So, for some reason I have always associated passion with the color purple.
But for the life of me, I can’t remember why. So I did some research.
There is a flower named Purple Passion, and a grape juice cocktail made with Everclear grain alcohol with the same name (I am assuming the Everclear is instrumental in the passion part). But those are the only two references I could find that link purple with passion.
So fast forward to my interview with Meisha Johnson, who handles the early (and I DO mean early) traffic duties for the morning team on CBS3 that includes Rahel Soloman and Jim Donovan at the news desk, and meteorologist Katie Fehlinger in the weather center. Meisha’s expanding duties include the new “Love It” piece weekdays at noon that focuses on inspirational and motivational stories, and her “Dream Drives” segment on the evening news with Ukee Washington and Jessica Dean where she travels the area looking for interesting and quirky off the map subjects.
Johnson is a violet-eyed stunner (another purple reference) who hails from Minnesota with a stop along the way in Sweden. I will get to the Swedish part in a moment.
She is single, and I just can’t seem to wrap my head around why she isn’t reporting on a line of traffic of suitable bachelors clogging up the streets on the way to her doorstep. But as she explains, “I have so little free time and I go to bed about 5:30 in the afternoon, so there is not much time for that!”
Both of her parents (Paul was a boxer and Diane a ballerina), are of Swedish decent, and her Mom’s maiden name was also Johnson, or “Yawn-son” if you want to say it in the national vernacular while knocking back an Aquavit with some smoked herring. She has two brothers and two sisters that round out the clan.
While in high school, she met and fell in love with a foreign exchange student from her homeland, and decided to pursue the relationship immediately after her prep graduation and follow him there. She attended the University of Uppsala in Sweden and learned the local language, but the pull of her passion for the arts and media brought her back to Minneapolis where she enrolled at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Anoka-Ramsey Community College.
Once selected to appear on the Today show with other finalists from a casting call for the soap opera “The Young and The Restless,” Johnson has an acting background and has appeared in several films including “Fall Into Me” (2006) and “13 Hours in a Warehouse” (2006) and “Cold Feet” (2008). She returned once again to the Land of 10000 Lakes to host a snowmobile TV show. It was then her television career blossomed like an orchid, with a job at KMSP in Minneapolis-St. Paul, before finally being recognized by the management at CBS3 here in Philly, including News Director Margaret Cronan, who offered Meisha her current job as traffic reporter.
Faith is a key component in her life, and according to Johnson, “it is the meat and potatoes of who I am.” She credits a book entitled The Daniel Fast for putting her life in order and helping bring her to our city.
Other passions include fitness (she shows off her bicep “guns” when the sleeveless option is a wardrobe choice in the morning), and her love of pets, especially rescue dogs and cats, which have also propelled her to devote time to animal rescue.
Her two rescue kitties named Noah and Prince provide comfort and companionship when she snuggles into bed late afternoon to prepare for her 1:15 a.m. wake up call for work.
And coffee. Don’t forget the 6 to 7 “small cups” a day that give her the boost she needs to maintain energy with her challenging morning schedule.
Meisha was always a Vikings fan (The Purple People Eaters), but her passion for the Eagles is growing. She actually wears a green Eagles jersey while working the 94WIP tailgating party during football season, but does admit to wearing violet socks so she can satisfy our local market while being loyal to her team back home.
Sorry Minnesota, Philadelphia is her home now. Your face might be purple with rage that we have her….but please don’t be too Eagle green with envy!
So I hope you enjoy this Q&A with the delightful Meisha Johnson.
Ken Dunek: Tell me about your typical day.
Meisha johnson: My alarm goes off at 1:15 a.m. It is a hard alarm. When that goes off, I am down to the second. I am out the door by 3:15 and I am full hair and make up ready then. I clock into the studio around 3:30 and do a final touch up on hair, make-up and wardrobe until about 4:10, and then I go into the studio and start looking at traffic and getting stuff ready before we go live at 4:30 a.m.
After the morning show, I usually either have the noon show with the new segment called “Love it”, or the “Meisha’s Dream Drive” segment where I go out and travel all over the Delaware Valley.
I usually get home around 1-2 p.m. depending how far away the Dream Drive segment is.
KD: What took you to Sweden right out of high school?
MJ: Love. I fell in love with a foreign exchange student from my high school. He was Swedish and so was I. When I graduated, he asked me to move out there for a year. That year turned into four and I went to the University of Uppsala there.
KD: So you started your college education in Sweden?
MJ: Basically, yes. Credits are hard to transfer, but I was able to learn the language there. But my heart was so drawn back to my passion for media and television, and it is not as prevalent there, so I decided to come home and attend the University of Minnesota.
KD: Were you fluent is Swedish before you moved there?
MJ: No, I learned it there. It was challenging, almost like trying to learn to play the piano from scratch. Learning the language beyond the basics of hello, goodbye, etc. was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
KD: Do they speak English a lot there?
MJ: They do and they will. But when you know that you have to learn [Swedish] and you want to be integrated in the family and society, it was important for me to learn it and it helped.
KD: So the media bug bites you. Tell me about those experiences.
MJ: They had a casting call for “The Young and the Restless” in Minnesota, and I was selected to appear on The Today Show with other finalists.
Eventually I returned to Minnesota , got really heavy into the acting scene, and hosted a snowmobile sports show on TV, then took a job with the local Fox affiliate until I accepted my current position with CBS3 in July 2015.
KD: How do you like our city?
MJ: I love it, and this is why. I was a little intimidated when I heard I was first going to be coming out here.
KD: What is it about Philly that would intimidate you?
MJ: It’s a big city!
KD: Just being a big city? Not the chatter of Philly being a tough town?
MJ: Well, maybe the chatter a little bit. You do hear the people can be a little aggressive. Which, to be honest with you, working in the sports world really doesn’t scare me that much. But for me it really was the big city more than it was attitude.
Was I going to be happy here? Will they accept a Midwestern girl as a traffic reporter? I just didn’t know the answers to all of those questions.
But I have to tell you, the one thing that I have fallen so in love with Philly is that, yes, the people are tough, but once they accept you and like you, they are so loyal to you. I always say this. Tough exterior, but cut them open and they bleed family and anything you need, they give you.
KD: Since this issue has a “Summer Shore” theme, do you have any special stories or shore experiences that you would like to share with our readers?
MJ: The first Jersey shore experience I had here was doing the “Dream Drives” segment, and I think we were in Sea Isle and Avalon. So that was work related. But the thing I was blown away by is that I had no idea it was going to be white sand beaches. Right away I got it, why people go down there all the time.
Now I blink and it is a year and a half later, and I hadn’t been back. So I go down with some friends, and I saw the boardwalk for the first time. I think this is the summer that I am really going to get my feet wet with the shore.
KD: Your morning team seems very happy and thriving. Can you give us some comments on them?
MJ: Just as I said about the Philly people, when you truly like each other and get along with each other they know. The thing that makes TV fun to watch are the personalities, the charisma. When people jibe together and have that chemistry, you can’t make that stuff up. When you have a morning team where everyone genuinely gets along and has fun, that fun resonates and that is how it is, for real.
KD: You talk a lot about coffee.
MJ: I am trying to scale back a bit, but I love it. It is literally the first thing I do in the morning. I am a little embarrassed to say that I drink 6-7 cups a day, but they are the small cups. It is kind of like drinking 3 of the large cups you get at a convenience store, so that’s not too bad.
KD: You have a big presence on social media, and you talk a lot about motivation and faith. Tell me a little bit about where that comes from.
MJ: I love that you are asking me this question. It is the “meat and potatoes” of who I am, long after TV and everything else.
I will start with motivation. In the simplest context for me, every person we encounter needs hope. And some people actually feel fulfilled in helping other people. And it comes out in different ways, but for me, it just happened to be the gift of gab. I just happen to like talking to people about that.
And if I can help even one person that is really struggling that day by saying something that is uplifting, for me there is nothing more important in life than doing that. People don’t realize the power they have in doing that.
So that piggybacks on my faith. And it wasn’t always like that because I wasn’t raised in a very religious home. It found me through a series of events and trials that I’ve gone through.
When I came back from New York I went through some really hard times, and because of that, my faith grew. Now, to me, that is everything in life. I let the big guy upstairs direct everything in my life and I just follow.
It’s all about people for me, so where I go, what am I going to do? I use the gift of gab to help somebody else. That is what it is all about for me.
Philly happened for me because of a prayer. And I say this because it was such a pivotal moment in my life. I had just been through a very big hardship, and a priest had given my Mom a book that lead to another book called The Daniel Fast which is a book about a 21 day fast, and gratitude and prayer. It was then I made the decision to go into television, instead of a real estate option that I had, which lead me to the position I have today.
If prayer led me to Philly, I am hugely blessed to be here.
KD: What are your goals?
MJ: Television has always been so “what I am.” So if I can stay doing what I am doing and have a joy to do it, it’s where I want to stay.
KD: I am sure you are happy with your current job, but if you could choose ANY job in the world what would it be?
MJ: I love what Oprah Winfrey has done.
She still does television and she loves it, but what she is really doing is talking to real people about real issues and making real impact in life. So if it was a lottery situation and I could host a show where I was helping people on a stage like that, that is what I would like to do.