Friday, July 12, 2019

Books: Janice Dean's "Mostly Sunny"

Mostly Sunny: How I Learned To Keep Smiling Through The Rainiest Days
By Janice Dean
Harper; hardcover, 256 pages; $26.99

Meteorologist Janice Dean is beloved by many people from the morning show Fox & Friends. She is well-suited to her profession because she looks for the silver lining in every cloud after weathering her share of setbacks and indignities while maintaining her infectious joy and optimism.

In her candid memoir, Mostly Sunny, Dean shares her story for the first time, from a Canadian childhood marked by weight problems to being diagnosed with MS and all the adventures in between, and does it with humor, honesty, and hopefulness.

Broadcasting was in Dean's DNA, from the moment she memorized Alice in Wonderland and recited it into her dad's huge tape recorder - before she could even read. She got her first job at fourteen years old and worked in a series of odd jobs before getting into journalism school. Her first (unpaid) broadcasting gig was trading on-air quips with an "afternoon jock" in Ottawa.

Dean's first big break came when Don Imus brought her to New York to do daily entertainment reports on his show Imus In The Morning. Like many women at the time, she endured on- and off-air abuse. 

When Roger Ailes offered her a job at Fox News, he advised her not to publicly share her Imus stories, an irony not lost on her in the wake of subsequent revelations about Ailes himself and the toxic work environment he created.

"The one thing we all knew was not to cross him or get him angry. You did not want Roger Ailes as an enemy," Dean writes of the late head of Fox News. "He was the king. Fox was his kingdom. Nothing was on the air that wasn't okayed by him. Everyone reported to Roger. If he saw you on television and didn't like what you were wearing or the color of your lipstick, there was a call, and you were told immediately to fix it. When I wrote my series of children's books, he had to give the okay. I was told that in the acknowledgments at the back of every book he had to be the first one I thanked. That was fine. I wouldn't be writing children's books if I didn't have my job at Fox. He was the reason I was there.
"A few months into my new weather job, I asked him if I could try some anchoring. I had done some news writing and announcing with Imus and back home in Canada. At that time in my career I wanted to do other things and prove myself.
"Roger told me he would set it up with one of his trusted producers. I could do a screen test but I couldn't tell anyone. It would be our secret, because he knew other female anchors would get 'very jealous' of our relationship. He said we would watch my audition tapes and work closely together.
"I did a few shifts as a host and did overnight news cut-ins for a couple of years, but I never asked Roger to look at the tapes with me. I enjoyed doing it but decided eventually I wanted to focus on my weather job. Maybe in the back of my mind I felt it might've led to more uncomfortable situations.
"Sometimes producers would tell me Roger would single me out in meetings and say how great I was doing. 'Put her on TV more,' he would say.
"No one except Roger Ailes would ever think of hiring a woman from Ottawa, Canada, to be the daytime weather person on the number one cable news channel. I am grateful he hired me. By the same token, we knew Roger had a dark side, as many powerful men do. I don't believe he was all evil. However, he did use his power to manipulate."

As a woman in the public eye, Dean has battled with the realities of life today, and she talks openly about online trolls and how she has dealt with them. After having been diagnosed with MS, she has faced the daunting challenge of the "my you look so well" disease with typical grace, and she details how she has navigated day to day life with her health issues. She opens up about her experiences and views on cosmetic surgery, including the pressure she and other women on television face.

Dean writes with great love about the path to romance with her beloved husband, Sean, a New York City firefighter who lost many friends on 9/11, as well as the joys and challenges of being a mother to her two sons.

Mostly Sunny is one of the most genuine memoirs you will read, and Dean hopes it will help others to get through their rainiest days.

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