Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant is the first Black woman to host a wildlife show on broadcast television in the United States. According to Essence, Wynn-Grant’s interest in wildlife and the environment helped her get the position on NBC’s “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild,” a documentary that showcases wildlife success stories from across the United States.
The appointee told Essence that her love of nature originated from watching television. She revealed that her strict parents only allowed her to watch specific shows: “It always had to be educational, and one of the things that was educational and on TV in the 1980s and early 90s was nature shows. I used to love watching wildlife documentaries and nature shows.”
“Believe it or not, Wild Kingdom was one of the shows that I used to watch. I was kind of obsessed with the experience that the hosts were having. Being in the wilderness seemed like the most exciting adventure anyone could have.”
Wynn-Grant graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. She remembered being the only Black student in the environmental science class.
“It was really tough and uncomfortable to be in those spaces. On top of that, it seemed like everyone else was an environmental science major because they grew up in the outdoors. They were inspired because their families went camping, or they had traveled around the world. Whereas for me, my understanding of nature was through a textbook or through a PowerPoint presentation,” Wynn-Grant expressed.
Dr. Carolyn Finney, a professor at UC Berkeley Environmental Policy and Management shared that, “In terms of the majority culture in the United States setting a narrative and tone about the environment and the way we should think about and relate to it, we Black and brown folks have largely been left out of that mainstream conversation.”
Still, Wynn-Grant was encouraged to pursue this course of study, especially after pursuing a study abroad program in Kenya.
“It made me feel not only that ‘Yes, this is for me, but yes, I can do it.’ It also showed me that being a nature show host is still the dream. But there’s this more purposeful aspect to learning about wildlife and figuring out how to protect and conserve.”
Concerning her new position, the ecologist said, “To me, there was no greater career.”