Janine was probably finishing up another shift on or behind the scenes of one of the local radio stations to which she has been employed for over three decades as a news an entertainment journalist as well as one of the top producer's in the country of the now defunct nationally syndicated "The Tom Joyner Morning Show." That store was torn down and they built a bigger one in the same spot akin to the shack in The Jerk movie starring comedian Steve Martin. Before that chance encounter, I would see Janine in passing every year in February, while conducting or directing the QCT Charlotte Pilgrimage Toursm, outside of the Imaginon children's complex along with these racks of prom dresses accompanied by young ladies scurrying about browsing through the selections. That event was part of the Greensboro, NC, native's Girl Talk Foundation that she founded in 2003, and is mentioned in the book Charlotte From A Tour Guide's Perspective.
Fast forward to the end of 2020, a most peculiar year due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), and our paths crossed again via the LinkedIn social media platform to which I had not used in years. Janine was soliciting donations for her Girl Talk Foundation in conjunction with a local annual non-profit fundraising campaign. My thoughts were immediately hey, I need to interview her since she is still at it with her foundation that provides much needed support and mentorship for young girls 11-16 years old. It did not take long for Janine to respond positively which we will both attribute to divine intervention. She wanted me to contact her after the new year and I agreed considering the holiday season is the least productive, unless you are in retail, of the work year. The agreed delay also gave her time to close out her midday (10 AM - 3 PM) weekday radio show on V101.9 FM which is heard by 100,000 listeners, and to update her podcast Yasssss, hunni!; and me time to focus on creating more awareness for our sister publication CBP's Black Pages Worldwidetm in time for Black History Month 2021. I also had time to reflect on a few of the early local radio pioneers who were instrumental in paving the way for successful personalities like Janine to survive and thrive on and off the airwaves.
The now legendary Hattie "Chatty Hattie [Hatty]" Leeper embarked on her radio career at the tender age of 14 years old in 1951 when segregation was as overt as the nose on our faces. She prided herself in sounding white because that was a big plus back in those days among both races. That made her ice a tad bit colder! She is the first Black/African-American woman DJ/Radio Announcer in Charlotte and has published a book about her experiences. Wayne Brown (1957 - 2012) arrived in the Queen City in 1991 and took over the helm at WPEG-FM ("Power 98"), which was then broadcasting from nearby Concord, NC, and was instrumental in the takeover of WBAV-FM ("V 101.9"). Both Urban stations were owned by CBS Radio and today are owned by Beasley Media Group, Inc. of Naples Florida and are among the area's strongest. I recall meeting with Mr. Brown at the old Concord location and again at their South Kings Drive office to discuss the station's support of an event that I founded called The Minority Economic Summit which at its peak attracted Black radio mogul Mr. Percy Ellis Sutton (1920 - 2009), who also owned the Apollo Theater in New York and was one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen who served during World War II, as our guest speaker.
Here is what Janine Davis - "JD The Diva" had to say about her career as a radio personality and founder of the Girl Talk Foundation.
Jay -- Who or what was your inspiration for going into the radio business?
Janine -- Honestly, I wanna
say it was unintentional yet intentional. It worked out as divine intervention,
but I wanted to be an actress. In high school I did a lot of theater, a lot of
competitions statewide and regionally; I won all these contests for my acting ability,
so I really wanted to get into acting. So, when I was getting ready to go to college,
I had known some friends who went into acting in professional theatre and they
were sleeping in their cars which was a requirement that clearly, I was not
willing to participate in. So, I went to my high school counselor - shout out
to all the high school counselors out there - she kind of set me on that path
to getting into radio. So, she said to me what do you like doing and I told her
theater; I like acting, I like being in front of people and all that.
So, she said well you may want to consider mass communications that way you get the best of both worlds. I was like nah; you know a lot of people did not know a lot about mass communications at that time. But she broke it down and explained that it was radio, TV, production, promotions, marketing, its law; it's all that stuff. So anyway, I went to college and majored in mass communications with a concentration in broadcast journalism at A&T (North Carolina, Greensboro) - Aggie Pride! They had a phenomenal mass communications program because they actually had a radio station that was very well respected; even though it was a college radio station, it was still respected in the commercial radio space.
Jay -- Was it FM (Frequency Modulation) or AM (Amplitude Modulation)?
Janine -- It was FM, 90.1 (still operating); it had a pretty decent
signal too. At that time I didn't know about signals and stuff like that. So I got
my start by working at the radio station and what I loved about it was that it
was really hands-on and I got to do what it is I thought I wanted to do because
even then I wasn't sure I wanted to do radio. My mind was not set as with most
mass-comm majors we wanted to be on TV; I wanted to be on TV. So, we had a TV
production department that was beginning but it wasn't really where it needed
to be, but the radio thing was done. So I went to the radio station and
actually just said hey to the program director I really want to be on radio,
blah, blah, blah. And she told me to read this, and I read something; some
copy, and she said that "you'll never make it in radio, you sound like
Minnie Mouse." [Jay and Janine cracking up!]. I was offended and could
have taken it to heart and gotten discouraged, but I said [to myself] no; I am
going to show her, I can do this. I actually went back to my dorm room and
practiced reading out loud.
I listened to Barbara Walters, I listened to Oprah; then I would read out loud on the public access channel and they would show the menu for the day. I would read out loud the menu, and I would record myself and go back and listen. Anyway, I did that for a couple of months and went back to the radio station and to make a long story short; she said okay you have improved. So, she gave me a show; it was called Consumer Corner. I will never forget; all I did on that show was read public service announcements [LOL]. I know it was called Consumer Corner, but it was my show honey! [LOL]. I was on the radio and people would listen to me and they knew me. And everything that I wanted from the acting thing I got it.
Jay -- So as far as the Girl Talk Foundation, what was your inspiration in getting that started?
Janine -- My niece; I don't
know how old she was at the time  but we had a conversation about life
and what she wanted to be and, blah, blah, blah; and she said her one dream was
to be a dancer in a rap video. There is nothing wrong with that but my concern
was that that's all she knew; she made the decision based on not knowing
anything else. So I thought [to myself] I need her to be exposed to other
opportunities like why can't you be the owner of the studio that creates the
video? Because she didn't know to think that way, I thought to myself wow how
many other little girls think like she's thinking right like I can just be the
video chick rather than the maker of the video. So, that kind of really
inspired me and then things just kind of grew from that you know still being in
radio at the time I was exposed to that opportunity to always be in front of
young ladies; and just teenagers in general - and working at an urban hip hop
station we would go out and speak to these kids in middle school and high
school and just talk about the importance of education and answering their
questions and things like that.
There was this one school that I was assigned to where my co-workers were not and it was all men on the show, except for me, and so I went by myself and it was about 20 young ladies that we were talking about again what you wanna be when you grow up blah, blah, blah. So after the session was done, ten of the girls stayed around and they started opening up to me about all of their problems; everything that was happening on the school bus, things that were happening at home, in the boys locker room the girls locker room; whatever it was they brought it up because it was kind of like a venting session.