Hot 97’s T.T. Torrez has come from humble beginnings and has had to overcome struggles. For Torrez, it is very important for her to help encourage women to be empowered and she has done so by giving back through various programs throughout her storied radio career.
The multi-talented radio personality spoke to The Industry Cosignwhere she expressed her views on women’s empowerment, giving back, and how to have balance in your life.
What made you decide to pursue a career in the entertainment industry in radio?
So, I knew I wasn’t going to be a brain surgeon, and entertainment was something that I always had a passion for… honestly I thought I was going to do television – I was a big fan of Ricki Lake growing up and I always wanted to do television, but one day when I was in high school, a friend of mine who hosted the morning show invited me to come on their show just to shadow them for a day, and I fell in love with it. I was like wow; they’re talking about things that are relatable to me, they have celebrity interviews… this is something that you could make a living off of? So ever since then, I decided to pursue radio. I graduated, I went to Norfolk State University, my major was Broadcast Journalism. I started working on the morning show, freshman year, at WNSB 91.1 at Norfolk State University, I did the morning show from 6-10 am and then my first class was at 11 am, and I just took it serious. It was just a passion and I put my all into it, and here I am today, 20+ years later. Actually, this is my 20th year in radio. So I’m really excited about that. And here I am at HOT 97, the number one radio market in the country.
You’re in the industry where women aren’t as valued for their talent and business sense as they should be. What are your thoughts and what should be done in order to level the playing field for women?
I think the industry has embraced more women as of lately which is a good thing. Could there be more? Yes. Could there be more women at the top tier leadership? Absolutely. And I think that should be required and that’s what should be done. You know, we as women have to fight for our positions and show that we can do the work and I think that in order for it to be at the same level of playing field, we should make sure women are in those key decision making positions and those top leadership positions, and I’ve always believed in that. You can have somebody included in your circle, but are they really the ones to call those shots, and pull those triggers? And I think more and more women are being embraced, but there can always be more.
Giving back to the community seems like a theme that is heavy in your business dealings, how do you give back and what drives you to do so?
I always had a passion for young girls. Growing up in the hood, not having much, I always told myself that I would reach back and I would inspire others, and that’s always been a passion of mine. That’s kind of led me to do a lot of different things. I launched a couple of campaigns when I was doing radio in Virginia- the I Will Wait Until I Graduation Campaign– encouraging young girls to pursue their education before parenting a child. I also launched Prom-a-Thon where I collected brand-new prom dresses for over a thousand girls and made sure that their special night was something that they could remember and wouldn’t have to worry or stress about how they were going to get their prom dress, and their hair and makeup done, and things like that. So I always had a passion, I think that passion just comes from my reality growing up- not having much and having to fight for everything that I have, or had to have. So that’s kind of something that’s always stuck with me and something that I will always continue to do as a part of who I am as a person.
Why is women empowerment so important to you and what advice would you give women who want to pursue a career in the entertainment field?
Like I said, just growing up in my environment, not having many people to look up to, and really having to figure it out on my own, I think it’s important for young women, especially those who want to get in the business, to have a mentor, someone who can teach them the game, someone they can go to for advice and knowledge, and someone that they can just call if they’re feeling frustrated or if they need advice. Just having that sisterhood is something that’s really important to help navigate such a male-dominated business. And for those who want to get in the business, I think it’s very important for you to understand all facets of the business and not just get stuck on one thing, and just understand that there are different avenues to pursue your career as long as you take it serious and really work hard. And I think that’s the most important thing, is just taking it serious and understanding your path. Your path may not be the same as someone else that you’re watching on Instagram, or social media or whatever, your path is different. And so for you to understand that, and don’t get so caught up in worrying about what everybody else is doing to get to their position, and you just focus in and having tunnel vision on where you want to go and working really hard to achieve those goals. And, being patient in the process. That sometimes takes a very disciplined person to do that, but if you discipline yourself enough to do that, it will all pay off at the end.
If there is anything that you would change or do over again, what would it be and why?
Actually no, I think everything that I went through in life was a lesson for me to learn, I had to go through it, and honestly, I wouldn’t change it. Every lash (?) that I took was probably needed. Everything that I experienced was supposed to be so that I could be in the position that I am today.
Being known as a talent and also a successful businesswoman, how do you separate the two in order to function in a way where it isn’t too much for you?
I think it’s all about balance. I look at people, like DJ Khaled, who’s also a talent and runs his own label, We The Best, I look at so many entrepreneurs who wear many different hats, and I think it’s all about balancing. I always believe that you shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket. You have to have multiple things going on for yourself. That’s just the world we live in right now. The economy is crazy, everything’s so expensive, so you have to be able to be multi-faceted and be able to do more than one thing and it’s challenging at times but you gotta find balance. Being a mother, being a wife, you know those things are hard in itself, and you have to find time to make sure your family is good, and you also have to make time to make sure your businesses are good. And you have to wake up early in the morning, I start my day at 6 AM, I’m in the gym by 7 AM, and you have to have balance, and also you have to take some “me” time. Sometimes we feel like we have to just be going and going, and if we’re not going and going that we’re not doing anything, and I think that’s a false reality. You have to take some for yourself and have mental breaks, rejuvenate your body, get some sleep, drink a lot of water, and I think that’s important to be successful.