FACING LIFE BY FATE
By Lenell King
Nadia Crow is the first African American news anchor for Salt Lake City, Utah. Utah, Utah? That's the question many family and friends asked her prior to accepting the job. Nadia has worked in Indiana and the cornfields of Iowa. Strange for a former Chicagoan, but Nadia has accepted the experience as a part of her journey that has led her to the wonderful career that she has today.
LENELL: You have moved around a lot as a child. Tell us a little about your life growing up.
NADIA: I grew up primarily in the suburbs of Chicago. I went to Downers Grove Public High School and I finished at what is now Plainfield Central High school. I spent a little time moving around when I was younger. I was born in Texas and spent about six years of my childhood in Norfolk, VA; my dad was in the Navy. I lived in Missouri for a little bit, and then settled in the suburbs of Chicago. I’m used to the cold, windy weather.
LENELL: What really inspired you to pursue a career in journalism?
NADIA: My older sister, Latasha and I would start our day watching court shows on TV like Matlock and The People’s Court; then we would watch the news. We would watch 20/20, Oprah and different entertainment and talk shows and I thought, “Ok, that looks like something I want to do. The hosts would interview really great people and they got a chance to do really fun stuff like ride in a helicopter and try new foods in the cooking segments. So, I just thought if people can do that every day and get paid to do it; sign me up. My sister is now a lawyer and I am an anchor reporter. We both went into the very careers that we said we were going to do when we were little kids; that almost never happens.
LENELL: That is wonderful. I’m sure your parents are ecstatic.
NADIA: They are; they seem pretty proud along with my grandparents. When I got into college, I thought that I would be a magazine reporter. The show, “Living Single”was one of my favorite shows. Kadijah’s character owned “Flavor” magazine and I wanted my life to be like “Living Single”. However, as I got into school and I understood the power of TV and media, I realized there was a lack of representation for women of color in general, especially positive role models in the era of booty shaking videos. That’s how people viewed Black women on TV. That didn’t reflect the Black women that I grew up with which included my mom, my grandmother and other Black women who were important in my life. I knew then that I wanted to be a broadcaster. I grew up watching Tamron Hall when she was on Fox Chicago and Soledad O’Brien for many years and it really left an impact on me. I finally settled and said, “TV news, yep, that’s for me.”
LENELL: What was your experience like as being the first Black anchor in Utah?
NADIA: When I took the job I didn’t know that I would be the first. It did cross my mind to think Utah, what’s in Utah? Are there people who are going to look like me? When I was being interviewed by the person who is now my boss, I remember asking him, ‘When I go to the grocery store, will I see people who look like me? Will I be able to find a place where I can get my hair done? Not everybody can do our hair.’ They were really simple questions that I was really concerned about. I knew that there would be a small percentage of Black people in Utah. Later I learned that there is a 2% population in the entire state which is not huge. I lived just outside of Chicago which has a huge African American population. When I came here people kept saying, ‘I think you’re the first African American anchor’. However, I later found out that there were a few Black women before me. There was one woman who was a weekend anchor and another who did fill-in work, but I am the first primary weekday anchor. It’s much different from having a weekend anchor job when you’re just on two days a week or days when you have fewer viewership versus having a primary anchor spot when you’re only representing really 2% of the population.
It was a huge deal that I didn’t realize was going to be such a big deal until I got here and then Essence called. I remember calling my mom and my grandmother saying, ‘I’m going to be in Essence magazine!’ Then I thought, ‘Oh no, what if this is a prank.’ When you think about black families growing up, you had three magazines on your coffee table; Essence, Jet, and Ebony. To be in one of those magazines was an honor. I remember my grandmother started crying. I left a message for my dad, and he called back saying, ‘I think you said you were going to be in Essence.’ He said, ‘Did you get cut off or did I not hear that message right? It was really cool.
Many people write letters, send emails, write me tweets and hit me up on Facebook just to say they are so happy to have me here. Utah needed this. Black people, Hispanic people, just people across the board, and every generation as well have been supportive. You never know what’s going to happen especially with the older generation that’s a little more settled in their ways and they are used to seeing things how they see them. I didn’t expect all of this when I first moved here. I didn’t know what it would mean when I took the job. I have had nothing but really great feedback. I was really nervous about it, but it has been good.
LENELL: We live in an age where woman have really made their mark on the world of journalism like Barbara Walters and Robin Roberts. Previously you mentioned Tamron Hall and Soledad O’Brien inspired you; were there other influences?
NADIA: I think my biggest influence initially growing up was probably Oprah. Knowing that she was just in downtown Chicago was great. I remember my dad and grandmother pointing out Harpo Studios. It just seemed so close, but yet so far away. Oprah was definitely an influence because she can do whatever she wants because it’s the Oprah show. She had fun and she got to do really cool things. She had shows that were really indepth and investigative pieces covering topics that made people uncomfortable. I just loved watching it. My grandmother was Oprah’s biggest fan. I could always talk to her about what was happening on the show and that made me feel like I could do it. It showed me that I could be smart, intelligent and funny as well as be serious and be taken seriously all at the same time. I think that was really important for me growing up to see all that through Oprah.
Once I got older and really started watching the news, I saw Tamron Hall on Fox Chicago. I remember thinking, ‘Man, she is so good at her job.’ I felt like I knew her. I felt like she was almost a member of our family because you watched her every single morning. I remember seeing her at the Chicago Auto Show. She was doing a live report that day and I can remember standing there and staring at her telling my dad, ‘That’s Tamron Hall.’ I whispered because I didn’t want her to see me. I was so happy and nervous. She was like this larger than life figure and I followed her career on MSNBC and the Today Show. It’s been awesome; I feel like I have been there from the start. I would be remised if I didn’t mention Soledad O’Brien. I met her in college. It was my freshman year at Syracuse University and I was just starting out in the Journalism program. Meeting her brought me to tears. I had just sat down and listened to her speech about returning from Guantanamo Bay. After her speech, she came to a meet and greet where she was able to speak with a lot of the students and I can just remember being so awestruck. I can meet any celebrity or actress in person and be like, ‘Who’s that?’ However, meeting one of my role models in person really shook me. She sat down and told me that I can do this; I can have a family, and I can do this business. If I wanted to be on CNN one day I can do it. Just offering those words of wisdom and that advice really meant a lot to me especially when I was starting my first year of school in the journalism program. I still have that picture with her and my micro braids. (Laughing)
LENELL: In the wake of the controversy with the Michael Brown situation, do you find yourself uncomfortable with stories that have racial substance especially being in an area like Utah? Does that personally affect you?
NADIA: We talk about it here. A lot of producers would say, ‘Hey read this story. What do you think?’ Recently, I was asked to be a part of a documentary from some filmmakers here in Utah called, Two Percent. They are looking at the history of the 2% Black population in Utah. They are looking at the history of how Black people got to Utah and at the ones who are making history now. So we started talking about the documentary and I told my news director that this is really important. This is such a small population of the state, but they have a voice and they have a history. Black people have been dated back in Utah since 1847, 1848 with the Mormon pioneers and most people don’t know that. However, the Black population has always remained at 2% and hasn’t grown like the other ethnic groups.
I do think that when you talk about any story when it comes to race, the thing that I struggle with the most is making sure that I’m not speaking for my entire race. I am one person, I am one human being, I have my own thoughts; I have my own opinions, but I do not speak for all Black people around me. If you put ten people from my family in one room, we wouldn’t agree on everything. If you put me and my sister in a room, we would have our own opinions. So when people in my newsroom ask me, ‘Hey Nadia, what do you think about this?’, I struggle to answer because I don’t want them to think, ‘Well if Nadia says or feels this way, all Black people may feel the same.’ Since I am one of three black women in the entire building and the only on-air person at the station, what I do and say becomes what all Black people do and say. It becomes almost a burden. You may find that coming into any job.
I also find myself as an educator more than what I thought I would be. The questions of, ‘Do you tan?, Do you get sunburn?’, allows me to teach people that skin is skin and at some point it can burn. Those are some of the simple things that you have to teach people.
The Michael Brown story is a very delicate situation, no matter if I was an anchor in Detroit or an anchor in Salt Lake City. We don’t have all the facts; we weren’t there. When you add in race, a lot of feelings and emotions get into that. So I try my best as a journalist to make sure that I am non-biased and to make sure that I’m reporting all the information as I know it. People will call me out on twitter and say, ‘Nadia, the police should have did this or the police said that’. It’s not my job to interpret what happened. My job is to relay the facts and say this is what happened. This is what the police said. This is what Michael Brown’s family said and that is for any story. I let my viewers make their own decisions. So when it comes to a Michael Brown story, a story that is racially charged I have to keep my own feelings and emotions out of that.
LENELL: Outside of being a journalist what does Nadia do for fun?
NADIA: It is so funny when I said, ‘I‘m moving to Utah.’ My family said, ‘What? Utah, Utah?’ Or, ‘Utah, Florida?’ I said I was going to be a Utahan through and through. Utahans ski, camp, hike and do all those things I never thought that I would do; I have done. I‘ve gone skiing for the first time this past season. I’ve been hiking. Utah has five national parks, which is unlike any other state. I’ve been to two of them so far. I’ve done some crazy hikes. There’s one called Angel’s Landing and that’s in Zion’s National Park, down in Southern Utah where you are hiking up, holding onto chains because the trail really isn’t a trail. You’re actually climbing up rocks and there is a 1400 foot drop off on each side of you. People have literally died on this trail. It is scary.
LENELL: Oh My God!!!!!!!
NADIA: I said I’m going to do it, why not; I’m going to do it. I did it, and I have never been so proud of myself. When I got to the top and looked down, I thought, ‘Man, to accomplish this is so cool.’ When I went skiing and posted a picture on Facebook, my dad wrote, ‘Dear Lord, watch over my child.’ He just thought, ‘What are you doing? What is going to happen to you?’ It’s been really, really fun. I can honestly wholeheartedly say that when I look back over this period of my life, I know that I would be able to smile, laugh, look at pictures and say, ‘Wow, I was so crazy and I thought I was invincible.’ That’s what you do when you live in Utah. When I lived in Indiana and Iowa, I embraced the experiences. You go out; you do what the locals do and just kind of take it all in. Surprisingly, I love hiking and camping and I never thought I would. However, I do not like skiing. I will not do that again.
LENELL: What does the future hold for you, personally and professionally?
NADIA: That’s such a tough question. We just had our summer interns come to the station and that was one of the questions that a lot of them asked, but I have never been able to answer that question definitively because I have always left it up to chance or fate. When I look back over the stations I have worked at, I never thought that I would live in Indiana. Iowa wasn’t on my radar and never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would call Salt Lake City home. Yet, here I sit. When I was at Syracuse, I thought I would be an International Journalist. I would work for the BBC or for Sky News. I studied abroad in Spain and traveled all over Europe and Northern Africa and I just thought I am never coming back home. I’m going to stay over here and be an International Reporter.
That was my goal and then life kind of hit me. I missed my family; I missed some funerals while I was in Europe because the tickets were so expensive that you just couldn’t fly back on short notice. I got a little homesick and just wanted to be around my family. My grandparents were getting older, and so that changed my dreams. I thought for sure that I would just want to be a reporter and work my way up through the networks. Halfway through, I decided maybe I just want to try this anchoring thing out. It’s too hard for me to say, I‘m a little bit of a free spirit. I like to take on adventures and challenges. Today, I may think one thing; tomorrow I may wake up with an epiphany and think this is what I’m supposed to do.
LENELL: What advice would you give an aspiring journalist who may be faced with a challenge like accepting a position far away from family and friends? How do they prepare themselves?
NADIA: I’ve moved around many times. This is my fourth station. As I moved around the country, following my career, following my dreams, I tried to embrace wherever I lived. So when I was in Iowa, I went to the Sweetcorn Festival. I did stories at different farmsand I tried to learn as much as I could about agriculture. Iowa was really cool because I got a chance to be a part of the first Caucus. It really affected the political shape of the country. I wasn’t really into politics before I got there, but I sure researched it, learned and interviewed all the key players when they came to town. I really dug into that assignment.
My advice to people would be that if you get your first job in Idaho Falls, Idaho or North Dakota, go there with a smile on your face. Make the best of each day because you may be there for six months or six years. Tell yourself that you are going to walk into the newsroom to learn from the people who are here. Do your best every single day so when you look back, you can be proud of yourself. Think of all the adventures that you were able to do. There are so many things that I was able to do because of my job and live in places many of my friends may never experience.
LENELL: I’m sure this is the question that everyone wants to know… Where do you get your hair done in Utah? (Both laughing) Inquiring minds want to know.
NADIA: Everybody at the station who is on air goes to one stylist. That’s where we have our trade agreement. I went to him and said, ‘Can you do my hair?’ He says, ‘Oh no, I can’t do your hair.’ I thought, ‘Oh, well neither can I. Now we are both stuck. I am not a stylist; that is not my thing.’ He referred me to another salon. I went there once or twice, but wasn’t really happy with their work. A woman actually reached out to me on Facebook and stated her husband does hair. His name is Tim Muir, (Alter Ego Studio Salon- South Jordan, UT). He does great work; please check him out.
At this point I was living in Utah for eight months. When I visited my sister out in Los Angeles, I would get my hair done at the salon she goes to. I knew I could not keep flying back and forth to LA every time I need to get my hair done; I have to find somebody in Utah. So I went to Tim Muir and he is phenomenal. He is the best hairdresser that I have ever been to and I’ve had my hair done in LA, Chicago, New York, Syracuse, and Madrid. I have had my hair done all over the world and he is the best.
Fans can stay in touch with Nadia on Facebook at Nadia Crow and on twitter https://twitter.com/NadiaNewsNow
Also visit Nadia's website http://www.nadiacrow.com
Also visit Nadia's website http://www.nadiacrow.com