Julie Davidson has obviously found the secret to adding more hours to the 24-hour day. She’s a powerhouse, a kind person and, I fully disclose, a dear friend.
Julie is a radio DJ for B93.3, co-host (with me!) of the OnMilwaukee podcast “Dandelions: A Podcast for Women,” a podcast producer, a real estate agent, an author of a book, a PR consultant, a wife of 23 years and a mother of two teen sons.
She is hilarious, heartfelt and honest – about herself as well as about Milwaukee – and it’s a joy and a pleasure to proverbially hand her the mic.
OnMilwaukee: Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
Julie Davidson: I was born in LaCrosse, but then adopted by my parents in De Pere, a suburb of Green Bay. My parents were white and they already had five biological white sons. My dad taught at St. Norbert College. I graduated to East De Pere High School. Shout out: It’s a great day to be a Redbird!
Wow, five older brothers? You must have been well protected.
I was. And I am still close with four of my brothers. My oldest brother died three years ago.
I’m sorry to hear that … Did you ever feel uncomfortable living with an all-white family in a place that, at the time, was not very racially diverse?
Yes, many times I felt uncomfortable. There were hard stares, rude comments and insensitive comments made. I was keenly aware of bias and ignorance. My parents never downplayed it or made excuses for it. They did a very good job. Although through white people lenses, they made sure that I knew absolutely that I was black. Again, being white, there were limitations and there were so many things they did not know, but they were willing to learn.
What led you to Milwaukee?
I was ready to leave that teeny tiny town and so I moved to Milwaukee to go to Cardinal Stritch University, which was Cardinal Stritch College at the time. I got a degree in communications – which comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me – and I was fortunate to go tuition-free because my dad taught at St. Norbert.
What early life experiences made you love music so much?
I did not grow up in a particularly musical family. I took clarinet lessons as a kid and exactly one day of piano lessons. I really got into music – listening to music – in middle school. And I sing in the shower. It’s not good. But one time I was singing in the shower and if I hit certain notes - trying to be Whiteney Houston – my dog would howl along. That was pretty great.
Who are some of your favorite musicians?
Chaka Kahn, Prince, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Public Enemy, Patti LaBelle, Boney James, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder, Susan Tedeschi. The list goes on and on.
When did you get into radio?
I got into radio in 1996. I immediately loved it. I learned so much about what happens behind-the-scenes with music. That’s the magical stuff for me: how it all comes together. And then there’s going to all the concerts and introducing bands. I just love looking out on an audience and knowing it's comprised of all these different people with different backgrounds and yet they all came out to the same spot to jam out and enjoy music. Being on the radio also lets me show off Milwaukee in a positive light. I get so much of my content that I share from OnMilwaukee. You guys make me feel like a tourist in my own town. You always cover something interesting that makes good radio fodder.
Well, we certainly love having you contribute to our content. It’s funny for me to ask you this, being that I’m the co-host, but what do you like most about “Dandelions: A podcast for women”?
I really like how we usually address topics people don’t want to talk about. We provide a space for people to talk about things that don’t always have a space in everyday conversation. I like to tell people we are the opposite of polite cocktail conversation. It also pushes me outside of my comfort zone. Like our episode about death. I wasn’t sure I could even make it through that one, but I did.
You also produce a podcast, right?
Yes, I’m a podcast producer for Stacy Tuschl's "The Foot Traffic Podcast." It's a great podcast for business strategy and advice. Through this, I’ve learned a lot about small business and the grit and the grind of being a small business owner. It takes so much dedication. And the small business owners I’ve met are all not only dedicated to their business, but usually to their families and workers and communities, too. It’s phenomenal.
And you also sell real estate. Can you share a little bit about that?
Yep, I have my real estate license. It’s a crazy time for buying and selling houses. Hey, might I recommend the perfect podcast for that topic? OnMilwaukee talks about “moving Milwaukee forward” a lot and I am literally moving Milwaukee forward with this job.
Do you ever think about moving from Milwaukee?
Very much. At some point I probably will move out west to be closer to my family. That’s the goal.
OK, so why have you stayed here for so long?
It’s two-fold. For one, I got comfortable here. Plus, I met my husband here, we’ve been married for 23 years now, and have two sons who are 17 and 18. Milwaukee is home, but I’m also very frustrated with Milwaukee.
You wrote a really funny and heartfelt book about being a mom. It’s been a few years now, how are you feeling about the experience these days?
It's been tough this year for most kids and parents with the pandemic and with the state of the country. My mama bear claws came out extra sharp the past year or so. And my worry odometer has gone up 100 percent. But being a mom makes me a better person. I am a better person for them and because of them.
Family, in general, is gold. I didn’t realize that as a teenager. Because I am Black and adopted I always felt I was different. I zoned in on that. My family did not, but for me it was huge. As I got older, though, my family has become more and more important to me. And I have met so many people who are biologically related to their family, but still don’t feel close to them. So I consider myself very lucky to feel so close to my family, even though we don’t share DNA. If you met my family you would understand. They are some of the most open and welcoming people. They are genuine good people.
What are some of the aspects of Milwaukee that you like the most?
I hate to sound so cliche and say “the festivals,” but … the festivals. And the lake. And we have the best cheese curds and wings in America, and you can fight me on that.
What frustrates you about Milwaukee?
The segregation. Lots of people claim they can’t see it. But I see it everywhere as a black woman, as a mother of black sons and as a realtor. I’m hoping to change what I can and help people who have the power to buy a house, to buy it in whatever neighborhood they want. I’ve had clients who could afford to live in a certain neighborhood, and really liked a house there, but didn’t put an offer in because they didn’t feel welcome. More people in Milwaukee need to sit down, like we are right now, and share their stories. Black is beautiful, brown is beautiful. We have so much to say to each other.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.