March Cover Joelle Garguilo: Big City Dreams

March Cover Joelle Garguilo: Big City Dreams
Photo: Yumi Matsuo, yumimatsuostudio.com, Shot on location at Edge, 30 Hudson Yards, New York, NY

March Cover Joelle Garguilo: Big City Dreams

Over the course of a week countless DMs were exchanged and many texts were sent between two moms trying to schedule one uninterrupted hour-long conversation. First, there was work to contend with: I was commuting to the city 4 days in a row when I am usually remote, flexibility suddenly out the window. Then there was sickness because, well, kids. Her daughter came down with something first, then the stomach bug that seemed to attack the entire city made its way to my house. Finally, we landed on a Friday night. After kid bedtime. In our sweats. Does this sound familiar? If you’re a parent, I’m going to guess yes. For Joelle Garguilo, Emmy-Award winning and WABC’s new Entertainment Reporter, finding pockets of time that work with her non-traditional schedule is not only par for the course, but something she’s gotten very, very good at. “It’s what moms do best,” she told me. “We just figure out a way.” I don’t know about you but I’ve never heard truer words spoken.

In our conversation Joelle says things I feel deep in my bones as a mom of 2 myself. Things like, “The juggle is real” and “You make it work, however you make it work”, because isn’t that what we’re all doing, all the time? She embraces the chaos and imperfection, and talking to her on that Friday night at the end of a long week was like venting to one of my mom friends. Full disclosure: I’ve known Joelle since before we had kids, before we were married, back when she was still an accountant dreaming of being a broadcast journalist. I watched from the sidelines as she became a mom and then an on-air reporter, and was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to ask her simply…How? How did she do it? How did she know it was the right path for her? And how does she do it all now? This interview was part work, part personal catch-up sesh, but it’s chock full of everything that will make Joelle feel like your mom friend, too.

CP: So first things first, tell me about your family.

JG: My babies? My girls are everything to me. That’s it. They’re everything to me. They’re so funny. I was such a shy child, very shy. I was so quiet to the point my mom brought me to the doctor because that’s how quiet I was. I didn’t speak. I’m definitely making up for lost time now. So when I look at my girls, and they’re so vivacious and spunky, and just…they’re funny. I have these two funny little ladies. Gianna is eight, Vivi is five. And they say and do things every day that just makes my jaw go on the floor and laugh. And I love it. We are a crazy, wild bunch and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s a lot of chaos, a lot of chaos.

CP: How long have you been married to your husband?

JG: Oh, gosh, Chris and I have been together for 100 years. We met in college. And we got married in 2009. We got married the same year I started working in media. We were planning our wedding, he worked for Lehman Brothers, and we all know what happened there. I was working for New Line Cinema doing finance after coming from KPMG doing accounting. My company shut down on the east coast. So here we were, like planning this wedding, this 400-person crazy thing. But it all work out.

CP: I want to cover your career change. Because first of all, it’s like going from one end of the spectrum to the total opposite end. And also, having sort of seen it happen, I feel like you willed it into existence. It was just sheer will. So, how did you know working in accounting and finance was not for you? Was there a specific moment you remember where you were like, I gotta get the hell out of here?

JG: You want to know something? I feel like everybody around me used to tell me…I remember auditing these Fortune 500 companies and some of the CEOs or CFOs would call me and be like, Is this really for you? And I would do a good job, but they would all say, Really? You want to be an accountant? I loved numbers. I was great at math as a child. Also, I think growing up, sometimes you want to pursue a career that makes your parents proud, right?

So I just always thought with accounting I’d always have a job. And I was great at math. So I majored in accounting, but then I switched my degree, and I actually graduated with a degree in finance and marketing. Then I went back to school to finish my accounting degree. I got a job offer at KPMG then I went to New Line Cinema. And when I was there, I’m telling you, I’m a worker, I am someone who will do the work, do the work, do the work, but I always had this thing in the back of my head where I wanted to pursue a career in TV.

Ever since I was little, I would whisper it. I remember the Today Show when I was working in accounting; they did this call out for the next anchor.

Joelle at Edge, Hudson Yards
Photo: Yumi Matsuo,  yumimatsuostudio.com, Shot on location at Edge, 30 Hudson Yards, New York, NY

CP: I remember.

JG: I did a video submission for it while I was working in accounting. I forget about these things, it’s so funny that you asked that. I always would whisper it and I remember when they were closing the New York office of New Line Cinema my boss took me out to lunch. She said to me, What do you want to do? I was getting job offers at other places to do finance. I said, I really want to pursue a career in TV.

CP: How old were you at this point?

JG: Oh my gosh, I was 27.

CP: That’s young in the grand scheme of things, but when you’re…

JG: I had a full-fledged career! I was already established. And up until that point, anybody who I told I want to be on TV said how few people make it. Because also the landscape was very different back then. Nobody had really encouraged it, except my mom encouraged it for sure. But she was the first one who said, I think you should do it and I think you’d be great. So I decided since I got a severance package I’m going to take classes, and I’m going to learn how to do this TV stuff. So I took a class at NYU, I took a program at the New York Film Academy, and I learned everything. You know, the in-front-of-the-camera stuff was always fun and it came naturally to me, but I had no idea how to shoot a camera. I had no idea how to edit. I didn’t know how to produce. And you learned all that in these classes. And I had a great teacher who would become a mentor and a friend.

I wound up getting a job interview while I was finishing up school and I had to pick between taking the last part of the CPA exam—I had three parts passed—or going on this job interview to get my start in TV. I went on the job interview and I got the job. And so I started my career, making cell phone videos before people were even using iPhones. I was in first thing in the morning shooting, I would do my regular shift, and then I would stay late and edit. I worked my buns off. And then from there I got noticed. They started taking my packages on this one show, then this other show, then I opened up a New York show, then I did a national show. And honestly it’s been a dream. It’s been a dream ever since.

CP: That’s amazing. What advice do you have for someone who is currently in a job or profession that they’re unsure about?

JG: That’s a great question. I think that if there is a dream that you have, you owe it to yourself to try. You owe it to yourself to try, right? What would you tell your friend? What would you tell your kids? You would tell them to try. Because I think when I was starting, I had the courage of someone who shouldn’t have had the courage, right? I was like, I can do this. I thought I was going to be like the main anchor of a national show where people have worked like 30 years to get to that point. I was like, Put me in coach! Maybe a little bit of delusion.

Sometimes I have to remind myself of that girl because we forget. We forget as we get older and life happens, you have responsibilities, you have kids, you have rent or you have a mortgage. I think you have to be smart in having your bases covered there, but if there is something that you are passionate about, you owe yourself to at least try. It’s better to fail than not try. So often we have these things that we dream of, and if you believe in yourself, I’m telling you, you can do it. Also, something that I have learned over the years in this industry is that closed mouths don’t get fed.

CP: I think that’s great advice. And I love “closed mouths don’t get fed.”

JG: I learned that from a former colleague of mine and you know what? I’ve been practicing that now and it is unbelievable. Sometimes you just need to ask. Maybe it’s something at your job that you want, a promotion maybe. Just ask. Especially as women, we forget it’s okay to ask.

CP: I love that. What drew you to broadcast journalism?

JG: I love every single thing about what I get to do. I love it. I love people. I love connecting. Even just walking throughout New York City. When you’re walking the streets of New York City, you see a store, you go in, and I guarantee there’s a story waiting for you in that store. I guarantee it. I see every single day.

One day I saw someone and said, I love your jewelry. She said her friend made it. I was like, Tell me about her. She’s this awesome chick who has a studio in Red Hook where she makes custom jewelry—Katherine Lincoln Jewelry. Her husband makes custom bikes in the same studio and their kids are just playing around, there with them. All this from just complimenting somebody’s necklace, right?

There are stories on every single corner. Like Grandma’s Place, a multicultural book and toy shop on a quiet street in Harlem. I walked in one day and turns out this woman who owns it, Grandma Dawn, is like the grandmother to the neighborhood. She’s got such a deep history and a deep connection to Harlem, to books, to the children. If you just walked by you would think it’s just a book and toy shop, but no, this woman means so much to this neighborhood. And I get to do stories on people like that.

But even the celebrity interviews, you can ask somebody a question, sure, but when you can have a conversation and connect on a deeper level…and I get to do that for work? It’s crazy to me. I say it a lot but I feel like I have a VIP pass to the best of the city and the best of humanity.

CP: I feel like you’re drawn to stories and to storytelling. And what better place to do that than New York City.

JG: There’s no better place.

CP: Your love of New York is so palpable, and so is your love of the small businesses that make up the city. How did you first get into the small business beat to begin with?

JG: I have no idea. I cover entertainment, film, TV, Broadway—and also small businesses. I think from just being a New Yorker, really. Because once you hear these stories, you can’t help but share them. If you have an outlet, social media, or TV, how do you not tell these stories? Some stories are meant to be shared. You never know who needs to hear your story, who might be inspired by your story, even. There’s this vintage shop on 25th Street called TTH Vintage. You go in and you think it’s just a vintage shop, but this particular store serves to help the homeless community. The owner has helped thousands and thousands of homeless women and children in New York City. But if you just walk on by, it’s just a store.

CP: But you stopped, you didn’t just walk on by. I feel like it’s because you stop to talk to people, and you listen.

JG: I don’t know if my girls are old enough to understand it yet, but I’ve had a part in saving a bunch of small businesses and that means a lot to me. I brought them to some of these stores, but I don’t think that they fully grasp it. To them it’s just like, this woman who has a candy shop is giving us free candy. But I think they’ll remember it. I’ll be proud one day when they understand it.

CP: Why do you think small businesses are such an important part of the fabric of the city?

JG: They are the city. Small businesses are the heartbeat of New York City. When you’re walking around Brooklyn, what makes it so charming is that almost every single business is a small business. There’s something about the people, you connect with people on a different level. I feel like New York City would not be the same without them.

CP: I could not agree more. Okay, let’s talk about what you always say: The juggle is real. You have two young daughters plus a very demanding job that does not have a set schedule. What are some of the ways you make it work?

JG: I feel like people are always like, You do it all. But I think that we need to stop saying that because there’s no such thing. When you’re at work, you’re gonna be thinking you should be with your kids. When you’re with your kids, you might be thinking about everything else you have to do. There is no such thing as doing it all, but I do believe I’m doing my best. Let’s just do our best. That’s it, whatever that is for you. And let’s not compare ourselves to one another because you don’t know what anybody else’s situation is. So for me, I really try to do drop-off. Mornings are chaos in my apartment, but I still I love them. It’s very important for me to bring my girls to school, it sets the tone for their whole day.

CP: So your non-negotiable is drop-off.

JG: I try, but I can’t do it all the time. My little one, she’s so attached. People must think I’m insane because I have to dance for her. It’s a whole thing, I drop her off and then I have to follow her into school doing a crazy dance but it makes her smile. She goes in and she has the best day ever. Sometimes if I have an assignment during the day and then something at night, during the break I come pick them up. And we do make the weekends count.

Joelle with her two daughters
Photo: Francesco Bilotto

CP: Are you pretty much off on the weekends?

JG: It depends; a lot of movie junkets take place over the weekend. But for the most part, yes, I have off during the weekends. When I’m with them, I make the time count. I’m in their classrooms all the time; that’s what moms do better than anybody: we figure it out, we figure out a way. And I have figured out something that works for my crazy lifestyle. But nobody would ever say that I’m not a present mother. And nobody would ever say that I’m not a present worker. So, I have figured out how to make the juggle work for me right now.

CP: I couldn’t agree with you more about not saying we can do it all because I think that sets women up for failure. I know that something’s gotta give in life. For me the weeks when I’m killing it at work, maybe my daughter is watching more TV. Or on days when I’m killing it as a mom, I know that I had to order takeout. So what are some of the things that fall through the cracks for you?

JG: Listen, I’m gonna say three words: breakfast for dinner.

CP: I think a lot of women can relate to that response.

JG: There’s no shame in the breakfast for dinner game because they’re getting protein, they’re getting their carbs, they’re getting their fruit. And you know what? It’s quick and they love it. I would love to say that I cook every night, but not even close. We all have to give ourselves grace. Growing up, most of us had a parent who didn’t work. It’s not like that anymore, right? So you make it work, however you can make it work.

CP: It’s so real.

JG: What are you going to do? You can’t do it all, you will go crazy trying to do it all. It’s fine if you have takeout a couple of nights a week. It’s fine if you do breakfast for dinner. The most important thing for me with my girls is that they know they are loved. As long as my kids know they’re loved we’re good. Even when I have to work late, I make it a point to sneak into their beds at night. I want them to feel loved. Period. No matter how much I’m working, how much I’m not working, as long as they feel like Mommy’s here we’re good.

CP: Everything else will just fall into place. It doesn’t really matter.

JG: It doesn’t. You think about holidays or these different things that we stress so much about, but you know what? Your kids will remember that silly thing that you did on the way to school. The dance party you had before you went to bed. That’s what they remember. Not the little details that weren’t perfect; they don’t remember that. They don’t. So I embrace the imperfection. Perfect is boring, we don’t do perfect. I tried that when I was younger, it didn’t work out for me. I always tell Gianna, my oldest, Mommy might be all over the place sometimes, but we always get it together. We’re those last minute ones with the Halloween costumes, but it’s always good. Vivi just had the 100th day of school. The night before I took out the hot glue gun and we did the little 100 with candy and she was so happy.

CP: March 8th is International Women’s Day and I just want to give you an opportunity to talk about the role that women have played in your life.

JG: My mom is my biggest cheerleader, period. From the very beginning, she was always like, You need to go after this, you need to do it. And shout out to my awesome sisters.

And I don’t have any living grandparents anymore but my Nana Mary would call me after she would see me on TV. And then my other grandmother who lived in Pennsylvania, whenever I would do a national hit, she’d always be watching and tell all of her friends. I’ve had the greatest support system of women in my life.

And then, professionally, all of my mentors have been women. I think back in my industry, there used to be this theory that there can only be one, but I always lead with supporting other women, and I will always bring them up with me, and that is contagious. It’s so cool to see the ripple effect that has, whether it’s your intern, or whether it’s one of your younger staff, when you show them the way and you treat them right, then when they go up the ranks that’s how they hopefully lead. And it’s awesome. Nothing is better than women supporting women.

CP: So you have these two little girls. What lessons do you hope to have them absorb when it comes to being women?

JG: Well, every morning, we say, I am smart, I am beautiful, and I can accomplish anything I want. I’ve been doing that since G was little. And it’s important. I want them to be confident. I wasn’t a confident kid at all. I’m finding my confidence as a woman. The biggest thing that I want to impart on them is to be kind. I always say good things come to those who hustle and are kind. It’s so much better when we’re lifting each other up.

CP: How was it for you to be behind the camera for this cover? To be the interviewee, not the interviewer?

JG: It throws you out of your comfort zone. As a reporter and producer, you are the one who controls everything. I just feel bad for you because I know I’m a great interviewer, but I am a terrible interview. I don’t know how to answer questions in a short way.

CP: To me the most important thing about an interview is that the true voice of the person comes through. I want each person’s personality to shine because every cover is so different. Because every woman is so different. Because every family is different.

JG: I really try to keep it real because I think, especially now with social media and my job, you see me on the red carpet and in the studio doing these fabulous things. But people have to understand that social media is the highlight reel. It’s Insta versus reality, and I will show you that on a daily basis. Reality is a mess on a lot of days, and I think as much as we show the polished stuff, you gotta show the mess too. That’s really what keeps you grounded. We’re all just out here doing our best. So just treat people kind. My dad was always like that, you know? We always just treat people kind no matter what.

CP: I feel like that’s the real test.

JG: That’s the real test. It just goes back to treat people good. That’s it. You don’t know what anybody has going on at home. Sometimes it’s just a smile, a smile can brighten up someone’s day.

 

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