Sunday, May 9

Columbia native makes history as first Black woman to host Entertainment Tonight | Local

On Thursday, Nischelle Turner was named the new co-host of celebrity news show Entertainment Tonight. Her promotion makes history, as she is the first Black woman to host the show.

She will join Kevin Frazier, another Black host, and together, the duo marks the first time Entertainment Tonight has been fully hosted by Black anchors after 40 years on air.

When Turner heard the news about her promotion, she cried.

“The tears just fell for many different reasons,” Turner said. “But I think the biggest thing is that I didn’t expect it. It shook everything up in the best way possible.

“My mother used to always say that if it’s for you, it’ll be for you,” she said.

Turner has held onto this phrase all throughout her career as a journalist for more than 20 years.

In that time, she has had a variety of experiences.

During Turner’s time at the Missouri School of Journalism, she was a reporter for KOMU. After graduating in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast news, she went on to work as a reporter and anchor in Evansville, Indiana, and later New Orleans. After that, she covered sports for Fox. Later, she joined she joined KTTV in Los Angeles where she was a reporter for “Good Day LA” and anchor for “Good Day LA Weekend.”

Now, in addition to being a host for Entertainment Tonight’s nightly broadcast, she also contributes to CNN’s entertainment segments, including “CNN Newsroom,” “New Day” and “CNN Tonight.”

Even though Turner has found her home at Entertainment Tonight since she joined as a correspondent and weekend co-host in 2014, the four-time Emmy Award-winning journalist does not forget her origins.

Turner grew up in Columbia and attended Rock Bridge Elementary, Jefferson Middle School and Rock Bridge High School. Although she’s had many experiences in Columbia, she finds that her education was one of the most important.

“My mother didn’t have a huge formal education, and neither did my grandmother,” Turner said. “But they always knew the importance of education and always pushed me to believe whatever I thought I could do, that would be so.”

She said that attitude is characteristic of Columbia as a whole.  

“We’re the little town stuck in the middle of St. Louis and Kansas City that produces some of the best and brightest in this country,” Turner said. “I’m so proud of where I come from.”

Turner’s college years were some of the most pivotal for her. At MU, she got her first introduction to what she would be doing for the rest of her career.

“When I walked into KOMU on my first day, I was terrible,” she said. “I really wasn’t good. But Stacey Woelfel, who was the new director at the time and my professor, saw something in me, and I kept coming back, and he put me to work.”

Along with the hard work and dedication that launched her into her career, Turner turned to inspiration from those that came before her, specifically Black women journalists. It all began when she saw her first Black woman journalist on television, fellow Missouri School of Journalism alumna April Eaton.

“I remember when I was kid (seeing her), and I thought, ‘Whoa,'” Turner said. “I remember to this day because images matter, seeing somebody that looks like you matters.”

Turner hopes to be that example for other people who come after her.

“I want the little girls at home, whether she’s in central Missouri or wherever, to look at me and say, ‘That image matters,'” Turner said.

“Whether it was April Eaton, or Carole Simpson or Oprah Winfrey, I’m hoping to follow in those footsteps and stand on those shoulders — and those are some broad shoulders that came before me — and be the stepping stone for someone else.”

In her new role, Turner also hopes to pay forward the support her community has given to her. She was brought up in a family that believes in a life of service, she said, including not forgetting where you come from. 

“I’ve had so much support from central Missouri,” Turner said. “It’s overwhelming how much support my local community has given me. It’s really self-affirming, and it’s really special.”

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