Felisha Monet grew up outside New York City, a Long Island lady who tuned into rhythmic CHR “Hot 97” WQHT and her favorite jock, Angie Martinez. Her own radio career, however, was to be launched on the South Florida airwaves. For 10 years she called Cox Media Group urban contemporary “99 Jamz” WEDR Miami her home.
Working her way from weekends to overnights to nights–where she took over for DJ Khaled– Monet eventually became the face and voice of afternoon drive. Her show ranked No. 1 18-34 and 18-49, third with 25-54 and top 5 (6+) with a 4.9 in Nielsen’s April survey.
Here’s a surprising development. Monet walked away from the station earlier this month to launch a new non-profit, “I Am Greater Than Yesterday,” with the goal of encouraging and empowering women to follow their dreams, something this “NYC girl” has some experience with.
We spoke to Monet about her Sunshine State career path, hanging with radio idol Angie Martinez, and what drives her today as she embarks on her new adventure. An edited transcript follows.
How did a Long Island native end up with a radio career in sunny Florida?
When I graduated high school, I knew that I wanted to get into radio. I went to Eastern Connecticut University for two years and then transferred to Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. I studied journalism there and while I was in school I was able to get my first commercial radio job at “Hot 105” [WVHT]. From there I went to “100.7 The Beat” [WBWT], which was owned by Clear Channel at the time. When I was on maternity leave, “100.7 The Beat” flipped to sports talk. I found myself without a job in Tallahassee and pregnant. I knew I didn’t want to raise my son in Tallahassee, so I decided to move to South Florida. That is where my WEDR career began. That was March of 2008.
You landed at the legendary “99 Jamz,” eventually taking over for DJ Khaled in nights. Tell us about that experience.
I was doing overnights at the time and Khaled was doing the night show. This was right around the time when he was dropping a lot of albums back-to-back. He was on the road a lot. I found myself always covering his shift and then one day I came in and my program director was like, “How about you just kind of permanently cover the night show.” Khaled was taking off and I found myself attempting to fill big shoes.
You ultimately spent 10 years on “99 Jamz,” most recently hosting a very successful afternoon program... and then you step away. Why?
I had a dream of just doing radio. I was fascinated with it. I loved the culture. I’m a big music lover, I love hip-hop. And I always wanted to do radio in Miami, for whatever reason. When I got the opportunity, I took it. I started doing weekends, to overnights, to nights, to afternoons. A goal for me was always to become full time in a coveted time slot–afternoons–and I did that. After 10 years, I’m like, what’s next? I’ve grown within the company. I have had an amazing experience. I have had some wonderful opportunities to interview some amazing people that I never would have thought that I would be doing interviews with. I want more. I don’t want to just stay in my comfort zone forever. So that led me to jump out.
And what are you jumping to?
I am in the process of launching my non-profit, which is called “I Am Greater Than Yesterday”–an affirmation that I would tell myself daily. It evolved into a conference, which is coming up in October in Fort Lauderdale. I’m a dreamer. I’m a person that truly believes that happiness and success go hand-in-hand and we all have purpose in life. We all have passions. We all have gifts. I’m an advocate of tapping into those things. I would meet women who would be at a crossroads. I realized that I should be creating a network and a support system of people who might need encouragement or tools to make that jump or take that next step in life. So that’s what the conference will be about. But, instead of it being a one-off event, I want to cultivate the support for women, so we can come together and encourage each other and share stories and build a network. That is what I am focused on now. I want to be able to impact change in a greater way than how I was doing it on-air.
At “99 Jamz” you’ve interviewed many musicians and celebrities, some of which support causes or have their own platforms for things they believe in. What did you learn from them as you begin your own?
I had an opportunity to interview Nipsey Hustle, who is an independent artist and an advocate of ownership. His big thing is creating and being able to service your audience directly. That inspired me to tap into more of an entrepreneurial space. I spoke with Nick Cannon and he was talking about being able to tap into gifts and natural abilities and following passions. People around you might not understand it, or it might not feel like it is being supported, but as long as you stay the course and you know that you are being true to yourself, success will come.
What else are you taking from your career in radio and experience in the media that will help with your new project?
Engagement. I’m a people person so public speaking and being able to engage with people is something I am taking from radio… being able to always be on your toes with a sense of quick thinking at any time. Whether it is me being a keynote speaker or being a motivational speaker or even within the conference… being able to execute and roll this out on a high level is important. Execution is key. Networking, relationships, people that I have worked with and partnered with throughout the years. I will be taking that with me. I am getting a lot of support.
Besides the organization, there are plans for a new lifestyle brand. Tell us about that.
I have partnered with a company—I can’t give too many specifics—for a national campaign that will roll out in 2019. I am super excited. It is geared toward all types of women. It will be multi-faceted in terms of clothing, beverage, music, philanthropy… We will have some celebrity endorsers. I have been working behind the scenes with this company for six or seven years now, so it is finally coming to light.
From a girl growing up listening to Angie Martinez on “Hot 97” to a woman running in the same circles must be a dream come true, and perhaps a bit daunting?
Oh, my goodness. Let me tell you, it was crazy. As a child and being fascinated with this voice coming out of the speaker. I literally fell in love with Angie’s girl-next-door, very conversational, relatable style. I’ve studied her. I was a student first and I studied the craft. I remember a few years ago being able to meet her. I’m going to be honest, the fact that I walked in the building I already had goose bumps, my eyes were watery… I didn’t know what to expect. I definitely didn’t expect to be walking in on her show. I remember she had me in the studio and she kicked everybody else out and we just talked. We had a one-on-one. She dropped gems. In my mind I was like, “don’t cry, don’t cry – just thank her for everything and for her inspiration.” And of course, I cried, and she hugged me. She told me stay in contact. A woman who is a mentor in my head for so long has become a woman I can text and call when I need advice. That is an amazing experience.