Charese Fruge’ Talks To Alexandria Washington

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on July 28, 2020

As a die-hard LSU fan, it took everything I had to write this column without mentioning the beating Alabama took last year from LSU in SEC football, but obviously the rivalry is too big to not bring it up. I say this because Ally Washington got her start in the business as an intern at BET while attending the University of Alabama. There is an unwritten rule that LSU and Alabama fans respect each other from afar, knowing that once a year, one side will have to face furious and painful heart break. This year was hers.

She graduated in 2013 in PR and couldn’t find a job for months. “I was working as a sales associate at Dillard’s and my best friend, Jaid Taylor, was doing nights on Streetz 101.1. One day, Mia Banks, who did an entertainment bit on his show, had to work and couldn’t make it and he asked me to fill in and I fell in love with radio. I then became a student of it, working on my voice with Jamal Quarles and James Smith. And the rest is history,” she says. “It wasn’t until I met NuYork, Program Director for WBHJ, who gave me my first gig outside of my hometown, that I thought I could do radio full time.”

Ally started at WQNC in Charlotte. After seven short months of record success, she worked her way up to the majors at WGPR in Detroit and then her company, Radio One, got sold to the Beasley Media Group in acquisition. “The day I was fired from Detroit, I got a call from Bill Black not even five minutes after I walked out,” she says. “He went through my air check with me break by break and encouraged me like no other. The next day, I spoke with Terri Thomas from Radio One and the seeds that she planted that day are now in full bloom.” Since then, Ally has done middays at WALJ in Tuscaloosa and is now presently on KHTE, doing afternoons in her hometown on “The Hollywood Hangout with Ally Lynn.”

Originally from Little Rock, Ally had big dreams. “There are so many talented people in the city, the only thing is they stay in the city. I always had aspirations of ‘getting out,’ and I did,” she says. “The biggest highlight was hustling after all that time, and getting a random call from TMZ saying that they loved my energy on my air check, and they offered me a job – umm, of course!” She says. “I got my first full time job EVER through a DM from Mary K at WQNC. Then, my second week of being on air in Detroit, I had to tell the city on the airwaves that Aretha had passed. The amount of emotion that flooded the studio that day, callers, dignitaries…nothing like it. It’s something I will never ever forget.”

Some of Ally’s biggest challenges over the years are that of many young air talent looking to succeed. “I’ve had to face the words ‘NO’ and ‘NOT YET’ and ‘NOT ENOUGH EXPERIENCE,’ often,” she says. ”I’ve always used that rhetoric as fuel to get to the next level every time. After losing my job in Detroit, with the company being sold, that broke me. I doubted myself and my talent, but pushed through because of my circle,” says Washington. Another big challenge for Ally, “The people you think are ‘for you,’ yea, not really. Many are threatened and intimidated by your talent, skill and ability, I say take it up with God.”

As much as radio people are expected to remain calm, cool and collected when meeting celebrities, everyone, no matter your gender or style, has that one celebrity that sends you over the edge. Ally’s “fan girl” moment? “Girl – BRANDY! Growing up I’ve ALWAYS been a super fan,” says Washington. “From her style, to her voice, to her personality, I shaped the way I wanted to be as an adult around that lady. I interviewed her maybe two weeks ago and cried my heart out…so much so that we cried together, and she even taught me a run. I mean who can say that they sang with their favorite artist like that?”

Mentoring in the radio business is important if we want to grow the talent pool for the future. Ally is no stranger to being both a mentee and a mentor. “I’m a mentee of Mary K (my radio mom) and Jerome Ford (my radio dad) they both took me under their wings and groomed me up to be the talent I am today,” she says. “NuYork always pushes the needle for me, alongside Kelly Mac, Eddie Owens and Bill Black. So much so, I’m able to deposit all that information into the peers coming up behind me and my current coworkers. The experiences of moving around and working in different environments under different management has been the most beautiful thing for me, which is why I believe my career has carried on the way it has and I have the respect I do. I value and thrive on the constructive criticism as a creator and take it back to the drawing board to get better.”

One of the most important skills for radio talent, especially right now, is the ability to sell yourself. You can see it in her work and in her social media. Ally is a big ally to the sales department. “Innovative ideas win every time,” she says. “It’s radio, right? So many stations and talent have done the same ideas for years. What makes it yours though? Why do you make this pitch special? For me it’s my confidence and passion for people. It shows in every single thing I do. When I partner with a business, our brands align, I know where I bring value and I execute. I have loved my sales team at every station I’ve worked because they don’t push me, and allow me the space to be creative which in turn strengthens our bond as sales and talent.”

“I’m the talent that was taught early in Charlotte by my mentor, Jerome, you go to the sales meetings and see what’s going on and where you can fit. Sales never expect talent to wake up early and be there to contribute. I was there at 8 am each week when I didn’t have to be at work until 6 pm. I never missed a sales meeting since…the hustle and grind was real.”

No doubt 2020 has been a tough year for everyone. Ally has great advice for talent right now.

    1. Trust your process – timing has never been anyone’s best friend, but God reminds us that HIS timing is perfect in every way.

 

    1. Protect your peace – it’s easier now more than ever to get distracted – DON’T! Find a new hobby, perfect a skill, take the time to work on something to come out better on the other side. Sometimes you have to take a break from social media too…

 

  1. Have fun – you have to find the positive in every day. I’m goal oriented, so attacking a few small things a week when it seems as if everything is “shut down” can make a huge difference and serve as a tremendous self-esteem and confidence booster!

While the everyday grind of the business might keep her up at night, Ally gets excited about it and thrives on the adrenaline. ”I’m constantly wondering what’s next after this? It excites me to know what role I play locally in my community and online,” she says.” There’s so much going on in the world right now, that we have to ensure ourselves more and more that we are using our platforms effectively. People are watching and looking to us as the ‘change agents’ and we have to rise to occasion.”

As for what helps her maintain peace in the process? “My nephew Brayden’s middle name should be peace,” she says. “Since the day he came onto this planet he has been everything I needed. If I’m having a rough day, I just need to see him. A tough moment, I need to hear his voice. He loves me so much, that anyone can see it and feel it too. I want to be everything I can and more for him. He’s literally my little driving force. I call him my battery pack – I can do no wrong in his eyes,” says Washington. “Also, my ‘puppy daughter’ Motown is always the MVP for me. She’s super active, stays busy and keeps me on my toes.”

Ally has big plans for the future. She’s working on a book right now and is very close to making a big announcement about it. She’s also working on more creative digital content for her brand and station brand.

Keep an eye on her progress at Hey Ally Lynn on Facebook and @heyallylynn on instagram.