By Meg Daradanova
To say Rachel Pierce is famous in Southwest Florida would be an understatement. She isn’t trailed by paparazzi, but she is better than a celebrity: Rachel is “family.” The Estero resident is welcomed into thousands of homes each morning in the early hours between 4:30-7 a.m. As NBC-2 News morning anchor, her friendly smile eases people into their days and makes her instantly recognizable on the street.
She recently has been on maternity leave but returns to the familiar set on July 15. Now a mom of four, Rachel Pierce is not slowing down. In fact, she’s added “artist” to her lengthy list of
accomplishments. Her artwork, inspired by Florida’s wildlife and natural beauty, is frequently auctioned off at charitable fundraisers, many of which she also emcees.
Rachel loves being recognized because that means she’s doing her job well. While it is hard to imagine her doing anything else, her path wasn’t always clear.
“Coming from a small town, I didn’t know becoming a TV anchor was an option,” she recalls. A Fulbright scholarship took her to Oklahoma City University’s Mass Communication program, where she graduated in only three years while excelling as an athlete in rowing and golf. She was hired at her first TV job in Eau Claire, Wis., as a producer, becoming an anchor three months later.
In 2014, Rachel, already a mom of two, accepted the morning anchor position at NBC-2. She wanted work that would allow her to spend quality time with her daughters, Lydia and Piper, and her husband, Matthew. Since then, the family has grown with the addition of Rory, 3, and baby Daphne. So how does Rachel balance the demands of career and family? The key is in the “morning” part of her job title.
“The one question people ask me most is when do I wake up,” laughs Rachel. The answer is 1:45 a.m. “Once I’m at work, it’s go time: I meet with producers, catch up on news, get ready and get on the set by 4:15. It all goes by fast!”
She wraps up work by 9 a.m. Finishing her workday early means she gets to spend more time with her family: taking a nap with her toddler, serving as a room parent at Pinewoods Elementary, helping with homework and playing together.
Coming from a large family (Rachel is one of six children), her sense of accomplishment clearly comes not only from professional success, but also from taking good care of her loved ones. Luckily, her parents and two of her siblings live close by.
Rachel also takes seriously her responsibility to faithfully tell the stories important to our community. Her favorite stories are tales of ordinary people overcoming extraordinary circumstances.
“They trust me to tell their stories, and that’s the ultimate compliment,” she says.
An outspoken fan of Estero, Rachel sings its praises to everyone. She admires the schools, the beautiful parks, the sense of community: “I love how much Estero is growing. It’s fun to be part of that energy.”
Rachel’s heartfelt responsibility to our community has influenced her involvement with many charitable organizations. She has taken the stage as Master of Ceremonies for events benefitting the Ronald McDonald House, Better Together, Junior Achievement, Dress for Success, Miracles in Action, Grace Place, Autism Speaks and more.
“As I prepare to emcee an event, I learn and become passionate about these causes,” she says.
The love that Rachel holds for all things Florida extends to nature. While she is known among friends for her flamingo obsession, her affection for our fauna doesn’t stop there. “Did you see how many spoonbills we’ve had lately?” she asks. From snails to alligators, she loves them all. And she paints them.
The white walls of her home, in The Place at Corkscrew, let her expansive oil and acrylic canvases sing for themselves: rich marine blues and greens, sea foam that you can almost hear fizzing, buttery pastels of yellow sand and pink shells, and creatures, great and small — shells, birds, manatees and gators.
“I was just painting for myself, and I would make gifts for friends,” explains Rachel. “But when I started emceeing events, we auctioned a piece, and word got out.”
In the past year, she has donated 20 paintings. Then businesses started commissioning work. She is currently working on 14 pieces. Her husband’s housewarming gift was to turn their dining room into an art studio.
“Raising four little kids and being on maternity leave, painting is an outlet for my creativity and a way to relax,” says Rachel.
She often sets up another painting station for Piper, who shares her mom’s passion for art.
“I try to carve out individual time with each of my kids: helping my oldest daughter with her fashion design game and playing Legos with my son.” But even this mom extraordinaire admits there are trying moments. “With kids, some days are just about survival.”
While she greatly enjoys being a mom, Rachel can’t wait to go back on air: “I love my work team; we’re like a family.” She also misses the rest of her early morning “family” — her viewers.
“That’s where my heart is,” Rachel says. “I want people to know what they need for their day, but also to have an enjoyable morning experience.”
Whether it’s her job, charitable work, art or her family, Rachel Pierce gives it her all — and inspires us all.
Rachel Pierce’s art website: www.byrachelpierce.com