By Tricia Witkower
Bianca Rae is the morning anchor at #1 rated KESQ Channel 3, but she is so much more than that. Through her volunteerism and philanthropy, she has chosen to use her spotlight to give a voice to the causes she holds dearest to her heart: animal activism and mentoring Coachella Valley youth. She founded the Bianca Rae Foundation as a vehicle for this and serves as CEO to this worthy organization. For four years, the Bianca Rae Foundation has held a leadership retreat for Coachella Valley girls of middle school age to give them positive role models and leadership skills. We talked to her about this and more.
CVW: The Bianca Rae Foundation has an event coming up soon. Can you tell me more about it?
Bianca Rae: “We have our Rae of Hope Leadership Retreat coming up on Saturday, September 23. This is our 4th annual event. It started with 120 young girls attending and is now up to 500 – it’s grown so much! It really speaks to the need for this type of event for this age group. Middle school is such a critical age in development. Parents push their girls to go and really want girls to be part of it. Young kids talk about it on social media, so there’s a lot of positive buzz about it. It’s a 1-day leadership retreat for middle school girls. There are five different breakout groups run by fellow newscasters that the girls rotate through, spending one hour at each. The five topics in those groups are: Social Media Safety, Building Your Dreams, Leadership, Health and Wellness (we call this one Fit & Fabulous), and Bold and Beautiful (this breakout is a make-under where we talk about how to wear makeup and that less is more). I teach the Leadership breakout session and talk a lot about anti-bullying, in addition to leadership. Girls share their experiences and it gets very emotional.
“Last year, an eighth grade girl came out as a lesbian in the Leadership group, which was the first time she had felt comfortable enough to do so. We want them to realize it’s cool to be close to your mom and have her be your best friend. When I grew up it was cool to be smart! I owe a lot of my successes to the fact that my mom and dad have been an integral part of my growing up and giving me guidance in being a young woman, even with little things like teaching me to send thank you notes and to cross my legs at the ankle rather than the knee.
“It’s good to be a nice girl. At that age, sometimes advice from your mom goes over your head, but hearing from local celebrities resonates more. I look up to a lot of celebrities – what they say helps me get though hard times – and that’s true for a lot of people. We want these little girls to have good, solid role models. It’s easy for young girls to get caught up in Instagram and see Instagram models as the vision of what they think they’re supposed to be. On my own Instagram, I try to stay away from bikini photos and post classy photos. I want respect, not attention. People can go to my Instagram not to see my body, but to see what I’ve done. We talk about our own insecurities. I have things I don’t like about myself and sometimes take mean emails to heart. Nobody’s perfect! Even at 28, I sometimes call my mom crying after reading harsh messages people send me on social media. I’m old and mature enough to know it’s their issue, not mine. But at 12, you take it to heart. One thing I love to tell the girls who attend is, ‘What Susie says about Sally says more about Susie than it says about Sally.’”
CVW: Can you tell me a little bit about your work with animals?
BR: “The Bianca Rae Foundation’s purpose is twofold. We focus on kids and animals. For me, it’s under the same umbrella. I always say I want to be a voice for the voiceless. We do an annual adoption event at the River in Rancho Mirage. Our next one is Saturday, Nov 18 and we are joined by Animal Samaritans. What I’m most proud of is that we help fund No Kill Coachella Valley Coalition, who works with the Oregon Humane Society in Portland to transport our animals to no kill shelters. The Oregon Human Society has high demand and low supply, so hundreds of animals are transported and the Bianca Rae foundation pays for food and gas for driver. Adoption events are great but this helps us to clear shelters quickly. Most recently No Kill Coachella Valley Coalition worked with San Diego shelters to bring in animals from Texas that were affected by Hurricane Harvey. We are so appreciative of the donors who continue to support us! It all started with Jack, my rescue dog. I adopted him 5 years ago when I was getting involved with philanthropy out here. Jack is a spaniel-dachshund mix and is so sweet. I ran into a woman who told me she adopted a dog because of the commercial she sees of Jack and me. I would love to see more celebrities and public figures adopting dogs and glamorizing adoption. I bring Jack everywhere so people can see he’s a shelter dog and how great he is and break down stereotypes. I use my platform to do that.”
CVW: What is it like being an anchor on TV in the Coachella Valley?
BR: “My life has changed a lot since I became morning anchor for KESQ News Channel 3 two years ago. It is the #1 rated morning newscast in the Coachella Valley, so I am in a highly publicized position. I love it and take it as such an honor that I have this ability to reach people. If I miss church on a Sunday, three people will notice and ask me where I was. It’s touching how people care and support me and follow me. I’ve had people I don’t know write to me and ask me how my trip to Chicago was. I enjoy being relatable and approachable. It’s been neat to see my presence grow in this valley. My social media following has grown. So many things have happened because of this job! This success all goes hand in hand with the success of my foundation. I could have a foundation, but it wouldn’t have the same visibility if I weren’t in the position I’m in. I truly enjoy making positive change. A little over six years ago I moved here from Chicago after going to college at University of Missouri. I started as a reporter, moved on to weekend anchor, then became morning anchor two years ago. A lot of people come and go in this industry but they’ve grown me a lot here. The community – I love life here! It’s such a beautiful place to live, with so much philanthropy. It’s a glamorous, fun life with red carpets and events, but also really good people. I’m so grateful to KESQ. Along with power comes responsibility when you’re in the public eye and I wouldn’t want any other job.”
CVW: Tell me about receiving a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.
BR: “Back in June, I was named the 416th star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars. It says, “Journalist, TV Personality, Humanitarian”. It’s exciting to be called a humanitarian. I didn’t grow up in that lifestyle, going to fancy galas. I never would have dreamed. It’s such an honor to be called that word. It’s really cool the life I’ve been able to grow out here. I love that I’m able to make a difference in the valley.”
CVW: When you have free time, what do you like to do?
BR: “I’m a firm believer that you make time for things that are important to you. I make time for fun and people who are special to me. A lot of my free time goes to my foundation. I love working out, I love eating and trying new restaurants. I like to write and I love listening to country music. I’m STILL learning to play golf. I love doing stuff with Jack. The perfect Saturday would be working out, running errands with Jack while country music plays in my car, eating breakfast just the two of us and then the two of us out there trying to change the world.”
The 4th Annual Rae of Hope Leadership Retreat is on Saturday, September 23, 2017 at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort and Spa. Registration (as of press time) is now closed with 500 girls enrolled. There is now a waiting list. The cost was $10. Scholarships were provided to those who needed it, generously donated by the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation. Please go to http://www.biancaraefoundation.org/ for more information and to register and purchase tickets.