Charese Fruge Talks To Heather Lee
This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on November 20, 2020
She’s proven over the last 17 years that she is a total radio pro, but more importantly, Heather Lee has proven to be a much bigger person than most in the last week. After she and her partner Fish, on Active Rock KAZR (Lazer 103.3)/Des Moines, IA, were attacked on air by a fellow morning show in St. Cloud, MN, specifically a brutal verbal assault on Heather, she has taken the high road, unaffected by the comments, and helped to turn the situation into a positive. Unsolicited, Heather and Fish were targeted by the host of The Steel Toe Morning Show, specifically because they were hired by Lazer 103.3 in early November to take over the morning show in Des Moines instead of him. The two thought and planned carefully and used their own platform to turn the incident into an Anti-Bullying Campaign. It didn’t take long for the radio community across the country to embrace their cause.
That’s the take-away from Heather. She openly admits that a few years ago an attack like that would have shaken her considerably, but after years of experience and understanding the good that radio can do with the right attitude and a belief in yourself, is incredible. That’s why it’s so important for her to be a voice for the cause, so that children of all ages, especially young girls, know it’s okay to be unique and confident, even when people are trying to bring you down.
Heather started her career in 2003 as an intern for Toucher, Jimmy and Leslie on WNNX in Atlanta and has worked her way up as an on air personality and music director with a list of several impressive call letters on her resume like WFNR, KQKQ, KLCK, KRWM/KNUC, and now KAZR. It’s an interesting story. “I moved to Atlanta for a guy. 15 minutes after unpacking my Olds Alero, he downgraded our relationship from serious to causal. I cried all night and hoped to get out of my lease,” she says. “The next morning, in the elevator, I met a new friend (Calandro) who turned out to be the producer of the local Alt morning show. He invited me to tour the studio. Somewhere between being thrown on air and The Shins walking by me on our way out that day, I decided this was my path and I’d do anything to stay on it.”
Heather’s favorite part of the business is making an impact on people’s lives. “I think of the person sitting next to a stranger, fumbling with the radio…anxiously wondering if this will be their last first-date and the night they delete Tinder forever,” she says. “I think of the person who just buried a parent…That sensation of mortality and the death of a past. I think about the new parent driving home from the hospital…I get to be an anonymous part of the most profound moments of people’s lives. Did the song I scheduled catalyze their joy? Did it comfort them in their pain? I hope so.” Lee adds her biggest accomplishment is “a zillion tiny moments of joy. I don’t know anyone outside of ‘creative employment’ who is happiest at work or happy every day. I am. I’m so grateful.”
Some of the bigger challenges Heather has seen over the course of her career: “Navigating and strategizing the battle for time in an efficiency driven world. . . How do we utilize technology but not allow it to steal from us? I don’t see other broadcasters as threats or competition. Netflix and Tik Tok are simultaneously my biggest concerns and best friends,” says Lee. She added, “The combo platter of dynamic individuals who contribute on every level and a stream of new recruits will ensure radio’s immortality.”
It’s no secret that Heather’s passions include pets, people and doing the right thing. But what keeps her up at night? “Ideas spawned by fear of underutilized potential.” It’s a good thing she can find balance in her everyday life, especially with a new job. “My partner Fish helps keep me grounded as well as my Industry friends. I have so much love for the people of radio, records and entertainment. You are my chosen family.” What do we have to look forward to from Heather? “Listen to Lazer 103.3 or stream us online at lazer1033.com,” she says …. details in 7 minutes!”
Follow Heather Lee @Heatherleemd