Charese Fruge’ Talks To Kariana Taylor

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on January 25, 2022 

Kariana Taylor (Kay-Tee) is currently the PM drive host for WSSG (92.7 JAMZ)/ Goldsboro, NC. She’s heavily involved in programming the station, working with a national consultant and the station’s manager on a regular basis. “In my eyes, it’s like putting together a puzzle. Making sure we’re staying current and playing the hits,” she says. She has two other on-air shows as well. Middays on 97.7 Katie Country (Eastern NC) and the #1 weekend show on sister station, Top 40, 96.9 The New Pulse FM (Raleigh, NC).

Kariana grew up in Goldsboro, NC listening to 101.9 KISS FM. “Man, I called the station so much and probably only got through once,” she says. “Once I was at Goldsboro High School, I took journalism. That’s when I fell for media. I was accepted into North Carolina A&T State University’s Journalism and Mass Communications program. While at A&T, I started my radio career by joining WNAA 90.1 FM’s Street Team. A month later I was chosen for the overnight syndicated “Sheryl Underwood Show.” The following year I was given my own show the “Aggie Lounge.” At that time, I was also interning at WJMH 102 JAMZ. I had seen how radio was ‘theatre of the mind.’ I’m proud of who I am, but I could be ANYONE I wanted to be on air, says Taylor. “I’ve always loved to talk to people too. That’s what drove me to do radio.”

Kariana was lucky enough to have great mentors in the business as she worked to grow her career. “Ms. D. Cherie Lofton, who is no longer with us championed me,” she says. “If it had not been for her, I would not be where I am today in radio. She’s the reason I went into Top 40 after working with her at my college station. Though I worked and mainly knew the Urban format, she reminded me I could do ANY formant that’s out there,” she says. “Also, Maurice ‘Big Mo’ Mayer was a mentor. He was my internship supervisor. He’s why I started to love music directing. He taught me to trust myself and to never be afraid to step outside the box. Lastly, Toshamakia. Tosh was working at 102 JAMZ while I was still interning there. She gave so much advice as a woman in radio. She taught me that it didn’t matter if I was a woman, and that being a woman in this industry was my super strength. I couldn’t name only one of them. They all had a hand in my career early on.”

Kariana says she has so much to be grateful for these days. “I’ve been able to curate the City of Goldsboro’s first ‘Juneteenth Festival.’ That was big for me because it had been a dream on mine since college. With the help of the 92.7 JAMZ team, the City of Goldsboro, and our sponsors we were able to pull it off,” she says. “I’ve written, voiced and produced commercial spots for out of state clients. Which I love to do! This year, I had the honor of hosting the annual ‘Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’ ceremony in Goldsboro. And let’s talk about concerts! I’ve worked so many concerts and met so many great celebs. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview singer Tweet. I was asked to host the event she was performing at and had the chance to get an interview as well. BUT the reward for me with all those events, is always being able to see the listeners.”

Her rise to programming and pm drive hasn’t come without challenges for Kariana. “I was working full time hours while still being a part time employee at first. That was one of the most challenging things for me. It took A LOT of proving myself. So, I’ve always been the one that’s like ‘I’ll do it if they can’t!’ She explains. “I was taught that this is a male driven industry, and it was important to me to prove that I can do WHATEVER it is they can do. I had someone I admire to this day look me in the eye and tell me the truth: ‘Not only are you a woman, but a black woman. You have to work ten times as hard.’ I handled everything by sucking it up, going to work every single day, and giving 110%! Nothing less. No excuses,” says Taylor. “Also, I’ve always been my own worst critic, and I started to lose the true essence of who I am. Going from Urban to Top 40 to Country and back to Urban, I needed to find a median. That was hard at first because I was literally juggling all these personalities at once. I wanted to do all of those, but I had to remember that I still needed to see MYSELF somewhere in there. I’m glad I finally got it!”

Kariana has always wanted to program radio. “From the moment I saw Mr. Tony Welborne and D. Cherie run WNAA I knew wanted it. I’m still in my early stages so there’s still a lot to learn,” she says. As far as encouraging more women to program radio, “I think we need to remind women that we are the backbone to just about everything,” says Taylor. “We may physically see men as the head a lot, but we women are the neck. That means we can turn the head either way we want. We must continue to encourage each other. I also think that women who are already programmers must continue to be willing to train other women. That way the women after them can do the same for another woman. Remember it’s easy to sink into a competitive mindset, but we are ALL capable of winning…together!”

Like everyone else in the industry, the pandemic has definitely impacted Kariana’s life both personally and professionally. “The pandemic has been a weird ride,” she says. “Professionally, I’ve been blessed to keep my job. I could still tell the difference in the atmosphere though. Early into the pandemic it could only be one of the DJs in the building at a time. I get a lot of my content just walking around the building talking to others. That was non-existent for us in 2020. Last year things got better but we still couldn’t do certain events. I thrive off seeing our listeners and it hurt a bit that I couldn’t,” she explains. “Personally, it hit home. I’ve seen people I’ve known most of my life pass away from this. Or some who had it and they still haven’t fully recovered yet.”

Kariana stays constantly busy, there’s not much time to spare in her schedule. “I’m a mom…a DANCE MOM at that. Which is another job in itself!” She says. “My daughter Janiyah (12) dances for Artistic Dance Academy in NC. So, when I DO get a break, you can catch me buying a pair of shoes or a purse! Haha! My bank account would not like that answer,” she adds. “I also love to sing. I grew up singing and always thought I would be a singer one day. As I got older, I realized that singing was just going to be a pastime for me. Fun fact, I got a chance to sing at the ‘Millennium Tour’ in Raleigh, NC in 2019.”

Another fun fact about Kariana…“ I don’t have a bellybutton. I was born with one, but when I was in grade school, I had a hernia,” she explains. “They removed the hernia…and took my bellybutton with it. I love to tell people that because they are so shocked when I say it.”

Kariana describes herself as an anxious person. “Everything keeps me up at night!” She says. “Sometimes it’s a good thing. I’m always thinking of a new idea too. What can I pitch to the sales team? Should I start a new segment on my show? Does this new song fit our station? What events do I want to see in our area? Do I want to wear sweats or real clothes to work tomorrow? Everything!” she says. “In life we get to a point where we are second guessing ourselves all the time. I’m kind of at that point now. Being young, a mom, a radio personality, and programmer, I get lost in my thoughts sometimes. Nighttime is typically when that happens.”

The good news is, she does a good job of finding balance. “God, my family, and music center me!” Says Taylor. “I have huge faith. God has been the writer of my story. So, He will always balance me. My family and I are close so on any good or bad day, they’re going to be there. Music brings me balance in both my personal and professional life. It’s the language I think everyone can speak. Whether sad, mad, or happy, music will speak to you.”

For Kariana, 2022 is going to be a big year. “The JAMZ Out Juneteenth Festival’ will be back this year!!! I’m so excited. This will be my biggest project this year,” she says. “I’ve also just started working with a voice-over company, so I’m hoping to get my voice to every corner of our country. And we’re going to cross our fingers and hope to be on someone’s red carpet this year as well!” She says. She intends to stay busy.

Follow Kariana Taylor on Facebook: Kay-Tee Radio and Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok: kaytee_radio