Find your elevator: If you have ideas and you just don’t know what the next step is, find the person who is in that place to elevate you and who shares your vision. Everyone needs an elevator.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Angi Taylor.
Angi Taylor is a 25-year radio and TV host, and a Chicago media staple. She’s had previous stops in Minneapolis and Philadelphia, and was most recently the fierce mainstay of mornings on Top 40 WKSC 103.5-FM’s “Fred And Angi” show since 2008. The Serbian-American radio mogul moved to host her solo morning host at iHeartMedia Chicago’s brand-new rock station, ROCK 95 FIVE in October 2020. Angi is a mental health advocate, and active with many local charities including PAWS Chicago, the Alzheimer’s Association, Girls on the Run, among others. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, running, traveling, and a big glass of red!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
First off, thank you so much for this honor. I’m so thrilled to chat with you! The backstory is a very winding road, but the short version is that I always wanted a career in entertainment/music, but couldn’t see what shape that would take. I can’t sing, I’m not a musician, and I had no access to the industry while growing up in Minneapolis. As a bartender in college, I met a radio DJ who offered me an internship at the big top40 station (KDWB/Minneapolis). After the first day, I knew that radio was for me. I have a big mouth, lots of thoughts, and a crazy work ethic. I found my “talent” in that moment. I eventually hosted the morning show at that station, Q102 in Philly, KISS-FM in Chicago, and now my own show at Rock 95–5 Chicago.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
As a female morning radio host, I will say that “disruptor” has been my unofficial brand since the day I cracked a microphone. When I started over 20 years ago, you could count the women in my position on one hand. The women I did see were afraid to speak their mind, show their flaws and share their truth. That’s not to say I didn’t hear authenticity or talent. But we didn’t have the freedom or space to express “I’m gonna’ say this and IDGAF what you think.” Men had that freedom. I’ve always worked to DISRUPT in this way for myself and other women coming up in the industry.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It wasn’t exactly funny at the time, but we laugh about it now. Playboy approached me to do a shoot for their “Women of Radio” edition when I was first on air in my early 20s. I considered it after thinking, “one day when I’m an old lady I’d like to look back on my 25-year-old body and be proud.” I thought it would make for good radio to call my mom LIVE on-air to ask her if she thought I should do it. She CRIED and begged me not to. I felt horrible for putting her on the spot like that. She went to work that day, and everyone was teasing her about it. I embarrassed someone I love. I learned that while I chose to be a public figure, my family and friends did not, and I had to be more respectful of their privacy. I never ambushed anyone like that again. I also never did the shoot. But a part of me still wishes I had!
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
My biggest mentor since day one is the master of morning shows, Dennis Clark. He’s shaped some of the biggest shows in radio including Ryan Seacrest, Rick Dees, Ellen K., Elvis Duran… he’s a God. When I was at my first show in Minneapolis, I was doing mornings in my hometown and felt like “ok I’ve made it, I’m gonna’ kick back and relax!” I was 26 and was so shocked at my luck that I never thought about WHAT’S NEXT. Dennis came into my life, took me out to dinner, and opened my eyes to how much MORE I was capable of. I never thought beyond Minneapolis, and maybe never would’ve, until someone came along and showed me that he had my back and wanted to champion for me. I wouldn’t have really believed in myself without Dennis.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
This is a great question because when I refer to myself as a “disruptor” I almost pause and wonder how it will be received. I think some might think of a disruptor as someone who makes noise for personal attention, rather than disrupting for attention in order to send a much-needed message. A perfect example on both sides of this coin is rapper Kanye West. Kanye started as the right kind of disruptor in that he wanted people to focus on his vulnerabilities as a man growing up in Chicago, real social issues, his innovation in music and production. He drove culture in an inspiring way. The disruption now feels almost for shock value. It’s twitter currency, it’s political, it’s pissing on a Grammy award. Why are you really disrupting? For likes and retweets? There’s no consistency or call to action and it muddies what could be a legitimate message.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
— Find your elevator: If you have ideas and you just don’t know what the next step is, find the person who is in that place to elevate you and who shares your vision. Everyone needs an elevator.
— Ask for it: I have wanted to anchor my own show for decades. I finally asked for it during a contract negotiation after thinking they would laugh me out the door. They said “ok!” like it was no big deal, and now I hate that I punked out for so long. Nobody knows what you want until you tell them.
— Stay humble: Always ask questions without fear of looking uneducated or unqualified. They’d rather you ask them for the answer than glide along doing it wrong because you’re trying to save face.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
I’m just starting! My first solo anchor show in Chicago on ROCK 95–5 debuted in October. The Angi Taylor Show will be rebel radio! Disruptor radio! It’s all Chicago, fun, topical, music heavy, real and RAWWWWK!
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Consideration or Validity. If a man is really taking a stand on something, people will stop and listen to what message he’s sending before forming an opinion or questioning his knowledge on the matter. When there’s passion or disruption coming from a woman, it’s not given the same fair shake from the jump. It’s taken through the filter of “Is she just being emotional? Why is she so angry? Who is she married to because I’ll judge her on her husband’s stance?” It’s harder for us to break through the skepticism and be taken seriously.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Normalizing the conversation around mental health is most important to me. I’ve struggled with PTSD, anxiety, and depression since I was in grade school. Being from an immigrant family, it was something that was never discussed, and I’ve been working my whole life to reverse the damage done to my emotional growth. I know I can never really “beat” it, I’ve just learned to manage it. There’s so many people who need to know it’s ok to get help if they’re struggling with mental health, the same way they would if they broke their leg. It’s ok. It’s normal. You’re not alone.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Baba, my Serbian grandmother, reminded me very early on to never relay on a man for money because they will always control you. This didn’t really need to be said as I had many examples of the fallout from those choices with the relationships I grew up with, but it really stuck with me at a young age and created a “me against the world” mantra that I still carry with me. Baba is 86 years old now and still gives the best (and brutally honest) nuggets of wisdom and life lesson quotes I could ever ask for. She’s my SHEro!
How can our readers follow you online?
Connect with memon Twitter @AngiTaylorRadio, on Instagram @AngiTaylorRadio, on the iHeart app: search Angi Taylor, and on your radio on ROCK 95–5!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Appreciate your time. It’s been an honor. Keep inspiring and DISRUPTING!