tried to go back to school and that wasn’t working. I remember getting an email from a station in Louisville, Kentucky saying they had an afternoon drive spot open and wanted to see if I wanted to fly out here to audition to for the position and I was like man I’m not moving to Louisville and I thought to myself like nah man you have to take 1 step back to take 10 steps forward you know. So I flew out there on a buddy pass and I remember throwing up on the plane and it was a mess but I got the job.
In the midst of it I was only getting paid $27,000 and I was working from 10a-7p and my shift was from 3p-7p and that’s not enough for anybody to live. This was my first time moving by myself, I had a brand new car, and it got repoed and I had to go to a rental car place and try to get a rental car every day. So weekly I was paying on a rental car and it just seemed like I could never get ahead. I learned who I was in Louisville. I learned my purpose there.
What does it mean to be a black woman in media to you?
We have a big responsibility and we need to know whatever you say on that mic will affect whoever is listening. We have a responsibility every time I crack open that mic so I know for me, I am that person that’s going to make sure you have a good day no matter what. I’m bringing good vibes and good energy. Also with Rob G on my show now we do a lot of inspirational stuff as well and I remember a couple weeks ago we stopped the music and talked about our journeys and he said I remember that a song reminded him of when he was homeless. We got so much feedback and one guy even reached out and told us that he contemplated killing himself because he didn’t know what direction to go in in life and just the message we talked about helped him. We have a big responsibility and it’s a lot of pressure but everybody isn’t built for it.
What are the keys to being a great on air personality?
Nowadays it’s not just on air anymore. My boss gets on me so much because she’s like Keisha I need you on social media more, I need to give more of me to social media, they know your personality but they don’t know your business you need to open up more. Even though I’m open on air, I am still very private. So it’s hard to open up a lot, a lot just because of the things I went through in my life and in my career. You really have to be willing to take 10 steps back to take 1 step forward and what I mean is that I know a lot of girls in radio or have been in radio or are in radio who have been in the same position for the passed 7 years because they don’t want to leave a big market. They’re scared to leave their big market but what they don’t know is that they’re going to be waiting a long time because these people in the big markets aren’t going anywhere for a long time. So you’re going to have to go to a smaller market to pop off. I got advice from this girl name K-Slide, she told me on MySpace “be prepared to be broke the first 5 years of your career” and that really is true. It’s not really a high paying job to be a personality and I’m just now finally start seeing money coming in. It’s crazy. It’s going to take a lot of patience and sacrifice and it’s not a career for anybody that’s weak. It’s a lot of times you’re not going to get that interview, somebody else will and you’re going to feel like you’re fit and you’re going to be like nah I put 7 years in this game and why didn’t I get the interview. You can’t take nothing personal in this business and it’s not for anybody that’s weak.
What inspires you to keep going in this industry?
I just knew that this is what God wanted me to do. I knew that and I understood that. I’m a real spiritual person and I lead by faith. I would ask God, hey why would you put me in an industry where I would be tempted everyday and this is an evil industry. A pastor told me once that “God isn’t going to put a person with light in a place where there’s already light, he’s going to put light where there’s darkness.” So I understood my responsibility and once I understood that I knew I had a way with the younger generation. I do a lot of stuff with kids and they listen to me a lot because the kids think I’m young like them. I know my responsibility and that’s why I keep going.
Share something about your position/or the industry that you wish you would’ve known before going into it.
I don’t wish I could change anything about my journey because it was such a beautiful struggle. I’m so grateful for the way I had to finagle my way through the industry. I wish I knew more than how to be a radio personality, I wish I would have known to do more like blogged a lot more and stuff like that. I’m not mad about anything in my journey.
Who are some women you look up to in the industry?
Maria Moore in Atlanta, I’ve always admired her because she’s the most humble and sweest person ever. She’s been my biggest inspiration in radio. Of course YoYo she helped me alot. Angie Martinez because she created a lane of her own and she did it right. K-Slide because she helped me in my career as well in LA. God also planted so many women along the way outide of radio with so many jewels. Like I remember Lil Kim was my very first interview in big time radio in LA and she probabaly would never remeber but she told me “Man you’re going to be one of biggest females in radio if you keep that spirit and keep grinding like you are.”
What has been the most difficult situation you’ve had in your career or with starting your career?
Women are not nice. The hardest thing is dealing with women who are mean but play nice. Women who are malicious. That has been the biggest problem. I’ve never had problem with the men and they always say this is a male dominated industry and you’re going to have to fight but nope I’ve had to fight with the women. It’s just a lot of jealously. Also being overlooked for so long. I knew I was better than a lot of women who were in bigger markets and I was in a smaller market but I also knew I had to take that route to be polished because I was going to be faced with things in bigger markets and if I didn’t go to those other markets I wouldn’t have known how to deal with it. So being overlooked for so long and knowing how great you are was hard.
What’s a piece of advice you would give a girl who wants to do what you do?
Prepared to be broke for the first 5 years. If you’re not in it to be in it then don’t because you have to wake up everyday wanting to do this job. You have to think, we wake up everyday having to crack that mic open and smile, I don’t care if you got cheated on I don’t care if somebody passed away but once you want in the door and turn that knob everything has to stay outside that door and you sacrifice. You have to work harder than everybody and harder than the guys. Now they don’t look at you if you don’t have a social media following, how can your brand add to our company. Don’t rely on the radio station to get you poppin’. Always have a side hustle outside of this radio stuff like 2 or 3.