She’s been described as the Oprah of Louisville. She was selected as LEO Weekly’s 2010 “Louisvillian  of the Year .” She has a living room wall adorned with her many accomplishments and awards. She also anchors three newscasts every weekday for WAVE-3, yet Dawne Gee remains a humble and unpretentious soul. Born and reared in Louisville’s South End, she loves this town.
“I love the people of Louisville,” said Gee, “they’re kind, generous, funny, wonderful and friendly.”
Born to Joanna and Walter Smith on April 30, 1963, Gee grew up dreaming of becoming a person in the field of communications. She attended Virginia Avenue Church School—later renamed Jesse Rodman Carter School—and graduated from Pleasure Ridge Park High School in 1981.
She enrolled at the University of Louisville where she earned two degrees: one in Biology and one in Communications.
At 24, Gee was hired at an R & B radio station, WJYL. As fate would have it, Gee had won an album from the station. When she went to claim it, the station manager, Tom Fields, met her. So impressed by her voice, he hired her on the spot.
“That turned everything around in my life, and I finally got to do what I wanted to do,” said Gee.
Fast forward to 1994. Gee, with some television exposure on KET and as a “Lottery girl,” would apply to WAVE-3 nine times before they hired her as a writer in the promotions department.
“I just knew that that’s what I wanted to do,” said Gee. “I wanted to take my TV skills to the next level. Plus, WAVE was very community-oriented and I thought that was a good fit.”
Gee eventually filled in for a vacationing Jane Norris on WAVE Listens, a television talk show. She would not relinquish that position until four years later, when she was named the morning anchor of WAVE news.
Now in 2011, Gee is a permanent fixture as news anchor for WAVE-3 newscasts. She anchors the 5:00, 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. editions. But that’s just the beginning of the story. Gee is very much involved in the charities and the Louisville community-at-large. In 2010, she hosted, emceed or attended over 240 charitable affairs. So why does she do it?
“First I was raised that way, and second, because I know I am blessed. Like in the Bible, it says: (Luke 12:48) “’To whom much is given, much is required.’ And I totally believe that.”
Gee is involved in many charitable organizations including St. Baldrick’s, the MS Society, the Lupus Foundation, the American Cancer Society, the Spina Bifida Foundation, and several others.
Gee takes advantage of her high-profile persona to benefit the charities.
“With my reputation, I can ask for help for someone else and get it,” said Gee. “It helps me advocate. There are so many causes out there that are close to my heart.”
So Gee is a charity and community crusader. With her other attributes, intelligence, charisma, wittiness, and pizzazz, many have suggested that Gee run for political office. But Gee will have none of that.
“No way,” said Gee. “I am too soft-hearted and don’t have enough venom.”
In fact, she informed me that her greatest weakness is an inability to say, “No.’”
How does she respond to criticism?
“To those who come up to me and say, ‘You don’t look nearly as fat as you do on TV,’ I don’t know how to respond,” said Gee.
Gee sees herself as “talkative, silly, emotional, straightforward, jovial, social, contented, Christian and sharp-tongued.”
Gee says that there is no such thing as a ‘typical day.’
“I never know what particular charity I’ll speak for, or reading to kids or tasting chili or cookie-stacking with the Girl Scouts . . .” said Gee.
On the weekends, she may have three or four charitable events. Gee says if she is lucky, she and her children will sneak out to a new horror movie, or go out to dinner. On Sundays, it’s dinner over at her mother’s house for the entire family, and a couple of church friends.
Two things are absolutely essential for Gee to function: her family and her faith. Her family includes daughter Brittney, 28, and sons Eric, 27, and Alexander, 15.
“Family and faith are the only things that keep me grounded,” said Gee, “without either, I would not be able to do what I do.’
Gee related how as a child, she and her sister, Pam, never missed a church service, or function. She and her family attended Quinn Chapel. Now she is involved with Unity of Louisville, but due to time constraints of her busy schedule, she is not as involved as she would like to be.
“My Grandma said whenever you need guidance of any kind, simply flip open your Bible to any page and put your finger down,” said Gee. “And I relied on that often, and it really worked.”
Gee was asked if she had any advice for today’s youth.
“Be true to yourself,” said Gee, “and do what you love, and the rest will come.” Gee was referring to the money, the fame, the happiness and all of the other positive things.
Gee was then asked about the best advice she had ever received growing up.
“I don’t know about the best advice,” said Gee, “but the worst advice came from my sixth grade speech therapist. She told me ‘I would never amount to anything.’ That was a great motivator for me.”
Some of Gee’s loves include:
- Ice cream – dulce de luche (a kind of caramel)
- Color – all of them
- Song – anything by James Taylor
- Movie (non-horror) – City of Angels
- Book – the Bible
But perhaps Gee’s biggest love is of Louisville and things Louisvillian: its people, food, theater, history and geography, or lay of the land.
Gee’s dream of becoming the next Oprah, may or may not become true. One thing is certain: if it came to pass, the filming would take place right here in the River City, not New York, L.A. or Chicago.
And with all Gee’s accomplished to this point, it just might happen. Her parting words were very “Oprah-esque”: “Please be kinder to each other, and find something to do in the community and make a difference.”
Photo: Bobby Densford