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Weathering Fame
Rockford native Ginger Zee’s strong work ethic helped her land a top spot as chief meteorologist for ABC News.
By Kendal Pektas

When Ginger Zee leaves the set of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the 33-year-old West Michigan native can’t wait to trade her high heels for comfy sneakers.

It’s only 9 a.m., but as chief meteorologist of ABC News, Zee has been up since 3:30, prepping for the day’s weather reports, attending meetings with staff, and getting coiffed and powdered for her TV appearances.

Now she’s taking a quick break, heading to her Manhattan apartment to take her black lab, Otis, for a morning walk. Then it’s back to ABC News headquarters, where she’ll report on the weather on “World News Tonight” with David Muir.

“Her days are long, as she rarely leaves work before 7 p.m. And, of course, there are the assignments that take her all over the nation, from Chicago to Alaska. It’s hard work, but Zee is following her passion.

“Make people respect weather — that’s something I love to do,” Zee said.

The Rockford native started her career in meteorology after graduating from Valparaiso University in 2002. She worked as a meteorologist in Flint and Indiana before landing a gig at WOOD-TV8 a decade ago. Her former colleagues have fond memories of her work ethic.

“Ginger brought an amazing energy and enthusiasm that is contagious to those around her,” said Dan Boers, WOOD-TV’s assistant news director. “It’s not a surprise that she made it to the network level. She is extremely determined and accomplishes anything she sets out to do.”
Zee says she’s all about “working your butt off” and “putting yourself out there.”

“Every job that I’ve gotten came from going to conferences and shaking people’s hands,” she said. “There’s something about meeting someone, making eye contact, and telling them about yourself.”

When ABC interviewed her for the weekend edition of GMA, she said “it felt like home. It has proven to be just that.” She was promoted to chief meteorologist last December.

New York is a long way from West Michigan, where her parents reside and where she was raised with Midwestern values.

“Everybody just thinks that I’m super nice,” she said. “We have the ability to care about other people first. You respect each other as much as possible.”

Last summer, Zee married journalist Ben Aaron of “NBC New York.” The Michigan wedding on the shores of Lake Michigan was a much-publicized event with photos appearing in several national magazines. 

“I never thought that I’d be in this position where I’d have a career and have somewhat of a life,” she said. “I got so lucky with Ben. He knows I have a crazy schedule, so a lot of times he’ll have dinner ready for me, or he’ll have done laundry. We’re really, really happy.”

The newlyweds live in the city. Zee says she’s constantly being intellectually challenged in the Big Apple.

“Every room I walk into, I know I’m going to learn something,” she said. “You are the smallest fish and you have to find yourself.”

Her childhood was a happy one, even though her parents divorced when she was 8 years old.

For many years, she remembers attending late-night church services with her mom on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, she would gather her belongings and move to her dad’s house until Easter.

But despite having two homes, Zee said her parents kept the focus on what was important.

“I think people in West Michigan are good at that — they are always about family first,” she said.

While many of her dreams have turned into reality, Zee says she hasn’t stopped challenging herself.

In the meantime, she has become an inspiration for young women around the country, which is something she treasures.

It’s not unusual for people to recognize her on the streets.

“It’s that beautiful moment where we go from in their living rooms to in front of them, and it’s like we’re old friends,” she said. “The best compliment is when someone tells you that their daughter looks up to you.”

Zee says she gets several requests each day for autographed photos “and I do my best to get back to everyone!”

As the holidays are right around the corner, there’s one thing in particular she can’t wait for. She’ll be spending time with her family in Michigan.

“My siblings are all insanely talented, wonderful people,” she said. “I don’t get to see them enough, and that’s one thing that I look forward to — seeing them all.” GR

Left, Ginger Zee at WOOD-TV8; center, covering a “Good Morning America” summer concert by Ne-Yo on ABC TV; and far right, wedding photo of Ginger and husband Ben Aaron on Lake Michigan.
   
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