Yes, it’s Possible to Go from Intern to Boss Lady, iHeartMedia’s Ashlee Young Did it!
The amazing thing about trials and tribulation is that it truly does make you stronger. Ask Ashlee Young. Watching her mom suffer from sickness formulated her work ethic and solidified her drive for success. She vowed to never let down or embarrass her mother or her grandmother and it would seem that she’s made good on that pact.
When she was given the opportunity to be an intern she relentlessly went above and beyond to prove that she was worthy of greater responsibilities and as the law of reciprocity would have it, her hard work garnered her a position as a Program Director for not one, but two radio stations. She has interviewed celebrities like Michael B. Jordan and has season personalities such as Charlamagne tha God in her corner. Yet, she’s sure to note that success only comes from determination & sacrifice.
Read more and learn how Ashlee continues to push past her comfort zone as she vigorously accomplishes her goal of becoming the next Ryan Seacrest.
How was your childhood? What past experiences impacted who you are today?
I grew up south of Seattle in Tacoma, WA. My grandmother raised me mostly in a strict Southern Baptist home (she's from rural Gilmer, TX) and my mother worked out in the city very often. I think the fact that I grew up mainly by myself made me learn quickly how to entertain myself and to be very independent, even at a very young age. My brother and sister are both over 12 years older than I am and joined the military almost immediately after finishing high school. There were periods when my family and I would argue, but things were really put into perspective in middle school, when my mother contracted Necrotizing Fasciitis, which is a flesh-eating virus, due to the use of expired insulin; she was also a diabetic. I saw her basically at the point of almost losing her. She didn't recognize me in the hospital, was really swollen and at some points couldn't even speak. After that, I really made a promise to recognize and value the core things in my life and to make her and my grandmother proud. I think it's everyone's dream to retire your parents, make sure they never have to worry about working or how a bill is getting paid, but that emphasized it ten times over for me. Since then, I started to practice a work ethic that would ultimately make my dreams come true and allow me to take care of my family like I've always wanted to. I just had this drive and determination in my heart that I would never let down or embarrass my mother or my grandmother and that kept my head on straight and my goals at top priority.
Wow, I love your outlook on such a difficult situation. Growing up, did you have any insecurities? If so, how did you overcome them or how are you dealing with them today?
Growing up, I was always taller and usually bigger than the other kids in my class, so that always stuck with me until I started to accept, love and own it later on in my life. I was really a tomboy because I was uncomfortable trying to wear really "girly" clothes, I never liked the way they looked on me. Then as I started college, I realized that I actually love doing hair and makeup and I appreciate showing off my curves a little. Even though I currently talk for a living now, I was super shy when I was younger. I sang in my church choir and was horrified when asked to sing solo or anything else. I came out of my shell once I started challenging myself to do things to make myself more of an outgoing person. Today, I'm still a little socially awkward in situations, believe it or not. When I meet celebrities or interview them, I'm fine. But when it comes to making conversation, sometimes I end up being really unsure of what to say. I remember meeting Michael B. Jordan at Revolt Music Conference in Miami last October and he was extremely welcoming and nice and had this great big smile, but when it came to making conversation, I was SO AWKWARD. I just gave one word answers because I am a huge fan and didn't want to come off as wack. We'll see next time I see him, if he'll give me another chance to be his friend or if he just totally wrote me off...hopefully not. I love you Michael Bae Jordan!
That’s hilarious, what is it like working with iHeartMedia and 103.1 KISS FM?
It's a blessing! I never take any of it for granted! I'm a young black female Program Director, basically the only one of a dying breed. I started working for iHeartMedia and then Clear Channel Communications, in the Jacksonville, FL market a little over two years ago as an intern my senior year in college. After finishing what was supposed to be a 12-week program in 7 weeks, the promotions directors, T. May and Jean Podbielski, hired me right on as a part-time street team member. I was determined to get on-air, so I was in that station 24/7. I never said no to anything they asked. Sometimes after club remotes, we wouldn't get done until about 2 or 3 a.m. and I would have to produce our morning show at 5 a.m, so I would just sleep at the station some nights. After a little over a year of working at the Jacksonville, FL office, I applied for and was hired to be a Program Director of two stations here in College Station, Texas.
I never said no to anything and always put forth 200% and I'm very fortunate and grateful that my work ethic granted me the promotion to this position today. I absolutely love programming two stations that are so different, 103.1 KISS FM which is a Rhythmic, which is Top 40 mixed with some Urban hits and Mix 104.7 which is a Hot A/C, a mix of current hits and golds from the 90's. I'm very lucky that my first radio job was for iHeart since we are a nationally known, prestigious and extremely recognizable brand. I work with and am mentored from some of the greatest in the business. Charlamagne tha God is actually responsible for keeping me in this business. I called him a few times after some really frustrating things in my career and he continued to give me the support and inspiring words to keep going and keep doing. We call it the #iHeartMafia, because only we understand this business and we uplift and promote each other as often as we can. I'm blessed to say I wake up and absolutely love what I do for a living, I'm one of the first ones in the office and always the last to leave, I just love being on-air and curating a playlist for people to vibe to throughout their day.
What advice can you give young women who want to get into radio?
The best advice I can give is to expect early on that it will not be easy. "Knowing someone" will only get you so far, the rest is built on a solid work ethic, actual talent and making a connection with the people that make up your career, your listeners. Also, always be yourself. Though we admire and look up to them, no one is looking for another Angie Martinez or another Nessa or Devi Dev, because THEY are already them. Really develop and highlight what makes you special and different. And lastly, never give up. I tell women all the time, I've been 'fronted on' many times in my career and even now, continue to be. I've been ignored, mistreated sometimes or not taken seriously, purely because I am a young black woman in such a high-power role.
People may not think I know what I'm doing or what I'm talking about, but I study this game every day and execute marketing plans, interviews and more completely myself in order to grow my station's brand and my own. Just know, you will have to work twice as hard but you have to absolutely love it and have the passion for it in order to move forward. Also, don't only recognize an opportunity by the dollar sign it has attached to it. I've had the biggest moments of my career doing things for free or on my own accord.
What is your ultimate goal in life?
In my initial interview to get hired at iHeart, I told my promotions director that I wanted to be the light-skinned female Ryan Seacrest and that's still true! I aspire to host entertainment shows such as E! News, as well as get into acting and owning my own television production company. I really aspire to build an empire and head the new wave of entertainment talent in the nation. I love La La Anthony and Terrence J and you could say their paths completely inspire me. I just want to be a viable and credible voice in our culture and bring a new perspective of this industry to your home!
To learn more about Ashlee, follow her Instagram @ashleeonair.