She was just a regular girl, born and raised in New York to Indian parents, an avid Backstreet Boys fan, with a vision to become a lawyer… until discovering her passion for broadcast journalism, that is.
Fast forward to 2018, she’s a household name in the UAE, a co-host on the eponymous Kris Fade Show on Virgin Radio, and the network’s proclaimed Gossip Queen.
From interning at a New York radio station, to hosting a radio show, many of us in the region look forward to tuning into on our drive to work, Priti Malik talks to AboutHer.com and bares all about working tirelessly to achieve her career goals, the tough media industry and most importantly, remaining an empowered woman throughout.
How did you discover that you wanted to work in the media industry, and was this a childhood dream?
Up until about 10th grade I really wanted to be a lawyer. I loved to talk and of course still do and thought that would be the best career path for me. It wasn't until I was about 16 and visited the MTV studios where I completely changed my mind. I was watching one of the VJ's, in front of me on Total Request Live and something just clicked in my brain. That day I went home and researched what the MTV VJ's had all done in college and realized a lot of them had majored in Broadcast Journalism and so I decided to do the same!
Tell us a little about your career journey and where you started to get to your current position...
Once I decided that Broadcast Journalism was the route I was going to take, I decided to enroll in a work experience program at my High School. The last semester of our senior year, when I was 17, we would spend working in an office depending on what our career choices were and that's when I got to become a promotions intern at WPLJ 95.5 FM in New York City! I would help with all the prizes, represent the station at movie nights, help RJ's on site and of course there was a lot of getting coffee!
In college, I immediately joined our radio station that wasn't just broadcast to the University but the town that Hofstra was located in as well called, WRHU. I learned everything from how to operate a radio desk to how to present on air in my years there. My classes were centered on how to produce news broadcasts for television so I learned how to edit, shoot, present and produce! Whilst there, I interned for a program called '20/20' on the ABC network. My first day on the job consisted of delivering Barbara Walters her Christmas Cards and even filling in for Diane Sawyer's receptionist!
New York to Dubai is quite a distance! What made you decide on relocating to the UAE?
Once I graduated college, I knew I only wanted to get an 'On Air' job. I applied to anywhere that I could think of! That's when a cousin of mine, who grew up in Dubai, told me to apply to become a newsreader for City 101.6. We had no contact details at all and actually decided to try out an email address that we weren't even sure was correct - but I guess it was meant to be because not only did my email go through - I got the job! I was hired as a newsreader for the English Stations at the Arabian Radio Network which included Dubai Eye, Dubai 92 and Virgin Radio!
Within my first few months of working with the stations, I became quite friendly with Kris Fade and we seemed to hit it off right away and one day, he needed someone to fill in as a gossip reporter and asked me to try it out. I ended up getting the permanent role of the gossip reporter on The Kris Fade Show and did this simultaneously while doing a proper news shift, which meant 3am mornings until about 3pm every day and trying to balance both - but I absolutely loved doing the show with Kris and Chad at the time and eventually I left the news department and became a full time member of the team and there's been no looking back since then!
What struggles did you face as a female trying to achieve your goals?
To be perfectly honest, I don't think I faced any challenges specifically as a female in the industry. The entertainment world is all about who you know and also how much you know. I believe I had the skills to back me up that I learned in High School and college which helped me move forward.
No one hands you the opportunities, you've got to grab them! I understand I'm lucky in this regard as there are challenges that women face on a daily basis within the workplace.
Throughout my different internships and jobs, it was my knowledge and work ethic that earned me the equality and respect of all the teams I've worked with, and I'm so grateful for the team we have now as well because we all consider ourselves equal and respect each other's talents!
What do you love most about your job and your current title of Virgin Radio's "Gossip Queen"?
There is absolutely NOTHING else I would rather be doing! I've been waking up at about 3:30am every day for the past 8 years. We are constantly in a state of jet lag - tired, a bit zoned out and just wanting to sleep! But, when I get into the studio every morning and the mics go on, no matter how tired I'm feeling I am instantly in a good mood. We love hearing stories from our amazing listeners, giving away prizes and sharing our lives with you!
I have always wanted to be an entertainment reporter and being called the 'Gossip Queen' is a HUGE honor - it really is my dream come true!
Who are the women that inspire you and why?
There are trailblazers in our industry like Oprah, Ellen and more. These women have changed the shape of how an entertainment newscast can be presented. These are women who are not only creating entertaining content, but make a difference in the world as well which I love. But, truly the list of empowering women in the entertainment world are endless from my radio heroes like Danielle Monaro and Carolina Bermudez to most recently Miss Malini and Priyanka Chopra!
One of the things I always stand for is women encouraging other women, rather than bringing each other down. We should all be lending each other a hand - there are enough people in this world who spend their days trying to tear us apart!
How do you assert yourself and make yourself heard in a male dominated industry?
Confidence is key! I am confident in my job, in my work ethic and in what I can deliver. This is my passion, this is what I do and what I love. There's a difference between ego and confidence and it's important to be on the right side of the line. If you are confident in your abilities then people will have no choice but to listen!
Having been based in New York and then moving to Dubai, do you feel that you have been offered the same level of equal opportunities as a woman as you may have done back home?
New York City, like Los Angeles, is basically where the crème de la crème of the entertainment world are working. These are people who have been in the industry for years and years and have worked their way to their positions. Would I have been able to reach my goal of working on a Breakfast Radio show on the biggest station in the country so quickly in New York? Probably not.
How do you feel you use your position to promote female empowerment?
I think it's wonderful! We are all about positivity on our show! I am fortunate to work for an organization that highly respects women and appreciate what they bring to the table and I believe that shines through on the radio. Personally, through my social media accounts, I really try my best to always remain positive. Happiness is infectious I believe and so is empowerment. When I see other women in the region reaching success, powering through the day, I feel motivated to keep going as well and in the end, that's what it's all about!
Media is a tough industry and full of knock backs, how have you had to deal with these in the past and what do you do to empower yourself?
Rejection is hard - no matter how tough you are, no matter how old you are and no matter how small the rejection may be. It hurts you, because you may have prepared so hard or really thought you 'had it in the bag.’ There will always be critics, there will always be people who say no and there will always be people who believe you can't do it. It may sound so cheesy, but you just have to give yourself a pep talk sometimes; I'll say to myself, "hey you - you have worked night and day to get to where you are today. One 'no' will not change that. Now get back out there and keep going!”
Of course having a supportive ring of family and friends is also important. My husband is a DJ so he completely understands the industry and having that understanding between each other is such a massive support. If I get a bad critique, comment or rejection he's there to help me roll the negativity off!
What strategies for success would you share with women who would like to pursue a career in radio/media?
Be willing to work hard - many times for free.
Be willing to put in the extra hours and give up the extra sleep!
Be willing to roll with the punches.
You have to prove yourself. You need to have the drive, passion and the abilities to last in this industry. It's also about being at the right place at the right time. No amazing job is going to come knocking on your door - you have to constantly put yourself out there and hunt down those opportunities!