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Julia Dunn: “It takes courage to fully be yourself.”

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Julia Dunn’s goal is to live her best life. That’s putting it mildly! A weekday morning anchor at WRGB CBS6 News, Albany, since March 2013, she has climbed a ladder rung by rung that’s built on a strong, unique story. Before the 4:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. slot she now works, an hour of which airs on the CW15, she worked for ABC40 in Springfield, Massachusetts. 

Julia grew up in Belmont, Massachusetts, a small suburb just outside Boston. “My whole family is from the Cambridge area, so relatives were always close by. My parents are Kevin and Jeanne. They both spent summers on Cape Cod growing up, which is where they met. We have a house in Falmouth and as a kid I was down there every summer,” she related. “I was a tomboy growing up and my dad was my best friend. We were always tossing around a football or baseball or going to the driving range. 

Discovering Vocation
“I went to Belmont High School and played on the school’s tennis and ice hockey teams, then went to Rollins College just outside of Orlando, Florida, and graduated in 2006 with a degree in International Relations, which confuses people because you’d assume it’d be communications. I got into TV by doing internships at local Orlando stations and making a resume reel by shadowing the reporters there. Orlando always had lots of exciting news. The craziest stories always come out of Florida or Texas, it seems!”

A love of life is evident in all she does, on camera and off; that’s why she enjoys all the interesting stories she covers as morning anchor. No day is the same. When asked who inspired her to become a reporter, she admits it wasn’t one person. She was intrigued by the faces on the news growing up, but it was more what the job was itself that attracted her to it. 

“I was always artistic, way back to when I was a little kid. I was always drawing or building something. With reporting I realized a lot of that creativity I had could be used to put together news stories. I loved that. The job was never boring. News changes every minute of the day and I need that in a job,” she reiterated. “Sure, three and a half hours in a row of morning news is tiresome, even with copious amounts of coffee, but what we do is different every day we walk into that studio. I enjoy the adrenaline that comes with it.”

She has covered stories that run the gamut, but thus far in her career, the most interesting to her was covering William and Kate’s royal wedding in 2011. Her station at the time, in Springfield, Massachusetts, sent her with a photographer to London for a week; together, they had the opportunity to do a series of stories on all things royal wedding. “We worked with ABC News One and CNN and had such incredible satellite shot locations in front of Westminster Abbey. The day of the wedding, we were directly in front of Buckingham Palace!” she asserted. “To call it amazing is an understatement. We had a front-row seat to everything, such as celebrities walking around. It was unreal.” 

A moment that showed likeability and authenticity was when Jimmy Fallon and his late-night show used a clip of her expressing fondness for actor Chris Hemsworth, Thor from The Avengers, on the morning broadcast. “As a reporter, you’re never given a heads up when that happens. I know because I’ve had it happen before with both Conan O’Brien and Dr. Phil when clips of me appeared on both shows over the years. You find out via your friends texting you saying, ‘Dude! You were on Fallon!’ the next morning. Then it’s panic; why was I on Fallon? Then it is frantically finding the clip. It was pretty cool, though. There are far worse reasons to make Fallon, right? Mine was, if anything, a valid argument! Thor is hot!”

As a young journalist, she understands how valuable her time working with former CBS6 news and well-respected anchor Ed O’Brien was. He worked with the station for over 15 years, and was a teacher to many younger journalists as well as the beind-the-scenes crew, producers and directors. He was in the Albany market for decades and was truly a Capital Region staple.

“He was excellent at his job and definitely had a ‘tough love’ mentoring style; if you embraced it, the lessons you soaked up were invaluable. Ed passed away from cancer in 2015. It was very quick and really shocked everyone. He was at work in February and then gone in October. It was so incredibly sad. I think about him a lot, especially what his opinion would be on current events,” she mused. “He had a great sense of humor, very witty and sarcastic!”

Family Life
Julia now lives in Saratoga Springs in a house built in 1854, which she loves because she loves old houses and their character. She adores the big beautiful fireplace, which is the best place to curl up with a nice glass of wine and relax. She and her wife, Erin, have a cat named Stella and three dogs, Gracie, Howie and Leroy. Erin rescued all three dogs. Julia noted that Erin is a big advocate of rescuing dogs, especially senior dogs. Stella has been with Julia since she worked in Vermont at WFFF. 

She and Erin married last year in a lovely outdoor ceremony, with the rain stopping just in time for the event. She describes their relationship in one word, kismet, which means destiny or fate. The phrase “What chance did I stand against kismet?” has great meaning to her. She and Erin met in October 2005, while she was in college, at a sci-fi convention in Orlando. They were able to talk more at the bar afterwards when Erin told her she’d had eyes on her the whole day.

“We really hit it off. She was living in L.A. at the time. Convention ends. We go separate ways. No phone number exchange or anything. But I never really got her out of my head, like, for years. Every so often I’d catch myself thinking about her or wondering what she was doing,” she continued. “Facebook comes along, so of course, I tracked her down—every one of us in the news business is excellent at Facebook stalking; like, we’re legit pros—and friended her. We exchanged a few messages here and there. Well, we started messaging one day and she said she was coming to New York City on her school break to see some Broadway shows and we decided to meet up. Keep in mind, I hadn’t seen this woman or even heard her voice since 2005. And yet, here we were, meeting. I took the train down to NYC; we reconnected and, fast-forward three months later, she’s moving her whole life across the country to live with me! Legit, just sold her house and up and moved.” Erin is a second-career teacher in the Albany City School District. She’s originally from New Jersey and loves everything about the water, especially sailing. The two recently sailed around an island in western Greece. 

Julia does not consider herself an activist for gay rights; she loves who she loves, but she knows the importance of being honest with yourself and others. That is why she simply put photos of their engagement on Facebook and was pleasantly surprised with the positive feedback she got.

Being True to Self
She believes this ability to be real is what makes her most effective at her job. “I am never, ever fake on the news. I am very genuine. And people recognize that and appreciate it. I want people to feel a sense of comfort and familiarity when they watch our morning show. I want them to laugh with us and I want them to interact with us on social media,” she discussed. “They’re the reason we’re there doing what we do at the ungodly hour of 4:30 in the morning every weekday!” 

She is incredibly inspired by her mother, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was in college. She has been living with it for almost 50 years. “I’ve never known my mom without MS. I’ve watched it slowly strip away her freedoms of mobility, going from cane to walker to now wheelchair. But my mom doesn’t inspire me because she has MS. It’s how she has lived with it that I see as inspirational. I’ve never heard my mom complain or take out her anger on anyone because of her disease, never crying ‘why me?’ Not once. I don’t think I could be that strong, but she is. And I’m sure she doesn’t even realize it. For her, it’s more of an ‘it is what it is,’” she explained. “This is me. Let’s live our best life, have some laughs and a couple of cosmopolitans.” 

When it comes to hobbies, Julia is all about the outdoors. She enjoys horseback riding, golf, bike riding and recently did a century ride, which was 100 miles in a day. She also did an hour-and-a-half hunter pace and came in fifth place at a fox hunt club in Columbia County, New York. Winter is actually her favorite sport season because she loves downhill and cross-country skiing. 

She and Erin have a 21-foot sailboat on Saratoga Lake that they like taking out in the afternoons when they can catch that nice breeze. Erin has her captain’s license, so when they went to Greece, she had a 37-foot sailboat and went around the island of Corfu over seven nights. “She taught me a lot along the way. I am excellent at anchoring now!” Julia laughed. 

She also enjoys primitive camping and loves fall camping on the islands of Lake George when the colors are so brilliant. “And there’s nothing like being huddled around a warm fire at night having a beer, cooking food. This past winter a friend and I camped on the islands. We brought all our gear out on sleds across the ice. Picked up a few inches of snow while we were out there; it was awesome!”

What’s her advice to other women desiring to follow their dreams? “It takes courage to fully be yourself. Doesn’t matter who you are—a news anchor, teacher, waitress, whatever. It takes guts. It’s hard and you need to be fearless. But it’s worth it. You’re worth it.” 

It’s solid advice from a woman who definitely has guts to do whatever she sets her mind to. And to live her best life.