Charese Fruge’ Talks To Krista Uelmen
This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on September 21, 2021
Her passion was improv, and her talent led her straight to morning radio while still in college. Krista Uelmen is the host of the first all-female morning show in Madison, WI, “Krista & The Morning Rush” on WJQM (93.1 Jamz), with co-host Tracy Anderson. “I manage, create content, produce, schedule weekly community interviews, social media, and network with PR firms for celebrity guests,” she explains. “My boss asked that I make this show female driven, aka ‘People Magazine,’ so that’s what we do.” Krista is also part of an award-winning podcast. “Madtown Mom Squad’ is an on-air podcast consisting of 4 other female co-hosts who are moms having real conversations about parenthood along with guests. The show is sponsored by ‘American Girl.’
Let’s take a look at Krista’s career timeline: 2000-2001 WRQT (95.7 The Rock)/ Lacrosse, WI, Morning Host “Frankie & Hatcher Morning Sickness;” 2004-2007 WWWX (New Rock 96.9, The Fox)Appleton/Oshkosh, WI, Weekend’s & Night Host “Hatcher on Fox After Dark;” 2007-2014 WKFR (103.3 Today’s Best Music)Kalamazoo, MI, Morning Host of “Walker & Hatcher” 2007-2009 and “Hatcher & Harvey” 2009 – 2014, as well as Assistant Promotions Director 2013-2014; and 2014-Present WJQM, 93.1 Jamz Madison. WI, “Marco & Krista” 2014-2016 & “Krista & The Morning Rush” 2017 to present.
It all started for Krista while performing as an actor in a college recital. “I was discovered at Viterbo College in La Crosse. In order to graduate, I needed to put on a recital. Improv was my true passion, so I created a show that not only highlighted my acting, but my song parodies,” she says. “Mind you I was attending a Catholic college, so when I sang songs titled ‘Fire Crotch’ because I’m a natural red head, ‘Period’ life of being a girl, and ‘One Eye’ because I lost my eye to a hockey stick when I was 5 years old, I was pushing the limits a bit in front of the nuns! Well, it worked out for me, because the General Manager at the time, Dick Record, at Mid-West Family Broadcasting happened to have been in the audience and knew my director. He said he wanted me to be on his morning show on 95.7 The Rock. I met with Dick and PD Brian Jackson and the rest is history! I began my career as a college student and worked full-time doing morning radio!”
Krista has had some exciting opportunities and experiences throughout her career so far. “I would say being able to be the first woman to host an all-female morning show in Madison, WI with my bestie Tracy, is truly an honor and I absolutely love what I do,” she says. “Tracy and I were friends originally, and she did sales at the time when I was hosting. After I invited her to come on the show to do ‘Reality Check’ something special happened!!!! Tracy soon became my co-host not long after, and we’ve been together almost 2 ½ years. I am very grateful to my OPS Manger Randy Hawke for giving me this opportunity to lead such a show!
Winning ‘Best Morning Show’ in a Large Market by the Wisconsin Broadcasting Association on KMR 2017,2019 and 2020 and Station of the Year in 2020 was also a big deal for me,” says Uelmen. “Some great memories to add to that I have are going to ‘Bravocon’ in New York for work, being invited on Vicky Gunvalson’s Podcast ‘Whoop It
Up with Vicky,’ working out with Reality Star Ashton Pienaar from ‘Below Deck’ as my Personal Trainer and interviewing some of the most amazing stars like Kevin Hart, Lou Ferrigno, and Rob Zombie to name a few.”
Some of the causes that are near and dear to Krista’s heart help her give back to the community like “Krista’s Radiothon for Recovery” with Tellurian for mental health. “I believe it’s important to rid the stigma of mental health, because it has touched my family’s lives. We lost a stepmom to alcohol and have a sibling behind bars due to the addiction of alcohol. Not to mention I have been touched with anxiety and at one time tried to take my own life when I was a junior in college,” she says. “It’s important to let people know, especially our kiddos that there is light at the end of the tunnel and keeping the conversation going is everything. There should never be shame when needing help. Some of the strongest people I know are ones who live with mental health issues.”
Krista was also nominated for “The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Man & Woman of the Year.” “This was a personal fight for me as 4 of my loved ones have been touched with blood cancer and I didn’t want anyone else to lose a loved one,” she says. “I formed a 25-person team #kristascrusaders. I used my platform to create events that highlighted this cause and to raise as much money as possible. I was up against other phenomenal women during this friendly blind competition. In the end my team and I ended up raising the most money which titled me ‘Woman of the Year’ 2021. We Win When Cancer Loses! I will never stop the fight.”
Krista’s passion for a good cause doesn’t end there. “Some other phenomenal causes that I am passionate about are raising funds and awareness for childhood cancer with ‘The American Family Children’s Hospital Radiothon,’ ‘The Rainbow Project’ to spread awareness of stopping child abuse, ‘Camp Bingo’ to help people living with HIV/AIDS and helping to put food on the table with those living in poverty with the ‘River Food Pantry.’”
Great success doesn’t come without its challenges, and Krista has faced a few over the course of her career. “I’m someone that doesn’t like conflict and it’s always difficult when you are in situations with someone you work with. I have left a morning gig due to the nature of my co-host’s treatment of me. (I was very young and naïve, and I didn’t share this with anyone),” she says. “I think it’s important to always give and be given respect. Being in this industry, there are a lot of different personalities. Especially being a woman in this industry, it’s important to stay true to yourself and to speak up if you are passionate about a topic or an idea that you have. I would not be where I am today without being vocal about what I want. No one is going to work harder for your career than ‘YOU,’ so I believe in hard work and perseverance. My late mother and grandmother brought me up this way. They said, ‘Krista get your education first, then a career, and then a man!’
Also, another challenge I continue to face is managing work and family life. I have a hard time letting work go when I get home and shutting off my computer or social networks,” says Uelmen. “I have two beautiful daughters, Gia who is 11-years old and my 22-year-old step-daughter Raven. And I have been married to my amazing hubby Travis for 14 years. To be with someone in this industry I think comes with sacrifice and understanding for sure. I know I experience mom guilt for missing family events or time at home with my family.”
Maintaining family balance became even more challenging for Krista when the pandemic hit. “Well, I never stopped going into the studio once it hit. It was so surreal to go through the motions. It was sad to see the community hit so hard financially, which made me want to do everything I could to share their struggles on-air by inviting them on the show via the phone,” she says. “I lost my producer and took a short time of less hours and collected unemployment. Being a parent was the hardest though,” she explains. “Watching my child having to be without her friends, learning and trying to teach her to do on-line schooling, and not to mention losing care to watch our daughter not once but twice. My husband and I both worked, so it was a challenge. He went from first shift to second shift, so we could be home with our daughter. I would come home after the show, and he would go to work, and we wouldn’t see each other until the next morning. I felt like a single mom most times. Crazy our family wasn’t together until the weekends.”
Like most radio personalities, her show keeps her up at night. “My brain never shuts off. I usually get 5 hours of sleep a night. I’m always thinking about what I need to do, the next show idea, what am I going to cook for dinner!” She says. But she works hard to try and maintain some balance for her sake and the sake of her family. “I love to go to the gym and work out doing strength training. I also enjoy going camping with the family, listening to my daughter sing, hopping on my hubby’s Harley, hanging out with my cats Crunchy and Stinky and taking naps if I can! And music, I unwind listening to music whether it’s Lana Del Rey, Sarah McLachlan, old school Metallica, or Tiesto.
The good news for us is things aren’t going to slow down for Krista any time soon, so we’ll get to watch her progress moving forward and it’s pretty impressive. “I’m actually working on a radiothon for mental health coming up this Thursday Sept 23rd called ‘Krista’s Radiothon for Recovery’ and emceeing an awards show for a local biz called ‘Dane Buy Local Biz Awards.’ I’m also excited to be back co-hosting ‘Wisconsin Women’ on TVW,” she says. “Also, I’m always looking to grow the show, so syndication is also on my bucket list!”
Follow Krista Uelmen on Facebook @Krista & The Morning Rush, Krista “Hatcher” Uelmen and 93.1 Jamz and on IG @Kristaandthemorningrush and @93.1jamz