This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on January 7, 2020
I’ve known Mercedes Martinez for almost 20 years. I feel like the two of us have grown up in the radio business together, having had the pleasure of being both a fellow air staff member with her, and her Program Director for about 10 years at KMXB (Mix 94.1). I admire her so much for her consistency, her ability to transition when needed, and her longevity in the market as the “Girl Next Door” (albeit the quirky one). Not many women can say they have been at one station as long as she has, especially as host of her own morning show. She was one of the first women to take on the lead role in a wake up show, and has been an inspiration to many women in the industry over the years. Plus, she has one of the best stories.
Born and Raised in Colorado, Mercedes has been in Las Vegas since 1997 where she began waking up the city with Mark Diciero on “Mark & Mercedes in the Morning.” She took over the show as the host with Executive Producer JC Fernandez as her co-host in 2015. Fast forward to today and the Nevada Broadcasting Hall of Famer is still consistently at the top of ratings with Adults 25 to 54 in Las Vegas. She was also nominated for a Marconi Award this year and has been named “Best Local Radio Personality” by the Las Vegas Review Journal 13 times (including for 12 consecutive years). In 2017, Mercedes added host of “Las Vegas Now” on KLAS-TV Channel 8 to her resume and does her best to balance both responsibilities.
Mercedes got her start in radio when she interned in the promotions department at KJMN while attending the University of Colorado at Boulder. When the internship ended, she was offered a position as a receptionist which worked well with her school schedule. “After getting to know everyone at the front desk,” says Martinez, “the station consultant, Dave Shakes, recommended I do bits on the morning show since I had a ‘BIG’ personality, and that’s how it all started.”
Mercedes finished her degree in Las Vegas at UNLV and graduated Cum Laude with a degree in Communication Studies and minor in Sociology. In 2000, she met her soul mate and father of their two daughters, Matt Bolt. I love this story. It’s a radio fairytale…
“I met my husband after he won a contest on the radio station. He came to pick up the prize and asked if he could meet me. I said yes, but then I got cold feet and told the receptionist to tell him I was busy,” says Martinez. “As random fate would have it, I was paying my rent at my apartment complex a few weeks later and he was in the main office at the time. He did marketing for the company that owned my complex and had to make a stop at my property. He had no idea I lived there. He recognized me and told me he won a prize on the radio station. And then he asked me out. We’ve been together ever since.”
Some of the bigger influences on Mercedes career were Dave Shakes and Mike Marino. “Dave saw something in me that I didn’t,” says Martinez. “And when I came to Las Vegas, Mike Marino was my mentor. He truly believed in me and taught me how to be a strong woman on the air.” Mercedes’ on-air” influences were also strong women. “I listened to Jamie White growing up in Denver and I loved her humor and strong personality. I also loved . Both are strong women with something to say and it really opened my eyes and showed me that women DO like listening to other women, despite what I had been told.”
In talking about the challenges women face in the industry today, Mercedes says she lives by three rules: “Be Nice, Don’t Gossip and Give 100%. You can stand up for yourself and still be nice. You can be involved in the culture of the station without being involved in the gossip. And work ethic is the most important. Everyone wants to be a success, but I’ve noticed some people don’t want to put in the effort. It’s important to find that line so you don’t get taken advantage of.”
One of the bigger adjustments for Mercedes was taking on the role of host of the show in 2015 after years of working with the same partner. I was with her through the transition, and the biggest responsibility was transitioning from a receiver, to a quarterback. “When it came to hosting my own show, I was scared,” she says. “I didn’t know if I could do it. I was honest with my listeners about my fears and they really rallied with support. It was unreal. To this day it still brings tears to my eyes. I was lucky as well, because I have a great partner, JC Fernandez, who really supported me and helped lift me up. We genuinely care for each other and love working together.”
Being successful in this business comes down to speaking the truth both on and off the air. According to Mercedes, it’s critical, but comes with responsibility. “We can all speak our truth, but I always tell myself to take a couple of minutes to get my mind right so I don’t come across the wrong way. I want to be articulate and educated when I am trying to get a point across. Believe me, there have been many times where I’ve blurted out something and immediately regretted it,” says Martinez. “Taking a breath, realizing you will not always agree with others, LISTENING to people, and trying to have a discussion and not an argument helps immensely.”
It’s also important to work hard according to Mercedes. “I see a lot of people coming in that want their own shows immediately and they’ve never done a shift. I see a lot of people speaking poorly about others in an effort to make themselves look better. I see a lot of people that want things handed down to them without putting in the work. You can’t go down that path if you want to have a future in this business.”
As for managing her radio and television career, along with all of her community and charitable efforts, Mercedes says finding balance is tricky. “I don’t know if I have truly mastered it yet, to be honest. I do work a lot but I have a husband that is so supportive and basically schedules his business around my work, which I am so grateful for. I do make sure to take vacations and I do not check anything work related during that time so I can focus on my family.”
As for what’s next for Mercedes: “I will continue to focus on ‘Mercedes in the Morning.’ I am so proud of my entire team. It took a while to get the perfect mixture of people but I feel like we have a true family (Co-Host JC Fernandez, Executive Producer Stephanie Sidella, and Producer Jocelyn Luna). I feel like we are always looking to grow and take our show to the next level,” says Martinez. “I’m also teaming up with my former co-worker and PD (wink wink) to coach and consult talent. We have a lot of experience between the two of us and while we want to help all talent, we are taking a special interest in female talent that may feel like they are not getting the advice and coaching they need.”
“Mercedes in the Morning” can be heard on the radio.com app weekday mornings from 6a to 10a. Follow her on Instagram @msmertz & @mercedesintheam, Mercedes Martinez and Mercedes in the morning on Facebook and @mercedesLV & @mercedesintheam on Twitter