Krista Hatcher Uelmen On Using Your Voice As A Force For Good

 

Do you feel alone? Like no one understands what you’ve gone through? Today’s guest has often shared those sentiments. Despite being a lifelong stage and screen performer, and an award-winning radio and television host for over 20 years, up until recently, she rarely shared her traumatic experiences and struggles with the public.
 
In this episode, Krista Hatcher Uelmen chats with Ellie Shefi about the healing, freedom, and empowerment she’s experienced by sharing her story. She shares valuable insights and actionable tools and strategies that you can use to be who you are, do what brings you joy, find your voice, and share your story. And she discusses the genesis of her drive and commitment to use her voice and her platforms as a force for good.
 
Don’t miss this conversation! As the host of “Wisconsin Women” and “Krista & The Morning Rush,” Krista Hatcher Uelmen is a force for good not only in her own community, but in the world. A champion of and for women, Krista is an impassioned advocate for a variety of women’s issues. Having witnessed close friends and family members battle mental health issues and addiction, Krista is dedicated to ridding the stigma surrounding mental health and improving access to addiction support services. And having lost several loved ones to cancer, Krista lends her voice and support to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and is proud to have been honored as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year.

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Krista Hatcher Uelmen On Using Your Voice As A Force For Good

Our guest is an award-winning radio and television host who has been using her voice as a force for good on the airwaves for many years, passionate about reading the stigma of mental health and helping people use their voice and share their stories. She is a champion for women and an impassioned advocate for a variety of women's issues.

A lifelong performer, she has graced countless stages across the country. She is the host of Wisconsin Women, and the morning show host of Krista & The Morning Rush, Madison's first all-female radio show. She won Station of The Year at Wisconsin Broadcasting Association. She was honored as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Woman of The Year. Welcome, Krista Hatcher Uelmen, to the show.

It's wonderful to see you. Thank you so much for having me here.

Thank you for being here. When did you first discover your love of the stage, and how did that lead you to broadcasting?

I was a huge lover of improv. I loved watching Saturday Night Live as I grew up. When I was younger, I wanted to be an attorney, then I knew I wanted to be a dentist. When I fell in love with Saturday Night Live, I was like, “This is the dream.” I went to school for theater at Viterbo College in La Crosse, Wisconsin. That's where I fell in love with so many things. I love Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, and song parodies were everything to me. That was something that I was inspired to do. I wanted to do like the Saturday Night Live. I wanted to go to The Second City. That's where I fell in love. That was what I was interested in doing. It got me into where I'm at now.

What have been your biggest successes in your career? Conversely, what have been some of your biggest challenges?

Being able to fall into broadcasting is such an amazing adventure. I was a senior in college doing my acting recital and I was able to do my improv. To be noticed that way by a phenomenal man, by the name of Dick Record in La Crosse, Wisconsin and said, “She has something. I'd love her to get into what we do,” which is radio. I've never done morning radio. I knew nothing about it. I just knew how to talk.

Being able to persevere in this industry means everything to me. For many years, I've been working hard at doing that. Being a woman, doing my thing, being vocal about what it means to me to host a morning show was everything. I'm ecstatic to be able to have the opportunity to host a morning show for the last years, especially to be able to host the first all-female morning show in Madison, Wisconsin has been everything. It's been such a great ride. Being able to do that meant a lot to me. I'm so thankful and honored to do it.

That could not have been easy. It's never easy to be a trailblazer, to go first and to pave the way. I'm certain that there were substantial obstacles that came up or maybe people who didn't believe in you or who didn't think there should be an all-female radio show. What were some of those challenges and how did you navigate them?

What's important, and for any person that wants to persevere in what they want to do and especially, being a woman too, is to be vocal and not being afraid to stand up for what you want to do, especially in an industry if you are going to be, “We don't do this where we're at.” I saw other women outside of where I was living, doing something like this. I was like, “That's what I want to do.” It's super important even if you are scared to approach maybe your boss about something.

Even if you’re scared to approach your boss about something, at least know that if it is rejected, you’ll never regret that you didn’t say anything and stand up at that time.

At least know that if it is rejected, you are able to vocalize it and know that you'll never regret that you didn't say something and stand up at that time. This industry is amazing. There are many different personalities, some you won't jam with and some of you will. The most important thing is that you respect the individuals that you work with and make sure that you're all on the same way that way because it can be challenging too.

How did you find your voice and the courage to speak up for the things that you want for advocating for an all-female show?

My host at the time, Marco, had to leave. Sadly enough, I had just lost my mother and I came back. Unfortunately, his father had gotten ill and said, “I don't want to go through that painful thing that you did as well.” It was hard for me because I was like, “I don't want to lose someone.” It's always hard when you have a partner that wants to move on. At that time, we established a great show. We had been onto each other for almost two years. We were almost going to get syndicated at the time, so I knew we were doing well. I also knew too that I didn't want someone else to come in and take over the show because I'd worked so hard with him.

I had just got back from something called Morning Show Bootcamp, where people all across America and outside come together to see the best in morning shows. My company had been sending me there. That's when I saw women that were hosting their own shows, mentors of mine like DeDe McGuire. She's fierce. I have always had the co-host position. I've always hosted a morning show as well, but I was like, “I want to be a woman to do this.” I went in and told my boss, “I know we're interviewing to have somebody come in, but I want to be this person.” He's like, “I have 100% faith in you to run with this, make this a woman-focused show, do what you can and let's rock it out.”

It's amazing that he was supportive of you. That's a true testament to the relationship that you developed, and this show that you had developed that he was like, “Do it. I believe in you.” What is the best advice either that he gave you or that someone important or close to you has given you?

I have been lucky and thankful to those in the industry that have always been there to allow me to reach out to them or maybe questions that I had. It's important that when you work with someone in this industry, a boss, or a coworker that you know that they have your back and that you have their back. This show and the things that I do in this industry and in the community mean everything to me. Having trust is super key. I'm really appreciative to those in my industry that have been with me through this, like Randy Hawke. He's my Ops Manager. He's the one that said, “Yes. Let's do this.”

To the ones that I've met way back, and to someone that has mentored me and has always been there for me. It's super important when you create relationships with people in your field that you can continue. I never believed that you should ever try to hurt other people to try to get ahead in this industry because that will always come back to get you.

It sounds like you've had great mentors and relationships. They've been there for you to be sounding boards or to help guide you. What's something that you wish one of them would have told you along your journey that would have made your journey easier, or a golden nugget that you had to find out the hard way?

Your journey in life is interesting because you change in the motions and as you get older. I am who I am now because of those things that I did go through in life that make me stronger now than you were back in the day. There was a time when I quit a morning show job because of how I was treated. At that time, I wasn't vocal. I kept everything in, but I was very young and naive. There are some times that I have spoken up, and maybe I shouldn’t have, because I'm like, “I'm going to get myself in trouble.”

I always stay true to myself. Sometimes I would have been nervous. Anxiety gets in the way, and that's something I do deal with. Sometimes that can be isolating for someone. It may be you're not able to vocalize because you're too scared at that time. That's a real thing. Anxiety can mute you sometimes. Always stay true to yourself and don't be afraid. Maybe sometimes I was too afraid to do things and I could have advanced myself a little faster, but I'm here.

Staying true to yourself, what wiser words could there be? Stays true to who you are, your values, mission, and watch what happens. As a public figure who is very open about navigating through anxiety, how do you tune out the noise of the world? When that anxiety comes up, how do you navigate that and the effect that it has or the critic that comes in the voices, in the narrative and the self-chatter? How do you tune all that out?

Mental health means a lot to me. Reading the stigma of mental health means the world to me. Mental health has affected my family. I tragically lost my stepmother to alcohol. I have a family member that's been dealing with it, and unfortunately is living behind bars because of it. I am someone that has been touched with depression at one time.

In college, I was in such a dark place that I did try to take my life, not until then did I seek help that I was able finally to understand what it means to talk about inner pain. It's super important that we read the stigma of mental health. Anytime that I'm able to talk about it openly with people, it helps me inside. Something that is near and dear is to help those in my community when it comes to reading the stigma of mental health. It's getting better, but a lot of people are made to feel shame if they are feeling depression, anxiety, or if they do have suicidal thoughts.

What are some of those tools, processes and routines that you set up for yourself to help you navigate?

My family has a lot to do with that and being able to have loved ones that are always there to support you. I'm also a true believer in therapy. That's something that I still do. I do seek help when I feel sometimes I'm getting into a low part of my life. Having friends and family is so important because I am someone that likes to keep things in.

I'm a quiet person. I grew up that way. It's how my family was. If you felt like you were going through things, it was like, “You're feeling sorry for yourself.” I'm not the best at talking about things. That's something that as I’m getting older, I’m being more open about it. Having my family be there to help me, talking to my friends and being able to talk about this on the radio and putting on radiothons and helping others help me as well.

It's such a testament to you being a force for good, using your voice and your platforms as a force for good because you shine such a light on these important issues. Particularly, during the pandemic, we've seen an exacerbation of the mental health crisis, where people are now more isolated. There's more uncertainty, fear and lack of connection. For you to be able to shine a light on it and talk about it openly, what would you say to the audience members who don't have a supportive family or don't have a family at all? Where would you suggest that they reach out for some connection and for someone who can help?

See what your community can offer you. There's always such tremendous support in other ways that can help you. If you know a coworker you've heard them talk about things that they're going through. I know it can be a very scary and personal thing, but reaching out to those that you know are going through it, they would be more than willing to help you get through the things that you do.

I would highly recommend that, especially if you are feeling like you're going through suicide, pick up that hotline. There are always people that are willing to help you to get through those dark times. It's important. Your life is everything and it means everything. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It's just finding the right connection and people to help you. There are always people that are willing to help you because you deserve it.

You are passionate when it comes to many causes, reading the stigma of mental health being one of them. What are some of the other causes that you're passionate about and why are they important to you?

Allowing yourself to be who you are is everything.

There are quite a few that are very important to me. I had run a campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. That was an honor to be asked to run as a candidate. I have five people in my life that had been touched with blood cancer. I've lost family members through it. My best friend lost her child to blood cancer. I have a dear friend whose husband has a very rare blood cancer disorder. It's important to me whatever I could do to bring awareness to what blood cancer means and how we can help.

Another thing that is very important to me is childhood cancer. We are a part of raising awareness and funds in our community as well with the American Family Children's Hospital Radiothon. I'm a big advocate when it comes to stopping child abuse. This is near and dear to my heart as well. I have a best friend that was sexually abused as a child. It's important that we protect our kids when it comes to that.

I am someone also that, unfortunately, has been through sexual abuse of 4 to 5 times in my life. No one should ever be able to put their hands on you. Someone that's been through sexual abuse or physical abuse is something you will never forget. You never ever forget the sounds, the voice and anything like that. It's important that we stand up for those.

Through our interactions, I also share those backgrounds and experiences. Unfortunately, we are not alone in our experiences. It's far too prevalent for women who have been abused, raped or violated in so many ways. It is definitely something that unites us as champions for women. I know it's fuel for me and for you as to that passion of helping to shine a light, helping people to use their voice and tell their stories so that we can rid the stigma, bring awareness and bring an end to these events. You mentioned that this has happened to you several times. How have you overcome the range of emotions that result?

It's something that I'm sifting through. Sometimes I'm wondering, “Is that where my anxiety comes from?” It happened first when I was in sixth grade that I was almost raped. I was able to get away. I got into a situation in seventh grade where it happened again. Throughout my adulthood life, I've been in situations where it's happened. It's hard sometimes because you feel like, “Did I do that? Am I to blame? Did I put myself in that position?” It's never okay.

At one time, I'm like, “Am I just an easy target because I've also been mugged twice? What is going on?” You feel that inside. I know that it's not my fault and that's a sick mentality if you feel like you can do that to somebody. It's important to be able to forgive yourself if you feel like you're never to blame for that, especially as a child. I did not vocalize it when I was a kid. I kept it to myself when it happened when I was both in 6th and 7th grade.

What made you decide to speak out and share your story? When did you feel ready? When did you know that being a public figure, having these platforms, that you were going to use them to speak out and share your story and to provide a platform for others to do the same?

Interestingly enough, me talking about the sexual abuse is something that I haven't always been open about and being able to share with this. Talking to you on my show opened up a lot of love in my heart to see that is something that is very empowering to open up as well. I've been more secretive about those past things.

Being able to see someone like yourself and other women that are open to sharing more about that means everything. I met a phenomenal woman in this community who fled her country because she was being abused by her husband to save her children. I met this woman a couple of years ago when I was hosting TV. I interviewed her and she's tremendous.

Her name is Nela Kalpic. She's been on my show many times. She had asked me to be a part of a law out here in Wisconsin called Marsy's Law, which allows people who have been victims of abuse to have more of an output of a voice when they're in position. It breaks my heart to see and hear women who have been abused. I can't even wrap my head around that.

My best friend, unfortunately, her boyfriend at the time, did tremendously horrible things to her. She's here with us, so I'm still thankful for it. I do this and I'm more vocal now because there are many people and women that I know that I've been through such a horrible past with abuse, whether it be physical or sexual. I need to use my platform to be vocal about it. I feel it's my opportunity and my job to do that.

We align on that. I don't know about your experience, but for me, the more I shared my story, the more open I was about abuse, rape, domestic violence, living in hiding, being homeless, living in my car, being a medical miracle, defying doctor's deadlines for many years, being a cancer survivor, all the things, that the more I showed up authentically, vulnerably, fully, the freer I became. The easier it was to breathe, the more joy there was in life.

It's as if almost every time I share it, a weight is lifted. I can breathe deeper. I can laugh more fully. I can connect on a deeper level. I know for me, it was scary initially to open up and start telling my story. I hear you completely with those initial emotions. Are you finding that the more that you share, the more empowering and freeing it is for you as well?

I do, and there are more things that I know inside that when I'm ready, I'd like to share. Anytime that you're able to talk about things like this, it is freeing. It does allow you and it's a great thing to be able to connect with other people in this world. When I first met you, I told other people and women that I know about you. I am so inspired by you, as so many are.

You have overcome a lot as you're sharing on your journey. What has been the most helpful tool or practice that you have used to heal?

Laughter is important, whatever you can do to get yourself into a place where you can smile. Whether that be you go and you play with your cats, because that is something that I love doing. My cats make me happy every day. I have a beautiful daughter, Gia, and a step-daughter, Raven. Spending time with your kids is everything. You learn so much from your children and talking about kiddos who are persevering. Seeing them means everything.

Being able to connect with your spouse means everything too. Find something in your life that makes you laugh and smile. Dancing makes me smile. I love to put on my jams. You should see me. I am 44 and I think I'm still eighteen. I will crack my hip. It will be real, but I don't care because it makes me laugh. Dancing to me is everything. I love music.

Crank the music and have a dance party in the living room. I am down for that anytime time. My go-to trick is to crank the music and have a dance party in the living room. I do it at least twice a day, even if it's only for a few minutes. I have the jam come on, pop up, get the blood flowing, the laughter, the movement and get into those feelings. Feel like you are Beyoncé. Channel that inner Beyoncé because who runs the world? Have that empowerment, laughter, and moment of joy to bring that energy back and shake off some of the stresses of the world.

I love that it is just, “Embrace you.” Do you. Get up. If dancing is your jam, feel it. Channel your J-Lo or Beyoncé. You are a king or queen. You are all of that. Feel it, love it, embrace it. Self-care is critical. On the same topic of laughing, joy, playing and connection, the things that light you up and fill you up. Beyond having a good old dance party or a good belly laugh, what is your self-care practice, and how do you ensure in your crazy busy schedule that it remains a priority?

It’s important that you just shine bright the way you are and if you’re different, be beautiful and be different.

Outside of like us liking to dance, whether it be just in our rooms or I'm dancing in the studio, I also love weight training. I love strength training. I like getting into the gym. I like how that feels. That's a great way to let steam out if you need to. I also love when I'm around my house. I used to be a clean machine. I'm not as good as I used to be, but cleaning my house allows me to do some stress relief. That sometimes helps too. That's important.

It's true that allowing yourself to be who you are is everything. Especially as kids, it's important that you shine bright the way you are. If you're different, be beautiful and different. I lost my eye when I was five from a broken hockey stick. I used to be made fun of all the time. My mom always said, “They're just jealous because they have to see at 2 and you have to see at 1.” I took that and made that into making people laugh. As I grew up, I used to take my eye out all the time. I put it in people's cocktail glasses at bars. You’ve got to do. Be you, be quirky and love that part of you. Shine that way too.

How do you stay aligned in who you are in owning and exuding that?

I don't have time to worry about other people and what they think of me or if they hate on me. I believe that you do what makes you happy and keep doing it. As long as you're not hurting other people, remain in your body and do what you love to do and what makes you and your family happy. No one has got time for haters out there. That's a true thing especially going back to helping out our kiddos. I still deal with this being in the public eye. I'll have people say things to me, but I don't acknowledge it. The biggest power that you can give back to someone who is maybe trying to bring you down is you don't respond to them.

Especially with the pandemic, isolation and everything being online, that being magnified whether it's the time on social media, all the new platforms that have developed or all the time spent on Zoom, there is definitely an increased influence of the external and an increased presence of online bullying, cyber-stalking and those kinds of things.

To our young folks who are out there in the audience, beyond just not responding, what piece of advice could you give them to stand strong, not succumb to the pressures and everything being with a filter and all of that, what would you say to them for them to embrace who they are and not pay attention to the external?

I remember when I grew up, my mom and grandma were the force behind me how I was raised. They always said, “Make sure you treat people the way that you will want to be treated. When someone is trying to make you feel bad about yourself, they are feeling bad about their own self. Whenever anybody is ever trying to put you down, it's because they're having insecurity within themselves. If they do feel that way, be the bigger person. Maybe they're hurting inside and see how you can help them. If someone's trying to bring you down, don't let it happen. It's something that they're going through.” That’s with social media and how life is. People put themselves out there. They portray themselves, “Everything looks perfect,” but in actuality, it's not. You can never judge a book by its cover. Always be aware of that and cognizant, but always be kind.

The world needs more kindness. Being a mom, what are you hoping to instill in your daughters?

I'm hoping to instill in them kindness, number 1. Number 2 is perseverance. That was something that my mom and grandma taught me. They're like, “First off, get your education, then a career, then a man.” That's how I grew up. Whatever their journey is, I want them to know to stay true to themselves and whatever they want to become, I support them. Live a life that they want.

I know this is a hard one because you have many incredible platforms, passions, lessons, hats that you wear, and incredible messages you have to share. If you had one message to share with the world, what would that message be?

It's always important to let people in your life know that you love them. You say thank you to those that have been in your life and that have got you to where you are now. It’s important because life is short. Those people that you love can be gone in a second. I'm someone that has lost both my parents. I know in my heart that they still see me. I still talk to them within myself, but you never know when that person in your life is going to be gone.

Always remember to pick up the phone and say hi, or a quick message to those in your life that you love them. It's important. That's what we're here for, spreading love. That's what life is all about. It's not about the money and what we have. It's the people that have impacted our lives and that we've hopefully done the same thing. That's what we're here to be on this planet for to be there for each other. Hopefully, you do.

Let's imagine that you have come to the end of your life best lived. It's a life of love, contribution and connection where all of your dreams have come true. What do you want to be remembered for? What is your legacy?

I hope that people will remember me that, “Krista was a quirky redhead that was kind. She believed in helping other communities. She loved her family. She wanted to do good on this planet that we're in.” It's important that you shine, be bright and hopefully, that will happen.

This has been such fun connecting. As we wind down, are there any parting words or messages that you would like to share?

In this crazy world that we're in, as I know as it is, keep doing your thing, take care of yourself, stay healthy, take care of your family and your mind, and keep plugging along. We're all going to get through what we're going through. Keep pursuing your dreams. Dreams are always there. They can always be reached. It's up to you. You can do it. Showing and sharing love. I'm so appreciative and honored. When Ellie asked me to be a part of this, I was like, “Are you kidding? This is Ellie Shefi, everyone.” Thank you. It's tremendous.

How can people connect with you? How can they learn more about your work and the causes that you're passionate about?

We are on social media. The morning show is called Krista & The Morning Rush. I'm on Instagram and Facebook, @KristaAndTheMorningRush. I'm on LinkedIn, @KristaHatcherUelmen, where I have connected with this fabulous woman and so many. Thank you for that. The radio station that I work at is 93.1 Jamz. It's at MadTownJamz.com. [email protected] is my email.

You're going to be in demand because you are such a light and a powerhouse of someone who is truly aligned in their mission, passion, purpose, who lives every day as a force for good, who uses your voice, experiences and platform as a way to help others in your community and to support women and to help women rise. You are a real blessing in this world.

Thank you for all that you do in the world. I know it is not easy, especially when you're in the public eye to share your story, be vulnerable, to open up and share different aspects of your story and say yes. You struggled in the past with depression or anxiety, and this is how you're navigating it. These are the resources that have helped you. It's such an inspiration to others because they can look at you and say, “Here is this woman who is standing in her power, who is on hosting a TV show and a radio show. If she can do it, I can do it. If she can do it, what's possible for me?” You're a living example. I'm grateful for you.

Thank you. That means a lot. It's important to be able to do that. I truly believe in this too. There is a book that I read, The Five People You Meet In Heaven. It's the same writer with Tuesdays with Morrie. I've read that book after my dad passed away. It talks about you meet people in life for a reason to get you to the next level of where you want to be. I truly believe in that.

Dreams are always there. They can always be reached. It’s up to you and you can do it.

I remember when I had met you, I didn't mean that, but I do believe that things happen for a reason in life. It is sometimes hard. There was a time in my life where you asked, “Why is this happening to me?” I went to a Catholic college, I asked a nun, “Why is it that some people go through such hardships and for others nothing happens? They're all great.” She goes, “The people that suffered the most in life, they're the gold in God's eyes.” That's when I was like in downtime in my life.

Through all of our journeys, it's interesting, but I think there's a reason for it. Everything that we go through, if it's hurtful or not, there's a reason for it. It molds us. It's important that we do something with that because I know speaking with someone like yourself or for other women that have maybe gone through things, that the best people that can help you are those that have been through it.

There is a saying, “Life happens for you through you.” That to me is so powerful because in the darkest moments where I have said, “Why me? Why this? Why now?” or when I've laid in a hospital bed and told God, “You win. I'm done. I don't have any fight left. Take me now.” All of those moments that happened to all of us, no matter what we've gone through, those moments where we question, where our strength fails, we retire and the belief that something could be different is gone, we get through them and we're on the other side. We can help so many people because we've been there and we've navigated it.

It's not something we learned in a book or some guru taught us. We know what it feels like in every cell of our body to have our voice taken, to have unimaginable pain, to be discounted or unseen, unheard, unvalued and disrespected. We know what that feels like, how we shifted, navigated it and rebuild our life into a life that we love. We know what it feels like on the other side when we're having dance parties in our living room and the joy and the fun that awaits, even in those darkest moments. That's what makes what you're doing so powerful.

It is because when you share those stories, moments, experiences and the dance parties in the studio, the good times with your guests, the laughter and fun, people know. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone run out and connect with Krista. For all of you reading, thank you. Until next time.

 

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About Krista Hatcher Uelmen

Krista Hatcher Uelmen is an award-winning radio and television host who has been using her voice as a force for good on the airwaves for over 20 years! Passionate about ridding the stigma of mental health and helping people use their voice and share their story, she is a champion for women and an impassioned advocate for a variety of women’s issues.

A lifelong performer, she has graced countless stages across the country. Currently, she is the television host of “Wisconsin Women” and the Morning Show Host of “Krista & The Morning Rush” - Madison’s first all female radio show! She recently won “Station of the Year” at the Wisconsin Broadcasting Association and she was honored as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year.