When you talk to radio personality Francene Marie Morris about her childhood, it's clear she was destined to be on-air.
"I was born in Chicago but raised in Missouri by my single mom," Francene says. "On Friday nights my grandfather would either make or bring home an amazing meal. After we ate, everyone would go into their respective corners. My mother would go and play the piano. I would take my mother's tape recorder and lock myself in her bedroom and record my voice and pretend I was on the radio."
That early practice paid off. As an award-winning radio host for Beasley Media Group, Francene can be heard on a multitude of stations including Smoke 94.7, KISS 95.1, Power98, WPEG-FM and V101.9. She's also a popular advertising spokesperson and emcee for major galas and events. And she teaches the next generation of talent at Carolina School of Broadcasting.
It's ironic she's teaching young people the business because she didn't enter the industry until later in life. "When i was 18, I got pregnant. It's said that when you have a child, you lose 18 years of your life and it's true. I got off track."
She did have a career as a professional model, including a fragrance ad campaign with Muhammad Ali, and did image consulting and public speaking. But it wasn't until her late 30s that she began to pursue her childhood dream of being on the radio.
To get her fashionable foot in the door, she took a part-time job as a receptionist for CBS-owned radio station KISS 95.1 and began honing her voice. Bill Schoening, a manager at the station who's still a radio executive with Beasley, believed in Francene and allowed her to go on-air as public affairs director. "This was around 1996 and back then talk radio was not popular. It was something stations had to do to meet their FCC requirements."
During the day, Francene would work as a receptionist and assistant. At night she would record the public affairs show. From there she advanced to sales while also growing a following as a radio personality.
"I've made every mistake a girl could make," Francene says. "It has been a journey. Luckily I can laugh at myself. But I never gave up. I didn't let anything stop me."
Her newest project is more visual: Creating short videos of a character she created named Queen Baby Luv whose tagline is "Be good or I'll fix you." Francene describes Queen Baby Luv as an outrageous take on the Foxy Brown character from the 1970s, but with an alien/superhero spin. "Queen Baby Luv is funny and loving and not from this world, but she's here to help us with everything from beauty tips and relationship advice to solving serious personal and social issues."
The two loves of Francene's life are her two children: son Damon, 41, an artist-at-heart like his mom who works for a mortgage lending company in New Jersey; and daughter Desi, 24, an engineer in Richmond. "I just really like them as people," Francene says.
As for The O Report, we loved Francene's answers to our questions, especially her advice on what every room needs; her shoe philosophy; and what people would be most surprised to know about her.
Where are your favorite places to travel?
The beach and mountains. They both feed me in so many different ways.
What's your favorite hotel in the world?
I love staying at quaint boutique hotels in Savannah when I need to escape and unwind.
What are your wardrobe staples?
That perfect black dress, slacks, and blouse you can wear twice a week and no one ever notices because of the different accessories you add.
How would you describe your personal style?
Taking classic looks and turning them into something avant-garde.
What are some of your favorite pieces in your wardrobe?
My gigantic gypsy pants. I could wear them every day.
What are your favorite fashion labels?
Donna Karan, Karen Kane, Michael Kors and the amazing St. John.
Who's your biggest style influence?
There are so many, but fashion icon Iris Apfel is my go-to.
Do you have a uniform?
Nope, but if bellbottoms count you can catch me in them at least twice a week.
Anything you've worn and regretted?
Oh yes! I’ll put something together for a black tie event and regret it as soon as I see the pictures.
What is your must treasured article of clothing?
A black vintage jacket with multi-layered sleeves.
What is your most treasured accessory?
A clip-on pair of giant chunky gold hoop earrings.
What are your must-have beauty products?
I’ve fallen in love with e.l.f. products, but my go-to has always been MAC.
How do you protect your skin from the sun?
I don't do that as much as I should. I do try to take care of my skin by using a mix of coconut oil with good quality essential oils.
What are some of the best beauty tips you've learned?
Taking my makeup off at night with coconut oil followed by witch hazel.
Was there any beauty or style advice your mother or grandmother gave you that you're thankful for now?
Buy great quality shoes! They'll last forever. I'm a fan of wedges. They're comfortable, classic and stylish.
What's your favorite restaurant for a big night out?
BAKU. They have the best marinated pork belly you’ll ever taste!
What is your favorite brunch spot?
Any decent hotel serving a nice spread. My next adventure will be the Marriot in the deep of south Charlotte.
What is your favorite restaurant for lunch?
Grabbing a Beet Juice and a Caesar Salad from Living Kitchen. My guilty pleasure is Pad Thai from Rai Lay on South Boulevard.
Any recent art purchases?
A cool Succulent Frame from Crafts At Hand, my daughter's online craft store on Etsy. She puts together DIY craft kits for everyone from beginner to advanced crafters.
What's your favorite flower?
Lilac, lavender, lilies and a good grade of roses.
Any museum exhibits or arts performances you've either seen recently, or plan to see soon?
I’ve got to get to the National Museum of African American History and Culture the next time I’m in Washington, D.C. In Charlotte, my favorite museums are the Harvey B Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.
What are some of your favorite movies?
Little Shop of Horrors, Michael Clayton with George Clooney, Out of Time with Denzel Washington and Spike Lee’s new version of She’s Gotta Have It.
What are some of your favorite books?
Louise Hay's You Can Heal Your Life. any book by Chelsea Handler especially Lies that Chelsea Handler Told Me, and Move Your Stuff Change Your Life by Karen Rauch Carter. My newest favorite read is Blackness – The Life and Times of an Unpopular People.
What is your most treasured home decor item?
Five-foot tall giant Giraffe palm leaves, my chaise lounge and handmade dreamcatchers.
What's the biggest mistake people make when hosting a party?
Making guests wait for the food!
What's your favorite host/hostess gift to bring to a party?
Wine, tea towels, sweets and homemade greeting cards.
What is your design style?
Gaudy and colorful, but my bedroom is themed as a healing room.
What would you like to bring back in style?
Styles from the 1970s are creeping back, but I wish we could go all the way.
What does every room need?
A diffuser pumping out lavender, plants that have healing properties and soft comfy pillows.
How do you stay in shape?
I have perfected my own signature water aerobic routine before jumping in the steam room laced with eucalyptus.
What brings you joy?
My kids surely do now that they’re adults. I sit back and see the fruits of my labor at work. I’m a very proud mom of Damon and Desi.
What do you love about this stage of your life?
I used to hide from my true age since I’m in media. In fact on all social media sites I fib big time. But in August I'll have a huge milestone 60th birthday. I have never felt freer!
Where are your favorite places to shop?
Any quaint boutique, consignment shops and my all-time favorite - Goodwill scavenger hunts.
Do you have a great organizational or timesaving tips that save your sanity and help make your life run more smoothly?
To get a jump on the stress I try to keep the kitchen clean and that underwear drawer neat. For some reason if it’s in disarray so is my life. If things are neat so am I.
What was one of the defining moments in your life?
Twenty-two years ago when Bill Schoening, who was the the Vice President and Marketing Manager manager for CBS then, said that I could start hosting and producing my own talk show.
What are your favorite charitable causes?
I’ve fallen in love with a few: B.R.A.K.E.S., Brave Step, and Charlotte Concerts.
Who's your favorite famous person you've met?
Seal, the amazing singer and songwriter. Back in 2003 we invited him to sing in a small venue. I absolutely had eye to eye contact during his set, which led me to believe he would be my future husband. After the show I went backstage and we hugged and something blurted out of my mouth that shocked me! I asked him to sign the girls! How embarrassing! Being the good-hearted man he is, he just laughed and hugged me. Our morning show at the time made that the laugh of the week!
What inspires you?
My kids for sure – they’re full of surprises and advice for me. My local fashion sensei is Terri Joelle, she helps me put together cool wardrobe mixes. And the female sales crew at Beasley Media Group.
What would others be surprised to know about you?
I love quiet time more than anything! Sitting on the beach alone, going to the movies alone, eating at cool restaurants alone. I’m literally a party-of-one kind of gal.
Do you have a motto or words that you live by?
Yes! Think and do life. Create an atmosphere you desire to live and work in.