Alumna Writes Book About Path to TV
Some people wander their whole lives looking for their passion, but Communication alumna Kim Gagné ’86 knew she wanted to go into television at age 7. Her path started with a University of St. Thomas internship, and her road to success includes two Daytime Emmy ® Awards as a supervising producer on the “Steve Harvey” show.
“I had a small TV in my room, and with all the turmoil at my house, I could stay in there for hours watching everything,” Gagné writes in her book about growing up. “It was my escape.”
Gagné, the youngest of four and 16 years younger than her oldest sister, grew up in Houston’s 5th Ward. With a drug-addicted sibling and another who died during the Vietnam War, Gagné’s home life was less than perfect. She used to watch Johnny Carson and knew that one day she was going to interview people, meet celebrities and work in television. TV was a welcomed distraction from the chaos in her home.
In sixth grade, an anchor from KPRC Channel 2, Napoleon Johnson, one of the first black reporters in Houston, visited her school. For Gagné, it was a celebrity sighting. A teacher suggested she apply to the School of Communications magnet program at Yates High School, so she did.
Gagné’s father, an electrician, and her mother didn’t place much emphasis on a college education, but Gagné was motivated. She attended Lamar University in Beaumont and Texas Southern University, but when neither was right for her, a friend encouraged her to look into University of St. Thomas. It was at UST that Gagné found her fit and studied television production.
TV Production at University of St. Thomas Opens Doors in Television
Professors like Dr. Robin Williamson and instructors such as Aprille Meek took her under their wings.
“St. Thomas was a great experience for me, because it was small; it was manageable,” she said.
Gagné credits instructor Meek, a professional at FOX 26, with connecting her to her first television internship at the station.
“St. Thomas opened so many doors for me,” Gagné said. “It was that internship that launched my TV career.”
Meek, now executive producer of special projects and digital content at FOX 26 News Houston, recalled that while teaching “Introduction to TV Production” at UST, Gagné stood out for her desire to learn everything she could about television.
Having worked with Gagné for several years at FOX 26, Meek sees Gagné as a natural leader, someone who can look at a project, decide what needs to be done and take initiative.
“She just stood out as someone eager to learn, someone who wanted to succeed,” Meek said.
Gagné’s Husband is Her Biggest Supporter in Television Career
Gagné’s husband, Emilian White, is perhaps her biggest cheerleader. The couple met backstage at an MC Hammer concert, while Gagné was working on an assignment for FOX 26.
White, now acts as Gagné’s press agent.
“I would never seek the attention for myself that he seeks for me,” she said. “He pushes me, sometimes almost to annoyance.”
It was White who told his wife she had outgrown local television, and he connected her with Steve Harvey, who invited her to work on a TV project in Atlanta five years ago. The project ended, but in 2011, Harvey’s staff asked Gagné for her help in creating a pilot for a talk show. In 2012, the pilot was picked up and the “Steve Harvey” show was created.
Working as a supervising producer, Gagné traveled weekdays to work in Chicago, while her husband and three kids remained in Houston—the cold was too much for them.
Her work paid off, and, in 2013-14 and 2014-15, the show won Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Talk Show Informative.
“I can’t explain how amazing that was for me,” Gagné said. “It was absolutely a blessing. I was supervising producer. I had a team under me of seven amazing women. I loved it.”
After four years, being away from her family took a toll, and she left the “Steve Harvey Show” in May 2016.
“I missed a lot when it comes to my family,” she said. “My husband did a fantastic job while I was away, but I missed most of my oldest child’s high school years. After four years of hopping on a plane twice a week, I didn’t want to do it anymore.”
Gagné Makes Her Own Work in Houston
Back in Houston, Gagné was disappointed by the lack of television production opportunities, so White suggested she write a book.
Although a book was not on her bucket list, White was persuasive and suggested that Gagné write the book to help young women in television. They started working with a self-publishing consultant, and before she knew it, she was doing a photo shoot and preselling the book.
As she started writing, her story began to unfold.
“I just started where I knew to start out, which was growing up,” Gagné said. “People who have known me for years will find out things they have never known.”
A year later, she was done. Gagné said readers don’t have to be in television to appreciate it. She shares lessons from how to deal with mean girls and bullies to being a working mother.
Kim Gagné’s book is available at: www.howtowinbook.org.