One of the women who was instrumental in changing my life was Kris Kelley, current Program Director at Chicago Radio Station WGCI. I met Kris when I first started interning at WJLB radio station in Detroit and I admired her from the start. Most of us interns were intimidated by Kris (who was the Assistant Program Director at WJLB back then), almost frightened because she had that stern persona about her…but I respected her because she could handle herself well among men but still be a lady.
I wasn’t working closely with Kris because I wasn’t her intern, but she watched me over a period of seven months as I bust my ass every day to make it to the station and put my all into my internship. Interning is like a real life “i wanna work for Diddy”, there is only one spot so what are you going to do to stand out when that one spot comes available? Not to mention, you have to do what it takes to not only be the best intern, but you are competing with people that were at the station long before you were for whatever spot comes available. When I realized this, I upped my intern hours from 4 hours a day, to about 12 hours a day. I would come in early morning and start working on air checks, leave and do some van runs with the promotions team, come back and produce the afternoon drive, then go back in the studio and cut more air checks. I was determined to get hired. I even began driving 30 minutes away to attend the station’s sales meetings so that i could learn about every aspect of radio. From sales, to running the boards, producing, making commercial spots, and the promotions department. I knew it all after six months. However, that internship got old after I realized my refrigerator was empty, I had dropped from 120 lbs to 95lbs and I could hardly make rent. I remember I use to ask the promotions department for tickets to some of the big concerts just so I could slide them to the manager of my building so that she could give me extensions on my rent payments. I was doing what I had to do.
Anyway, back to Kris, one day I went in Kris’s office and I said “i can’t do this anymore, I’m broke, I’m hungry and I’m almost homeless”. She reached in her drawer and pulled out her check book and wrote me a check. Then she looked me dead in my eyes and said “I’m doing this because I know it’s an investment. You are going to be a star one day. All I ask is that you help other african american women as I have helped you. It’s hard out here for us and we have to stick together. That’s all I ask”
That day changed my life because finally someone believed in me. Weeks later I was hired as the “Promotions Coordinator” at the station which meant that I would now be managing a staff of 5-8 people. There were whispers like “how did that intern get the job?” but damnit I worked HARD! Unfortunately i put in my two weeks notice after six months and I remember I couldn’t even look Kris in the face. This lady gave me a chance, an opportunity. She believed in me and I let her down. I remember walking out of my office with my stuff packed and her demeanor was very cold but I had nobody to blame but myself. I was a quitter.
Fast forward, four years later and I have created a successful brand and have managed to hire just about all women, a lot of them coming from or living in small rural areas with next to no opportunities in entertainment (my asst kimmy lives in florida, one of my t-shirt/graphics designers lives in Salisbury, MD a few miles from where I grew up and i have an intern that’s based in London). Kris would be happy to know that and that makes me proud.
I haven’t really talked to her since then but I have had a few of her interns contact me via twitter, facebook or email and tell me how proud she is of me and that she talks about me a lot. And that makes me smile.
Thank you so much Kris for believing me. I’m shooting for the stars 🙂