You might have seen her on TV, interviewing some of Hollywood’s biggest names — from Taylor Swift and Tom Hanks to Oprah Winfrey and Bradley Cooper — with her well-known, outgoing personality. You might also have seen her in New York City as a Radio City Rockette or as a dancer, touring the world with major artists in music. Who is the person behind success based solely on hard work and passion? The person who not only goes after what she wants, but makes it? She is a two-time Emmy nominated journalist: Keltie Knight.
Born and raised in Sherwood Park, Alberta in Canada, Knight grew up in a middle-class home with parents who supported her dream of becoming a dancer. She spent countless hours dancing in her parents’ basement, feeling more passion for dancing and amazing a crowd than most kids her age. Her audience at the time were posters on the walls, but that was enough to allow her to believe that anything was possible.
At 4 years old, Knight took her very first Creative Movement dance class, one of many to come in her future. When passion overcomes you, you’ll work as hard as you can to make your dreams come true and not let anything interfere — not even an honorable mention ribbon at the biggest dance competition in Canada, which most would assume is a bragging right.
“I proudly displayed my ribbon during show and tell at school,” says Knight in her book, Rockettes, Rockstars and Rockbottom. “I later realized honorable mention ribbons were only given to competitors with scores so low, the judges couldn’t award an actual medal.”
To some people, that would be bad news; to Knight, that was fuel to her flame.
“At 9 years old, I was a terrible dancer and was convinced I had found my calling.”
Knight went on to dance throughout her grade-school and high school years, eventually leaving halfway through her senior year to New York City at 18 years old to pursue a career as a professional dancer.
As a girl who had grown up in a small town, the idea of New York City was astounding and colorful: large crowds, some of the best dance studios in the country, and embarking on a journey in the city that never sleeps.
In an interview in 2012 with the organization To Write Love on her Arms, Knight described her vision of what she thought New York City would be like when she arrived. “I was convinced that when I rolled my suitcase down Times Square it was gonna be a movie musical, and people would start singing and dancing and screaming my name, and it would be endless happiness.”
Similar to how she approached her ribbon, Knight’s magical vision turned into reality — which, in turn, sparked determination.
“I bought a Greyhound bus ticket and I went, and I had no plan and no money and no friends there, and I just thought I was unstoppable.”
Knight rented a room in an apartment, practiced her dancing, took dance classes, and performed at many auditions, eventually with one particular goal in mind: to dance with the prestigious Radio City Rockettes.
“For the next year and a half, I lived my dance life with Rockette blinders on,” she wrote in Rockettes, Rockstars and Rockbottom. “My entire life consisted of Get up. Go to class. Eat veggies. Another class. Another audition. Cut from another audition. Dance at bar mitzvahs on weekends. Pay rent. I did this month after month after month until either May or August would show up on my calendar.”
Two times out of the year Knight had the opportunity to showcase her talent and results of her hard work during auditions for the Radio City Rockettes.
“May and August were the most important months to me, because they were Rockette Audition months. I was now familiar with the drill, the line, the measuring and what the insides of the large rehearsal hall looked like. I was also really familiar with the ache in my heart I would feel each time I would dance my heart out and then be cut. It happened in May, and it happened again in August. I didn’t understand. I was working so hard. I was trying so hard.”
“But The Rockettes never gave points for working hard, or being a nice person. The standard was set and you were either above it or below it. And devastatingly, I was below it.”
Knight was back at her routine of dancing anywhere she could, taking dance classes, barely making rent, and finding ways to heal the endless blisters on her feet. She had nine months until May arrived; she was determined, and then she made it.
While visiting her family in Canada, Knight received the call that she had been chosen to join the team of Radio City Rockettes. When she returned to New York City, her routine had intensified, but she was finally living her dream. She was performing shows in front of large crowds, as part of one of the world’s greatest dance groups — a dance group of which not just anyone can be a part.
When the season ended, Knight would return to dancing anywhere she could, auditioning for events, and paying rent. She did, however, book roles in music videos and tours of famous artists, where she danced and displayed her talent. When the season of Rockettes arrived, she would revisit her Rockette routine.
“I was in New York City and all of my dreams had come true,” she told To Write Love on her Arms. “I was dancing as a Radio City Rockette, working in music videos and commercials and with famous artists, and doing all the things that make your dreams come true.”
On scene, Knight wore glittery dresses and flawless make-up; what happened behind-the-scenes was less glamorous and more heartbreaking.
“The last thing I would do before I went to sleep at night would be to plan my escape. I would make a mental list of all of the reasons that I could pack up my bags and go away from all of this insane pressure,” she admitted in Rockettes, Rockstars and Rockbottom.
“In my head I would make plans to take what was left of my savings and buy a one way ticket to Paris, Prince Rupert or Greenland and become a Starbucks barista. Sure they had to deal with people asking for triple venti skinny one shot mochas but at least they didn’t have to sleep with their own pee on their blistered feet. I would plan to skip work, skip brushing my teeth and skip being polite. I played out what it would feel like to show up at rehearsals late the next day and start yelling at people, just showing up without my tap shoes on and just start screaming all the ways that everything about this process ruined my soul.”
A life filled with magic and joy had vanished as quickly as it had arrived.
“But that never happened. Somewhere inside my fantastic escape plan I would find sleep. The next morning my alarm would ring. I would get up, put on my tights and tap shoes and become the lines fearless leader for another 8 hours.”
Knight was no longer the little girl dancing in her parents’ basement. She was a professional dancer with incredible hard work to credit. Some may wonder what kept her going after having faced rejections and heartache within herself, but she was in the middle of success.
In an e-mail to me Knight said, “The truth is I always wanted to prove people wrong about me. I also didn’t have a backup plan at all, so failing wasn’t an option.”
And never did she fail.
She went on to dance for the Radio City Rockettes for six seasons, continuing to dance for the New Jersey Jets, New York Knicks and Saturday Night Live. In addition, she danced with John Legend, Fergie and Taylor Swift, as well as for the musicals Enchanted and Footloose.
With successful auditions and roles, Knight had established a great name for herself in the dance industry. She had received offers, she had an agent, and she had an impressive résumé — and then she left dance.
“I got old!” Knight said in her e-mail. “My last professional job was dancing for Beyoncé and to be honest, I hated it. I had a wonderful career and I was always so inspired, and then I just wanted different things in my life.”
Knight began her career in journalism in 2010 as the host of Live Nation, where she interviewed musicians across the United States. After building up a demo reel and finding her on-air personality, Knight had a fateful encounter one Saturday at a brunch.
“I met a woman who had read my book and sort of was like, ‘I get it, I got dumped lots, too,’ and I was excited, and then we bonded and exchanged emails,” said Knight in a speech, Rules for Success — found on her YouTube page — at Barnes & Noble, during an Indie Chick magazine signing for which she was on the cover.
“On Tuesday, that woman called me and said, ‘Hey, I have this friend who wants to start a blog. Maybe you could meet her for lunch.’ Saturday we had lunch; we sat down. I had no idea she was the vice president of talent relations at CBS. The next Tuesday she calls me and she’s like, ‘Hey, do you got your stuff?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, I have my stuff. I have my Keltie Kit. I’ve been waiting for this moment my entire life.”
Knight had been preparing a portfolio, which was always ready for this moment.
“‘Here is my headshot, here are all the metrics of my blog, here is what people are reading, here’s my most popular content, here’s my updated reel, here’s my résumé.’”
On that Friday CBS had called her in for a meeting, during which she was informed she had gotten the job.
People went form seeing her dancing on the stage to watching her conduct interviews and anchoring on The Insider on CBS. Knight has covered major events, such as: The Grammy Awards, the Emmy Awards, The Oscars, and the Vanity Fair Oscar Party — to name a few. She had garnered a loyal fanbase, and a reputation as fun and happy.
But, as with all of her previous achievements, Knight’s success didn’t come without hard work.
“I’m an idiot to transition to a new career that is even more difficult but so far it is working out okay!” Knight said in her e-mail. “When I started in digital I was creating my own show, and producing, booking, filming, editing and writing all my copy.”
After long hours at work, traveling to different countries on little to no sleep, and waking up nearly everyday at 4:30 a.m., life started to take its toll.
“I was really afraid to admit to anyone that life was hard because here I am having my dream life; I worked so hard to get this job, I auditioned so many times, I sacrificed so many things to get here,” said Knight in her speech with Indie Chick. “And then, I wasn’t allowed to complain about it.”
But Knight kept putting one foot in front of the other, continuing her work, knowing this was what she wanted to do.
“Eventually, I got more of a team behind me,” she said in her e-mail. “The truth is, I made my own luck. The harder I worked the more doors opened for me.”
Knight was promoted from digital and now serves as a correspondent and co-anchor on CBS’ The Insider, still maintaining the same work ethic, but with more help. She manages her fun, free-spirited personality by approaching her interviews in a unique way.
In her e-mail to me, Knight said, “One of my mentors taught me to always push a story forward, never settle for what everyone is reporting. Secondly, I truly believe the things that make me weird and different, are the things that have made me successful. My interviews are bright, bubbly and fearless. I try to make celebrities really comfortable and give them the space to be their best selves!”
Not only does she do that in interviews on television, Knight interviews celebrities once a week in her podcast The Lady Gang with Jac Vanek — entrepreneur and CEO of the Jac Vanek brand — and Becca Tobin — actress and singer, most known for her role on Glee. The podcast uncovers life behind-the-scenes of Hollywood with stories from the hosts themselves, as well as from weekly celebrity guests. The hosts also keep their viewers updated with fashion trends, vacation must-haves and girl talk through their blog and social media. The Lady Gang has had interviews with Lea Michele, Ryan Murphy, Christina Perri, and Jane Lynch and Paul Witten — among many others.
There’s nothing quite like being your own boss, which is what started the podcast. “It was honestly a giant collaboration between us girls. We just really wanted to create something of our own,” she said in her e-mail.
“The show has certainly grown and changed over the last year and a half. I’m very proud at what we have created!”
Knight has defined the meaning of hard work, and it’s safe to say she isn’t slowing down any time soon.
Follow Knight’s journey by watching her on CBS and keeping up with The Lady Gang.
Listen to The Lady Gang podcast for free:
The Lady Gang Website: http://theladygang.com
Follow The Lady Gang:
The Story of Keltie Colleen by To Write Love on Her Arms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpG3Xubi1eE
Rules for Success by Keltie Knight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0FIh248k6A&t=439s
Purchase Rockettes, Rockstars and Rockbottom by Keltie Colleen on iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/rockettes-rockstars-and-rockbottom/id482683156?mt=11