Julie Chen: Dancing Queen?

Julie Chen CBS

Julie Chen, the youngest daughter of Chinese immigrants, has ridden a rocket ship to the top of the television business.

Chen, a co-anchor at The 'Early' Show and prime-time inquisitor on "Big Brother," was profiled by her The 'Early' Show colleague Harry Smith.

Born in New York, the youngest of three girls, she was raised in Bayside, Queens, the only family home she's ever known.

"She was a good baby. She was a very easy, you know, to take care of," says her mom, Wan Ling Chen. She was, by all accounts, happy, and a handful.

"We had three girls, and the elder and the second, they are more like girlish. And she is a little bit naughtier," says her mom.

Spoiled?

"I wouldn't say. I don't think any of us are spoiled," says big sister Gladys Chen. Case in point: At 15, Julie told her mother that playing was a waste of time. So she found herself a part-time job at a local deli, slinging cold cuts with best friend Joann.

"On the weekend, most teenager like to sleep late. She was never like that," says Wang Ling Chen.

And sometime between the ponytail and the prom, Julie Chen had a vision of her future.

"One day, we were watching morning television, and she said to me, 'Oh, I think her job is very good. I think when I grow up I want to be like that, working like in a television or something,'" Wang Ling Chen recalls.

And so after high school graduation, Julie headed off to journalism school at the University of Southern California.

"We were very committed to our schoolwork. But we were also very, very committed to the social aspect of being in college. She knew what she wanted to do, whether it was journalism or going to the hottest clubs. And we did it all the time," says college buddy Jennifer Bresnan.

After school and a stint as a reporter in Dayton, Ohio, Julie Chen went home as a field reporter at WCBS-TV, New York, covering stories as varied as big- city crime and Snowball the hero hamster.

Julie reported, "The fire started in the middle of the night while the family was asleep. But because Snowball is a noisy hamster…"

From there, things snowballed and Julie took the anchor chair, first at WCBS, and then on The Early Show.

Soon, Julie began a marathon weekly commute to Los Angeles as host of "Big Brother."

And there is a secret scary side to Julie that she has yet to reveal on air.

"She's a great singer. She's an awesome dancer," her sister, Gladys Chen says."You need to make her do that on camera."

Did she go to clubs and dance?

"No. Here's the perfect example,"Gladys says. "When I was in college, she was, I don't know, 12 or 13. On one visit to my campus, I'll never forget, we gathered up all my friends, in the common room, we put on Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and we made her sing and dance. And she knew all the moves straight out of the video. She probably still does," she says.

Julie Chen, reporter, anchor, inquisitor, pop diva wanna-be, but in the end, beloved daughter and devoted friend.

"We're proud of her," says Wang Ling Chen.

"She's beautiful. She's funny. She's got it all," Bresnan adds.
  • Tatiana Morales

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