Ginger Zee

Beacons of Badassery is an interview series shining light on strong women.

After spending most of my life trying to prove that I’m strong enough to be one of the guys, I’ve realized that instead of trying so hard to fit a certain expectation, we should be redefining what it actually means to be strong.

These women are doing just that.

Beacon of BadasseryGinger Zee

Ginger Zee is one of my oldest friends; we both started down our path to (completely different!) careers in television in a high school TV Studio class. As I’ve watched her navigate her career and life – and done the same with her support and encouragement – I’ve been inspired by her strength and resilience, and I wanted to hear her thoughts about feminism, fear, and adventure.

ginger denali camera setup
Photo Courtesy Ginger Zee

First things first, you are a meteorologist, not a “weather girl.” I know you hate that term because it dismisses the fact that you are a trained and educated scientist, and it’s so good to see you call people out on that. Working in a male-dominated field, have you always stuck up for yourself in situations like that, or is that something you started feeling more comfortable doing as you got further established in your career?

THANK YOU! For remembering and spreading the word. I have always corrected people when they call me the wrong title. It is the equivalent of calling a female lawyer a law girl. It makes no sense. It’s demeaning. I have certainly become more vocal and eloquent when educating folks as time has passed.

ginger stormchasing
Photo Courtesy Ginger Zee

You’ve spent a lot of time heading directly into dangerous weather, and even storm chasing. What drives you to do that?

Storm chasing started for me in college as a class. We actually got credit for chasing storms at Valparaiso University and it was a crucial part of my education. I feel like a meteorologist who has never felt, tasted, or smelled the conditions around severe storms or tornadoes does not have the same forecasting ability. Since that time I have also had the opportunity to paraglide which has given me an even fuller understanding of our atmosphere. I had studied thermals and cloud heights in a book, but to fly into them, use them, and feel it — that has made me an even better scientist. A doctor that has never worked on a patient wouldn’t be a very good doctor!

ginger jellyfish
Photo Courtesy Ginger Zee

You’ve also parahawked in Nepal, rappelled down the side of a building in Chicago, rode the longest zipline in North America, and swam with sharks in the Bahamas, among other amazing things. How did you get started doing these incredible adventures? Do you ever find that people think you can’t or shouldn’t do these things because you are a woman?

It all started with the World Cup of Paragliding in Mexico. One of the producers asked, “Would you ever paraglide? I’ve asked all the anchors, and they all say absolutely not.”

I said, “Absolutely.”

Doing these types of things was never a problem as a woman…doing them as a wife and mother is where people started to treat me differently. My risks are always measured, and I of course love my family and would never do anything I thought would endanger me so much that it would affect Ben and Adrian {Ginger’s husband and son}.

That said, this is who I am and who I will always be.

ginger family
Photo Courtesy Ginger Zee

Do you ever get afraid in some of these extreme situations? I know I have had fear take over completely on the wall while rock climbing, and I can’t imagine feeling like that on-camera. How do you handle fear?

On-camera is not where I feel fear. At the top of a mountain about to jump out, I still don’t feel fear.

For me, fear is in the everyday task of driving, getting in a taxi…I work so much on stats, and these are the places I find terrifying. To get over these fears I remind myself that they are necessary for life, I can do it, I’ve done it before and millions of people do it every day.

ginger renovation
Photo Courtesy Ginger Zee

What is your definition of strong? Has it changed throughout your life and career?

I’ve evolved so much in my personal life. Strong just meant my career for so long. Now I realize finding love in myself is what strength is about. That love of self makes me the best mother, wife, and meteorologist.

ginger dwts
Photo Courtesy Ginger Zee

Do you have a dream adventure that you haven’t done yet?

There are so many places on earth I would like to see. I would love to travel to see a true haboob in the Middle East.

So much gratitude to Ginger for sharing her perspective, inspiring adventure, and always being a fantastic friend.

Catch Ginger’s adventures on GMA, and see what she’s up to both on and off the air on Instagram!

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