She may be on live TV, but Warner lives regular home life
BY HANNAH KOHUT Correspondent December 11, 2011 8:38PM
Local TV personality Valerie Warner, center, jokes around with her kids, Max, left, and Zoey at her home in Lansing, IL on Sunday December 4, 2011 | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 13, 2012 8:11AM
“If you told me a year ago I would be hosting a live talk show in Chicago, I’d never believe you,” Val Warner said as she sat on her Lansing home’s living room floor, holding her four-year-old son, Max.
Sometimes it pays to have faith. Today, Warner is co-host of ABC 7’s “Windy City Live,” a live studio audience talk show in Chicago that airs five days a week.
But when the cameras aren’t rolling, she’s your typical suburban single mom.
Last Sunday morning, the former WGN-TV (Channel 9) traffic reporter and her kids sorted toys they prepared to donate to charity. Then it was off to a birthday party.
It’s a busy life.
Her mother, Diane Jackson, of South Holland, helps make Val’s professional and home careers possible; she spends the night every weeknight to get the kids (daughter Zoe, 9 and Max, 4) up and ready for school once Val heads out the door at 5:30 a.m. Jackson, as she helped Zoe design book covers for her school books, said she always knew Val would end up in the spotlight.
Warner grew up in Los Angeles. As a child, Warner spent a lot of time at church, eventually reading Bible passages for the congregation, her mother said.
“She was an infant in my arms, and she became the church darling,” Jackson said. “A lot of times they would take Val and have her read the Scriptures at church. They had to put a box behind the pulpit because she was so little.”
After high school, Warner was dead-set on news, Jackson said. She decided to major in communications at the University of California, San Diego.
“Val then put her blinders on ...,” Jackson said, “and never looked back.”
Climbing the news ladder
Warner knew how competitive the news business is, but she worked hard and aimed for the top.
She started as an on-air news reporter in New Mexico, where she was in 1997 and 1998. From there, she went to Topeka, Kan., as a morning news anchor; and then to Flint, Mich., where she was the station’s main news anchor from 2000 to 2005, she said.
It was in 2004 when WGN came knocking — it wanted her to be the morning news traffic reporter, Warner said.
The problem was, Warner was locked in a contract. So they waited for her contract to expire, and in 2005, Warner was back to Chicago.
“I thought I’d retire at WGN,” Warner said. “It’s a great station — I had a good career and a nice family over there.”
Fate had something else in store for her.
‘Windy City Live’
In November 2010, Warner was asked to audition for a new, local, live talk-show on ABC 7 to take Oprah Winfrey’s former time slot. It also was going to be shot in Oprah’s former studio at ABC 7.
“One of the producers called and asked me to audition,” Warner said.
From a pool of 500 applicants of talk-show host hopefuls, some with Hollywood recognition, Warner was among the 80 who made the first cut. After several rounds of what Warner called “talent speed dating,” where candidates had to get to know each other and audition with each other, Warner got the call on Feb. 14 that she, along with Ryan Chiaverini, were going to host the show.
“Windy City Live” airs weekdays from 9 to 10 a.m. on ABC 7.
Keeping it real
Since the show went live in May, Warner’s local celebrity status has skyrocketed. Folks are surprised to learn that Warner doesn’t live in some posh high-rise condo in the city but, rather, near her family in the Southland.
She shops at stores such as Ultra Foods and Target. And, Warner said, it’s important to her to integrate her family into the show.
Warner wants people to be able to know she’s a regular person who has to deal with homework and fussy 4-year olds and fighting kids just like everyone else. Her family is tight-knit, and introducing them to her audience, Warner believes, helps people understand her.
“There’s a fine line with not revealing too much of your private life,” Warner said. “But at the same time I want to show folks I’m a normal person. Yes, I have a great job and I’m on TV every day, but at the same time, I want to be relatable.”