Lisa Guerrero walked onto the stage wearing a hot pink sequined blazer. She gave a keynote to a room full of journalists on Friday during the Society of Professional Journalists Convention in Las Vegas.
The blazer emulates the motto she has followed throughout her iconic career: to be authentically herself.
Guerrero is an award-winning journalist who currently works as the chief investigative correspondent for Inside Edition. She travels the country to cover crimes, scams, cold cases and consumer reports.
At the start of her career in 1997, she was a sports journalist. She was the first female host of the San Diego Chargers magazine-style television show and the first Latina sideline reporter for ABC’s “Monday Night Football.” Her time as a sports journalist on TV is what her book “Warrior: My Path to Being Brave” focuses on.
During her keynote, she said her book was originally going to be funny. It was going to be called “Between a Jock and a Hard Place.”
“I started reading about what I experienced all those days 20 years ago,” Guerrero said. “But what I realized was that it wasn’t funny at all. It was so traumatic.”
She then switched angles. She instead outlined the sexism, harassment and depression she experienced as a sports journalist. She wrote about how she was asked to change her last name, to wear less makeup, to cut her hair, to be less feminine or more sexual.
Sometimes she refused these requests; she kept her last name and kept her hair long. But other times Guerrero said she made mistakes. One mistake Guerrero mentioned during the keynote was after getting hired to be the female co-host of a sports trivia game show with Fox Sports.
During the interview process, she wore pantsuits and on her first day she brought several suitcases of suits, shirts, accessories and shoes in case the clothes they had didn’t fit. But when they brought her to her dressing room, she was confused by the rack of clothes they provided.
“The entire rack was filled with leotards. Like tights and bras … basically bikinis. I looked like a Zumba instructor,” Guerrero said.
In the past she had been a model and a professional cheerleader, but she earned this job in a suit and knew this was wrong. But after a call with her agent, she was convinced to go along with it.
“There are a lot of times when I’ve made choices that I regret now. People say you shouldn’t live with regret, and I think regret is important because it informs us better about our next choices,” Guerrero said.
She experienced other hardships during her sports journalism career, especially when she was reporting for “Monday Night Football.” Her boss was verbally abusive, and she was criticized by viewers before she picked up a microphone for the first game. People thought she didn’t deserve the position and called her things like bimbo.
She did fine during the pre-season games, but the first regular season game Guerrero made a mistake live. She immediately corrected it, but that provided fuel for more hate.
Things came to a head at the end of the season when she started to feel a pain in her side while reporting.
“I knew towards the end of the second quarter that I was having a miscarriage live in front of 40 million people,” Guerrero said.
At the end of the season, she was fired from Monday Night Football and all the sexism, harassment and trauma she’d experienced nearly led to her committing suicide. Instead, she called her dad, and he encouraged her to just be a journalist. Not a sports journalist, but some other kind of journalist.
After a year of therapy and self-care, which Guerrero recommends all journalists consider, she became an investigative reporter. Guerrero said she’s been successful in this because of the empathy she has for the victims she speaks with for Inside Edition.
“Had it not been for my past trauma and my past challenges and what I had to learn, I wouldn’t have been able to give them the empathy that they needed,” she said. “Empathy is the most important thing everybody in this room can practice every day.”
Guerrero said she hasn’t always been brave and confident, but she practiced, looking up to characters like Wonder Woman and Charlie’s Angels when she was young. She said young journalists should do the same; practice bravery and confidence and be authentic.
Wear the pink sequined blazer.