15 Minutes: Lady Charmaine, on-air charmer
Charmaine Bassett is the Sacramento-based radio personality best known as “Lady Charmaine
Charmaine Bassett is the Sacramento-based radio personality best known as “Lady Charmaine.” She hosts her own internet radio show and “Lady Charmaine Live” on KDEE 97.5 FM, a station owned and operated by the California Black Chamber of Commerce. Bassett is featured on other KDEE shows including “Hot Topics with Lady Charmaine,” a fun mix of celebrity interviews, Hollywood gossip and personal opinion. On occasion, “Hot Topics” rolls into Laughs Unlimited in Old Sacramento and the Double Nickel in Elk Grove. Lady Charmaine is married with three children ages 18, 15 and 3. She got the radio bug at her college radio station. She didn’t graduate, but has paid her dues, often working unpaid over the years to polish her on-air skills. Now as Lady Charmaine, she enjoys a robust following in the greater Sacramento area and beyond.
Your husband joked on one of your shows that when he met you, you were Charmaine from Richmond, Calif. How did you become Lady Charmaine?
I used to always say that “Every girl can be a woman, but not every woman can be a lady.” So that’s where the name Lady Charmaine comes from. I took on that name when I was 20 years old. I started a little company called “Lady Charmaine Cosmetics.” When I met my husband [at church] I used to wear long, A-line dresses, hats and carry a little parasol. My husband tells people that when he first saw me at work he said to himself, “Wow! That’s a lady.” [She glances down at her sparkling T-shirt and nice jeans and laughs.] But after kids, you know, things change.
Nondenominational Christian. Denominations separate and divide the church the same way as if someone said are you black or are you white or are you Mexican. I’m a human being! We’re all children of God. We’re all in the same family.
What inspired you to start an internet radio station in 2011?
I was leaving work, walking to my car and heard a voice say, “Start your own internet radio station.” I went online to find out how to start and what equipment to buy. There wasn’t much information available. There is now, but there wasn’t then. I spent many days and nights trying to figure it out.
You’re known for reporting celebrity gossip—on “Hot Topics”—but your show covers a lot of other ground.
We talk about relationships a lot—female-female friendships, marriage, in-law and outlaw relationships (because some in-laws are difficult, so they’re outlaws). We just did a show on, “How do you tell somebody you don’t like their food?” Some people make a “what is it?” dish. You know, you look at it and you don’t know what it is. You taste it and you’re like, “no.”
Any shows you’re especially proud of?
We did a show talking about domestic violence. A woman called and said, “You don’t know what you’re doing.” I felt so bad. I started to cry because I do radio to help people. Then she said, “You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re changing people’s lives.” She told us that her friend was in an abusive relationship and had been listening to the show. Her friend turned to her boyfriend and said, “I can’t do this anymore.” She called the moving van and left the same day. The friend called to tell us the story because the boyfriend took the girl’s phone. So she listened to my show on Monday and by Saturday she was living in Texas with her Dad.
That’s amazing. How did you feel?
I had been planning to shut down my radio show. I was going to give it up. I was crying so much, wondering, “Is this show helping anyone?” It’s hard work to put a show together. I needed a sign from God that I was doing what I should be doing. That phone call was an arrow letting me know I was going in the right direction.
You’ve also been on the Tyra Banks Show?
Yes! I wanted to take my mom to a TV show taping so I took her to the Tyra Banks Show. My mom and I were waiting in the audience holding area and I was just being me, talking to the people around me. I saw these two people a few feet away staring at me. They asked to talk to me and said, “We’ve been watching you. We’ve noticed that when you talk people gravitate toward you. Would you like to be on the show?”
So you were an audience member, and then plucked from the crowd to appear on the show?
Yes. The same thing happened on Steve Harvey. I went to watch his first show and was picked by the producers to be a contestant for a game on his show. I was also on The Talk.
The Talk on CBS? Were you a guest?
I was on the show twice as a social-media [expert]. The producers found me on Facebook and I was on Skype with The Talk to talk about celebrities in the news.
You have a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
I also auditioned to replace Kathie Lee. I was in the Top 10 out of 10,000 people.
What’s next for you?
I want to be a private investigator. I love that stuff. When I’m watching a show with my husband, I always figure out who did it before anyone else does. I’ll tell him and he’ll say, “Don’t ruin it for me!” I got a good gut. I’ll be trying to find evidence so I can say, “I know you did it!” It’ll be my side hustle. Lady Charmaine, P.I.