Arthel Neville Biography
Juggled TV Career with College, Became Celebrity by Interviewing Celebrities, Forged Path for Black TV Personalities
Though her last name is revered in musical circles, Arthel Neville was on her own when she decided to pursue a career in television. "Believe me, the name Neville didn't do anything for me in the field of journalism," she told New Orleans Magazine. Nonetheless, Neville has gone from a station intern for a local Texas channel to a nationally famous broadcaster with a proven track record in both hard news and celebrity reporting. She is now not only a reporter, but a celebrity in her own right.
Juggled TV Career with College
Arthel Neville was born on October 20, 1962, into a home thumping with New Orleans funk. Daughter of keyboardist Art Neville, one of the founding members of the Grammy Award-winning Neville Brothers, young Neville grew up surrounded by music. Uncle Aaron, internationally famous for his warbling falsetto, performed at Neville's high school. Local and world-famous musicians paid regular visits to the Neville home. In an Essence interview Neville recalled "a rainbow of races" at her childhood birthday parties. Unfortunately, the multiculturalism in her living room did not protect her from the harsh realities of race lingering just outside the front door. "I was maybe the fourth Black student to attend my private Catholic school, so I'm not naive about racial differences," she told Essence.
Neville did not veer towards her family's musical legacy, however. "I'm not without musical talent, it's just I was always into writing," she told New Orleans Magazine. Her mother Doris wholly supported that choice. "[She] was the only role model I needed. She taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to," Neville told the Web site Divabetic. After graduating from St. Mary's Dominican High School in 1980, Neville traveled to New York to pursue acting and modeling. She landed a few commercials and even a recurring role on the soap opera Days of Our Lives before returning to New Orleans. She enrolled in a pre-pharmacy program at Xavier University before switching to journalism at Southern Methodist University. She finally landed at the University of Texas in Austin, where she earned a bachelor's in journalism in 1986.
Even before graduating, Neville began blazing her broadcasting career. As a junior she landed a job as a general assignment reporter for Austin's KVUE-TV, becoming the station's first African-American on-air reporter. After a morning full of classes, Neville spent her afternoons rushing all over Austin to cover everything from breaking news to human interest stories for the evening news broadcast. "It was extremely tough. I was very overwhelmed and considered quitting college several times," she told the Los Angeles Sentinel.
Became Celebrity by Interviewing Celebrities
Neville's first job after graduation was in New Orleans as a reporter/anchor for WWL-TV. In 1988 she moved back to Texas for a one-year stint on the anchor team of Houston's KHOU. Neville next went to Chicago where she worked as a host and correspondent for Travel & Adventure, a nationally-syndicated travel television show. The following year it was back to New Orleans and an anchor spot for WVUE-TV. This early criss-crossing of the country was just the beginning for Neville. "Change is the name of the game in my career," she told Divabetic. "Fortunately, all of the many changes have meant progress."
Neville's next change not only propelled her into the inner circle of the nation's brightest stars, but made Neville a star in her own right. In 1991 she landed the host spot on Extreme Close-Up, a one-on-one celebrity interview show for E! Entertainment TV. During three years with the program she logged over 200 interviews with stars from Will Smith to Tom Cruise to Sharon Stone. "Mr. [Bill] Cosby was definitely one of the highlights," Neville told the Los Angeles Sentinel. Cosby had initiated the interview and specifically requested Neville. It was an indication of how far she had come—Neville had become the nation's first high-profile black female entertainment reporter.
In 1994, at the special request of Dick Clark, Neville traveled to San Padre Island, Texas, to co-host the Miss USA pageant. There she met Derrick Lassic, NFL free agent and former Dallas Cowboy. The two wed the following year in New Orleans. Her uncle Aaron performed during the ceremony and the Neville Brothers performed at the reception. The couple settled into a bi-coastal lifestyle with Neville living near Los Angeles and Lassic in North Carolina. Unfortunately things did not work out and the couple split in 1998.
Forged Path for Black TV Personalities
Meanwhile, Neville's fame was growing. In 1994 she beat out over 1,000 hopefuls to earn the anchor spot for the Warner Brothers network's new show, Extra. Landing the job was the result of not only her experience, but also careful planning. "You definitely have to have foresight when you're making career decisions," she told the Los Angeles Sentinel. "Therefore over my 11 years officially in the business, I have made calculated moves, knowing that if I do this, if I work in this market, then I can make it to this market, and if I work here, then I can make it here." Neville's role on Extra was also notable because it made her the first African-American female to host a prime-time network show. As a result Neville was able to open the door for African-American reporters following in her footsteps.
Neville remained with Extra until 1996 when the program was revamped. In 1997 she teamed up with famed sportscaster Fred Roggin to host Arthel & Fred, a daytime entertainment news program on NBC. A year later, Neville left Los Angeles for New York and joined Fox Broadcasting as a senior correspondent for the newsmagazine show Fox Files. She also became the Fox News Channel's entertainment anchor. During this time Neville made cameo appearances on television sitcoms such as Moesha, Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Cybill.
Found New Love and Open Doors
In 1999 Neville was backstage at a concert in New Orleans when she met Taku Hirano, a drummer from Japan. After a two-year, long-distance relationship, Hirano asked Neville's parents for permission to marry her. It was granted. "Of course," she told Essence, "the initial hope in any Black family is that you will marry someone Black. But ultimately they want you to have someone who loves you and is good to you." Hirano proposed on a gondola in Venice, Italy, the couple married on a beach in Hawaii, and they honeymooned in Japan, where Neville met Hirano's family.
As her personal life was blossoming, Neville's professional life was hardening. On The O'Reilly Factor, Neville flexed her journalistic muscles, serving as the liberal challenger to O'Reilly's contentious conservatism. The two debated everything from race relations to labor unions, and the audience loved it. Neville did also. "Taking on Bill O'Reilly was the highlight of my week," she told New Orleans Magazine. "We had a really great chemistry on the air; we were an unlikely couple together."
In 2002 Neville joined CNN to become host of TalkBack Live with Arthel Neville. The show presented news of the day and featured live interaction with audience members and guests via phone and internet. "It's a juggling act, a challenge to make the show appear seamless," she told New Orleans Magazine. Neville also worked for CNN as a fill-in anchor and covered high profile celebrity events such as the Oscars and the Grammys before jumping back to Fox in 2004 to co-host the daily morning show Good Day Live. Though the show was cancelled in 2005, Neville quickly landed not one, but two, on-air positions: West Coast correspondent for the newsmagazine A Current Affair and host of the DIY Network's Celebrity Hobbies. The new opportunities illustrated a philosophy she expressed in an interview with the Los Angeles Sentinel. "Know that no one's going to give you anything. You work hard for it, and don't give up when doors close, because other doors will open."
Essence, July, 2003.
Los Angeles Sentinel, August 2, 1995.
New Orleans Magazine, September 2002.
Times Picayune, (New Orleans, LA), November 01, 2004.
"Arthel Neville, Co-host of Good Day Live," Divabetic, www.divabetic.com/pals.php (May 28, 2005).
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