Ginger Zee is the chief meteorologist at ABC, a mom and a former contestant on Dancing with the Stars. The on-air personality always knew she wanted to pursue a career in science but television not so much. Zee credits her internship experiences for motivating her to step out of her comfort zone and into broadcasting. Now, Zee, 35, is an Emmy Award-winning meteorologist and has reported on some major weather events across the country. We caught up with Zee to talk about her journey, tips to success and the many challenges she’s faced along the way.
Zee wasn’t always the confident powerhouse she is now; in fact she struggled with self-confidence growing up. “I was painfully shy as a child. I was very into reading, loved science and shirked away from cameras,” she said. “Even as I was storm chasing in college, the camera pans to me and I duck to get out of the picture.” Once she realized that science and TV could go hand-in-hand, she found ways of communicating the two areas. “Science plus TV is my livelihood and I have found that if you speak about what you are passionate about, there is no need for a script, no need for nerves—it’s just sharing your passion.”
However, that wasn’t the only challenge that Zee overcame, as a teen she also struggled with anorexia. The meteorologist recently opened up about her battle with the eating disorder to help others who maybe going through a similar situation. With the help of her family and therapy, Zee was able to recover without the disease getting worse.
With her drive and passion for meteorology, science and math, Zee landed a number of internships at news stations such as, ABC 33/40 and WYIN PBS. One internship in particular that really inspired Zee was at ABC 33/40 working alongside legendary Alabama weatherman James Spann. “I came back from that summer internship learning the power in saying ‘yes’ and taking chances and came back with a tape that helped me get my first on-air gig at age 19 at WYIN PBS,” Zee said. “Every minute I could get on TV I knew would be invaluable in my development.”
The veteran storm chaser is always ready for an adventure. From reporting on floods, snowstorms, and ice lope racing – storm chasing has always been her favorite assignment. Hurricane Katrina which struck the Gulf Coast in 2005 was her first major storm and one she’ll never forget. “I had been storm chasing for severe storms with tornadoes etc. in college, but on a large scale, covering disaster, [Hurricane] Katrina was my first. And still stands as the worst,” she said. “There were moments I was scared, moments I was starving, confused, exhausted and most of all that moment I felt guilt as we finally got gas and 7 days later got to drive away,” said Zee. “We got to go home, where we had electricity, air conditioning, running water [and] mailboxes. All things these folks would not have for months if not years.”
In December 2015, Zee and her husband, NBC correspondent Ben Aaron, welcomed their first son Adrian Benjamin. Even though she became a new mom, that didn’t stop Zee from taking on her next challenge – as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. “I believe the timing of doing DWTS played a big part in my ability to live in the moment,” she said. “But really it only made sense, it was just another adventure, another time I said ‘yes’ and poured myself into a new experience that at the end of the day turned into a platform for getting kids, especially young women, interested in science. Even if it was through dance in the arms of an awesome pro like Val [Chmerkovskiy].”
As a new mom, Zee continued to appear on Good Morning America in New York City and performing on DWTS every Monday. She didn’t let anything get in her way and she lived every day in the moment. “There was no chance to procrastinate. If I was with the baby, I focused on the baby, if I was dancing, I focused on dancing, at work, focused on work,” she said. “It sounds simple but it reset my priorities and ability to live in the moment and focus. Habits I will take with me for as long as I possibly can.”
Her key to success? “Don’t shy away from what you are good at and what you are passionate about.” Zee believes you shouldn’t just go for that job or career for the money or because it’s better, but to really go after something that makes you happy. “If you are always playing with hair, love being creative with hair – don’t say you want to go be a teacher or a dentist just because you think it is a better career, or will make you more money. Go do hair! You will be the best at it because you love it and you will find success.”
Ginger Zee isn’t slowing down any time soon. As for what’s next for the chief meteorologist? She’s writing and producing a new show, Food Forecast, writing not one but two books and working on several other projects she has in the works. Plus, she still makes time to get involved with charities like, The Brain Injury Association of Illinois and Standup for a Cure. Her family is still her biggest accomplishment yet and her constant motivation to keep moving forward. “As much as I love my husband and life changed when it was not just one but two…the third is the one that drives us,” she said. “I want to be great for [my son] now and for him in the future. Finding the balance of staying true to me and finding my new identity as a mother has been the coolest experience in life.”
– Mabel Martinez