What time do you have to wake up when your job is helping other people wake up as they head to work? If you’re Marilyn Russell, 4:30 am. “I take a shower the night before, so I’m out the door by 5 am, and on the air at 5:30 am,” says the host of “Marilyn in the Morning,” as well as “Woman of the Week” and “BEN Around Philly”—all on 95.7 BEN-FM. “That means I have to be in bed no later than 9 pm, which puts a damper on my social life, but it’s a great gig.”
Part of what she loves about her job is doing “Woman of the Week,” her brainchild, which features local and national women leaders in all walks of life. “It was inspired by the late great Peter Jennings and his ‘Person of the Week’ series on the news,” Russell says. “I just wanted a platform—the show started as a blog on Philly.com—where I could thank women and let them know that someone is noticing what they’re doing in the community, in business, in the arts.”
Now in its eighth year on air, the program (at 7:30 am on Sundays and available as a podcast online) continues going strong; its four invite-only luncheons a year are some of the hottest tickets in town. Russell took time out from her packed schedule to answer more questions that her listeners may wonder while on the way to the office.
Q1: When the show ends at 9:30 am, are you done with work?
A: “Unfortunately, no. I stay at the station for various reasons—mostly attending meetings and doing interviews for the two podcasts—for another three or so hours. But after that, it’s happy hour for me. Other people’s 6 pm is my 1 pm, so I will have a drink at lunch.”
Q2: What are you wearing when you’re on air?
A: “That’s the beauty of radio! I’m usually in stretch pants or a sundress and my hair is in a ponytail. However, I do have on a little mascara and lipstick—you never know who might pop into the studio to say hello.”
Q3: How much coffee do you drink?
A: “Believe it or not, one cup, 15 ounces. If I have more than that I can’t fall asleep, and I like to be able to pass out by 8 pm.”
Q4: Do strangers on the phone know who you are before you say your name?
A: “Yes, when I call the pharmacy or order a pizza, they recognize me by my voice. Often, though, people just know they know my voice—they can’t quite connect it to my name until I say Marilyn.”
Q5: Have you ever spaced out while someone else was talking on the radio?
A: “When I was on a morning show team, it happened. I’ve learned that the best way to recover is to be honest, say that you spaced out and ask them to repeat themselves. People always prefer authenticity over perfection.”
Q6: Who have been your favorite interviews on “Women of the Week”?
“I’ve had my socks knocked off a lot. Madeleine Albright—hearing her say that women should lift each other up has stayed with me. Maya Angelou—you could hear how nervous I was speaking to her; I’d studied her writing in college! Jennifer Weiner—she was so much fun, we did a two-parter and she has carte blanche to come back to the show any time. Drew Barrymore—she makes you feel like you’re talking to your best friend. Katie Couric—so fun and smart. And Leslie Stiles, of course [the PA Conference for Women’s Board President] —she constantly amazes me.”
Q7: How do women get chosen to be on the show—and get invited to the luncheons?
A: “You just have to be nominated. If you know someone who is passionate about what she’s doing —and 70 percent of the show is dedicated to locals, email me: [email protected]. As far as attending a luncheon goes, listen to my weekday morning show; we’ll be giving away passes for the big annual July 13 event the week of July 4th.”
Marilyn Russell will be speaking at the PA Conference for Women on October 6, 2016, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.