As co-host of the popular, award-winning country music radio show, “Scotty and Carissa in the Morning” on KCLR-FM, Clear 99, Loethen’s engaging banter with Scotty Cox entertained many drivers on their way to work each morning.
While her warm, friendly voice is made for radio, Loethen’s face is destined for television. Today as the E News Now Host for E! Online, Loethen, 28, reports the latest celebrity news, and hot stories of the day. Much more visible, she spends time being styled and coiffed before going on air.
On a typical day, she spends an hour or more in hair and makeup, followed by time with her stylists before going on air at E’s headquarters in Los Angeles.
“My stylist really mixes it up,” she said. “Sometimes he has clothes from
H & M and other times outfits from Barney’s, but often I’m scared to death to wear the clothes because they’re from a designer’s show room, or especially if I look at the price tag.”
Although that seems like a far cry from the self-professed jeans and T-shirt girl, she’s no stranger to wearing glamorous gowns or being noticed. Cox remembers walking the red carpet with Loethen at the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards in Nashville.
“I walked five or six paces behind her and watched the heads turn as everyone was trying to figure out who she was. She looked like one of the stars,” he said. “A lot of people’s first reaction and what they notice is how pretty Carissa is, but her looks are really her third or fourth best quality.”
She grew up in Jefferson City and she and her two older brothers were raised with the values of hard work and family. Her father, David is co-owner of AQI, a wholesale amusement company handling coin-operated pool tables and other arcade games; while her mom, Diana works at ECI Solutions, formerly OMD, a software company. She attended St. Joseph Cathedral School in Jefferson City and Helias Catholic High School, where she was a cheerleader for the football and wrestling team.
“I definitely got my work ethic from my hardworking parents. I’ve had a job ever since I was 15, worked three jobs during college and started my first full-time job the Monday after my college graduation,” she said.
“They also taught me to never rely on anyone else to make something happen or to allow disappointments to slow down my journey. No matter what the job was — a waitress or a radio host — they’ve always been very proud and supportive,” she said.
After she graduated from high school, she attended Columbia College for one year and then followed her older brother, Kyle, to Los Angeles where he attended college. At that time, Kyle had made a tight circle of friends, including some from Jefferson City. She hung out with them and that’s where she met her fiancé, Shannon Culiner, who works in production and development.
While attending Santa Monica Community College, she also interned at KZLA-FM, a country station where Shawn Parr, a nationally syndicated radio talent, was then on-air.
Homesick and missing friends and family, she moved back home after one year in Los Angeles, but she had her first taste of radio and decided to purse another opportunity.
“I was cleaning one day and it hit me how much I loved radio, and I called Program Director Teresa Davis at Clear 99 and she gave me a chance,” she said.
While attending the University of Missouri, Loethen interned at the radio station and then Davis put her on the air on weekends. Davis, who served as the program director at Clear 99 for 20 years, played a pivotal role in her career development. She died from kidney cancer in August of this year.
“Teresa and I were really close and she became an important mentor for me. She put dreams in my head that I didn’t even know that I had,” she said. “She told me, ‘you’re going to go places.’ She really fought for me to be on Clear 99.”
Loethen graduated with a BA in communications in May of 2008, and Davis soon offered Loethen the morning show on KAT Country. After a few months, she then landed the co-host job with Cox.
“I’m not a morning person, so it was a shock to my friends when I got the job. And I did hate getting up in the morning but it was a great experience,” she said “I love country music and have always wanted to be part of that industry.”
Growing up, Loethen remembers listening to country music on her parent’s jukebox downstairs in their home near County Park Lake.
“Both my parents are country music fans,” she said. “My dad would always play classic country and mom had it on the radio in the kitchen, too.”
The first CD she ever bought was Diamond Rio’s “Meet in the Middle.”
Growing up, she listened to Clear 99, so her new gig was a bit surreal.
“Carissa was young and pretty raw when she started but her likeability factor was just off the charts,” Cox said. “She’s so genuine and warm and it comes through her eyes and her voice.”
“She’s also from Mid-Missouri and had an unadulterated love of country music and that made her relate-able to our audience,” he said.
Cox, who had worked with another female partner for six years, watched Loethen grow into the job and they became a tight team and close friends. Their chemistry clicked and they were very interactive with their listeners, sharing parts of their day with each other.
“As a local radio host it’s really about having an interest in what’s going on in the community and what’s going on in your listeners’ lives,” Loethen said. “We also talked about events and people coming to town.”
Loethen, who said she can’t sing a lick, likes classic artists like George Straight as well as Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, along with more contemporary stars, including Taylor Swift.
One morning in October of 2011, the duo received a surprise call from the country superstar, who informed them that they had won “Personality of the Year” in a small market from the CMA Awards.
“We got calls from a country artists before but never an A-list star like Taylor Swift,” said Loethen.
Cox remembers that Loethen reacted just like a fan, “she was giggling.”
He courageously went with her while she chose a dress to wear, something he won’t do again. Flying out there, he also learned that she loves sleep.
“She can sleep anywhere, she’s the only person I’ve ever known who could sleep through the landing, even as the wheels hit the runway,” he said.
While walking along Honky Tonk Row in Nashville, Loethen and a coworker saw Blake Shelton shooting a music video. One of the crew asked her if she wanted to be in it, and she was for maybe a second. A minor claim to fame, but in Columbia, where they often hosted events, they were local celebrities.
While she enjoyed those events, she also thrived at producing and editing many promotional videos for the station.
“The minute she started, the level of our videos went up immediately,” said Cox. “She would get so focused and she’s a bit of a perfectionist and I would have to tell her that sometimes good enough is good enough and we have many other things to do.”
She definitely juggled many hats. While working at Clear 99, she also had a part-time gig as the on-air talent for JW Broadcasting, which at the time included Fox 22, ABC 17 (KMIZ) and MyZou TV. That work led the president of Newsy, a video news service in Columbia that analyzes coverage from various outlets throughout the U.S., to approach her about joining the organization.
While it was hard, she left Clear 99 for Newsy in April of 2012, where she wrote, anchored and produced dozens of videos per day for AOL, one of their largest business partners. She also served as the managing editor of a team that delivered content to some of the largest news sites in the world.
“I love film editing, finding new ways to tell a story,” she said. “It was very exciting at Newsy, I was so busy there that I hardly had time to go to the bathroom.”
An agent at William Morris Endeavor had seen one of her videos for AOL and saw her potential.
“My fiancé and I were in Florida and I get an email from the agent and he just happens to be in Miami on vacation at the time,” he said. “We met and hit it off and he sent me out on various interviews, but I didn’t have much live television experience.”
She moved to Los Angeles at the start of this year and started on E on Feb. 5. When she’s not in hair and makeup, she’s recording voice-overs for her show and spends hours watching other talk shows and pitching stories to producers.
“I research and prep the stories I’m going to be talking about and then around 3:30 p.m. I go into the studio to tape the show for the day,” she said.
“Sometimes I feel silly talking about the name of Kim Kardashian’s baby or the lipstick shade a celebrity is wearing, but it might be a good distraction for someone.”
Occasionally she finds herself at award shows, like the Emmy Awards back in September, where they were surrounded by celebrities. She’s not too caught up in that world, though.
“I’m not wrapped up in that bubble and I’m not really a celebrity junkie, either” she said.
“When I first started at E my boss warned me to avoid the curse of the camera that he’d seen happen to other hosts. What he meant was that the more you’re on camera the worse your personality gets,” she said. “That’s not going to happen to me.”
Her Midwestern roots keep her grounded and immune from some of the pitfalls of the celebrity fame game in Hollywood. She spends time with her middle brother, Chad, who lives in Los Angeles and owns My Event LA, a catering business. And she comes home often enough to spend time with her family. Most recently she spent a few days here during the Christmas holiday. Right now, she takes it one day at a time.
“My life really isn’t that different,” she said. “I have two dogs and I spend time with my brother and my fiancé. We don’t go to clubs, I like to hang out with friends watch a movie and bake some cookies.”
“Even if my hosting career proves short-lived, I know I have other skills. I can see myself behind the camera, maybe as an executive producer of the show,” she said.
Somehow Loethen behind the scenes doesn’t seem her destiny, but who knows? She doesn’t look to far ahead.
“My internship led me to loving radio and my radio job got me the part-time job at Fox and I loved doing promos on camera, and that led me to E,” she said. “I’ve never known what is coming next, and my career has always just evolved.”