breaking news: this 20 year associated press veteran offers her take on work-life balance, adoption, and the power of entertainment
how prioritizing life, adopting her son, creating a family and her version of “work-life balance” is what Nekesa Moody, global entertainment editor of the Associated Press, covets most these days.
you may not know Nekesa by first name, but you have definitely come in contact with her work. she has been an editor for the associated press, one of the largest media outlets in the world, for more than 20 years and has been holding her most recent title as global entertainment and lifestyles editor since 2012. the stories that come from her and her department have no doubt graced your social feeds or been picked up by other outlets where you read about breaking news. today, it’s time to read about her.
the void: you’ve been with the associated press for a very long time and you sit in one of the most coveted entertainment media positions in the world – what do you look forward to the most about your job?
Nekesa Moody: i love entertainment and i’ve loved it since i was a kid - a lot of people do. what i’m most interested in is giving that behind the scenes look and telling new stories. when you have someone like a beyonce, the story that we told about her 15 years ago is not the story that we would tell about her today. she has evolved, her career has evolved, her family has evolved.
and one of the things that I love most about being editor is that I can impart story ideas to other people, and it doesn’t matter if i wrote it, it matters that a good story is coming out.
the void: as a woman at a leading media company, what do you think your biggest challenge was in continuing to rise throughout your career?
Nekesa: i think that women are rising in power and you see more women in chief positions. In our newsroom we have a lot of women in top positions: our executive editor is a woman and our previous executive editor was also a woman. AP has been very good about promoting women and I appreciate that. But I think there is always going to be challenges.
I think one of my biggest challenges in my career was finding mentors, although I do have a few now. part of it may have been me being shy and not feeling like I can reach out to people; women sometimes need to get out of their own shells, especially if you’re a little shy or reticent to reach out. I think I have gotten better at that.
I also think there have been times when I haven’t raised my hand as much as I should have, or tooted my own horn. i think women tend not to do that because we don’t want to come off as bragging. but we need to let people know what we have done, because there are a lot of women who might be doing a really great job that don’t let it be known. we have to be our own cheerleaders. and i think that’s true for men, just as much as women, but as women we’re taught to be more modest.
the void: you’re also the mom of a one year old. motherhood is another challenge in and of itself. how has your perspective on life and work changed?
Nekesa: I think as I have gotten older I have realized I needed to focus more on my personal life. I’ve been in this business a long time and I’ve done so much.
And especially now after adopting my son, I sometimes used to stick around the office and would get home at 9PM, but now I have to pick him up and make sure I am home for him. And once I get home I don’t want to be on my phone and running around and paying attention to my phone all the time when I’m with him. I think it has made me more focused on the present.
the void: you brought up adopting your son. can you share any insight on such an important and often difficult process that isn’t widely talked about?
Whether it’s IVF, or what have you, the path to motherhood can be somewhat difficult. The adoption process was about a year; it wasn’t like a 5-6 year process for us, but for some people it could be. I also think the hard thing about adoption is that you never know. you don’t know until the baby is in your arms and the papers have been signed that it is real, because the birth mother can always change her mind.
However, I definitely encourage adoption. I had challenges to become a mother. I never worried I wouldn’t love someone that wasn’t born from me - I never worried about that. You only think about the fact that you want to have a kid. And I’m blessed that this is a route that I could take.
and if I had to do life all over again, and I could change having my ‘so-called’ own kid, I would choose this path all over again, because my son is the most special person I have ever met.
the void: you recently posted something on your Instagram that said “remember when you wished for all the things that you have now”…
Nekesa: Yes! I just thought about that the other day. I would be so sad sometimes because I just wanted to have a kid. And it seemed like when I was trying to have a kid, everyone else around me was pregnant, and I wondered if it would ever happen for me. I’m so thankful I had a supportive husband who told me it was going to happen and encouraged adoption.
The other day I was lying on the couch and my husband was doing something and my son was rolling on the floor making little noises, and it’s like wow! Sometimes I have to pinch myself, and I think to myself: “It’s three of us now. we are a family.” I just want to savor every moment. I’m an older mom and I so appreciate how long it took for me to get here. just feel so blessed every day!
All throughout my life, I’ve had disappointments and they have turned into the best things that ever happened to me and I definitely think that has been the case with my son. He is the best thing and came at the best time.
the void: what women do you personally admire and why?
Nekesa: always in my heart is my mother. she was a great role model for me. she got her physics degree, she had a masters degree in physics from NYU. she worked as an engineer at IBM. and she raised four kids and my oldest brother has cerebral palsy. she’s no longer with us, but I think about her all the time.
one of the other women I admire is Michelle Obama. I have always loved the wisdom she imparts. She’s always talking about taking care of yourself and talking about the important things in life.
the void: michelle obama also talks a lot about the arts, and you yourself has a role as music editor at ap and have been listening to music and seeing it from all aspects of the industry, as a fan and a journalist. What music inspires you and what does the power of music mean to you?
Nekesa: So much music inspires me. I drive into work every day listening to music. I might put on Bruno Mars or Whitney or Missy Elliot, who is another woman who has done great things as female producer. It gets you moving.
This is very cliché, but music brings people together. I think music can allow people to think about things that they hadn’t always thought about. And music and entertainment allows you to present an idea that maybe would have otherwise been a tough pill to swallow, had you not heard it in a song or had it not been in a movie. I think some of the biggest cultural changes we have had in the last 25 years, especially in gay rights and so forth, have come through different aspects of entertainment, such as powerful songs or shows like Will and Grace. I think that entertainment in general provides a powerful platform to send a message.
the void: What would your advice be to women just starting out on their own personal journey – or hitting a major roadblock in their path?
1. Put in the work. There is so much competition, so how are you going to be different? I always want to make sure that I can tell a different story. I would read other articles that someone else wrote and would ask a different question about it, and make sure that my story would be the best story.
2. Seek out mentors. I should have been more proactive and ask for help, making coalitions – saying let’s get together and let’s talk. Not necessarily can I pick your brain, but being able to build partnerships with women. I definitely have great friendships and relationships with other women in the newsroom, but I think that when it came to mentorship, I didn’t necessarily have someone from high above telling me, hey, this is what you need to do, until much later.
3. Take classes, read and know how to groom yourself for the role you want. Do you want to be an editor? Do you want to be a leader? Find someone to emulate. Look at what their path was. What are some of the things that he or she did, and ask yourself, what are some of the things you can do to make a similar path for yourself?
4. Know your worth. understanding that you have value is really important and you should work as hard as you can for what you want to accomplish.
5. Life is short, make sure you give everything to your dream, but don’t sacrifice yourself in the process. I remember 10-15 years ago, I would go out to events and network and it was really great for me, but I tell people, make sure you have a balanced life.
by melissa ng
"The more you fight your self-doubt, the more it fights back. However, with self-knowledge and understanding, you can use self-doubt for your benefit.
"For some people, it seems like the stars repeatedly align, as if they wrote their own destiny. Despite challenges or hiccups, these people come out of even the toughest situations unfazed, blessed in one way or another by what seems like a miracle. How do they do it?"
by cayla vidmar
"Envisioning your life is only one side of the coin, the other is laser sharp focus on one piece of the dream at a time"