In the mid-1990s, WDBJ-7 meteorologist Patrick Evans stopped by Fishburn Park Elementary School in Roanoke, Virginia, and introduced a group of third graders to the life of a meteorologist.
Seated in the public-school classroom was a self-described “awkwardly shy” eight-year-old girl who found Evans’ talk about the science of weather to be nothing short of fascinating.
“Everything he talked about just sounded really cool and from that moment on I wanted to study meteorology.”
This young girl’s name was Kristina Montuori and in the handful of years that followed, she would establish a name for herself in high school athletics as being one of the region’s most gifted athletes.
Following high school, she received a scholarship to play NCAA Division I soccer at the University of North Carolina—Asheville where she became captain of her team.
The Southwest Virginia native would go on to fulfill her dream in 2010, graduating at the top of her class with a meteorology degree.
Shortly thereafter, Montuori moved to Tornado Alley for her first job at KTBS 3 in Shreveport, Louisiana.
It seemed everything was on track but after only four months on air, Kristina’s seemingly healthy 48-year-old father suffered a fatal heart attack that turned her world upside down.
Her father’s death dealt a devastating blow to the family and forever altered her life. She decided to return home to help her family, unfortunately, there were no TV meteorology job openings in Roanoke at the time.
The only media opening the former weather forecaster could find was at WSLS 10 as a producer, so she learned to produce newscasts and worked behind the scenes for a year before viewers in her hometown ever saw her on air.
“It was the darkest time of my life. I lost my father who was my best friend. I lost my dream career and I was working third shift doing something I hated. I was miserable but something inside me told me I was in the right place and that I had to keep going.”
One morning, as Kristina was making her way out the door after an 11 hour shift, the chief meteorologist called out because his wife had gone into labor. The morning meteorologist was on his way home and the weekend person was out of town. The news room was in a state of panic as there were no meteorologists for the upcoming broadcast.
“I can do it,” Kristina announced to a flustered newsroom.
“I am a meteorologist.”
Though the news team was reluctant to put a third-shift producer on air, they had no other choice but to mic her up and hope for the best.
“I was exhausted and out of practice, but I knew I had to do it. The universe gave me a shot. I couldn’t let it slip,” she recalled.
“After the show I cried. It was a long, hard ugly cry… a happy one though. It was a release of all the pain I’d endured to get to that amazing moment. I rocked that show and I was proud of myself.”
That successful show earned Kristina a part-time spot on the weather team which eventually turned into a fulltime position.
Despite her on-air, on-the-field and academic excellence, off camera, off the field and out of the classroom she struggled with self-confidence.
“People assume I’m a naturally confident person, but I’m really not. Growing up, I was painfully shy. Confidence is something I have to work at each day – even now. I have to work really hard and remind myself to think positively,” she told Appalachian Magazine in a recent interview.
Though she may have been fighting these feelings internally, Southwest Virginia viewers never saw this side of the attractive and seemingly naturally confident meteorologist. Her charm, accurate forecasts and friendly demeanor propelled her to the status of local celebrity and she was named by The Roanoker as “TV Weather Person You Rely on Most”.
Montuori says she owes a lot of her success to being a student of self-confidence, public speaking and “power posing,” the belief that one’s posture has a physical effect upon their hormonal and behavioral health; studying the theories and science behind confidence, body presentation and subtle communications nuances which separate passive people from individuals who possess a commanding presence.
“When I walked into rooms, I was constantly having to remind myself of everything I had read, ‘shoulders back, stand straight, make eye contact, speak clearly…’ At first this was awkward and robotic, but it eventually became effortless.”
Despite her struggles with confidence, Montuori learned to adapt and grow into the person she wanted to be, even though it wasn’t natural for her. “I became the funny person in my social circle and enjoyed being around people.”
Each morning, viewers awoke to the smiling face of the well-figured blonde whose looks were surpassed only by her understanding of the complex science of weather; however, beneath the façade of fake hair-extensions and trained media voice was a weary woman who was suffering greatly from exhaustion and the stresses that accompany hometown stardom.
“I was waking up at 2:30 each morning because I was doing a morning show and not getting home until 1:30 or later in the afternoon – it’s hard to have much of a life when your bedtime is 6 p.m.,” she said.
“Whenever I’d go to the store, people I didn’t even know would run up to me and give me a hug and I’d have to be the energetic person they knew on television and it was tiring – don’t get me wrong – I loved the people and was touched that they felt comfortable with me, but it was also very hard to have a normal life.”
“In the beginning, when I was new to the life of T.V. weather forecasting, I was driven by adrenaline and enjoyed every aspect of the job, but seven years into it, I was drained,” she said, adding, “Most people have no idea how much work their television news crews put in — a lot of hours go into every half-hour broadcast.”
In an extreme move of self-preservation, Montuori did something she never could have imagined only a handful of years earlier: She resigned from what had been her dream job.
With no children and very little holding her down, the meteorologist who also served as a morning show cohost realized she was in a position in her life where she could take advantage of the freedom her lifestyle afforded.
“I left WSLS 10 just to pursue happiness. I loved working there and my coworkers were great, but the news industry in general was just draining; the early mornings, late-night fundraising events, having to be ‘on’ anytime I walked outside had just become too much.”
In addition to being emotionally drained, the Roanoke native said that she had also grown bored with the job, stating that she “just didn’t feel challenged anymore.”
Four months after leaving WSLS, while in Denver with some friends, the former television meteorologist did something that would have been unthinkable years earlier: She signed up for open mic at a comedy club and tried her hand at being a standup comedian.
“I thought I was going to be hilarious, but it turned out to be terrible. I learned really quick that there is a huge difference between conversational humor and stand up humor,” Montuori laughed.
Despite falling on her face in the Mile-High City, the Southwest Virginia woman loved the rush and surge of adrenaline that accompanied being on stage and attempting to make people laugh.
Always a student, she began studying comedy and soon grew toward perfecting a style uniquely her own.
Initially performing in the Roanoke area, as Montuori’s skills as a comedian developed, she soon realized that despite her love for the region, the opportunities as a comedian in Southwest Virginia were limited.
Kristina now travels wherever she can perform, but spends most of her time in Naples, Florida.
“My mother lives in Florida, the weather is warm and there are simply more opportunities for a new comedian,” she said.
She has performed at The Orlando Improv and Off the Hook in Naples, Florida, and is building a portfolio opening for larger names.
“Breaking into the comedy scene is hard and time consuming. I’m still a student of comedy, but I feel like I’m getting better each time. My life is finally in a good place where I’m happy. I’m not worried about getting rich and famous. I earn enough money to pay for my needs and I’m just enjoying life,” she said.
When asked about her plans for the future, the former Appalachian meteorologist was quick to interrupt by saying, “I always hesitate to say where my future is heading. I would love to have a talk show one day or get into acting, but I’m not thinking that far down the road. As long as I can keep enjoying what I’m doing I’ll be happy. At this point, I wouldn’t say I have a specific goal I’m working toward, I’m just trying to be the best me each day — It’s a nice place to finally be.”
Kristina posts future show announcements to her Instagram page (@kristinamontuori) and plans to return to Southwest Virginia for future shows.
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