Fox News Meteorologist Janice Dean is genuine. The joy she feels mingling with the crowd assembled outside Fox’s New York headquarters as she gives the morning weather report is clearly the real deal. It’s the first thing she mentions in her new book, Mostly Sunny: How I Learned to Keep Smiling Through the Rainiest Days, calling those gathered “my friends that come to visit me.”
Although born in Canada, Dean’s autobiography starts off like a classic American success story. She writes about her happy childhood, growing up with her parents and brother in a comfortable home outside of Ottawa, Canada. From a young age, she’s eager to work and earn money. She’s ambitious and very driven, yet also clever and funny, which makes it easy for her to charm her coworkers. Dean jumps on every opportunity to grow professionally and eventually develops an interest in journalism, getting entry-level jobs and volunteering as often as possible to gain more experience.
Of course, it isn’t all sunny. Dean describes painful moments—her father’s abandonment of her family, a weight problem, being bullied in school, and a terrible experience working for shock jock Don Imus. But for the most part, things are pretty good for Dean early in her career. It seems like this will be a “small-town girl makes it big” kind of story.
Then, 40 pages in, the book takes a dark turn. It surprised me so much, that I read those pages with a hand firmly placed over my gaping mouth.
Weathering the Storms
Completely alone and sleeping soundly in her apartment, Dean suddenly wakes to a man standing over her. He’s brandishing a knife and demanding she remove her clothes. Her survival skills kick in and she managed to distract him, keeping him talking, promised him money, expensive jewelry, and her new car. When a sudden noise outside startles him, he runs out of the apartment, leaving Dean stunned and trembling on the floor.
While the man didn’t physically harm Dean, the terrifying attack—and the obsessive thought of what might have happened if that sound hadn’t scared him off—left her fragile, questioning herself, dealing with crippling anxiety, and a fear of being alone. It also left her with survivor’s guilt after finding out other women had been attacked and one raped by the same man.
But Dean’s frightening Me Too moment (she’d have others) didn’t stop her. She reports the crime, which helps investigators eventually find him. She seeks counseling (a theme she returns to later in the book to explain how therapy has helped her throughout her adult life), takes time off work, and acknowledges that what she’s been through is significant. She seems to be at ease with the knowledge that such crimes change people.
It is perhaps because of this trauma that Dean navigates the Roger Ailes sexual harassment scandal so deftly. She’s in a particularly awkward place in that she gives partial credit for her own rise at Fox News to the very man who victimized so many of her friends and colleagues there.
Yet Dean is no Ailes apologist. In fact, when her Fox News colleague Gretchen Carlson went public and filed charges against Ailes, it was Dean who helped convince some skittish Fox News staffers to come forward with their own stories of how Ailes had harassed them.
Dean remembers Ailes as a deeply complex man—not a one-dimensional monster, but as someone with many demons and the capacity for both cruelty and kindness. She recalls how, on the one hand, he could be disarmingly kind and caring toward the women he hired. (Dean tells a particularly warm story about Ailes helping a woman who cleaned the offices rise to become one of the network’s head makeup artists.) On the other, he preyed on many women at Fox and inflicted terrible pain and professional uncertainty on them.
Dean even explains that it was Ailes she turned to, and who showed incredible sympathy and support, when she was first diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, or what she calls the “My, you look so well” disease.
Dean is at her funniest when talking about the process of being diagnosed. After seeing her family doctor due to concerns about numbing in her feet, Dean finds an “unemotional and very detached” neurologist she calls a robo-doctor, Dr. Feelbad, and Dr. Distant—a clear nod to the fact that Dean deals with stress by employing humor. At the end, she offers this zinger to the robo-doc, suggesting he should invest in “an acting class to at least look compassionate.” One hopes she sends him a dog-eared copy of her book.
Here Comes the Sunshine
This is the subtle literary style that allows Dean to really connect with readers. Who hasn’t had that experience with a doctor who delivers bad news with the perfunctory style of a person repeating back a fast-food order in the drive-thru? Who hasn’t wanted to scream at a doctor: BE HUMAN!
But Dean’s medical problems don’t end with the MS diagnosis. In one of the book’s more raw chapters, Dean explains the horrible side effects she suffered after having a cosmetic procedure. Channeling Nora Ephron, Dean had become very concerned with her aging neck and was told by a doctor that a fast and easy procedure could tidy it up a bit.
Sadly, Dean was one of the 1-2 percent of patients who suffer bad side effects and experienced temporary nerve damage to one side of her face. Now, this would be horrifying for anyone, but for a woman in the media—the national media, no less—who is known for her expressive face and fantastic smile, this was not only upsetting, it was potentially harmful to her career.
Dean is honest in how she responded at first: not well. She jokes about the many tears and “vats of wine” consumed while she was forced to take a break from broadcasting to fully heal. But, soon, she also saw an opportunity to help others—a constant theme with Dean.
She wrote an article about her experience and then decided to discuss the whole affair—the surgery, the recovery and even the shame and embarrassment she felt, on “Fox and Friends,” the network’s popular morning program. The outpouring of support, especially at Fox, helped her healing process tremendously and brought new fans who loved Dean’s honesty and eagerness to help others.
Dean ends her book by reminiscing about acting as a back-up singer for a band that was playing on “Fox and Friends.” Here’s the interesting part: Dean wasn’t told by the segment director that she would be singing backup. It wasn’t even a part of the programming that day. Instead, Dean asked to join the singers. That takes a lot of guts, and she enjoyed it so much she declared it “one of the best things I’ve ever done in my entire life!”
Janice Dean has gained the confidence she didn’t have when first starting out in the tough business of journalism. But she’s there now, and she’s able to offer not just sunshine but a lot of inspiration to those still trying to find their way out of the storm clouds.