Malika Dudley had no idea what she was doing. While out on the town one night, the former Miss Hawaii had met the news director for KGMB, a CBS-affiliated television station in Honolulu, and he’d invited her in for an interview. Now she found herself auditioning on camera.
As the audition progressed, she felt herself getting in over her head. Asked to read news stories she’d written, she stood in front of a blank wall with a live mic, not knowing what to do next.
“As someone who didn’t even watch TV, I went in completely blind,” she admits. So, she pointed to the wall and, “I asked, ‘What’s that?’ – with my mic on.”
That’s when someone in the sound booth whispered back, “Clouds!”
What exactly is this job I’m auditioning for? she wondered.
The Enemy Within
Beauty queen. On-air reporter. Public figure. On the surface, it looks like things simply fell into Malika Dudley’s lap, but the truth is she’s had to overcome many obstacles. Chief among them? Herself.
“I just want to be a mom,” Dudley used to respond whenever someone asked what she wanted to do when she grew up. Her parents wondered… what exactly did their daughter’s future hold? As for Dudley’s own visions of her future —
“My limiting beliefs from childhood became a cycle of negativity,” she says.
Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the Hawaii native pushed herself. Hard. She became her high school valedictorian and voted most likely to succeed. Still, “I wasn’t being accepted to any of the colleges I’d applied to.” So those negative naggings started poking at her self-esteem even more.
That’s when a guidance counselor stepped in, suggesting the University of Hawaii at Mānoa (UH) on the island of Oahu as a backup. UH welcomed Dudley with open arms and a Regents’ Scholarship.
“I’m the oldest of four, and my parents had three more kids to put through college,” she says. “So I decided the responsible thing would be to go to UH since I had a full ride.”
It was a great move. Exposure to different topics sparked new interests, and as graduation approached, Dudley became determined to earn a Master’s Degree in Communications. Then a solution to paying tuition presented itself: beauty pageants.
“I’d never even watched a pageant,” she says. But after meeting several people in that world, “They explained I could earn scholarship money by competing.”
So, with her education as a motivator, Dudley put aside the negative self-talk and competed for Miss Hawaii in 2004.
“I didn’t win the first time, but I did win scholarship money that went towards more schooling,” she says. Then, in 2005, she entered again, this time taking the crown, scholarship funds, and a run at Miss America, where she was named “Miss Congeniality.”
Despite the pursuit of her masters, Dudley’s parents wondered what kind of career she’d choose. She started throwing out endless ideas for a career. “Maybe I could be a mechanic, join the Navy, write a cookbook, be on TV, or I can…” Though she didn’t feel drawn to any of these particular professions, her dream of being a mom was continuing to grow.
Then she got the audition for KGMB. And, despite the on-camera blunder, she got “the call.” KGMB wanted to hire her as their new weather person. The reason? She was being her real self on camera.
“They said, ‘We’ve got a box full of overqualified candidates, but we keep coming back to you.’” One reason: as a surfer herself, Dudley came alive when delivering surf forecasts. “That’s the connection they wanted.”
Though she was halfway through her master’s degree, Dudley pivoted, diving into a three-year broadcasting meteorology program while working on-air.
“I ended up meeting the right people at the right time,” she observes. And from that period filled with negative self-talk, she realized, “It’s at the intersection of luck, opportunity and hard work that you find success.”
The Next Chapter
Then a huge life moment hit: Dudley finally became a mom.
She and her family moved to the Big Island, then Maui, which made working in station for KGMB impossible. She did, however, receive two Emmy Award nominations for excellence in weather reporting, and won the Edward R. Murrow Journalism Award.
Though Dudley was living her penultimate dream of being a mother, the weather still called to her.
“The times I’m happiest – most alive maybe, though completely exhausted – are during events of severe weather when people really need me,” she says. This led Dudley to streaming the weather digitally for the Maui NOW and Big Island NOW channels.
Today, Dudley finds herself in a familiar place, wondering where to take her career next.
“Maybe write a book, direct a documentary,” she says. But what’s been striking a chord of late is completing her Masters in Communication. “I keep thinking, ‘Oh wait, that was my calling! Why didn’t I finish?’”
No longer letting self-doubt win, Dudley isn’t beating herself up about not sticking to her original plan. Instead, she realizes, “Now I know what I want to do with my career.” As for obstacles? She’s aware that, at 37, she’ll be swimming amongst a school of 20-year-olds. “There’s no timeline for when you need to achieve something. No, ‘I’m too old, I’m too young.’ Those are just excuses. Limits you place on yourself.”
“It’s been a really thought-provoking time for me,” Dudley says, reflecting on her journey. “It sounds so cliche, but finding your passion, your gifts, is really important. Explore different careers, different paths and learn about different things to see what organically meshes with your spirit.”
About Redefining Rosie
This profile on Malika Dudley is a part of our Redefining Rosie: Cool Women, Uncommon Jobs.
Parentology created this series to celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day. It features articles highlighting remarkable women in the workforce around the world — and in outer space. Check out our other profiles in the Redefining Rosie hub.