Anchoring Her World On Both Ends: Mother & Journalist Katie Lopez
Nov 19, 2018 07:50PM
By Scott Brazda
“It’s always in the back of your mind: Will people accept me? They loved this person for so long, so, how will they accept me?”
When Katie Lopez replaced the longtime television personality Tracy Wirtz as co-anchor of KATC-TV’s ‘Good Morning Acadiana’, those were viable questions. There was indeed, she says, a bit of pressure at first, but then, Lopez came to grips with the best possible answer.
“I can just be me. I hope they will like me for me.”
She needn’t have worried. GMA has continued to zoom along, and with each day Lopez is endearing herself to thousands of viewers. And that suits the Crowley native just fine. “Everyone makes you feel like you belong,” she says. “The people of Acadiana treat you like family.” Of course, being in an area that isn’t lacking for a good time doesn’t hurt either. “Acadiana has so much to offer, and you don’t have to go anywhere else. It’s all here.”
Katie Lopez has been here---- Acadiana---- ever since the day she arrived on this planet. Born in Crowley just over 33 years ago (June 1985), Lopez’s happy, friendly personality manifested itself almost from the very beginning. “My mom’s friend always called me ‘Bubbles’,” she laughs. “Apparently I was always bubbly and never got upset. I’ve always wanted to talk to people and I guess I’ve been rather outgoing for most of my life.” Her childhood, she adds, seemed to fit her personality: happy, creative, joyful. “I have a twin sister, so I always had a friend with me. We were into imaginative things: we played school, pretended to drive cars, things like that. I loved going to my grandparents’ farm, where we would name the chickens. And of course, I loved reading. My grandmother would take me to the library in Iota, and I would read all the time.”
Before she set her sights on journalism, Lopez wanted to be a veterinarian… at least until middle school when a stark realization manifested itself. “I learned that sometimes veterinarians have to put animals to sleep, and that was the end of that dream,” she explains. After that, her interests turned to acting, so much so that Lopez was a theatre major her first year in college at Northwestern State. From there, she transitioned to journalism, where her love of reading and writing began to take center stage.
“I love the writing process,” she says, “and growing up I really thought I loved fiction; it was just a way to get lost and I loved to make up things. But then my creative writing professor told me he thought I’d be really good at nonfiction, and I soon found that I really enjoyed telling people’s stories.”
So, what was next? The Great American Novel? A Pulitzer? A book tour across the United States? “Well…., there’s a bit of a problem with that,” Lopez chuckles. “I won’t let people read my stuff.” Wait a minute there, I respond. You want to be a writer, but you won’t allow people to read your work? “I don’t know; I definitely need to figure that out. My stories are all so personal, and I put my heart and soul in them, so, we’ll just have to see.”
Lopez graduated in journalism (with a broadcasting minor) from Northwestern State in 2007, and quickly began her career as a weekend reporter at KPLC-TV in Lake Charles. Her first call to Lafayette came a year later; problem was, the local Fox station dismantled its news department only a year after she arrived. “Oh, my, that was hard, being laid off. I was getting married six months later, and I needed to have a job,” she recalls. But the career roadblock was only temporary, mainly because of Lopez’s drive to succeed and follow her dreams. “I wasn’t going to give up. I knew if I kept doing the best I could do that good things would happen.”
A call came from a station in Harlingen, Texas. “Deep, south Texas,” Lopez says. “I didn’t know the area and didn’t speak a lick of Spanish. But I needed a job and wanted a job and, although I was really alone and away from my friends and family in Acadiana, let me tell you, they were the best five years (2009—2013) of my life.” Being away from home also provided the optimum learning experience. “I didn’t know anyone there, so I was really able to develop the skills of building relationships, establishing contacts and simply fine-tune my story-telling ability. I really hated to leave, but something a bit more important made that necessary.”
That ‘something’ was the arrival of Lopez’s first child, Harper, and the beginning of a new role: Mom. “I was on call a lot, my husband, Lee, was away a lot, and I worked a lot; but with an infant, I couldn’t juggle all of that. I couldn’t be the ‘Career Katie’ that I was and also be a good mom, at least at that point. Again, leaving was a really tough decision. Tough, but necessary.”
Lopez became a stay-at-home mom for the next 18 months of which, she discovered, was also tough, and not just in terms of the loving duties that come with being a parent. “No longer being on television, I kind of felt like my identity was gone,” she explains. But, yet again, fate intervened into a wonderful way as KATC was looking for a reporter and ‘Right Now Desk’ correspondent for Good Morning Acadiana. “It was just perfect. I was able to move back home, and we found someone to watch Harper in the wee hours while I was at the station or out doing a live shot. I was very lucky.”
Nearly three years later, Wirtz’s departure in early 2018 led to Lopez’s move up to the GMA co-anchor slot. “People ask if it’s different now, and I don’t think it is,” says Lopez. “I’ve been on this shift for over three years, so I’ve been doing this already, essentially with the same people.” Working from, say, 3 a.m. to 10 or 11, will certainly help a team bond. “We really are a family because, you know, we’re all each other has in the morning. We all go through good things and rough patches, and it’s so nice to have a work family that’s like a true family. We all support each other.” And as for a certain GMA part-timer who is also writing this article? You [Scott Brazda] are awesome. You are just a normal person—for the most part,” she laughs.
Local television builds familiarity which means Katie Lopez is considered a bit of a celebrity. “You sort of have to be ‘on’ all the time, but it’s the career that I chose. And the people are so kind, saying, ‘Hey, it’s the news lady; I wake up with you every morning.’ So if I can put a smile on someone’s face in the morning, I guess it’s a good trade-off.”
The label ‘fake news’ has become part of the common vernacular over the past couple of years, which Lopez believes “…is thrown around a bit too loosely. I respect my colleagues; I respect what we do. We do try to do our best with the information we have so, to hear those words can make it really hard because you’re proud of what you do.”
Since her arrival at KATC, Lopez and her husband welcomed a second child, two-year old Analice (named after her great-grandmother). “Oh, Analice,” she laughs. “While Harper is my kind soul who loves everyone and is very affectionate, Analice is much more headstrong and can be a tough nugget. I know she loves me, but sometimes she has a weird way of showing it. Harper is my ‘pleaser,’ but Analice does things very much on her own terms. So we have two amazing, yet unique, children.”
“Am I a good mom?” asks Katie Lopez, repeating aloud the very same question I just sent her way. “I hope so. I think I am, although sometimes I think I fail miserably.”
But the mother of five-year old Harper and two-year old Analice then pauses for a moment, and gets to the bottom line. “Although I love my career, my life is really for those kids, every single decision. I just want them to have a good life. I just want to have happy kids.”
Click Here to view Katie's article as it appears in FACE Magazine.
Article by Scott Brazda
Photo's by Flint Zerangue, Sr.