Personality Profile: Be Like Lucille Ball: Willing to Be Weird

Personality Profile: Be Like Lucille Ball: Willing to Be Weird

by Tracy Johnson

No one wants to be average. Everyone wants to be normal. But everyone also wants to be unique. We want to stand out. But normal doesn’t stand out. It blends in. For radio personalities, and radio brands, you must be willing to be weird.

What’s up with that? Being willing to be weird means embracing your quirks and flaws. That’s a key part of building a character brand profile. When you identify what makes you stand out from the pack, you’re on your way to radio success.

It means finding those unique qualities that separate you from anyone else. And that can be scary.

Winning personalities can’t imitate others on the path to excellence. It can be achieved only by breaking out from the pack, abandoning the status quo.

Powerful performances happen when talented personalities find their on-air character voice.

And the story of how Lucille Ball became a Hollywood legend is a perfect example that could be just the inspiration you need.

Lucille Ball: Willing To Be Weird

Hollywood legend Lucille Ball started out as a failure.

The New York Times tells us of the beginning of Lucy’s career:

She embarked on a show-business career at age 15 by going to Manhattan and enrolling in John Murray Anderson’s dramatic school. From the first, she was repeatedly told she had no talent and should return home.

She tried and failed to get into four Broadway chorus lines, so she became a model for commercial photographers.

She won national attention as the Chesterfield Cigarette Girl in 1933. This got her to Hollywood as a Goldwyn singer.

For the next two years she played anonymous bit roles in two dozen movies. She then spent seven years at RKO, where she got leading roles in low-budget movies, but was wrongly cast and mostly wasted in films.

But she didn’t give up. Lucy was down, but not out. Each rejection was a building block to what she to become.

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The Price, And the Payoff

In all, Lucille Ball appeared in 72 B-movies before she became too old to be credible as a female love interest.

Her lackluster career on the silver screen ended without fanfare in 1948.

So at the age of 37, Lucy left the movies, swallowed her pride and became Liz Cooper on a live radio show called My Favorite Husband.

Jess Oppenheimer, her director, picks up the story:

I remember telling Lucy, “Let go. Act it out. Take your time.” She was simply afraid to try.

So one day, at rehearsal, I handed Lucy a couple of Jack Benny tickets. She looked at me blankly. “What are these for?” “I want you to go to school,” I told her. It did the trick.

When Lucy came into the studio for the next rehearsal, I could see she was excited. “Oh my God, Jess,” she gushed, “I didn’t realize! All this time, I’ve been trying to be someone else, when in reality those people just don’t give a damn.”

She just couldn’t wait to get started trying out the new, emancipated attitude she had discovered. On that week’s show Lucy really hammed it up, playing it much broader than she ever had before.

She coupled this with her newfound freedom of movement, and there were times I thought we’d have to catch her with a butterfly net to get her back to the microphone. The audience roared their approval, and Lucy loved it. So did I.

Released from her fear of being herself, Lucy embraced her quirks and Lucy Ricardo was born.

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You’ve probably heard of her. She turned The Lucy Show into a fortune.


Being a true personality comes with risk.

Breaking away from the pack is the way to spectacular failure, or tremendous success.

Are you beginning to understand why there is so little excellence in the world?

A weird person who succeeds is called eccentric. A weird person who fails is called a loser. Most people just walk the middle path and wonder what might have been. They live in the Zone of Mediocrity.

If there is, somewhere, a Book of Days, what will be written in it about you? Will the book say you played it safe, never took a chance and were buried in such-and-such a place?

I think Tom Peters gave excellent advice to managers when he said,

Reward excellent failures. Punish mediocre successes.

This post was inspired by Roy Williams in his Wizard of Ads blog. A brilliant article, and marketer.

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