For the last 25 years, Vivian Brown has repped for the very few Black female on air meteorologists with The Weather Channel, proving that sometimes taking the road less traveled will lead to the best journey.
How did you begin your career as an on air meteorologist?
I was interning at Georgia Tech for an atmospheric science program, I came to The Weather Channel and was like “hey, I’ll be graduating with a meteorology degree at the end of the summer, I wanted to see if you all had any openings.” At that time they didn’t have any. But about two months later, they called me and said they had an entry-level position, so I started as a forecaster behind the scene.
When did the transition to TV come about?
I really didn’t have any plans of being on television, I just thought I wanted to be a forecaster. After forecasting for 2- 3 years, I kind of transitioned into the apprentice program for the television part and then a year later I got on camera. The weather channel really took a chance on somebody like me.
What sparked your interest in meteorology? It is such a unique profession, especially for Black women.
When I was a little girl I was always was fascinated by cloud development and just how the weather could be so beautiful one day and then the next so tragic!
There aren’t many minority or female meteorologists for that matter. Was it hard for you to get respect in your profession?
I come from a background of athletics. Which involves no subjectivity. If you’re the fastest, trust me you’re going to cross the finish line first. And at the end of the day there’s no disputing on who is the best based on race or anything. Who ever the best basketball team is, they are going to be the ones to put the most points on the board. So you can’t go back and argue and say, "well no um, she was better than her and he was better than him"…there is just no disputing about it. But in this field there is so much subjectivity involved and that was my biggest eye opener. Because there is so much more involved versus just being able to say “okay well she’s the best or he is the best.”
What advice would you give to someone who wants to take the road less traveled in life, especially with their career?
I was teased quite a bit when I was in college. I think at the end of the day you have to follow your heart and your passion. Everyday my professor and I would have to go on the roof of the building, to check the thermometer and some of my friends and women in my sorority would tease me. There were moments when I became quite despondent. There were moments when I thought, “I want to change my major”, and, because I had no one in the same class with me so I didn’t have someone that I could study with. But I was like well, I really want to do this. It was just something about meteorology for me that made me want to stick with it. And I think that’s the main thing. You just have to stick with it.
Was it hard at first being an on camera weather girl?
Oh yes! I had rehearsed and practiced but when I first got on air, it seemed like I had totally forgotten everything that I had rehearsed. I remember my first time on camera, I was literally looking at the wrong camera and I could see myself looking at the wrong camera! I was saying to myself, "well I know that I am not looking at the right camera, but where is the right camera?!" It’s a lot it entails but after you do it a couple of times, you get used to it.
Have you ever had to be on site, like during a terrible storm or are you always in the studio?
I’m always in the studio. I don’t necessarily have any desire to go out in the middle of a snowstorm or to go out in the middle of a tornado [Laughs].
Give me one memorable moment of your career that you would like to share?
I mean one of the most memorable moments is of course hurricane Katrina. When we were covering Katrina, I was on the air working that day. To actually be able to interpret from the satellite picture and from the radar what I knew what was happening, was so surreal and very frightening. It was just a feeling in me that was just… I can’t even describe it, its indescribable. But I knew that I had to maintain my composure, to make sure I was alerting the public of what was happening, and you know being a native of Mississippi and seeing it head to the Mississippi and Louisiana coast was just extremely disheartening to me. But I just knew that I had to be as firm and as strict as I possibly could be to make sure that people understood how dangerous this hurricane was.
What is next for you? Do you plan to start any programs for minorities who possibly want to work in your career field?
That is exactly what my next step is going to be; creating some type of program or scholarship or some type of learning tool that will encourage young people who are interested in weather and science to continue on and follow their dreams [in this field]. But that is the next step.