Growing up in Houston, Christie truly began her radio career answering caller lines for $5 per hour at Cumulus CHR KRBE Houston. After two years, she earned an on-air audition, and then spent five years on the air at the outlet, before seguing to mornings at iHeartMedia’s renowned CHR “Q102” WIOQ Philadelphia.
In 2003, Christie decided it was time to come home and rejoin KRBE, where today she leads morning drive's “Roula and Ryan Show” opposite Ryan Chase.
The recent MIW citation recognizes a profound female air talent. Says MIW Group spokeswoman Denyse Mesnik, “She professionally navigates responsibilities that are unique to a morning show, while contributing to her hometown community and, most importantly as a working mom, raising three young children. Roula leads by example.”
She speaks with Inside Radio about the importance of social media in communicating with listeners and being part of her hometown community while also offering valuable advice for other women looking for long-term careers in broadcasting. An edited transcript follows.
Congrats on being named the 2017 MIW Airblazer. The organization pointed to your savvy in balancing success over the air alongside “navigating responsibilities as a working mom, raising three young children.” How does one balance the demands of a morning show in a top 10 market, motherhood, and being a constant in the community?
First, winning the Airblazer was truly flattering, so exciting. For the balance, it’s… working like you don’t have kids and mothering like you don’t have a job. With that, there are definite ‘mom guilt’ moments. I was recording something post-show and got a call from my daughter’s preschool that she had been stung pretty badly and needed to be picked up. I knew the segment had to be taped but my three-year-old was crying at school. That still bothers me but I was in ‘work mode’ not ‘mom mode.’
That has been a lesson I’m still learning. When you are in the zone, you don’t bail on it for anything. That’s how I’m wired. I think the difference for me vs. a male host is that kids always want their mama. It is very tough to not be present for early morning school meetings or drop-offs. My kids want Mom to do it. I always tell them ‘Mommy has a very special job where at least I can talk to you through the radio in the car while you are being driven to school, sweetie.’ And in the afternoons, I make sure it is me in the pickup line, so at least they see me the second school is out.
What advice do you have for women looking for long-term careers in broadcasting?
Know your role. If you are taking a cohost position or a third or a fourth or a fifth position, stay in your lane. Learn everything you can without griping about why you aren’t the star. And if you want to be the star, learn all you can from the team, then make a timely move to another position. It is not going to happen overnight…wait, overnights aren’t even a shift anymore are they? (laughs).
Also, you don’t have to be the lead. For some reason, women think it is supposed to be a title grab. It’s not. If you are a cohost and you love your host and y’all have a great thing going, enjoy it and keep succeeding in that role. Eventually, you could find yourself being offered a lead when you were feeling fulfilled as a cohost. It’s all about what you ultimately want for your career and that doesn’t always mean being the lead player.
“Roula & Ryan” has been particularly innovative on the social front, inviting listeners to access Facebook Live and interact with you and with guests. How is social helping you and Ryan connect with listeners?
We have a great team in our studio. Our executive producer Eric [Rowe] is always on top of it when it comes to pointing people to Facebook Live for the silliest of happenings. ‘Special K’ on our show is fantastic at making sure what we are about to talk about is on all of our social platforms right after we are done relating it to the audience.
It’s the little things after the show, too. Eric waits an hour to pick up his kids from school in the pickup line so he does the “School Pickup Hour” on Facebook Live or Periscope to pass the time. People love it. It’s a one-to-one interview basically with Eric for an hour.
And how do you balance the social media aspect with on-air?
I balance it because the team with me is doing all the grunt work. If you a programmer and you are riding your talk talent about not posting enough while they are on-air, then you are taking away from the mother ship. We are a talk show. It moves very fast. I’ve tried to be that person who posts content we were discussing—and it keeps me from excelling in the next segment. Forward momentum: that’s what I focus on and I’m lucky to have a team to mirror it on social.
You are mighty active in local charities, including your own Roula and Ryan Christmas Wish, which raised $100,000 for local families in need. Why is it important to use the power of the mic to raise awareness—and funds—for folks in Houston and beyond?
It’s important because we have the power of the microphone and the trust of the audience. They will listen to what we think is important and why we want them to hear about this specific charity. My proudest moments are getting feedback from various charities, thanking us for getting the word out about them that in turn brings them dollars.
A great example: We met a pretty charismatic guy who was a Big Brother for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Texas. Just talking to him for five minutes about fun stuff and why he loves it so much gained the organization 20 new sign-ups. Just from those five minutes. It’s important to keep people aware of the great programs in Houston and how they can be a part of it all, as a volunteer or as a monetary donor.
What keeps radio fun for you after these years of getting up so early every morning?
The team I’m with and the station we are on. This team kicks ass… they’re so creative and we run like a machine now after 14 years together. KRBE is a monster station and we are the Lone Rangers. There are cluster stations who don’t achieve the goals that we do as a solo station. It is a great time and it makes me so happy to do it.
The hours are early but honestly it has really helped me as a mom. I’m done by noon and can go home to spend time with my children. Naps don’t exist anymore, but I’m willing to lose them in order to pull off a full-time career and a full-time family in the course of a 19-hour cycle in the day. Life is great.