Sunny with a Chance of Orange and Green

Lissette Gonzalez, UM alumna and meteorologist at CBS4 Miami.
By Ashley A. Williams

Lissette Gonzalez, UM alumna and meteorologist at CBS4 Miami.

Sunny with a Chance of Orange and Green

By Ashley A. Williams
University of Miami alumna Lissette Gonzalez has worn many hats post-graduation before settling into her longest role yet, as meteorologist at CBS4 News.

Dark and early is the best time to catch a glimpse of University of Miami alumna, Lissette Gonzalez. A typical workday for her begins at 2:30 a.m.—sometimes earlier. But Gonzalez, who reports the weather each morning for CBS4 Miami, appreciates that she can deliver this vital information to Miami audiences each morning.

“I feel a huge sense of responsibility as a meteorologist in my hometown, because I have witnessed firsthand the power of these storms and I have seen the devastation and destruction they are capable of,” she said.

Gonzalez, a Jane-of-all-trades, has held many different positions before coming into her longest-running role as a well-known Miami meteorologist on WFOR, Miami’s CBS affiliate. The former pageant queen became an off-Broadway star, and then dabbled as a recording artist while also pursuing her television career.  

Gonzalez has now worked at CBS4 News in Miami as a meteorologist for the past 11 years. She graduated from UM with a double major in Broadcast Journalism and Music-Vocal Performance. At the time she was enrolled, a broadcast meteorology major did not exist. Still, she was able to gain hands-on experience in her broadcast journalism classes, and gained further skills when she got her start anchoring for UMTV as a sophomore. Her many talents have led her to many different jobs on and off camera and taught her things that she applies to her everyday life—not just as a meteorologist.

“I was blessed with many opportunities in life, but if I hadn’t prepared myself with the proper education and experiences, then I would not have been able to take full advantage of those opportunities,” Gonzalez said. “I am so grateful for all the experiences that have shaped the person that I am today including winning Miss Florida, graduating from the University of Miami and Mississippi State University and working in television as an anchor, host, reporter and meteorologist.”

Gonzalez realized early on that competing in pageants was a great opportunity to earn scholarship money to pay for her education. Although she did win the title of the Miss University of Miami scholarship pageant, she later competed and won Miss Miami and Miss Florida and was second runner up to Miss America in 1998. Gonzalez won more than $50,000 in scholarship money, which helped her complete her studies at UM. While competing for Miss America, her stunning voice caught the attention of a prominent theatrical producer who referred her to Tony Award-winning producer, Dasha Epstein. Epstein then helped Gonzalez make her way to the theatre.

“I was blessed to star as ‘Maria’ in the Off-Broadway hit ‘4 Guys Named Jose and Una Mujer named Maria’ in New York and Miami,” she said. “That opportunity led to a record in 2001 with RCA.”

Gonzalez had a thirst for knowledge and has always enjoyed reading, writing, public speaking, singing and performing. With the help and motivation from her favorite UM instructors, Carolyn Cefalo, a former lecturer of broadcasting journalism, and Susan Roumelis, former lecturer of modern media, she was able to hone her skills and passions.

“Professor Cefalo and Professor Roumelis are strong, experienced women who set such great examples,” she said. “They were charismatic and their passion for journalism was infectious. They did not sugarcoat how difficult the business could sometimes be.”

Gonzalez credits UM and its faculty for making her the professional she is today. Paul Driscoll, associate professor and vice dean for academic affairs at the School of Communication (SoC), has become a lifelong mentor and friend, Gonzalez said. When she made the decision to double major in broadcast journalism and music, he was highly supportive.

“He was so kind and helpful throughout all my years at UM,” she said. “Based on my interests, he helped guide me and select courses that would help me fulfill the credits required for my degree. There were semesters I had to take 21 or more credits. Although it was hard work and I spent many hours studying, it was all worth it.”

When the beauty queen isn’t on-air, you can find her giving back to the UM community through mentoring. She has returned to the SoC to speak to students in Driscoll’s classes, and he has brought his students to the WFOR station for tours. Gonzalez is still passionate about music and has performed the National Anthem at the Miami Marlins, Dolphins and Heat games.

“I feel so thankful. I’ve had the chance to go back to the U to share my experiences and words of advice with students who aspire to work in the news industry,” she said.  

Hurricane Preparedness

Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 until November 30. Like many of us, Gonzalez is all too familiar with hurricanes and their effects on our homes, businesses and schools. After all, hurricanes—specifically Hurricane Andrew—is what interested her in becoming a meteorologist. She remembers the devastation and impact it had on her.

“I was with my family in Southwest Miami-Dade when Andrew slammed South Florida, the power went out and we were holding up a mattress in the hallway of our home with a flashlight and a radio listening to Meteorologist Bryan Norcross in the dark,” she said. “Bryan helped to guide us through the storm. He is certainly a role model.”

Gonzalez provides her own advice on storm preparation. As a mother of little ones, she said it’s important for her to prepare early in the case she has to go into storm coverage mode. Her list of must-haves include diapers, wipes and snacks.

“We also make sure to have flashlights, batteries, and a battery-powered radio in case the power goes out,” she said. “I also like to place important documents, photos and albums in plastic water-proof containers to protect them.”

Viewers can watch Gonzalez on CBS4 News Monday through Friday from 4:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.