Genie Chance

Photo courtesy of smithsonianmag.com

Genie Chance (1927 – 1998) 

Stage Name: O.G. Chance

This week we have Genie (In A Bottle) Chance who, with courage, told an Alaskan broadcast station to take a chance on her. We’re gonna be honest: we’d never heard of Genie Chance until about a week ago, so shout out to last Friday’s episode of The Daily for introducing us to her. Thanks to Michael Barbaro, we’ve now learned a thing or two about this “Independent Woman (pt. 1)” and have some thoughts about what she would’ve listened to if she’d had the chance to spin some tracks on the “Radio.”

So without further adieu, let’s jump into Genie’s life and what made her such a stand-up gal. To set the mood, Genie requests that you click this link to hear her top tunes:

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2kbA5lmazwlEbXAnDNcbJB?si=cYqp1RgkQrOiQT7pPt7UGQ

Genie Chance was born Genie Broadfoot on January 24, 1927, and grew up in a small town in Texas. A proper southern lady growing up in the mid-1900s, she met her husband Winston in her youth and settled into a life of domesticity with their three children. However, the family was often financially insecure due to Winston’s lackluster performance in the car sales industry. In search of opportunity and heeding stories of wealth and prosperity, Winston moved his family away from the Lone Star State to The Last Frontier (AKA “Alaska” — cue Maggie Rogers). If you haven’t yet been struck with the desire to strike it rich in Alaska, then you haven’t yet lived. Or reached that level of despair.

Spoiler alert: Winston was no more successful at providing for his family in Anchorage, Alaska, than he was back home in Texas. Being the concerned gentleman that he was, Winston suggested to Genie that she get off her “fat fanny” if she was so worried about their ability to pay rent. So, as the chick that raised the stake, Genie grew more “Bossy” and got a job as a part-time broadcaster at KENI, becoming Alaska’s first female newscaster.

And Genie broke the mold even further. The few women whose voices could be heard on the radio waves typically discussed ~just girly things~ like clothing or homemaking or cooking. But not Genie. She wanted her thicc fanny to be in the thick of the action, covering trials and sporting matches and the local government. So in 1964, when disaster struck Alaska, Genie was well positioned to take charge.

For four minutes and thirty-eight seconds on March 27, 1964, things in Alaska got quakey. Real quakey, precisely 9.2 magnitude quakey. It led to tsunamis and tidal waves in coastal towns and landslides in Anchorage. Genie and her son were in their car on their way to do some shopping as the earthquake struck. The winds picked up and the ground started shaking as the road gave way to the earth’s movements — with Genie and her son grasping their car for dear life.

Longer than most songs in Genie’s shuffle, the earthquake eventually stopped and the power was out. She and her son took in the site of destruction: smashed cars, broken concrete and debris from the, what was at the time, new JCPenney store. Genie was determined to make it to the KENI station for the 6 p.m. news. Though electricity had gone out across the city, plunging people into darkness, Genie was confident that the power would be back on at the station, thanks to its auxiliary unit. Motivated by her need to relay important updates about the earthquake they had just experienced to the Alaskan public, Genie made her way back to the station and got ready to address her audience.

Sure enough, at 6, Genie was on the air and ready to report all night for Anchorage. She reported police updates about open bridges, roads and open public shelters. She also shared personal family messages on the air, including her own to her family in Texas: everyone was OK. She stayed on air delivering updates until 3 p.m. the next day with no break and was back two hours later. She was “Nonstop.”

Genie’s voice was heard around the world and a year later she was awarded the National Golden Mic Award for women broadcasters. Her dedication to the coverage of the Great Alaska Earthquake and spirit of compassion in doing so did not go unnoticed. She shared, “Many people have asked me: How could you do it? I’m sure that any woman could do the same thing. It just so happened it was my fate.” And a standing ovation for our “Girl on Fire” was had. 

Though Genie found success in her field, she often met hurdles in both her personal and professional lives, thanks to the #patriarchy. When she asked KENI for a raise, she was turned down because she was already making the highest salary for a woman. It’s a rich man’s world, and Genie was not about it. In fact, she was so not about it that she quit her job that day. All we have to say is “Forgive them Father” for they (the #patriarchy) know not who they truly let walk away.

And for many years, Genie suffered physical abuse at the hands of her first husband, Winston. As her success grew, so did her husband’s anger and violence. Eventually, she realized she’d had enough and filed for a divorce. No longer was she continuously brought down by a man who couldn’t bear to live in her shadow. So, embarking on a new era of her life in which she served in the Alaska State Legislature, she said to Winston: “Don’t show up, don’t come out; don’t start caring about me now.” Literally. She spoke those words. 

In the wake of her divorce and election to the state legislature, Genie pushed through multiple pieces of progressive legislation — and looked “Good as Hell” in gogo boots while she did it. But because this isn’t a movie, Genie’s life didn’t come to an end with a little bow on top. She saw the deaths of two of her children, her second husband and lost her seat in the state legislature to boot.  

Despite these losses, Genie proved herself indispensable in a moment of crisis. Anchorage’s residents searched for answers, and Genie provided them. Her voice crackling through the airwaves, she guided people to public shelters, detailed any damage to the streets and put out requests for supplies on behalf of the city’s hospitals. People were no longer alone; they had Genie’s familiar voice to provide comfort in what remains the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in North American history.

With a new disaster afoot, we must ask the question: who’s our Genie this time? This public service announcement ain’t *quite* on the same level as Genie’s newscasting:

So with that, we sign off with words from Genie herself:

“What is safety, anyway? How can you predict where or when tragedy will occur? You can only learn to live with it and make the best of it when it happens.”

2 thoughts on “Genie Chance

  1. Very interesting woman. I was also living in Anchorage then. I’ve tried to find out what her 1st husband and son, Albert died of. There doesn’t seem to be any info on that. I know how Winston jr. died. Do you know? I’m just curious. Thanks, Candy Mckeown Princeton, Kentucky

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