Shanna Mendiola, the proud Filipina meteorologist who is part of NB4 Southern California’s Today in LA was recognized for her eye-opening environmental news story “Plastic and Our Oceans” during the 71st LA Area Emmys. Together with his cameraman, editor, and producer Andres Fernando Pruna, Shanna was able to impart a highly relevant news story of the alarming ecological imbalance in nature, where she reported that 88 per cent of the world’s oceans are now drowning in plastic debris, with this issue not ceasing to worsen until now. Seeing through a lens of what is happening in her designated place in Los Angeles, she and her team felt the huge responsibility “to raise awareness for environmental issues that affect our planet.”
“Sadly, you don’t have to go very far to find trash on our washing up on Southern California beaches, or even see it in the water….Cities are making small changes like banning plastic straws and bags, but it’s not enough. I hope the story my producer and photographer Andres Pruna and I put together educates the public about the issue and gets more people talking about how we can work together to make a change,” Shanna shared in an email response to the Asian Journal.
This was her second time bagging a prestigious award. She and her team, which included Crystal Egger, also won with their report El Nino: Currents of Change in a competition dubbed as “Denver City Dancing with the Stars.” They also took home $7,000 dollars in cash, in which she donated them to the Anchor Center for Blind Children.
“I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and honored beyond words to receive this [Emmys] award,” Mendiola said. “There are very few women and women of color as a whole in the broadcast meteorology field, and to be Filipino American and win this Emmy — it’s a win for the community and hopefully inspiration for many to follow!”
A Filipina storm chaser and risk taker
Shenna hails from Iloilo, Philippines, proudly saying that she is a first-generation Filipina. She finished a bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television at San Fransisco State University, and later achieved a certificate in meteorology in Mississipi State University.
Before landing a stable and fulfilling job as a resident meteorologist at the Today in LA, Shanna “worked her way up” by exploring other television stations in Denver, Oregon, and San Fransisco. She said that she would constantly move across the country, which groomed her to experience all kinds of work and witness first-hand the worst of weather conditions—from storms, tornadoes, floods, to hurricanes.
“I remember one time I was able to see the development of a tornado [in Colorado]…It was scary and my mom was like, ‘Don’t do that again.’ I think seeing that helped me with what I’m doing now here in LA,” Shanna said.
Someone to look up to
This tough Filipina never fails to always mention her inspiration behind her career as a meteorologist: Al Roker. In an interview with the Asian Journal, she shared how her passion in science—particularly geography—came about. She said that when she was only 12 years old at an event in her mother’s work called “take your daughter to work day,” she watched a news anchor report about the weather—the renowned Al Roker himself—got stunned, and since then vowed to follow in the footsteps of this noble man.
She fondly recalled how she would always watch his show while further studying science.
“I watched him every day as a kid. I got to work for him. How exciting is that? I feel very, very blessed to have done it, and to be the first Asian American to have done it as well — that’s history,” she remarked.
The law of attraction had worked it magic, when finally, one day, she was able to work with him, and once even filled in for his role one time during Christmas break.
“Can you imagine, somebody that I used to watch growing up, Al Roker, I got to fill in for him? And I was the first Filipina-American or even Asian-American to fill in for Al Roker so it’s a proud thing for me to do,” she said.
Meteorologist on screen
Three key and difficult elements make up the everyday life of a resident meteorologist, as faced by Mendiola: 1) weathering the unpredictable weather; 2) analyzing the weather patterns; and 3) utilizing complex technology (such as StormRanger4, augmented reality, and NBC4x4Caster), all in an attempt to bring relevant weather stories and offer awareness to its people. Couple it with waking up at 2AM in the morning everyday just to chase the forecast, research, create a mental script, and enhance the story with the technology at hand. Still assume that being a resident meteorologist is all about glamor dresses and make-up? Think again. It’s more about coffee and the constant will to plough on despite everything.
Shenna continues to inspire people, especially Filipinos to follow what they truly want in life and to continue to fight for what they value the most. For her, it’s all about knowledge and service.
“No matter what you want to do, it doesn’t matter if it’s science or not, just don’t be discouraged. If it’s your passion and you love to do what you want to do, it’s not work for you, it’s something that you have fun with doing. So I think you should stick to your goals in life and just do what you want to do in life. Don’t let anybody stop you,” she said.
“I think no matter what you want to do, whether or not it’s television or news, something important — and something I apply every day — is to stay humble because it really puts you in the right mindset for what you’re doing in life. You don’t let your ego get to you and it helps to be grounded and keeps you focused on what’s important.”