Since 2013, millions of Americans have been getting their national weather reports from Ginger Zee, Good Morning America‘s meteorologist and ABC News’ chief meteorologist. She replaced Sam Champion that year and has been delivering weather forecasts on GMA ever since. She also found some time to compete on Dancing with the Stars earlier this year, finishing in third just months after giving birth to her first child.
Here’s a look at the life and career of Zee.
1. Zee Really Is Named After a Character on ‘Gilligan’s Island’
Zee, who was born Ginger Renne Zuidgeest in Orange, California, was really named after Ginger, the character Tina Louise played in Gilligan’s Island. Her Dutch father, Robert O. “Bob” Zuidgeest, learned English by watching the popular show.
In interviews, Zee, 35, has said that she thought she was more like Mary Ann, Dawn Elbert Wells’ character. She told TimeOut Chicago in 2011 that she had seen “dozens” of episodes of the show and always thought she was like Mary Ann. She said:
I love the glamour that Ginger brings to the island. I am hoping to do that here in Manhattan. I need to get one of those pearl colored sparkly gowns at some point.
She made a similar comment in a New York Daily News interview, but admitted that she wasn’t sure why her father picked Ginger of all the characters. “Gilligan was his favorite show, and he picked Ginger — he certainly like her or the pretty dresses she wore, I’m not sure,” she said.
2. She Has a Bachelor of Science in Meteorology
Although Zee was born in Southern California, her family moved to the Midwest. She graduated from Valparaiso University in Indiana in 2002 with a bachelor of science and worked at stations in Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. Her work in Chicago on WMAQ-TV is what helped her get national interest and it lead to a position at MSNBC and hosting The Discovery Channel‘s Storm Chasers.
She told the university in 2014 that one of her goals was to make science understandable to the general public.
They need to know, ‘Why did that happen?’ That’s a human reaction, and to be the person who can explain — it’s such an honor. I’m so proud of what I do.
While Zee worked in Chicago, she was able to teach at Valparaiso. She taught a class specifically on television forecasting. She explained to the university in 2014:
I made sure that they knew the negative parts without scaring them away… because if someone would have helped me to start combating criticism the right way early, I think there may have been less tears, and I may have been an even stronger person.
“I chose this career because I saw a waterspout on Lake Michigan when I was eight,” Zee said in a 2008 Chicago Mag interview. My mom told us to get inside, but I was mesmerized. I really thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen.”
3. Zee Says She Battled Anorexia
After the spring season of DWTS wrapped and Zee made it to the finals, she revealed to People Magazine in May 2016 that she battled anorexia.
“I know a lot of people suffer from it and I hope that this will get the conversation going in the family,” Zee told the magazine.
For her, it was worst when she was 10 to 14 years old after her parents divorced. Zee’s mother took her to a treatment center that showed her what life would be like if she didn’t get help. She explained:
It was to scare me, basically. There were girls who were on their way to death. ‘That one will die tomorrow,’ she’d say. It was shocking and it didn’t make me better right away but I knew I had the great support of my family and the fear factor was there.
Her step-father, Carl John Craft, is a counselor and helped her during her teen years. “He helped me to get out of that moment in my life,” she said.
She also told People that while she didn’t lose weight while on DWTS after giving birth, she transformed her shape. She was “really happy” about how she changed.
4. Her Husband Ben Aaron Is Also in Broadcasting & Hosted a Syndicated Comedy Show
Ben Aaron, 34, and Zee married in June 2014. Aaron, whose full name is Benjamin Aaron Colonomos, is also a broadcaster, having hosted New York Live for WNBC. He also hosted a syndicated comedy chow called Crazy Talk. When the show started, he co-hosted with Bad Girls Club star Tanisha Thomas. “It’s a show that celebrates the craziest, most wildest thing you see from reality shows,” Aaron told ABC News Radio in September 2015.
Unfortunately for fans of the show, it looks like no new episodes are being produced. The show’s Facebook page hasn’t been updated since April 2016.
Aaron and Zee are the proud parents of Adrian Benjamin Colonomos, who was born in December. She then signed on for DWTS.
5. Zee Has Narcolepsy & Was Diagnosed at 21
“It’s funny, because I think about how I used to live, and I realize it was fuzzier, slower,” she said at the time. “Your whole world is different. I just thought I was laid-back.”