On TV, Kweilyn Murphy strikes the authoritative tone needed to deliver a weather forecast in a region prone to severe weather, but in real life she’s pure sunshine. The strong-but-sweet persona makes sense: she was raised in a family of Pittsburgh steel workers, and meteorology brought her down south. She’s a fitness lover who has competed in a muscle competition (she showed me a photo on her phone from the competition, which she uses for motivation when she wants to “eat crazy”). But she’s also quick to laugh, played clarinet in college, has a sweet tooth and a strong love for people. On a sunny day at the start of hurricane season, Murphy and I met up for coffee.
Q: How do you like being in New Orleans? When I was looking for the next job, my prayer was, “Lord, let me go to a place where the lights are always on.” I came from Greenville, North Carolina, which was a college town … there’s East Carolina University and a hospital. Going from there, coming from Pittsburgh, I knew I needed more. That was the prayer, and that’s what happened.
Q: The power goes out a lot here, so that’s not literally true. (laughs) I mean there’s a lot of action. There’s options: In Greenville, if I was leaving work at 9 or 11 o’clock I was going home. Here we have options no matter what day it is, what time it is. If you wanna stay home, you can do that. If you wanna have a small gathering, you can do that. If you wanna paint the town, you can do that.
Q: Were you always more of a night owl or a morning person? I love to stay up, but I’m not one of those people who has a hard time at a certain part of the day. Once I’m up, I’m good, I’m grateful. It’s the little things. I’m pretty simple; I think people think there has to be some complexities to me. I think it’s just misconceptions. They see TV and think you’re a certain way. But on a typical day this is me – jeans, workout clothes, hi-top tennis shoes, baseball cap and sunglasses. I’m easy.
Q: Why did you want to be a meteorologist? It started when I was young, it started as a fear. When I was 6 years old, my grandmother, every time there was a storm she would make us lay on the bed, turn all the lights out and turn the transistor radio on. We had to listen and sit in the darkness of the storms. I never knew what was happening – it started from there. Why are we doing this?
It eventually evolved into journalism. I graduated college with a journalism degree, and my first job out of college was at “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.” He actually was still there when I was working there. To get on an elevator with Fred Rogers was like … everything was calm. Everything was total peace about him.
Q: It’s hurricane season. What’s covering that like for you? I come from North Carolina, and we had our share as well. Nothing like New Orleans, but you understand severe weather. I think the bottom line with any severe threat is the safety of people. Always my concern is ensuring that people are getting their proper messaging that’s simple and easy for them to understand. People always think you’re holding something from them as a meteorologist: “OK, you can tell me.” We’re getting the same information; there’s no secret box that’s holding this other bit of information. Everyone’s getting the same information.
So it’s really about preparation, staying aware, making sure the messaging is consistent and people are aware and can make the best decisions for their families. Sounds like a canned answer, but it really is it. You just take on a heart for people and want them to be OK.
Q: Have you experienced that celebrity and instant familiarity New Orleans TV newspeople experience? Since I like to wear baseball caps, people assume that I’m hiding. They’ll see me and say “Hey, weather lady! We see you under that hat!” I’m not hiding, this is who I am. It’s cool – I have a heart for people. People don’t overwhelm me. For the most part I’ve felt embraced here.
Occupation: Meteorologist, WDSU Age: 36 Born/raised: Pittsburgh Resides: Metairie Education: Degree in broadcast journalism with a specialty in children’s television from Ohio State University; meteorology certificate from Mississippi State University Favorite book: 40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger, A Different Kind of Fast, by Alicia Britt Chole Movie: Coming to America TV show: Anything on HGTV New Orleans restaurant: La Thai Band/musician: Luther Vandross Vacation spot: “Anywhere with sun and sand.”
I’d like to be a back-up dancer for Beyoncé.