GREG MILES PHOTOGRAPH
Like she is on air, in person Sheba Turk is buoyant and present – which is commendable considering that she’s been awake since 2:30 a.m. (3 o’clock, she says, is “sleeping in”). Her days are busy: she starts her day as anchor for WWL-TV’s Eyewitness Morning News and then switches gears to the host “The 504,” the nightly talk show airing on WWL-TV’s cable channel WUPL. Turk quickly rose through the ranks at WWL-TV, starting off as an associate producer shortly after graduating from college and then eventually jumping on-camera as a traffic reporter. When Melanie Hebert vacated the morning anchor position and “The 504” host, Turk was able to snag both those spots at only 24 years old. We chatted with her at the WWL studios.
It seems like you’ve had a really fast ascent. Does it feel that way to you, or was it a long time coming? No, no, no. I feel like it has been so quick. My goal was to be an anchor by the time I was 30, so it was insane that I was an anchor when I was 24. Then I got my own show – which has always been my dream, to have my own talk show.
New Orleans news personalities are like celebrities. Have you experienced this? Once I got on TV, I was shocked. You go to the grocery store, and everybody’s like “Sheeeba!” It freaks out my mom, my boyfriend or my family when we’re together because they’re like, “Wait, do you know this person?” Everyone treats you like they’re your family; everyone gives you advice like they’re your family. Some of it is going to be “I love you, I watch you every morning” and some is going to be “Girl, you gotta get rid of them brown shoes.” Or, “Slap Eric (Paulson) for me.”
Soledad O’Brien’s foundation paid for part of your college education. What is the story behind that? I ran out of money for college. I was going to NYU. I came home and went to UNO. My teacher was Kim Bondy, who used to be an executive producer for CNN. Turns out, Soledad is her best friend … she said, “I’ll introduce you.” Soledad said, “You can intern for CNN.” I thought she was saying that to be nice – no. She made sure it happened, and she let me stay at her house in New York for an entire summer. This was the summer before my senior year. I interned at CNN, she took me under her wing, let me watch all her interviews, let me help with whatever I could and she has never left my side since.
After that I went back to college and ran out of money again – yeah, we were struggling. Kim told Soledad I ran out of money for college, and before she had started her official foundation she was meeting girls around the country and helping them. She paid my college tuition. Not long after she started, officially, the Soledad O’Brien-Brad Raymond Foundation with her husband. I am actually the first graduate of the program. She has maybe 25 girls now.
She’s been a great help to me, and even now I email her for advice and she’s always there. We hang out. She really took me under her wing. Her and Kim Bondy are two of my big mentors. I probably wouldn’t be in news or gotten as far as I have without them.
What was that first year in New York like?
Although my family didn’t have a lot of money I said I’m going to NYU and it won’t matter because I’m going to be so successful. And then reality set in – there was a $7 box of Cheerios at Walgreens when I first got there.
But I had a great time, and I think it was to teach me a lesson. I kept thinking it was the definition of success. And I think a lot of young people think like that: you hear L.A., you hear New York, you hear big job title. You automatically think that’s happiness and success. When I was young I thought the same thing, but now that I’m older it’s different. New Orleans didn’t used to signify success to me, or I didn’t think I’d get big or be successful here. And I had to come back home to get the job I have now, which is kind of crazy.
You have a destiny and you have a fate, and it’s going to happen wherever you are if you’re working hard. And I think everyone’s path is different: success and happiness doesn’t come with a concrete place or job title. You can have the best title in the world and live in New York, and you just might not be happy.
True confession: I want to learn to play the guitar. I have one, I’ve never picked it up … literally it’s been there for like two years. It has dust on it.
At a Glance
Age: 25 Profession: Anc hor, WWL-TV Eyewitness Morning News; host, WUPL’s “The 504” Born/raised: 7th Ward and Gentilly Resides: G entilly School: St. Mar y’s Dominican High School, New York Universi ty and University of New Orleans Favorite movie: Wizard of Oz Favorite TV show: “The Wendy Williams Show” Favorite band or musician: Adele Favorite hobby: Spendin g time and running with dogs Fifi and Samson Favorite book: The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom Favorite vacation spot: New York