All of our mornings are different in the LowCountry. Some of us awaken to the sounds of squealing toddlers, while some of us struggle to open our eyes because last night’s false lashes are rivaling industrial glue. Some of us fight for our lives trying to get through the construction on 526, while some of us fight for the last drop of hot water because we get the fourth shower. Few of us have butterflies landing on the shoulders of our satin robes. For the most part, it’s chaos.
Then we turn the television on in the background, maybe to just drown out the noise of our clamorous lives. We hear that familiar voice telling us what the latest fashion trends are, or where we just have to eat, or where we can get the best chiropractic care…the woman with the perfect caramel highlights, long legs, and lipstick that never moves takes the decisions off our hands for a second, and makes us feel a little more fabulous. Erin Kienzle’s confidence transcends the airwaves, finding us clad in our stained yoga pants and messy buns, to lighten the mood for a much-needed minute to breathe. So I decided to sit down with the person who breezes into our homes every morning, and find out who the woman is that we know through the airwaves…the one who seems like she wakes up in perfect mascara and a tailored dress.
When we sat down at Five Loaves cafe I noticed her shirt first. The color was electric pink, like something seen under strobe lights…but it’s tone was professional, and I couldn’t find a wrinkle anywhere. If it had a voice, the accent would have been British, but the peppy version…cockney maybe. Highly proper, but full of life. That was my first opinion of Erin. But there is so much more to this meteorologist turned talk show host than meets the eye. There is a child that turned into a girl who turned into a woman just like the rest of us. There is imperfection in the hidden places, and a humility learned over time and trial. I saw a woman who became confident because that was the only option, and became who she is because she never let the naysayers win.
When we’re little girls we tend to “play” the thing we want to become. We play house if we want to grow up to be mothers, or school if we want to be teachers. Some of us wanted desperately to sing and dance on MTV (when there was singing and dancing on MTV), and some of us wanted to win an Oscar for Best Actress. So we made up dances for our parents in the living room, or we hushed family dinners while we held up ketchup bottles and practiced our acceptance speeches. Some dreams come true, and some don’t. Sometimes we make decisions that cause us to lose sight of the prize, but sometimes we let the haters of the world open up our skins and crawl inside. In Erin Kiezle’s case, she simply said no, the negative comments will not define me.
Let’s step back for a moment before the now 37-year-old, self-assured Erin takes the stage. Let’s look back to knobby-kneed, 8-year-old Erin growing up in the middle…mid-west, mid-sized town, mid-sized person. Her parents think she has friends in her bedroom because she is interviewing non-existent guests, and doing each of their voices herself. This is before she comes out to pass around perfectly formatted copies of “The Yogatory,” her homemade newspaper that sometimes touted sinister articles about murders and drownings in town. At a young age, Erin yearned to be a part of what was happening in the world, good or bad, and unbeknownst to herself started paving the way for a career in broadcast.
Speeding ahead to Erin at 22, her hair is in a bob-cut, and her shoulder-padded suit jacket looks older than she does. She is vomiting in a bathroom before her first weather report, and is only taking her first step into the world where she’ll be critiqued from every angle by viewers, producers, colleagues, and wardrobe departments. She doesn’t yet know she’ll be told to change her hair, or her nails, or her shirt. She doesn’t know she’ll receive hate mail telling her things like “you’re disgusting,” “get off the air,” or “you’re the worst part of my day.” She didn’t know that on her journey to being revered as knowledgeable, fashionable, and fearless, that she’d first have to be called every name in the book…and sadly, mostly by other women. Imagine if she’d believed them…
Through the tougher years she chose not to embrace the scoffs and disparage, but to instead think back to her own mother, whom she lost to breast cancer at 22. Though she was gone too soon, Erin’s mother is the strength that pumps through her veins. Erin says, “Heads would just turn when she walked into a room because she was so strong. I’d think, do I have that?” At some point, Erin looked inside herself, and decided that she did. This quality was sewn into the fabric of who she’d become by her mother, and is one she now tries to pass to her own little girls.
Erin believes, we as women, need to uplift and encourage other females, and especially our daughters. The world we live in right now can be one that body-shames, criticizes, and judges…but because of those who refuse to participate in the emotional slaughter of others, is slowly becoming a place where we focus more on health, happiness, and hope.
Just recently Erin’s 6-year-old daughter asked her if she ate a particular food if it would make her “fat.” Of course, this isn’t something she was taught in the Kienzle household, but because she is a person in the world, was exposed to it. Erin doesn’t incubate a fear of imperfection, but instead encourages her daughter to enjoy yummy treats sometimes, but to also eat foods that will help her to grow “strong,” while loving the body she was given. I think her mother would be nothing but proud of how she is raising her daughter, as well as the message she sends to other women while she does it.
By the end of my interview I realized I wasn’t just looking at a “put-together” TV personality with perfectly placed hair. I was looking at a healthy, vibrant person whose inner-beauty has seeped onto the outside. She shines, not because of perfect lash extensions, but because she uplifts others. She shines when wearing her big pink wig to raise awareness for breast cancer, or when running around her house in orange-juice stained sweats. She shines when running on James Island to raise money for college students with disabilities. She shines when she celebrates her beloved city full of entrepreneurs and dreamers on air. She shines because she celebrates others instead of tearing them down. This is where her boldness comes from…the ability to inspire, to succeed, and to turn a deaf ear to those who think any less. So to answer your question Erin, yes, just like your mother, you have “that thing,” and even more, you’re teaching the rest of us to have it too, whether we’re in sweats, robes, or tailored dresses.
by Lorna Hollifield
For more on Erin, tune into LowCountry Live! weekdays at 10 am on ABC!
Learn about Erin’s favorite foundation here, http://www.gkfoundation.org/