Charese Fruge’ Talks To Riley Couture

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on August 10, 2021 

She’s planning a September wedding, just had a baby, is the mom of two boys and successfully balances her role as co-host of “Your Morning Show” syndicated in Washington, D.C. on WIHT (Hot 99.5) and WZFT (Z104.3) in Baltimore. Riley Couture also hosts the “Really Riley Podcast.” She describes her role on her radio show: “I oversee and create our news segment “Headlines with Riley”, as well as our newest bit “Ask Riley,” where I give real and raw advice from an experienced perspective based on listener questions emailed to the show. I am the personality on the show that will tell you like it is and isn’t afraid to speak her mind but will be your best friend in a heartbeat.”

Her career in radio started when she was a student. “I started as an intern/promotions person at 93.3 WFLZ in Tampa in 2004. After mentoring under the late Kane (Peter Deibler), I was offered a co-hosting position at 104.5 WSNX in Grand Rapids, MI. That was the only radio job I was ever fired from, and it ignited my passion to never give up,” she says. “After that I was off to Memphis, TN, where I did mornings, middays, and afternoons during my 6-year stint at 107.5 WHBQ. Then it was off to a brief co-hosting position on the Woody and Jim Show in Nashville at 107.5 The River. I was there just over a year when I was offered mornings in Atlanta at Power 96.1,’ says Couture. “We thrived there for 3 years until my counterparts were let go and I was paired for a short while with another married morning show duo. It was then that I learned the news that my mentor, Kane had an opening on his show in D.C. I grabbed that opportunity with both hands and here we are four years later despite many unexpected ups and downs, thriving in the market.”

Riley likes to say she semi-tripped and fell into radio. “I was in college studying sign language interpreting when I soon realized that I was far too mouthy for that profession, as much as I enjoyed learning it. At that point my mother was threatening to throw me out of the house if I didn’t figure my life out in a month, so I knew I had to find something quick,” she says. “Growing up, I had been on a stage in one way or another most of my life with ballet, cheerleading, chorus, drama and pageants, so I wanted to put that to good use. Television was never really my thing so I figured I would give radio a shot. After that, the radio bug bit me and I had never wanted anything more. There was no turning back.”

Riley has certainly been able to enjoy her career so far. “One of my most exciting experiences for sure is going to the press junkets backstage at The Grammys and American Idol,” she says. “It’s not just the insane amount of celebritys that are there, it’s the crazy rush of having to rapid fire interview so many huge stars and truly test your skill of being a true radio personality. You’re representing your station, your brand and there is no room for error. After that amount of pressure, I know I can handle whatever this business throws at me.”

Riley’s successes and achievements have not come without their challenges. The biggest? “That’s a truly tough one to answer because if I’m honest the challenges I’ve faced in this industry almost broke me more times than I can count,” says Couture. “Of the biggest is when I realized I had picked up my entire life to become part of a radio “family” that truly was not that. It was anything but, it was toxic,” she explains. “Learning that radio doesn’t always love you back was tough too. It’s amazing and glamorous at times, incredibly fulfilling in one moment and heartbreaking in the next. One of the greatest pieces of advice I ever got as a young intern was ‘Radio isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle.’ Learning that lesson was sometimes tough for me. In pursuing my career I’ve said goodbye to friends, family, and places I’ve loved. The thing that always gets me through is remembering what a friend once asked me, ‘Riley do you HAVE to go to the studio instead of coming to this party?’ My response was ‘None of this is HAVE to,’ I wanted this career with everything that I am, so it’s worth every challenge. Every time I think my path with radio might be done, I get a DM from a listener that says how much I helped them in some way, and it snaps me back into the reality that I really do love this job.”

The pandemic was also a challenge for Riley for several reasons. “Personally, it was difficult from the perspective of being pregnant through most of it. I was afraid for my health and the health of my baby. Being isolated through such a special time definitely took some mental fortitude to get through,” she says. “Professionally it was difficult financially, what with endorsements becoming next to nothing comparatively. But it was also strange to not be able to get out and connect with listeners which has become my favorite part of radio. But thank goodness for social media. Over the pandemic I made it a point to answer every single DM I received to let listeners know we were still there for them. It’s become one of my catch phrases on the show ‘DMs are always open.’”

I asked Riley what advice she would give if she could speak to her 20-year-old self? “Fall in love with yourself before you fall in love with anyone or anything else,” she said. As for advice for young women looking to get into the radio business, “Learn every single thing that you can. Never be afraid to ask the questions you don’t have the answers to.”

What keeps Riley up at night? “The idea of ever having to give up. I see so many of my friends in this business, men and women having to throw in the towel in radio when they still have so much talent to give. And at the end of the day, I want my boys to look at me when they are grown and say, ‘My Mom did the damn thing and never took no for answer.’”

What brings Riley balance? “Spending time with my family. Working out. It may sound odd but manifesting the life I want with crystals and the power of positive thinking. ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne is the book that truly without a doubt saved my life,” she says. “I am also an avid fitness ambassador. If not spending time with my family, you can find me in the gym. I also learned a new skill decorating cakes during the pandemic, so I love to do that. And whenever I can find time, I love to craft and make jewelry or go antiquing.”

Riley’s got several exciting projects coming up. First, she will be a featured panelist for “Morning Show Bootcamp’s Women’s Forum” in Chicago this week. And as for what we can look forward to watching her progress on, “Continuing to grow my ‘Really Riley’ Podcast and hopefully in the very near future creating a clothing/jewelry line based on my favorite catch phrase in life ‘We Got This!’”

Follow Riley Couture: Instagram @rileycouture Facebook https://www.facebook.com/riley.couture.143

TikTok @rileycoutre7

Twitter @rileycouture5 And check out her Podcast: https://hot995.iheart.com/featured/riley/