I remember when I used to make my 40 minute commute to work and needed the extra motivation of my favorite morning radio DJ to get me to the office. Whether it was singing along to a song or laughing at the hot topics of the day….I enjoyed being able to relax a little before I headed into work.
Our May Spotlight feature is shining the light on Chicago radio host Melissa Forman from 93.9 Lite FM. Melissa hosts the morning drive weekdays 6:00am to 10:00am. Her goal is to get you pumped in the morning and hopefully that feeling lasts throughout the day.
I met Melissa about a year ago at an event we were both attending. She sat down at the table I was at and I knew immediately she was someone special. Melissa introduced herself right away and had such an inviting and warm personality. By the end of the dinner I felt like I knew her forever. Melissa is not only a morning host, but she champions many great causes. She loves to give her time and volunteer with organizations helping women, children, and animals. Also, did you know she’s an excellent baker on the side?!? Check out our one on one interview below!
Tavi J. One on One Interview with Radio Host Melissa Forman
Can you explain to us your job role and your journey to get to where you are now?
I do mornings on 93.9 Lite FM. I started working with the company in 2001 and I was here until 2008. I’m back again and I’ve been at the Lite now for almost a year. I do the morning drive Monday through Friday 6 to 10am. We play music, interview celebrities, talk about fun topics of the day, and just kind of set you off feeling really good on your way to work.
I got here via the University of Illinois down state in Champaign and I majored in Journalism. I interned for a station down there and I got my first job two weeks after I graduated. I always say I credit my job to Bart Simpson because at the time I was an intern when The Simpsons television show came out. They needed someone at the station to do the voice of Bart Simpson. Somehow Bart Simpson’s voice came out of me and I got to go on the air to do commercials as Bart Simpson. I just kinda got noticed that way. From there the person who was doing mornings at the station, who I love and adore, moved to get married. I wound up getting her job two weeks after I graduated.
That’s awesome!!! So you’ve been doing radio for quite a while now. I know you’ve done radio and TV. Can you tell us what made you go the radio route in the beginning?
I think originally I loved the idea that radio wasn’t really saturated with women at the time. I thought that there was a lot of growth for women. At the time I got into radio women where either traffic reporters, news reporters, or sidekicks. I saw an opportunity to kind of take a lane and be somebody that’s not only on a show, but produces her own show, and is the main host on the show.
I used to have a cast of 5 people. All of them were men. I looked at radio as an opportunity to step it up and to not be delegated as a side kick or an ancillary player. I also loved the idea that what you said was more important versus how you look. I think in this world we’re so quick to judge women based on how they look, what their wearing, and that’s how we make our opinion. Instead of based on what someone is saying and what’s in their heart.
Agreed! In radio do you also find you have to be on your toes more? Do you have a script to go off of or is it more so adlib?
Definitely adlib. You have to figure out how am I going to say this and how am I going to get to the point. How am I going to say it quickly and how am I going to grab a listener? You want the audience to want to get involved or want to learn more. You have to make it exciting! There’s not a lot of scripting at all in what we do. It could be a listener calls in with something goofy and will run with it. Usually it turns into something other listeners connect with. Those are my favorite moments in radio.
How does a listener calling in to the radio show get chosen to be on the air? Meaning the screening process… What are you guys looking for?
You know what….it’s ENERGY and perspective. Also the listener needs to quickly get to the point. We’re looking for meaningful or funny points of view/interests.
You’ve interviewed tons of celebrities! This is going to be a hard question. What are your top five interviews from TV or Radio?
One of my favorite of all time was probably La Toya Jackson. This was in television. It was me and Jeanne Sparrow interviewing her. We had such a great connection with her. I found her to be incredibly honest and genuine. It was an unreal moment when it hit me I’m sitting next to the sister of someone that was so influential and infamous. I felt like I could ask her any question at that moment and she might possibly answer it and honestly. We all grew up with Michael Jackson and it was such a surreal thing and you sit back and listen to her and you have a one on one and your like oh my gosh this is really happening!!!! She was so sweet and kind and very down to earth. This is before her reality show came out. I just loved her and I remember her out of all the people I’ve interviewed.
I loved Hillary Clinton when I interviewed her before the Democratic National Convention the first time she ran for President. I was running errands in my car, I had to get my daughter from pre-school, I had to pick up dry cleaning, and I had to run to Walgreens to get my prescription. So we did the interview on the phone while I was running errands. I was like “Hillary….listen girl we gotta get this done fast. I got a million things to do!” She laughed and related very well and I think that broke the ice. She realized I was just a really busy mom and she’s a mom running for President. It was two minutes I felt of really strong connecting radio where you got an idea and a sense of who she was as a person. It was one of my favorite interviews.
I always wanted a little monkey growing up when I was a kid and we had a little organ grinding monkey that came in the studio wearing this little green juicy couture velour sweat suit or maybe it was Adidas. When he came in the studio all I wanted to do was hug him and all he wanted to do was pick my producer’s hair. It was crazy, but I loved and adored him so much!
I loved Idina Menzel! She came on the show right after she started Wicked on Broadway. She was very open and honest and had great stories to share.
I also loved Jo Koy. He’s a comedian and he used to be so irreverent and crazy and take my shoes off and lick my toes on TV all the time. There was no fear in him. He was on the show a lot when I was doing You & Me TV.
I know you said top 5, but I also loved Shawn and Marlon Wayans. Comedians are easy to interview because there’s no fear in them and they bring out the best in you because you have no option but to just go along for the ride and have a good time.
Was there anyone you were star-struck by and didn’t know if you were going to get through the interview? I know for a fact if I ever get to meet Dwayne Johnson, “The Rock” I would totally be star struck!
I met James Taylor and I was like I couldn’t believe I was sitting here talking to him. Um…Billy Joel it was the same thing. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve done interviews, you still can’t help but be yourself and it’s a surreal moment. The human side of you….. the regular person is like …..OMG I’m sitting next to this person I’ve cared about so much. I used to have a huge crush on the Karate Kid, Ralph Macchio.
Soooo if you weren’t doing this job profession what would you be doing? I think I already know the answer to this question though judging by your Instagram page @Melforman.
I would be baking cakes!
The cakes you bake are stunning!!! How’d you get into it?
I have two daughters. When they were super little I wanted to find a way that when other little girls came to my house they wouldn’t get into fights or arguments. I didn’t want that to ever happen in my house. I used to bake all these cupcakes and I would pull out frosting and sprinkles. I’d let them just have at it and we would do little contests. Every kid that left my house would say this is the best place ever! It’s just something I loved to do and it grew over time. One year me and Jeanne Sparrow were let go from our TV show. I had a year to just kind of do my thing and spend time with my kids. I said to my kids I want this year to be meaningful and we just kind of decided that we were going to bake it forward and make cakes for unsuspecting people that touched our lives.
How often were you baking these cakes?
When I wasn’t working for that year we baked about 4 or 5 a month. That’s a lot of cakes!! We started off with this young man who has diabetes and trying to advocate for diabetes patients. We made him a little cake in the shape of his diabetic measure. Hosea Saunders, who’s a friend of mine at ABC7, was going through cancer and we made his favorite shoes into a cake. We also made a cake for a crossing guard who is always smiling every morning.
That’s so sweet! You just randomly chose people who came into your life to make cakes for?
Yes just people who I thought wow what would it mean to them today if they got something like this random surprise. The thing about a cake is there’s not a human on earth that doesn’t like cake. The fact that someone baked or made something for you shows they care. Cakes take a long time to make and some of them can take up to 12 hours. It was an opportunity for that year to really teach my kids that people may fire you, divorce you, you may break up with a boyfriend/girlfriend, people may let you down, but it doesn’t have to mean that you stop being you. You go on and you pick yourself up. You be amazing and you continue to give to the world and wait until you see what happens.
Literally the year went by and it was like my job at the Lite was waiting for me. I said to my girls don’t sit at home crying and moping…get up and make a cake! It was one of the best years and I will never forget what I learned. I will never forget people’s emotions and what it means when you give and you pay it forward.
The cakes you make are quite elaborate! Have you always been pretty creative and had an artistic side?
I wouldn’t say artistic, but definitely creative for sure 100%. I think you have to be for this job. You have to think outside the box. But artistic no…probably no more than anyone else.
So when you’re not hosting the radio show and baking cakes….what else do you like to do in your down time?
Besides baking cakes I love to read! I love a really good biography. Right now I’m reading about the behind the scenes at The View. It’s just interesting to find out how people got to where they are. I like to hear people’s perspectives and their challenges. I’m also a diehard house wives fan. You’ll find me at any point watching all of the series. I love Bravo! I love movies! I love any Netflix documentary. I also volunteer a lot in my spare time.
Over the summer last year I saw you at a charity event. What charities or organizations are you involved with right now?
I’m always involved in charities that involve children and animals. For a very long time I was involved in the Zacharias Center out of Lake Country and it helps people with sexual abuse and assault. I love the Special Olympics. I’m also a big advocate for animal rights. I have two dogs, a cat, and I had 4 frogs.
You know we can’t end the Spotlight without asking you, “Why are YOU a Chicagoan WE should know?” (Answer in video below 🙂 )
Make sure to tune in week days Monday through Friday for the Morning Drive with Melissa Forman on 93.9 Lite FM. Also make sure to follow her on social media:
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