[Photo via Brian Friedman]
NAME: Bethany Watson
New York, New York
HOMETOWN: Eau Claire, Wisconsin
NOMINATED BY: Allegra Cohen
Tell us what you do!
I’m co-host of the nationally syndicated radio program “Elvis Duran and the Morning Show.” My role on the show is to give brief news updates every hour, as well as provide the “single girl in New York” perspective. As a recent transplant to NYC — and as the only single woman on the show — my goal is to connect to those listeners who are in a similar place in their lives. I’m also a self-described nerd, so I’m always trying to use this huge platform to help others realize that being different isn’t just okay, it’s an asset!
Did you go to college? If so, where?
I spent two years at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota as a Spanish major. I was spending all of my time in the theatre department, though, so I decided to transfer to the University of Minnesota for their incredible theatre program. I graduated with a degree in Theatre Arts.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?
Growing up, I always loved acting, and knew I wanted to do that forever. I also wanted to be a veterinarian, a special effects artist, a marine biologist, and a puppeteer (I was obsessed with the old Jim Henson movie The Dark Crystal. Have you seen that movie? It’s awesome. You should see it.)
How did you get to where you are now? Tell us your story!
After I graduated from college, I sustained a repetitive stress back injury from working as a barista. (I’m a winner!) As a result, I couldn’t stand for long periods of time anymore. I had to quit my coffeehouse job and start temping at various office jobs instead. I was placed in a bank’s corporate office and they eventually hired me (which is hilarious if you’ve ever seen me attempt math). As my time in the office went on, I became more and more frustrated and depressed. I wasn’t passionate about banking, I wasn’t using my brain or any creativity, and I felt trapped. Finally, after about two years, I broke down. I had been classically trained in Shakespeare, yet I was spending my days mindlessly hitting “send” on corporate wires. I knew I needed to get out of my cubicle, but I didn’t see any way out.
Around the same time, the morning radio show that I had been listening to for years announced that their female co-host was leaving. Because I was such a fan of the show, I knew that I could do this job. I understood the show’s tone, I got their humor, and I knew their rhythm. Plus, I had training in improv comedy, which I felt was more important to a morning show than actual radio training. So I fired off an email to the radio station with my acting headshot and resume attached. I explained that even though I wasn’t a radio person, I had extensive training in other areas. I made a bullet-pointed list of everything that I would bring to the show including communication skills, improvisational comedy training, a sarcastic sense of humor, and the ability to learn quickly. I signed off by saying that they just needed to give me one shot and I would prove myself.
A few weeks later, I was in the studio for an off-air audition. That audition went so well that they brought me in three more times for live on-air auditions where I co-hosted all four hours of the show. After those auditions, I got the job! I was at that first job for four years, and learned a TON. During that time, I caught the attention of one of Elvis Duran’s executive producers, David Brody. He approached me when there was an opening on Elvis’s show and encouraged me to apply, so I interviewed and here I am!
Any obstacles along the way?
The hardest thing was jumping straight into an established radio show without any radio training! I felt comfortable merging into the flow of the show’s banter, because that’s where a lot of my training was. But it was a steep learning curve in terms of learning the mechanics of radio like how breaks are timed, proper mic technique, recording commercials, etc. One of the first lessons I ever learned was not to drop my headphones on the table when we finished talking and went into commercials. I didn’t realize that our mics were still on, so listeners were hearing us sign off and then a large *thunk!* All of those little things that radio students learn on Day One? I was learning them live, in front of tens of thousands of listeners.
Who is your idol?
I can’t say that there’s one person I idolize. Rather, I look up to women in specific areas. I look up to my mom for manifesting the life she dreamed for herself and never letting herself get jaded. I look up to my sister, Nicole, for her incredible intelligence. I look up to my sister Kristyn for her quiet wisdom. I’m always in awe of my friend, Allegra Cohen, who’s an insanely gifted actor and film producer (and fellow #girlboss!), because she’s a ball of positive energy who truly loves helping other people build their dreams. Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran pastor who has the best sense of humor about life, and I hold her up for her ability to just go for things she wants to do, and make them happen. I have mad respect for Lena Dunham’s unapologetic sense of who she is, and for J.K. Rowling’s self-made rise from welfare to international success. Somehow Olivia Palermo always styles the perfect outfit, so she’s on the list. I could go on for pages.
What are three personal traits/qualities that helped you get to where you are?
My suffocating fear of regret is what propels me. If I wasn’t so terrified of being disappointed in myself, I would probably still be at that bank. I think I’m also good at projecting confidence when I need to (insert laughter from people who know me well). I wear my heart on my sleeve, and you can always tell when I’m upset, but I can still turn on that “Hey, I’m cool, I’ve got this” swagger if I really need to. And I don’t think I ever quite realize how high the stakes are until after the fact, so it never occurred to me that I had no business applying for that radio job until after I’d been hired. A friend of mine calls it “Ignorance on Fire!”
Where would you like to be in five years?
The great thing about this job is that we get to create. We can write bits, create web content, play hip hop songs on our clarinet, etc. In five years, I want to have kept up that creative momentum in other areas as well. I know I have a novel and a children’s book in me. I’m also surrounded by unbelievably talented writers, actors, producers, and circus performers. Not joking — I know a disproportionate number of circus performers. I want to collaborate with these people on creative projects as well, and help those around me gain attention for their talents.
Define “Girl Boss” in your own words.
A Girl Boss is a woman who has taken her future into her own hands. She respects and values the opinions of the people she trusts, but she ultimately decides her own fate. She’s strong, intelligent, classy, and kind. And she has zero time for haters. She understands that haters lash out due to envy. In contrast, she re-channels her own envy into motivation. Lastly, a Girl Boss doesn’t feel the need to take down other women. She believes that there’s plenty of success to go around, and women are more likely to reach their full potential when other supportive women surround them.
Describe your style/fashion sense:
I prefer outfits that have a hint of menswear to them. I much prefer the idea of alluding to the female body instead of shoving it in your face. I’ll often pair skinny jeans with a man’s loose-fitting button-down shirt, leaving one extra button open to show a hint of a lacy camisole underneath. I also love paper bag waists, wide leg pants, and bohemian, off-the-shoulder tops. The more my clothes can flap in the breeze, the happier I am. And I love showing off my shoulders.
Favorite brand right now?
I love Gypsy Warrior. I was a Goth in high school and I still have a bit of a Goth streak in me, but as I said above, I also love bohemian-style clothing. Gypsy Warrior combines all of these aesthetics. Their clothing makes me feel feminine and powerful!
Go-to clothing item/accessory right now?
I was shopping in the West Village when I stumbled upon a Marc Jacobs lock-and-key necklace that says “Don’t Fuck With My Shit.” I bought one for every woman on the morning show, and I wear mine at least three times a week. The lock is gold and the keys and chain are silver, so it goes with everything. Plus, it’s a good reminder that I’m allowed to be in total control of my life.
What’s your can’t-live-without beauty product?
My eyelash curler! My eyelashes grow straight and cover my eyes a little bit, so curling my eyelashes is the key to opening my eyes up. Also, because I wake up at 3am, I completely rely on tarte’s Maracuja Creaseless Concealer for my undereyes because they’re a hot mess.
Go-to nail color?
Pale pink. Nothing makes me feel more put-together than when my nails are buffed and painted in a light color. I love how subtle and feminine a single coat of pale pink polish looks. If nail polish was flirting, pale pink would be a coy, sexy smile from across the bar. A great option is e.l.f. Essential Nail Polish in Nude #1503.
I’m trying to cut down on sugar, so right now, it’s all about black coffee (or iced coffee in the summer). But my favorite drink of all time is a Starbucks iced venti soy chai. Or an iced venti soy extra-caramel caramel macchiato. Or an iced venti soy mocha. Or an iced venti soy white mocha. Oh god, I miss sugar…
What makes you feel beautiful?
It’s amazing how beautiful false eyelashes make me feel. I’ll even put those suckers on during the weekend. I also adore a suuuuuuuuper long, scarfy dress à la Rachel Zoe. I’m tall, so those dresses make me feel like a goddess.
What makes you feel badass?
Have you ever been in a situation where somebody says something snarky to you, and you come up with the perfect, clever response right in the moment and it rolls off your tongue and you don’t stumble over your words and you still walk away calm and collected? That’s happened to me once. I felt super badass. (Stomping down the streets of Manhattan in heels while rocking out to music also makes me feel incredibly badass, but I don’t do that often because, ouch.)
No Girl Boss is perfect. What’s your vice?
Sheet cake. The kind served in Lutheran church basements after weddings, with tons of gaudy flowers in the corners. I always go for the corner piece because then you get frosting on TWO sides and all of those extra frosting flowers, and if someone next to you doesn’t like frosting, then you get THEIR frosting too, and oh god I really miss sugar…
Which artist/band/DJ are you really into right now?
I’m so embarrassed to say that I just learned about The Civil Wars, and they broke up in 2014! My friend played me their cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” and I was hooked. Joy Williams and John Paul White have voices that blend perfectly together. Well, blended. Cuz they broke up awhile ago and no one asked me.
What song makes you feel like a Girl Boss?
I talked about this on the air the other day! If I’ve made it through a long, rough day, I’ll blast G.R.L.’s “Ugly Heart.” That song is the perfect tempo for “runway strutting” down the street, and it’s a great “I deserve better” kind of anthem.
What’s a quote that inspires/motivates you?
“Feel the fear, and do it anyway.” I first heard that quote from Tamara Mellon (co-founder of Jimmy Choo), and I’ve since heard it elsewhere, but it’s my mantra. Everything terrifies me at first, and my initial response to every opportunity is “No.” I always need a few days (or years) to process a new idea or opportunity and warm up to it. It’s always fear that makes me say No. The key to moving forward is understanding that fear is a bully: it’s weaker than you think and backs down immediately when you stand up to it.
Best advice you’ve ever received? And who gave it to you?
“Keep the flashlight at your feet.” My mom grew up in West Africa where snakes lived in the grass. Whenever she had to walk at night, she’d have to carry a flashlight and train it at the ground right in front of her to make sure she didn’t step on a snake (which sounds horrifying, but my mom’s a badass). As soon as she started shining the flashlight further down the path, she’d trip on whatever was in front of her. So whenever I’m starting to worry too much about the future and “what if’s,” Mom reminds me to keep the flashlight at my feet and focus only on what’s in front of me now.
Advice to future girl bosses:
It’s never too early to gather your team. Find people who fill in the gaps in your skill set, who think you’re amazing, and who believe in your dreams. When you’re surrounded by trusted people who support you, you’ll find it much easier to bust through those roadblocks that will inevitably come your way.