When it was time for me to attend high school, I elected to go to a magnet school: one of a few in Detroit with a specialized curriculum. Northwestern High School in Detroit, MI had a few programs it was known for: one that is similar to what a STEM program is today (it was the only school with its own planetarium), the other was radio and television production (the school had an onsite radio studio as well as television studio). My interest was for the latter. I envisioned being a national newscaster one day, covering important news and events. Maybe a talk show host one day?
For all four years, two hours of courses around the studios were folded into the standard math, English and social studies courses. By the end of my freshman year, I know how to run the studio camera and audio equipment. Sophomore year, I was splicing and editing half-hour programming. Junior year, I produced a radio program called the High School Music Express that aired on WDET 90.9fm, then later on a high school sports focused program. Senior year, I produced the Class of 1992’s senior video, a montage of footage over the past four years set to Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday”.
Yes, this was supposed to be my career. However, early in my high school years, I shifted my focus from television to radio. I didn’t like how I looked on television as an overweight teenager, and we know our peers can me mean. So, radio was safe.
Once I moved to California and couldn’t find a job in the industry that would cover the rent, my career path shifted to corporate America. Still far away from my childhood ambitions, I still wanted to put the years of training to good use. In 2007, I applied for and joined the board of KMVT Community Television, when I still serve today. It was fun to get back to my roots. I still feared getting in front of the cameras but built up the courage to produce a few shows at the station. I wasn’t quite skinny, but was smaller than I’d been in years.
For a number of reasons over the past year or so, I stopped producing and appearing on shows. Related, some of the pounds I’d lost returned. Still, I felt confident in my everyday living. Then, election season came upon us, and I was asked if I’d mind moderating a live televised candidate forum. I said yes, then immediately wished that I hadn’t. Insecurity reared its head, but I wanted to honor the commitment, so I moderated. I work dark clothing and was seated behind a table. I thought I did well, and so did others. Victory!
So, when I was asked again to do help anchor KMVT’s Election Night coverage, I said yes again. Told friends to tune in or come down to the station and be a part of it. There would be bright lights and noting to hide behind. I was game, let’s have some fun. The next day (the day I’m writing this story), I went online to watch the coverage to see how everything went. I thought everything looked good, but then I glanced down to the Comments section….and there it was. The judgment I feared from 20 years ago: I wasn’t skinny enough to be on TV.
I know I haven’t fully processed what I’m feeling about all of this, but I have two thoughts about it. One, I thought about the female newscaster a few weeks back who dealt with a viewer who said she was too fat and should lose weight and be a role model since she was on television. She handled the situation with class, and I recall saying that I didn’t know if I would handle it as well as she did. Well, now I get to see if that’s true.
The second thought is one that is pretty much trumping everything else at the moment: my childhood dream of covering an important event in a news capacity was realized, though I didn’t realize it in the moment. I friggin covered an election! It was on live television! I interviewed elected officials, candidates and community leaders! It wasn’t ABC or CBS or CNN, but still!
It happened. I’m going to hold on to that for a while.