Charese Fruge’ Talks To Julia Lepidi

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on April 7, 2020

She’s doing her night show for B96 in Chicago from the closet in her apartment right now thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Julia Lepidi admits that the most challenging thing she’s experienced in her career so far is what’s happening right now. “Nobody was ready for this. And thankfully, in my short time in radio, I’ve never really had to question what things would be like on the other side of something so uncertain like this before,” she says. “What’s interesting though, is having a difficult chapter in life in common with absolutely all of our listeners. That’s what’s getting me through it. Though our circumstances can be different, I think it’s humanizing me as a personality and helping me to create genuine relationships with the audience. I’m constantly having off air conversations with them about it and I’m forming real bonds that way.”

That’s what makes great talent. The ability to understand how important it is to genuinely connect with your audience as opposed to just talking AT them. With all of the competition out there, it’s important to generate loyalty. If you listen to Julia on air, or follow her on Instagram, you’ll learn why she advanced so quickly in her career. She’s not only connecting with her audience, but she’s entertaining them with humor, creativity and self-deprecation. She’s one of the lucky ones who knew as a child that she wanted to be in radio. That’s thanks to her mom who was a big fan of local morning shows. They listened every morning together in her hometown of Detroit and the only time Julia was ever allowed to miss school was during Christmastime, when she was allowed to go and watch the big shows broadcast live from the malls.

She’s a student of radio. Julia attended an eight month broadcasting program right out of high school. She started interning, and landed her first radio job in promotions in 2012 at Amp in Detroit. In the summer of 2014, she began tracking a 3 hour shift on Sundays which then led to live shifts on weekends and swing for regular day parts. The universe began to align for Julia in March 2015, she says. “I started applying for full time jobs in other markets because I knew that’s what I had to do to get my own show, as I definitely didn’t think it would be in Detroit. But by some grace of God my then PD believed in me enough to give me my own night show as my first official gig,” says Lepidi. “Three years later I was promoted to host the morning show in tandem with my co-host Chris Cruise, but our station ended up flipping 5 months later. I gave myself a day to be upset, then the day after I was making a demo, and 4 days later I was interviewing with B96 in Chicago, and the rest is history.”

When I asked Julia what the transition from mornings to nights and vice versa was like she admitted “You have to be a psychopath for wanting either schedule, and I did,” she says. “Mornings and nights go hand in hand. I’m either up like a rooster or sleeping in like a moody 14-year old boy who hates his parents,” she says. “Nights are the gateway drug to mornings. So I had to dial it back a little at night, but I’ve put the remainder of my energy into my podcast.”

If you haven’t seen or heard her yet, Julia’s energy is both intriguing and inspiring. Her signature look is a head full of rainbow colored hair. She pulls it off better than anyone I’ve seen. She attributes that to her mom as well, who does her hair when she returns to Detroit. “Thank God! Otherwise I’d be SO broke. I have super thick Italian hair and my mom doesn’t get through an appointment without slyly whispering how much it would cost if someone else was doing it,” she says. “She’s this incredibly talented hairdresser. When I moved to Chicago, I tried getting it done by someone else and it just wasn’t the same. When I went home to visit her for Mother’s Day right after, she said the greatest gift would be letting her fix what the previous girl did. And I mean, she wasn’t bad…she just wasn’t my mom.”

Another intriguing thing about Julia is that she is double jointed. I discovered this from her Instagram account while watching her find creative places to do her show from home. It’s pretty hysterical to see what she’s done. There are cabinets, a washing machine and a kitchen sink involved. According to her, being double jointed is definitely an ice breaker. “It’s my party trick. I’m freakishly limber and my body bends in ways it shouldn’t,” she says. “I’ve taken contortion classes and one of my previous jobs before radio was lying in splits in a haunted house for 5 hours dressed like a dead baby doll and scaring grown men. I can fit in small places and scare the sh#t out of people, and still do. I don’t think I’ll ever stop.”

It’s hard for Julia to even imagine what’s ahead for the industry with the pandemic right now. Like everyone else she’s trying to find her own new normal. It’s something that keeps her up at night. “I’m very lucky to be working right now, but I worry about my family, I worry about our economy. I don’t need to keep going on about that because I’m fairly certain we’re all on edge right now,” she says. But she is passionate about helping young women who are newcomers to the business when things begin to move forward again. “I’m always so touched when women in the industry or those trying to get in ask for my help. I take it seriously. I think nowadays the pool has gotten really small for the ones that want it with a huge fire. But if they are passionate about it, I want to give them a million reasons not to give up.”

As for what’s ahead for Julia when things do return to normal, she’s looking forward to expanding her brand on several different levels. “I’m trying to dive into the world of comedy. I’ve taken classes for the past year and plan on doing stand-up once the world is back to normal,” she says. “As for my long term goal, I look forward to getting back into morning radio eventually. It’s always been my end game.”

Follow Julia on Twitter and Instagram @theradiohag