When you have a famous friend, it feels weird and tricky to write about her. You want to tell the world how remarkable she is, but you want to stay away from disclosing your confidences. You don’t want to venture anywhere near that area occupied by tabloid snitches and 5-minutes-of-famers who trade their secrets at the expense of loved ones. No auditioning for reality show material here… just a friend who wants the world to know how much her friend totally rocks.
The awesomeness of my friend, Melanie Lawson, is truly no secret. Every soul in Houston loves her. Every. Soul. After all, for more than 25 years, she has been coming to the living rooms (do people still watch TV in their living rooms?) of many Houstonians every week day as co-anchor of Channel 13’s Live at 5 and Eyewitness News at 11a.m. And on the weekends, she hosts the community affairs program, “Crossroads.”
Melanie circa 1985:
I recently watched Morning Glory, which is yet another movie about insufferable TV news anchors. Behind the scenes in these movies, the news anchor characters are always self-centered, narcissistic, demanding jerks, who are only concerned with themselves and their longevity. I am so certain Melanie is a force of nature at work, because this Princeton grad and former Wall Street attorney is so clear thinking and purposed. And she has been doing the broadcasting thing for a long time now. She has been all over the world, interviewing dignitaries and celebrities, including (and this is the short list) three U.S. Presidents, Henry Kissinger, the Dalai Lama, poet Maya Angelou, former heavyweight George Foreman, director Spike Lee, Barbara Walters, evangelists Joel and Victoria Osteen, Magic Johnson, Lily Tomlin, Shirley McLaine and Denzel Washington. I’ve watched her at her craft, up-close and personal, when she interviewed the famed and beloved historian John Hope Franklin in my very own living room. But I have a difficult time conforming the dreaded reputation of the horrible news anchor with the Melanie Lawson, friend, civic servant and humble worker bee that I know.
In addition to her full load at Channel 13, Melanie chairs the board of the Houston Museum of African American Culture, which is Houston’s newest, up-and-coming museum phenomenon. The story of this museum and the long and circuitous way it came into being, is a story about how good intentions and politics combat when they should converge. It’s an old story about years of money spent and opportunities lost. But under Melanie’s leadership, after years in a stalled pattern, the museum quickly became a reality with the purchase of a building and world-class programming that has already garnered respect and accolades far and wide. In addition to these full time endeavors, she is involved in a million civic activities, and she volunteers as mistress of ceremony for too many charity and non-profit events to name… I honestly am not sure when my friend sleeps, but I know she does, because she is careful with her health.
Melanie is one of those beautiful people who gets good tables at restaurants and with whom folks want to take pictures. But those of us who’ve sat next to her at the hair salon and whose children she’s read books to, and who’ve shared quiet moments on the sun deck in California dealing with life’s joys and sorrows, we know that the warmth and compassion she exudes on camera is the real thing. It’s also why the fourth largest city in the nation was all in an uproar when Keith Olberman and MSNBC decided to make Melanie the focus of their cruel attempt at humor last year. There was so much outcry from Houston viewers that Olberman was moved to issue an on-camera apology.
Melanie has been honored by many organizations for her stellar award-winning broadcasting career (including two Emmy awards) and equally impressive community service. But honestly, I most appreciate the awesome way she grounds her formidable intellect with her down home Southern girl sensibility. I like to say I learned how to be a friend from my friends in Houston. Knowing how to care for, and love, loved ones is what we do well. Melanie embodies what’s best here and shares it with the world.
And so during Women’s History Month, I just want to thank Melanie Lawson, on behalf of all of her buddies, the young women she has inspired along the way and those of us women she has helped worldwide, for being such a stalwart beacon of excellence for us all.
Gina Carroll, author of 24 Things You Can Do with Social Media to Help Get Into College, also blogs at Think Act Parent.com and
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