When Adele Arakawa arrived in Denver in 1993, the then 36-year-old predicted she’d spend only a decade more behind a TV news desk. The 9News anchor was off by a few years—14, to be exact. On June 30, the hugely popular face of local news will retire from a broadcast career that spanned more than four decades. Arakawa plans to relocate to Arizona, where she hopes to become just another golfer in pursuit of a lower handicap. “The anonymity factor is going to be very, very welcome,” Arakawa says. As she prepared to depart for the Grand Canyon State, Arakawa spoke to 5280 about double standards, her hair, and the need (the need for speed).
Name: Adele Arakawa
Occupation: KUSA (Channel 9) anchor until July 1
5280: First of all, 5280 would like to apologize for giving you “worst hairstyle” in our 2003 Top of the Town awards.
Adele Arakawa: Is that when it was? Here’s the thing I learned very early on in this industry: There is a double standard. And the double standard really hasn’t gone away during the past 43 years. If I wore the same outfit two to three times a week, I would get emails, texts, tweets. If a guy wore the same tie, do you think anyone would notice? No. Same thing with hair. I used to have a news director in Raleigh, North Carolina. He would run to the set during commercial breaks with a brush and tell me to brush my hair. The best thing about retirement is I’m not going to have to worry about how I wear my hair.
So you don’t think the perception of female broadcasters has changed?
AA: It has changed. Since I started in 1975, the number of women in the industry—radio and TV—has more than doubled. And there used to be a glass ceiling, too, as far as upper management. Unfortunately, I still feel like there is this archaic mind-set that women on the air have to look a certain way, have to speak a certain way.
When you came to Denver, you said you didn’t want the industry to eat you alive. Do you feel like that’s happened?
AA: No, I really don’t. I do feel like I’m getting too old for the business, though. The old philosophies that I learned and still hold near and dear are not the same philosophies of today.
Can you give us an example?
AA: I’m not on Facebook. And unless I’m willing to embrace new technologies, I know I’m going to fall further and further behind. For that reason, I think the industry is passing me by. So it’s time to get out. It’s time to leave it to the kids.
AA: That I didn’t report more. I think I could’ve gotten better at it if I did it more, but you miss a lot behind the news desk. I missed out on the creativity of reporting. It kind of feels like sitting in the classroom and not being able to go play at recess.
I understand you love car racing. Do you plan to compete during retirement?
AA: When we moved here, a friend invited me to the racetrack, and I was like, There’s a place where you can drive fast legally? Within the year, I bought a 1995 Porsche 911 Carrera 4, stripped it out, put in a welded six-point roll cage, and turned it into a race car. I still have it. I’ve put almost 13,000 miles on it. But I don’t race anymore, because the car isn’t competitive. Plus, I don’t have the money to throw into it. The only way to make a small fortune in racing is to start with a large fortune.