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Kellie Rasberry

For nearly 20 years loyal listeners have tuned in to the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning show to laugh, cry and commiserate with co-host Kellie Rasberry. Through her marriage, her pregnancy, her divorce and now parenthood, Kellie has been no-holds-barred, sharing personal anecdotes at the expense of her privacy – and often her pride.

Clad in fall boots and a billowy blouse, Kellie dishes on everything from parenthood to finding that elusive thing called “balance” with disarming honesty in the Southern drawl millions of listeners know so well. It’s been almost seven years since we first wrote about the mom, and much has changed. Namely Emma Kelly, who is a baby no more. The 7-year-old is a budding artist with a big personality and, like most kids, a propensity to test boundaries.

On this particular evening, a mother-daughter disagreement (subject matter: cheese) has put Emma Kelly over the edge, and she’s nearing temper-tantrum territory. The look in Kellie’s eyes is sheer panic, instantly recognizable to anyone who’s been privy to a parent trying desperately to dissuade bad behavior under the scrutinizing eyes of strangers.

The rest of the evening is radio history. Like kids often do, Emma Kelly had a meltdown at a most inopportune time. On the airwaves the next day, Kellie recounted her mortification at the outburst, breaking down in frustrated tears and declaring herself a failure as a parent. “I don’t know what you’re going to put in this article,” Kellie said to me during our interview. “But you’re free to tell the truth. It’s the truth; it’s hard. I wish I could say I’m superwoman and I’ve got it all figured out, but I don’t. I’m weak and unsure of myself.”

It’s this self-deprecating candor mixed with a healthy dose of sarcasm that draws listeners to Kellie day after day. Following her on-air recap of Emma Kelly’s tantrum, Kellie’s Facebook page and Twitter feed were flooded with messages of encouragement from moms who, like her, often feel overwhelmed by the weight of parenting. “Hang in there Kellie,” one fan wrote. “Mothering is a tough job, but you’ll get through it.” “I too am a single parent,” another wrote. “I thought it was just me that struggled. I cried the entire way home from work. Thank you.”

The support wasn’t lost on Kellie. “There was a lot of camaraderie there,” she says. “That does make you feel better; it’s nice to have that.” Following a stint with her grandfather, Emma Kelly is back on the straight and narrow, and Kellie is back to laughing at herself, finding humor in the imperfect.
Kellie’s willingness to share her struggles so freely has resulted in a fan base of men and women who feel a personal connection with the radio personality. This connection was amplified in July when David “Kidd” Kraddick, the show’s host and the person responsible for giving Kellie her start in radio, died of cardiac disease while at a charity golf tournament. The sudden loss was a major blow to the entire Kidd Kraddick in the Morning cast and Kraddick fans nationwide. But few felt the sting as much as Kellie, Kraddick’s sidekick of nearly two decades and self-dubbed “on-air wife.”

The Rasberry-Kraddick chemistry was the core of the show and is sorely missed. But the remaining cast of four is carrying on in spite of their leader’s absence. Kellie says they’re doing their best, feeling their way as they go. “We’re still getting our sea legs,” she says. “None of us have ever been in this position. I don’t think any show in America has ever been in the position of having their host just drop dead.”

Kraddick’s death and the pressure of carrying on the show have taken a toll on Kellie, who describes her life as “out of balance.” Sleep deprivation doesn’t help. At 2am, while many of us are only halfway through our beauty sleep, Kellie is waking up and starting her day. In addition to the nationally syndicated radio show, Kidd Kraddick in the Morning films a television show for Dish Nation, meaning long days for Kellie and the rest of the crew, starting with hair and make-up at 4:15am.

To maintain some semblance of balance, Kellie employs the help of a live-in nanny (who also happens to be her ex-husband’s teenage daughter) to see after Emma Kelly in the early morning hours. Kellie’s schedule is undoubtedly hectic, but she’s every bit a hands-on mom, picking up Emma Kelly from school every chance she gets and putting her to bed most nights.

Popular radio bits like “In the Car With Emma Kelly” have made the 7-year-old a radio star in her own right. Kellie says her daughter likes to be on the air. “But we don’t do a lot of it,” she adds. “We don’t want to exploit her. There’s a fine line.” Being daughter to Kellie Rasberry has its perks, but it also has its problems. When the pair is out and about, listeners aren’t bashful about approaching them. Since Kraddick’s death, the camaraderie fans feel has intensified, and Kellie says they’ve become more brazen. She doesn’t mind, and typically, neither does Emma Kelly, who Kellie says “loves being Emma Kelly Rasberry most days.” But sometimes the attention is too much, and the pair is forced just to go home. “I don’t want to be rude to a listener,” she says. “But I have to be sensitive to my daughter’s feelings. Sometimes she just wants it to be us.”

For the most part, it is just the two of them. Emma Kelly’s father is present and involved, but Kellie says she still feels the burden of being a single mom every day. “You feel like, ‘I’m the only one.’ But there are a lot of single moms out there that are struggling a lot more than me.”

Kellie is contracted with Kidd Kraddick in the Morning for at least two more years, so listeners can rest assured that she’ll keep them posted on her trials, her triumphs and her escapades with Emma Kelly. Eventually, however, Kellie will move on. She says she might write a book. “It won’t be on parenting, because I’m obviously not an expert on that.” (There’s that sarcasm.) Maybe she’ll try TV. Whatever Kellie does, it will be entertainment; that we can count on. She says she can’t imagine going to an office and sitting in a cubicle. Entertaining is what Kellie does best, and she has no intention of stopping.

“My plan was to always be with Kidd until he retired,” she says. “Now I have to figure out what to do. I’ve never actively pursued something, so that will be new. It’s kind of exciting. It’s kind of scary. Whatever happens, happens. I’ve always been very fortunate that good things have happened.”

Published November 2013