Lidia Curanaj Always Listen To Your Inner Voice
I had the great honor of interviewing well-known radio host Lidia Curanaj. First, she describes what it was like growing up as an Albanian immigrant in Brooklyn. Then, she details how becoming a radio host became her dream as a child and how she accomplished that goal. Next, she tells us about bricks she faced along the way and the whispers that kept her going. Finally, she describes why she loves what she is doing now and how this is her dream job. You don’t want to miss this episode.
Ari: Welcome to Space bricks. My name is Iris showing I’m your host. First off, I want to wish everybody a Happy New Year and I hope you will enjoy your holidays. Ours was great. And we are now starting a new season season two starting in starting in 2022. And we’re going to start with a real bang. No, not the 911 type, but rather the July 4 Fireworks type. My first guest for season two is a very well known radio star who co hosts a show on 77 W ABC Radio in New York with John catsimatidis He’s the owner of the station. Her name is Lydia Serrana. Liddy was born and brought up in the Bronx, New York. She has four siblings and is of Albanian heritage. Her parents were Albanian immigrants. She attended and graduated Cardinal Spellman High School in New York City. And after high school Liddy received a full scholarship to Iona College, where she studied Mass Communication and Media Studies. She graduated summa cum loud. Liddy began a career as a production assistant with CBS News and worked her way up to become the coordinating producer for the CBS Evening News. From there she traveled to South Carolina to begin her on air career as a reporter and anchor where she broke numerous stories. missing home, Lydia came back to New York City and reported and anchored for news 12 Westchester. After only two years there, she moved on to Fox five and reported there for almost seven years. Along the way, Liddy has won several journalism awards, including two Emmys. In 2012, she was honored for elevating the image of Albanian women in the USA by the Albanian American women’s organization. In October 2015. She was honored at the Albanian American success stories soiree as one of the few Albanian Americans to work for TV in the US. Lydia is currently news director and talk show hosts for 77 ws W ABC News Radio, working alongside John Katz Matys Lydia’s dream job has been realized. Lydia’s goal has always been to report and tell the truth. And that’s exactly what she gets to do now every single day. Lydia currently currently lives in Hartsdale, New York with her husband, Victor, and has been blessed with a wonderful children. Please help me welcome Lydia Serrano, Aye. Aye, Lydia, welcome to whispers and bricks. Have you been good are about you? Great. I am so honored to have you on my show. You’ve been an inspiration to me and to my audience.
Lydia: Really, oh my goodness, that that means so much to me, because I just kind of got into the whole radio game. And it’s just such an honor and a privilege to be able to do this for a living.
Ari: Yeah, I hear you. We’re gonna get into that too. As you know, the name of the podcast is whispers in bricks. Now the whispers are those voices telling us what the right thing to do is and they represent the good in life. The bricks represent the bad things that we go through in life and let’s be real, nobody in this world ghost has a perfect life. Everybody gets hit with a brick of some sort at some point in time or another. Some get bigger bricks, some get smaller bricks, some get more, some get less. But at the end of the day, everybody has something they have to go through. Now, you your parents were Albanian immigrants. But you were born in the Bronx. Correct. Okay, now, look, it appears as though you excelled in high school and college based upon your bio. Right? You then had some great jobs and it appears as though you had like a dream life. But what I’ve learned is that most often when somebody’s life seems to be too good, there is usually some issues what I call bricks that they had to deal with. Now, let’s start with this. What was the early years like growing up with immigrant parents who came from a communist country in order to make a better life for themselves and their children? What was that like?
Lydia: It was difficult because you always felt like you were an outsider. That’s how I always felt. I grew up in a very Irish neighborhood. And I wanted to be I was upset that I was all have skins and I had dark hair and dark eyes and I wanted so badly there freckles and red hair. And, you know, while they’re eating, you know, peanut butter jelly sandwiches, my mother was making us like, you know, porcelain book that’s like a stew with like bread. And so I always kind of felt like an outsider. And my parents would say, I’m Mexican American, and my first language wasn’t even English. It was Albanian. So I struggled in kindergarten. At first they thought there was something, you know, back then they didn’t have ESL classes. So I was put in I remember k three. And I my teacher’s name was Mrs. Gilmore. It’s crazy the things you remember. And then we took a test and she realized that I was actually intelligent. But yeah, it’s it’s insane. But yeah, you just you, you this, it’s kind of like a culture shock. And the parents, my parents were like, obsessed with kind of keeping us isolated and preserving our identity in our culture, but you want so badly as a kid to just be like everybody else.
Yeah. But you know what, that’s really important. Also, you know, you speak to any immigrant or speak to any minority group, as much as they want to, you know, melt into the melting pot or whatever, they still want to maintain their identity, their culture, their their customs, alright, it’s what makes us who we are. And it’s what makes it by the way, it’s what makes the US such a great country, because we have that melting pot. It’s wonderful. Now, let me ask you this. At what point in your life did you know that TV and radio was going to be your career path? And and how did it happen?
I was watching my dad in order to learn English with watch Eyewitness News, CHANNEL SEVEN Eyewitness News, it was Ernie annacis. And Katie Tong, those were the main anchors, and we would watch the five o’clock, the six o’clock then the 10 o’clock, we turn it over to Fox five, and then back at I mean, we were watching the news all the time. And my dad was they wanted to know what was going on. And so I guess maybe internally, I saw just how much my parents looked up to these people. Because back then you would watch the news and really be like, wow, you know, those people are, you know, providing a service. They’re telling everybody what’s going on. And so I said, You know what, I want to do that. And then you know, as you get older, I would say I can’t do it. But my mother would say to me if I can come to this country with absolutely nothing. And we’re doing so well for ourselves. If you want to be on TV, you want to be on the radio, you can do whatever you want, because this is America.
Ari: Wow. Wow. So how old? Were you at that point? I mean, we
I was 12 I read when I was about 12 when I decided I want to be a journalist.
Yeah, uh huh. You didn’t want to be but mitzvah did you when you were 12.
Lydia: I wanted to be a Yeah, I just I said I want to be a journalist. I want to be a writer. I want to be this investigative reporter. When I had we did a show in the Bronx, it was called news and views on it was like a Catholic. We I went to a Catholic school. And it was kind of like this cable station type of thing. And I won an Emmy Award, which is like a play on an Emmy Award. And I got to meet Katie Tong. Wow was like my idol back then I wrote a paper about her. And to this day, I haven’t met her again. So I have friends that know her. But she’s the now she’s an anchor for pix 11 news, but she was somebody I idolized. Growing up.
Okay. Wow. All right. So let me let me ask you this, you know, what my listeners would like to know? Like, what was some of the struggles and possible failures, some of the bricks that you got hit with when you were starting out in your career, and throughout your career? How what was going on?
I think the biggest break that hit my life was when I was 10 years old. My brother was diagnosed with leukemia. I had a and he died in 2000. And he suffered for a good 10 years. And my mother couldn’t sorry, thank you. Yes, it was a right before. He died in May of 2000. And so I that’s when I had just graduated college, but he was sick for a good 10 years prior. And I was with my mother with the doctor’s appointments because my mother couldn’t speak English. So she would bring one of the kids along and it was me. And I remember the doctor saying to me, I remember the doctor. His name is Dr. Koh, Nick. And he said to me, your brother has cancer. He has leukemia, and he was one and a half. And he was sitting on my mother’s lap. And he was very advanced for his age and my mother starts crying because she knows what cancer means. And I have to translate it. I’m 11 years old, 10 1011 years old, and I’m translating for her that my brother has cancer as I’m crying. And my little brother, he’s one and a half and he literally said, Mommy Don’t cry. That’s what he kept saying was like, Mommy Don’t cry. So that whole experience for 10 years and I was kind of the primary caretaker as well at home because my sister, she was busy with school and she ended up getting married at 19 She got married, young fell in love got married young, and I you know, I had to take care of him at home a lot while my mother worked at night. My father and I so that put a lot of things in perspective and I think that’s where my faith and my ability to kind of just keep pushing came through from him because he just had such an amazing spirit. My brother, his name was Mark,
Mark. Okay, Mark Serrana
Well, no mark Mark weak I Serrano’s my husband’s last name.
Oh, I’m sorry. You know, I’m
so stupid. Yeah, no, no, no, no, you’re right. Most women keep their maiden names but right. That’s one of the
that’s kind of what I was thinking anyway. Yeah, no. So and and the fact that you’re Albanian, you know, so I obviously is my husband’s Albanian too. Okay, okay. All right now it’s coming together. All right, but that must have been that so what was your maiden
name? week i It means wolf in Albanian week a week I uj KJ it means Wolf.
Wow. Okay. Yeah, well, shall come from a tough tough stock. Yeah, Schoenbrunn my name. Alright, the last the last part it’s Schoenbrunn. Brawn or bone is a is a bear. In Yiddish, it’s a it’s a bear. So you’re the wolf. I’m the bear. You know, you go together will conquer the world. Wow. So he must have been something amazing. Something special. I mean, 10 years is a long time to to survive.
You know, relapsing? Yeah. And
you know, oh, my God. So you were huge. I mean, you’re about nine years old, eight and a half years older than he was?
Right? I was yes. And it was just it was it was hard. It was really hard.
Ari: I can imagine. When you went to college, did you go away? Or you know, at home?
I went to Iona college. My parents were very old school. They didn’t want me to go away. That was the other thing too. My parents were very strict. They were all about, like, you know, you know, my sister follow the right path as soon like, I mean, it sounds crazy. But in the Albanian culture, this is back then you turn 18 It’s time to start looking for a husband. You know, and yeah, my God, not
Ari: not much different than the Jewish world. Or the Orthodox Jewish world. Yes. All right. Or the ultra orthodox Jewish world you turn 18 girl turns 18 It’s game over. You know, it’s like, okay, you gotta get married, you know, when they do they get married? 1819 20. You know, 21 is already old. You know? So yeah,
Lydia; yeah, I get it. You’re over the hill. And my we would have guys come like, this sounds crazy. I have never told the story in public before. But we had an Albanian culture. This is back then this is like 20 years ago, guys would come and ask for you for your hands in marriage. You didn’t even know who these guys were. And they would come to your home and check you out. And then about a week with somebody else. And then about a week later, they would make a phone call and asked that to my father that they wanted my hand in marriage. And this happened multiple multiple times to me, because I came from a very nice family. They know I went to church and this and that. And I was just like, hell no. I was. No, no, no, no, I was. I just didn’t want to do it. I didn’t not that there’s anything wrong with it. My cousins all did. I have cousins that got married at 17. They’re still married to this day. Yes, thank god knock on wood. My sister still married, happily married. But I was just like, I want to focus on my school in my career. And, you know, I didn’t get married. I was considered very old. I didn’t get married till I was about 30. Wow, that’s considered very, very old in the Albanian culture.
Ari: Yeah, I hear you. I hear you. Wow, that’s that’s just amazing. But you were a fighter. You don’t you don’t get to do the jobs that you did without being a fighter. So let me ask you this. Did you ever get to a point in your life where you sunk so low? You know, stuffed was just wasn’t going right, whatever. And you finally said these up? You know what? I quit? I can’t do this anymore. I can’t take the fight anymore. I’m giving up my dreams. You know, I’m gonna go home and you know, maybe I just be a happy housewife and game over. Did you ever reach that point? If you did? How did you make that comeback? Because I know you made that comeback.
Lydia: I kind of it happened. Like twice me. it first happened when my brother died when I was 21. I said, you know, I was always in my I was very strong in my faith. I’m Catholic. And when he died and I the suffering that I saw, I said there’s no God like, How could How could this happen? What kind of God allows this but certain things happened and that I realized there is a God and have to keep fighting. I sank kind of in its into a deep depression away. I stopped eating. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat because I just I couldn’t believe I sounds crazy. I never thought he was going to die. I never thought it because he just always got better. And then we’d go into the hospital. We’d stay a couple of months, but he’d always come home and it just once he didn’t come home anymore. So around 21 I went through a really tough period. And then I pulled myself out of it. I don’t know I just prayer. I just prayed a lot. I did. I prayed and prayed and I had the rosary. And I would pray it every every night, and something. And then I got a job at CBS News. Yeah. And I worked with, you know, Dan Rather as a production assistant and I worked my way up to become the coordinating producer for Dan Rather, which was like, huge to do that in four years. And then I went to South Carolina to pursue my on air career. And then I think my other low point was, when I left Fox, I was there for seven years, I left there in about 2018. I had a difficult situation there, I sued for pregnancy discrimination, because I’ll tell this, I got pregnant, I was extremely happy. I had some issues getting pregnant. I mean, I was pregnant, but I had suffered some miscarriages, so So to be pregnant, was such a blessing. And I was so happy and then to be told, Well, you can’t work here anymore. I mean, literally, that’s what, that’s what he said to me. Once you have the baby, you won’t be able to work here anymore. You know, because we were not going to make accommodations for you. And if you know me, I’m not the type of person that asks for any kind. I
Ari: was gonna say, you’re not the type of person who’s gonna say, oh, I need accommodations. Yes. I figured, yeah, I had you pegged that a long time ago.
Lydia: I’m that type that I will be without sleep and this and that. I already talked about it with my mother. So the writing was on the wall. They had cut my hours down from being, you know, working five days a week, they didn’t give me a contract. I went to part time and all that. And so I went to just speak to the lawyer and the lawyers, like, that’s illegal. You can’t penalize somebody for being pregnant. Right? So I ended up leaving amicably because they gave me you know, some money and I said, bye bye. And I was like, That’s it. I’m done. I’m done with the media. They’re horrible people. They’re evil. Like, they know, I’m done. And I tried to get a job in the hospital system. I was trying, I was like, I’ll do PR I’ll do this. And then, you know, WA BC kind of fell into my lap. I yeah, I just started. A friend of mine worked at WBC Her name is Juliet. Hudy.
Ari: I know, Joey. Well, I know, Julie. I know. I know. Juliet from the radio. You know, I mean, she’s the bee’s knees. Oh, yeah. She’s with what’s his name? Frank Marino. Frank Morano.
Lydia: Right. So she was with Curtis at the time. Yeah, said hey, we need a backup newsperson. So then I started filling in doing the news there. And then all of a sudden, the news direct the program director there Dave lob, Rosie says to me, we had a conversation. He said, You should be a talk show host I said, Oh my God. That’s my dream. I would love to be a talk show host so you kidding me? Ah, yeah, right. And so, and then I got to fill in with Curtis and the first time I ever filled in with Curtis Lee was I didn’t sleep all night long. Curtis is the guardian angels. I
you know what? I remember him in that from the 70s. Okay, yes, I remember. That started.
I was nervous. I was freaking out. I couldn’t believe it. Oh my god. I’m starting my career sitting alongside the guardian angels founder the legendary Curtis Liwa. And, and it just kind of blew up from there. And now I’m, you know, I’m with John Cassavetes at five and he I
Ari: know that. I know that I listened. I listened to that. Oh, I listened to him all the time. I listened to you. I listened to him person. Oh, he’s unbelievable. At heart of gold. You know, you could just tell heart of gold. very philanthropic. I mean, just Yeah, absolutely. I think I think WAC WBC was very very lucky to have him by the station. You know, because it turned it around 100%
Lydia: Our ratings have like quadrupled since he bought it in a year but but it’s forget about even that he he honestly says I don’t care what you guys whatever, he doesn’t care if you’re right or left. He doesn’t care about your political leanings. He just says just tell the truth, whatever it is just correct. And then that’s what we do. And so he you know, we get along he has a great sense of humor. And so I’m just like really, really blessed. I mean, there are hard days to you know, when I’m there I had a show at four o’clock there and it got canceled. It got cancelled because they brought in a you know, somebody with a bigger name Rush Limbaugh has producer boasts nerdly they said okay, you know, he’s he’s famous you know, I’m a nobody.
I’m not a nobody. Well,
you know what I you know, I’m not You’re
Ari: not, you’re not you, you you know what? You’re famous now and you’re going to be a superstar. I’m telling you right now, you’ve just got it. You’ve got it all and you’re going to be a superstar. Let me ask you this. Who’s the one person your life you can point to that you would say had the most influence on your life and why?
Lydia: My mother, my mother, I she five kids, someone a five and then my brother who passed away he was the fifth he was the baby of the family. She kept a full time job, clean house and she never complains and just worked her butt off like she was a cleaning lady. Both of my parents came here with nothing and they do very well. They have No mortgages. My dad still doesn’t own a credit card. They have homes that they have bought. They’re millionaires like they’re millionaires. And I don’t understand how they did it to be honest with you. I don’t know how they did it. They came here with no education, but it’s just hard work. So that’s, that’s an that’s John Katz material. It’s really kind of meant to be that I’m working now for a guy that reminds me of my own father, very similar type of situation where he, John Cassavetes came from nothing. His father was a busboy, and then he became a millionaire at 22 or something like that. I mean, it’s just incredible. His story, too. You should get him on the podcast.
Ari: Yeah. Okay. Well, I’ll leave that to you to make the recommendation. Okay. Oh, wow. That’s amazing. Okay. You’re
amazing people. My parents, I’m very lucky. Yeah,
just FYI. Okay. 80% of the responses to that question is, mother. All right. You should just know that, you know, so moms are the is it your mom?
Um, no, it wasn’t my mom was my dad. My dad was was such an inspiration to me. He was, you know, he was the smartest man I ever knew. And he was he was just amazing. He was big. He was six foot 220. You know, really in great shape. He married my he was 18. When he got married, he married my mom, my mom was 19. And he was just nothing stood in his way. He would never let anything stand in his way. If he wanted to do something. He went out and did it. So he was yeah, he was my hero. He was definitely my hero. I lost him. I lost him about six years ago. And you know, my parents were living in Israel at the time my dad passed away. It was on the Saturday. And I like, you know, I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye. But I will tell you this. And this is not I don’t know why I’m doing this, because this shouldn’t be about me. It’s about you. But But I will tell you that he died in February. And I remember he had he had dementia. Right. So he was losing it. And I and I will talk to some of my siblings. And I said, You know what, I’m going to visit daddy, because I want to see him while he still knows who I am. So in November, prior to the February, November, I went to Israel, I spent a week with him and we we went that he couldn’t walk in the apartment is able to walk but in the street, you know, he had to be in a wheelchair. And so I would wheel them to a coffee shop and we’d have coffee together we go to the park together. It was just such a special special week that I had with him that I was so happy that I did that. Because you know, those are the memories that are going to that are going to be with me, you know, my whole life. And so, you know, is what I was just glad that I did that. You know, he’s, but he was a great man. Now, quick question. We’re almost done. Okay, unfortunately. Do you have any words of wisdom for my audience? Before we go any words of advice?
Lydia: I think the most important thing is to listen to that inner voice, though is the whispers exactly the whispers You got to listen to that voice. I remember a homily at Dupree Homily is when the priest speaks during Mass and he said, You know, God speaks to us every single day. And peep right. It says
that’s what I say in my talks. When I talk from stage when I you know, I do motivational speaking. Yes, I know. And I said God talks to us every single day he whispers to our minds and whispers to our hearts, hearts. But we’re so busy running through life that we don’t pay any attention. You know what? That gives me goosebumps. That’s why he throws a brick at us. Right?
Ari: Up next. Oh my god, it’s so true. It’s so true. And you just got to kind of listen to that inner voice listen to God, he’s speaking through you. And you know, some people like well, how do you know God exists? You know, I didn’t see him. I can’t touch him. We know love exists, right? Because we feel it all around us. We know when we love somebody we know when we’re in love. Can you touch love? Can you mold it? Can you put it in a box? No, but it exists. It’s there, because you feel it to the depths of your soul. And that’s how I feel with God. I hear him talking to me. And I listen to the voice. And I feel like the sounds maybe a little corny. Like this was what I was meant to do to try to lift people up and inspire them. And, you know, if I can just help one person, then that’s it. I’m good.
You’re following my footsteps. Talking about getting goosebumps?
Ari: Oh my gosh, that’s exactly what I tell people all the time. I’ve never heard the analogy of love. I really like that. I really like that. Can I use that? Of course. Of course. All right. No, that’s great. Because I tell people, you know, you have a belief in God and they say I can’t even I can’t touch whatever. I said if you could see him or touch and if I can prove to you that he existed, then it wouldn’t be faith anymore. Then it’s just fact. Okay, you have a fact you know, you want to prove something you know, you can touch you can feel you can see it alright then it’s not a belief anymore. The eyes Dia is yes, you can’t touch them. You can’t you, alright, but I believe that he is there and he runs the world, plain and
simple. He does, he does. And it’s that love that endures and lasts forever. And it’s the most important thing. And God loves us unconditionally. Just like we love our own children unconditionally. Just like my parents love me unconditionally. And I, you know, it’s, it’s what keeps me going. I know, it’s what keeps you going. So I’m sure your dad is so proud of you right now to
Lydia: oh my god, like, I hope so. I hope I didn’t disappoint him. No. Okay, so listen. And if people want to get in touch with you, you know, for I think
Ari: Twitter, Twitter, I have my email there at Lydia news, Li dia, ne Ws, that’s the best way and they can direct message me I have my email address on there, too. So at Lydia news is probably the best way to get in touch with Twitter, or my Instagram, you know, I’m pretty I get a lot of messages. And people tell me that the prayer that I say at the end of a say, at the end of my show, when I lifted them up, and
oh, I just said, I love that, by the way. It’s so nice. It’s just because it’s so nice to hear God being mentioned the talked about you know, in a world today where they’re trying their best to get God out of schools, get God out of the system, you know, it’s like, and you just bring it all back.
Lydia: I’m just a regular girl. That’s it. I’m just a regular person. And I tell it, that’s why it’s okay.
Ari: Yeah, you let you like Supergirl. Okay, I’m just a person until I put my Superman on. Lydia, I want to say thank you so much for sharing your story with me and my audience. You are truly truly an inspiration. Good luck going forward. I know that you’re going to see we’re gonna see some great things from you.
Lydia: Oh, thank you so much, Ari anytime and you inspire me as well. And I hope we can continue this friendship for a very long time.
Ari: I hope so. You have been listening to whispers in Brixton. I’m your host iwi Schomer. Remember, if you feel like you’re stuck in the mud, like you’re spinning your wheels, wasting time in your career, your business or your life. If you know you’re not enjoying all the success, satisfaction and significance that you desire, then it’s time for you to book a call with me at call with REI comm check out my whispers and bricks Academy coaching. Until next time, listen to the whispers avoid the bricks and never ever give up on your dreams.