It Does Get Better—and Better!
Interview with Jason Matheson
FOX 9’s own Jason Matheson recently shared with Lavender a slice of his whirlwind life.
You’ve been called the “Twin Cities Ryan Seacrest” and the “Poor Man’s Neal Patrick Harris.” Who is Jason Matheson’s “Jason Matheson”?
I’m just a 30-something nerd who loves Star Wars; adores listening to TV themes; battles weight; loves his family and friends; is outgoing/shy; often prefers a night at home with my significant other watching Real Housewives to a night on the town; and is lucky enough to have a great career.
What was life like in Michigan City, Indiana?
Growing up in Indiana definitely had its challenges, especially since I was gay. My mother was—and is—beyond amazing, but my dad and I weren’t close at all. We lived in the same house, but we never bonded. He wanted a son who played sports, and was a “typical” boy. I was a son who turned his He-Man action figures into characters from Knots Landing.
And gay at school?
Junior high was the worst two years of my life. I was picked on, beaten up, and harassed almost daily. As the only “presumed gay,” I was an easy target. On my first day, my main tormenter came up to me, spat in my face, and called me a fag. Another episode involved my gym teacher—a source of never-ending horror—who had me remove my shirt—and stand in the middle of the gym as the dodge-ball target—something I will never, ever forget. What’s sadder is the fact that I share these stories with thousands of other kids—part of a not-so-exclusive club.
Do you feel things have changed for GLBT youth today?
I’m in awe of young people who come out. I can’t imagine the bravery that takes. But, there’s a flip side: the recent rash of gay teen suicides. I was deeply, deeply affected by the death of Justin Aaberg last year. I couldn’t stop thinking about him—what he must’ve gone through. I decided I had to say something.
You were able to use your show?
Justin’s death prompted me. We were doing The FOX 9 Buzz, and I said to my cohost, “I don’t know what I’m gonna say, but hang with me, ’cause I have to say something.”
I looked right at the camera, and spoke from my heart. It was unorthodox, but I needed to say something—hoping some kid out there, who maybe was experiencing what Justin went through, was watching, and could see that, yes, it does get better.
There was a shift in me that day. I haven’t looked at my career or the extraordinary platform I have in the same way—it’s a blessing, an opportunity to use this sometimes-goofy medium of TV/radio to do some good.
Tell us about your professional life—from 8 years old to FOX 9.
I remember standing on a rock in my grandpa’s—Papaw’s—yard, and doing a little “talk show.” I don’t remember what I called it, what I talked about, but it was my chat show, live from Indiana!
From my earliest memory, I always knew what I wanted, and what I was meant to do. One time, I was getting beat up on the playground, and I had this feeling of: “It’s OK…it’s gonna get better. Your life will move way beyond this.”
I moved here in ’97—didn’t know a soul, didn’t have a full-fledged plan. I got a job as an overnight dispatcher at WCCO, and stayed three years. In 2000, I joined Channel 9 as producer of The Buzz, hosted by Robyne Robinson; in 2009, a weekly entertainment show on FOX, The Weekend Buzz; then, a daily radio show on myTalk 107.1. I was recently named cohost of The FOX 9 Buzz and coanchor of The FOX 9 Morning News.
What’s most satisfying in your career and your personal life?
The chance to be my authentic self every day. Personally, I celebrate my amazing circle of close friends—they’re family. Most important, my partner: best friend, biggest cheerleader, strongest supporter—my rock, who’s not afraid to smack me back down to earth when I need it.
What would you tell youngsters today?
How I end my radio broadcast every day: If you’re a kid who’s being bullied, never forget you are loved, you are special, and you are perfect just the way you are. So, go out there, and be yourself, ’cause no one can tell you you’re doing it wrong!