Aging Well: Broadcasting pioneer credits Kalihi upbringing for success
HONOLULU - Life doesn't always work out the way we expect. In some ways, it turned out much better than expected for Kalihi-native turned California newscaster Jan Yanehiro.
For 15 years, San Francisco Bay Area viewers greeted Yanehiro into their homes when she co-hosted the popular Evening Magazine on KPIX (CBS) from 1975 to 1990.
"It was the best job in the world I had," reflects Yanehiro. She had it all- at work and at home. "I had a great life- a family, three kids."
It's a dream job, she says, that only seemed like dream while growing up on O'ahu. "I never thought - remember, I went to Farrington High, [and was] born and raised in Kalihi Valley- that I would be on TV hosting a show seen five nights a week. Who ever thought that I'd do that?"
After graduating in 1966, she attended UH Manoa before transferring to Fresno State University. After she earned her degree, she accepted a job as a flight-attendant for TWA for a bit, then she made the jump into broadcasting. She was working in radio but wanted to pursue television.
"Every TV station in San Francisco turned me down for a job but I kept knocking on doors," recalls Yanehiro. Her big break came in 1975; CBS5 hired Yanehro to host an experimental news magazine show, making her one of the first Asian-American newscasters in the country.
"Dream big, dream bold. I got to do that against all odds. I got to have a fabulous career in San Francisco," is the lessons she imparts.
The job may look glamorous - even easy to some - but for Yanehiro, the work ethic she learned living in Hawaii became the backbone of her success. "Maybe being from Kalihi Valley or Farrington, you're always working," she muses.
Yaneshiro says she was tested on February 11, 1995, when her life took a plunge. Her husband died of brain cancer when he was just 46-years-old. "My children were 12, ten, and six when my husband died," she shares.
Then, her show went off the air. "My salary went from $200,000 a year to $26,000 a year," she shares. That was only the beginning of her struggle as a single mother trying to figure out how to afford living on a drastically reduced salary. She would go on to remarry, only to have that end in a bitter divorce.
Yanehiro says she made it through with the support of three gal pals, all successful and powerful in their own right. Together with Deborah Collins Stephens, Michealene Cristini Risley, and Jackie Speier, Yanehiro coauthored a book called This Is Not The Life I Ordered: 60 Ways to Keep Your Head Above Water When Life Keeps Dragging You Down.
All the women share their struggles and give tips on how they made it through. It's the second edition, revised from 2007 to include a new foreword by the legendary Rita Moreno, a #Metoo chapter, and a chapter by their now-grown children.
"Life is up and down and sideways. I always say, If you're on the path and you get whacked off, you can get back on! And you must!" Yanehiro encourages.
But how do you get back on the path? Yanehiro offers advice earned during her 71 years on the planet. "When life is not what you ordered, you can begin again. Surround yourself with great friends, number one. Ask for help, number two. And just believe you will get back on that path of life," she sums up.
In fact, she says be open to change. "You never know. The unexpected can be really special." In fact, Yanehiro's own reinvention led her to a job as the founding director of the School of Communications and Media Technologies at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, a role she says she loves.
Yanehiro and her friends say the process of aging well starts with a positive attitude and an ability to adapt. Her parting words: "Life is to be lived, and we get to live it!"
To stay positive, she makes regular visits to the Islands. "Here in Hawaii, what's not to get up to? The sun is bright, palm trees swaying, and looking out the window I can see surfers out there," smiles Yanehiro. And every time she's back in the state, her top priority is soaking in some aloha spirit."
As we end our Aging Well interview, Yanehiro smiles, says she's very happy, and reminds this writer, "I don't think life stops at 71 by the way, Diane!"
More on the book at https://www.amazon.com/This-Not-Life-Ordered-Dragging/dp/1573244139.