In 2002 Reesha Cosby moved from Nashville to Yakima to get her big break in radio broadcasting. Almost twenty years later she's become a popular morning radio host, station programmer, digital journalist, and social justice leader in her community—recently elected president of the Yakima County NAACP.
She spoke to us about her journey into broadcasting, dealing with imposter syndrome, and how her creative career intersects with her social justice and advocacy work in the community.
Tell us about your journey to a successful career in radio. Was it what you always wanted to do or did it evolve from other experiences? Were there any barriers to entry you faced?
Where do I begin? Entertaining people on stage has been a lifelong goal of mine. I have always wanted to be an entertainer since kindergarten when I wanted to be Goldilocks in the school play. I was told I couldn't because I was not white and did not have golden hair. They made me be a brown tree and I was the angriest brown tree in a school play ever because I wanted to be Goldilocks. She was having a lot of fun rummaging through the bears' belongings and I wanted to pretend to be her.
Radio is an extension of "pretend" and acting, in a sense. When I was in middle school, I would write out scripts and have my friends read roles for my Barbie commercials that I recorded on a tape recorder.
After high school, I signed up for an informational session at a radio school in Nashville but did not enroll when I found out the tuition was $13,000. I still lived and breathed radio. I used to read R&R magazine and walk up and down Music Row memorizing the locations and names of each record company.
I told myself that someday this would all make sense. I ended up being a full-time receptionist at the biggest broadcasting company in town. Before my shift, I was a morning show stunt girl and after my shift, I was the afternoon show "intern." I think it was meant to be that I eventually ended up with a career in broadcasting.
Many creatives report having experienced imposter syndrome and/or fear of failure as they pursue their creative careers. Have you ever experienced anything like that? If so, how did you overcome it?
Yes, my fear of failure is what has kept me in Yakima for almost 20 years. I had a chance to move to Buffalo and decided not to because I was too afraid I would move there and fail miserably.
To this day, I am still kicking myself in the keister for passing up that chance. I was hired to do a Saturday night live show at a station in Seattle. I felt that everyone I worked with (Tiffany Warner, Eddie Francis, Eric Powers, Karen Wild) was so much better at doing radio than me. I did not have any confidence in myself and that's because I have always compared myself to others.
Now that I am in my late 40's, I realize that I have been a gem all along and I wish I could go back in time, give myself a hug and tell me to JUST BELIEVE in me. The painfully slow realization that I am freaking amazing, too, is how I finally overcame my fear of failure.
You have said that you moved to Yakima in 2002 with a plan to launch your radio career then head to a bigger market. Since then, you have served on the board of multiple Yakima-based arts organizations, you were the second African American board president of the YWCA Yakima, you became President of Yakima County NAACP, and you recently ran for elected office. How does your creative career intersect with your social justice and advocacy work in the area?
As to the question, being in broadcasting has forced me to find my "voice.” Over the years, my bosses have constantly told me that they want to hear more of ME on the air. I was forced to figure out exactly WHAT my opinions on things truly are.
I am committed to empowering women to believe in themselves and find their own voices. I am committed to helping abused women flee their abusers. I am committed to doing my part to help eliminate racism.
I realize this all stems from the fact that I was never allowed to have a voice growing up. We were discouraged from having political opinions or running for office. I couldn't even run for high school student body president, even though I really wanted to. I guess I am using my voice now to make up for lost time.
When building a creative career how do you think the community affects your trajectory? Do you believe it is better to be a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a little pond?
I grew up as an amoeba in a big pond, then I moved to Yakima and people liked me, they really liked me! I am the Sally Fields of Central Washington, so it's kind of hard to think about moving away and starting all over. I do yearn to live in a big city again because I've always felt like a big city kid. I would LOVE to live in Seattle, Portland, or New York City! I would miss the comfort of a small town though.
I kind of feel like moving to Yakima was like moving to the Mayberry of Washington, even though our Yakima is strangely nicknamed "The Palm Springs of Washington." Side note: When I moved here and saw that "sign" on the freeway, I was excited because I thought that meant I would be seeing palm trees. Boy, was I ever naive!
Where do you find inspiration in your community?
I find inspiration in all things local. The people, places, and events that happen to keep me going and inspire me to try things I never thought I'd end up doing, like snowboarding on the bunny slopes at White Pass, listening to Coldplay (and falling in LOVE with them), discovering Flight of the Conchords, becoming an avid fan of The Colbert Report, building a table from scratch using shiplap, nails, and a staple gun, becoming a self-proclaimed wine snob, volunteering on boards, and getting involved in local politics.