Lauren Kelly By Charese Fruge’

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on September 1, 2020 

Lauren Kelly is the QUEEN of Karaoke! I have seen this woman step on stage and instantly steal a crowd with her amazing voice, epic moves, and knowledge of lyrics of some of the best karaoke songs of all time. “If you know me, you definitely know I love a good karaoke night!” She says. “I’m a sucker for Alanis Morisette’s ‘You Oughta Know,’ Salt & Pepa’s ‘Shoop’ and basically any rap song in existence.”

“I think it all stems from my love of performing. Somehow, I have a huge memory bank in my head that’s full of song lyrics, and lots of people find it quite impressive,” she says. “I have no fear getting up in front of a crowd and singing songs that I love. I got on stage and sang with the Backstreet Boys many moons ago, so I guess I got bit by that performing bug then!”

That’s the same bug that got Lauren into the radio business 20 years ago, and today she’s crossed over to television and is an Emmy-nominated live reporter for “Houston Life” on KPRC Channel 2. She’s one of the few in the business who have been able to work in her home town for so long, surrounded by her parents, three sisters, five nieces and nephews, boyfriend and two dogs, Minnie and Zoey. “The fact that I have worked in my hometown for 20 years without moving is basically unheard of in this business, and I count my blessings daily!”

“I started in promotions at 96.7 KHFI/Austin in October 2000, which was where I met Michael Yo who was the night jock at the time. I was Michael’s producer from 2000 to 2002, and then got a job offer to be Atom Smasher’s night show co-host at 104.1 KRBE/Houston,” says Kelly. “I was at KRBE from 2002 to 2007, then left and went over to do nights at MIX 96.5, and weekends at 94.5 The Buzz. I was there for a year until Hot 95.7 signed on, and was then hired for middays in July 2008. I did middays live at HOT until CBS Radio bought MIX from Clear Channel, and then did HOT middays live and voice tracked MIX nights (at the same time!) I got moved down the hall to do middays permanently for MIX in 2012. I went from middays, to afternoons, to mornings, where I ended my radio career in December 2019,” says Kelly. “I got an incredible opportunity as an MMJ/Live Reporter for Houston Life on KPRC 2 that I accepted in October 2019, and have been there full time since.”

‘Radio names’ are very common in the business and while most talent change or shorten theirs just because “it’s the thing to do,” there are a few of us in the business that don’t really have a choice. Not only do both Lauren and I have “unique” names for radio, but I was one of many programmers who asked her to change her name over the years. “Oh man, the name story! Well, my real last name is Finkelstein, and obviously I couldn’t use that on the air. I mean, just saying LAUREN FINKELSTEIN took up almost all of an 8-second song intro!” she says.

“For many years, I just went by ‘Lauren’ because I was a co-host, producer, or third mic. It wasn’t until I got to HOT 95.7 where my PD at the time, Mark Adams, decided to change it. The station was geared young, so we wanted something catchy, but also that fit our main Houston demo. So he literally gave me two choices: Kelly Kelly, or Kelly Cortez,” she says. “Since my Spanish wasn’t so good, Kelly Kelly it was! Our GM at the time HATED IT, but everyone else loved it, including me. Doesn’t everyone STRIVE to have a ridiculously fake radio name at some point in their career? I was Kelly Kelly until I went over to MIX 96.5 full time, and had a very smart PD come in and change it to something a little more believable: Lauren Kelly, which I’ve been ever since.”

According to Lauren, the transition from radio to television was challenging. “This was something I thought was going to be an easy transition for me. I already knew so much about how things worked on the audio side, I just needed to switch my knowledge over to the visual side. But let me tell you, there was SO MUCH for me to learn! Television is way harder!” she says. “My ‘Houston Life’ team has been nothing short of amazing helping me with this transition though. They are always there to help if I have questions about ANYTHING, and are so encouraging and helpful. I do still find myself referring to commercial breaks as ‘stop sets,’ and my team giggles because they have no idea what that means.”

“My past radio experience has definitely been very helpful for my transition into television. Even if television is drastically different in some ways, the framework and basics are very similar: Prepare good topics, stay super local, run the correct commercials, keep people tuned in, and have as much fun as possible!” says Kelly. That’s something Lauren is definitely taking advantage of. “Within the first two weeks that I got hired full-time at KPRC, they sent me to London to cover the Texans game! That was quite the awesome ‘Welcome To The Team!’“ she says. “I was named ‘Employee Of The Month’ within the first two months of being there, and I was also a part of the live KPRC Mardi Gras Galveston broadcast, for which we are nominated for an Emmy award! Like, I, AM UP FOR AN EMMY AWARD….WHAT?! Who would have ever thought?!”

Another challenge that Lauren has had to face in Houston is the real deal: heat and humidity. “Ugh, the Houston HEAT! It’s no joke, and even though I’ve grown up with it, the summer heat is just something you learn to deal with,” she says. “Trying to keep a full face of television makeup and perfect hair is almost impossible for any type of outdoor live shot. By now, I’m pretty sure viewers have just gotten used to seeing me all sweaty with a ponytail. Add a mask on top of that and I am ONE HOT DAYTIME TV MESS.”

Unlike most of the Broadcast business, there hasn’t really been a lot of downtime for Lauren and her “Houston Life” team she says. “If there was a lull during this pandemic, we spent it looking for new and different ways to bring more topics and content to the show,” she told me. “The biggest chunk of time that had the least action was definitely in April and May, when almost everything was completely shut down. Now that things are slowly opening back up, we spend most of our downtime booking more segments a few weeks out.”

One of the most important pieces of advice Lauren offers to anyone looking to get in to the business, “Don’t let anyone borrow your headphone adapter! If you know, you know!” she says. I concur, you will never see it again. Good advice is hard to come by in a business that expects you to learn from experience. That’s why Lauren is a big proponent of Mentoring. “You need to be able to look up to someone who has put in the hard work, gotten to where they want to be, and are willing to share experiences and advice with others,” she says, “Especially being female. It makes all the difference in having someone to talk and look up to.”

We’ve got much to look forward to with Lauren moving forward. “You can tune into ‘Houston Life’ weekdays at 3 p.m. on KPRC 2 to find out!” She says. “I’ve got a segment each day, and for the most part, you can catch me live…if it’s not a fancy, pre-recorded package. Whether it’s food, beauty, drink, celeb, or Houston-related, I can guarantee it’ll be fun to watch! The sooner things can get back to ‘normal,’ the bigger my projects will get!” she says. “In the meantime, anyone know if Taylor Swift will do a Zoom interview with me?”

Follow Lauren Kelly on Facebook – @kprc2laurenkelly, Twitter – @kprc2laurenk or Instagram – @kprc2laurenkelly or @laurenkellyhtx