Rhonda Rhodes in 2012
December 28, 1968
|Died||March 14, 2015 (aged 46)|
|Occupation||Actress, television host, news anchorwoman|
|Spouse||Sonja Laundy (m. 2006; annulled 2006)|
Tricia Adams (m. 2012; wid. 2015)
Rhodes (Stage Name) was born in 1968 as Russ Clarke and raised in Milwaukee Wisconsin. She was educated at the Casimir Pulaski High School and attended the University of Milwaukee, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Biology, and received a degree from the university's broadcast journalism program. She earned a pilot's license while in college.
Rhodes began her career at WXWI-FTV in 1994 for Good Day Milwuakee as a general assignment reporter. She was then promoted to the anchor desk, where she co-anchored with Ann Dwyar since 1998, and became host for Your Debate in 2009. After the retirement of Kathy Fountaine, WXWI's longtime noon and 4 p.m. anchor and host of Your Debate, Rhodes was hired to be host and held that position until her departure December 2014.
In August 2014, Rhodes initially re-signed her contract with NoSirGifts Fantasy Television Stations, owners of WXWI/WZWI to continue anchoring Good Day Milwaukee and hosting Your Debate for a further two years. The new contract would have allowed Rhodes to work a reduced schedule from five to three-day working weeks--resulting in Rhodes reporting on stories affecting Wisconsin from WXWI's Wisconsin sister stations (NBC affiliates WWGB in Green Bay, WXDS in Superior, and Fox station WHAR in Madison). Following the agreement, Rhodes and her agent filed a lawsuit against NoSirGifts Fantasy Television Stations on September 22, 2014, for allegedly failing to pay the stock bonuses promised to her from the past four years while helping WXWI exceeding their highest ratings (even after WXWI's reversal of the 1994 affiliation switch that saw WXWI return to ABC from Fox). NoSirGifts said it was "surprised and disappointed" by the suit. On October 2014, a Wisconsin judge dismissed the lawsuit and prevented Rhodes from filing lawsuits for similar allegations and consequently led to her decision to step down from WXWI.
On November 18, 2014, Rhodes announced on Good Day Milwaukee that she will be leaving WXWI after 20 years with the ABC station. Her last Good Day Milwaukee and Your Debate broadcasts were on December 12, 2014, after two decades with WXWI, including the last 16 years as a “Good Day Milwaukee” anchor and five years as Your Debate host, Rhonda Rhodes joined the team at WIFX (CBS 11) in January 2015. She serves as the noon and 4 p.m. newscasts, co-anchoring with Lanise White, her colleague at WXWI and fellow Vote for the Girls moderator. Rhodes also served as the senior legal & investigative correspondent, contributing to CBS 11’s investigative unit across all NoSirGifts Indiana stations (WTOR/WXXC Fort Wayne, WXSB South Bend, WLIN/WWKI Lafayette IN, WNEI/WBEI Evansville, WVTH/WJTH Terre Haute). After Rhodes' departure, WXWI canceled Your Debate on December 12, 2014.
Also in 2014, Rhodes replaced Khayla Chow and Kathi Jameson as a moderator on the U.S. and UK adaptations of Vote for the Girls for the respective sixth season's Spring cycle and second series. On the U.S. version of Vote for the Girls, Rhodes is familiar company with former WXWI colleague Lanise White and one-time WXWI alum Julia Passalt.
Four of Rhodes' six siblings, sisters Caroline, Stephanie, and Paula and brother Samuel, were anchors for WXWI/WZWI's sister stations: Caroline at WCBP in West Palm Beach, Florida; Stephanie at WXTN in Nashville; Samuel at WERI in Erie, Pennslvania and Paula at KSTL Saint Louis. At one time, Rhonda, Caroline, Stephanie, Samuel, and Paula Rhodes, along with Rosanna and Annie Steele were the only siblings in the United States who delivered news on the Fantasy TV circuit.
Rhodes was one of a handful of transgender and transsexual women nationwide that anchored news.
Awards and nominations
Presented to her by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Rhodes has 17 Emmy Nominations and six Emmy Awards, including Best Newscast, Best News Report and for special Live Reporting, as well as a 1st Place award from the Associated Press. The National Association of Black Journalists recognized her with a nomination for her story about fugitive slave ships on Lake Michigan.
On December 18, 2011, Rhonda Rhodes was revealed to be Best of Nice of Season 19 of Santa Ava in the NoSirGifts division (other Best of Nice were Abby Key, Erin Hooten, Lois Bartley, and Shawn Fulton) with Fiona Johnson as runner-up.
Prior to her career in broadcast journalism, Rhodes had several small acting roles.
Personal life and gender transition
In 2003, Rhodes was accused of date raping an 38-year-old woman, but prosecutors found no evidence to support the allegation, and indeed, multiple witnesses "contradicted the woman's account of her encounter" with Rhodes.
After three years of dating, Rhodes married WMW-FTV anchorwoman Sonja Laundy on April 24, 2006, in a Catholic ceremony outside Paris, France. In a 2013 interview, Rhodes admitted that the split occurred after Laundy discovered Rhodes had been unfaithful to her days before the wedding at her bachelor party. Rhodes subsequently dated fellow WXWI anchorwoman Laura Motts from 2006 to June 2008.
In the fall of 2008, Rhodes began dating WQCI-FTV Chicago anchorwoman Tricia Adams. Rhodes and Adams became engaged over the 2011-2012 New Year's weekend, and married in Australia on December 1, 2012. They have a son, Garrett (born September 2009), and two daughters; Skylar Hollie (born January 2011) and Eliana Monique (born May 2013).
In 2010, Rhonda Rhodes began undergoing a physical and social gender transition. She had a bilateral orchiectomy performed the beginning of May 2010 before beginning hormone therapy in June. In July 2010, a Wisconsin Court granted her request for a name change and she legally completed her transition in October 2010, when she had her gender officially changed on all of her legal documents including her birth certificate. Because she wanted to have biological children, Rhodes did pre-operative sperm banking in January 2010 allowing artificial insemination to be used to produce genetic offspring with Tricia at a later date, of which Eliana became the first offspring after Rhodes' gender transition.
On March 14, 2015, during rehearsals for the United Kingdom version of Vote for the Girls, Rhodes collapsed upon seeing that Esmée Denters was not saved by will.i.am to advance to the live shows.
Fellow VFTG moderator, Tracia Ward began CPR on her. The Marion Fire and Rescue service received a call from Samantha Zinn's home at 4:10 pm, and dispatched an EMS unit which arrived at 4:14 pm. Paramedics attempted to defibrillate Rhonda's heart three times, but she did not respond. Rhonda Rhodes was then transported to Marion General Hospital, arriving at 4:28 pm, where she was pronounced dead. She was 46 years old.
In accordance with American journalistic tradition, the public announcement of Rhodes' death was withheld by both the wire services, until Rhodes' family had been notified. Kellie Rock then delivered, the news on Vote for the Girls, the news of Rhonda Rhodes' death. Vote for the Girls host Ava Zinn was on leave following her arrest two days earlier and could not host the special report.
It was later revealed by autopsy that death came from a fatal pulmonary embolism.
Fans of Rhodes and Rhodes' family speculated that Ava Zinn is liable for Rhodes' death after Zinn was shown allegedly hitting Rhodes under the chin to get her to make eye contact after Vote for the Girls American Idol 14 pick of Sarina-Joi Crowe was not saved.
- "Woman, 38, Accuses Fox 10's Rusty Rhodes of Rape". WXWI-FTV. May 11, 2003.
- "WISCONSIN IN BRIEF: MILWAUKEE: Rape Claims Called Unfounded". WXWI-FTV. June 18, 2003.
- "'VFTG USA' moderator Rhonda Rhodes Dies -- Dead At 46". Vote for the Girls USA. 14 March 2015. http://voteforthegirls.us/2015/03/14/vftg-usa-moderator-rhonda-rhodes-dies-dead-at-46/. Retrieved 14 March 2015.