Megyn Kelly, the stern pizazz

Blond, slender, smiling, young. And woman. Megyn Kelly could easily be boxed into the barbie-girl-playing-journalists category. Her rich, full-bodied voice, however, and the way she uses it, set her as an authoritative figure. She’s inquisitive – as journalists need to be – and opinionated, and she doesn’t eschew confrontation – as noted by Jim Ruthenberg in the New York Times feature article he wrote about her. She’s assertive and accepts criticism as part of her job: to please is not her goal.

Unposed

When Ms. Kelly laughs, her throat is mirthfully open [listen] and we hear an uncalculated burst of giggles she doesn’t attempt to make charming or attractive. She’s not worried about how people may see her: if she’s amused, she laughs.

Another trait of her spontaneity is the way she sounds the words in a fast and flowing string of speech. Because conveying her message weighs more than perfection, her enunciation is sometimes blurry. In some instances, she chops the words and seems to swallow the last syllable.

Her poise projects her to the audience as someone who doesn’t work for appearance but for the performance itself.

Dynamic

The way her voice travels from deep low to light high tones makes me think of someone who’d rather stay outside than accept something she doesn’t agree with – she’s not a conformist.

The enormous span – more than 400 Hz – between the highest and lowest pitch of her voice [listen] shows she’s ready to roll up her sleeves and move the dirt with her hands if that’s what she needs to get to where she wants to be. Neither does she fear difficulties – re: trying to gather a diverse audience to Fox. She’s flexible enough to change her approach, if that helps the audience understand her. And she’s more than willing to take any risks that could widen her horizon.

Spectrogram of Ms. Kelly's voice saying, "If you can't give," when interviewed by Howard Kurtz. The voice pitch is shown in blue, with a maximum at 575 Hz, and a minimum at 133 Hz.
Spectrogram of Ms. Kelly’s voice saying, “If you can’t give,” when interviewed by Howard Kurtz. The voice pitch is shown in blue, with a maximum at 575 Hz, and a minimum at 133 Hz.

Even though she’s a journalist and, as she said, “it’s not [her] job to feel passionately about these candidates,” she is passionate. The sentiment she feels for different topics sneaks in as her voice gets louder and louder when speaking about things that drive her. She starts with a moderate volume, around 62 dB, but as she gets enmeshed in the meaning of her words, the intensity of her voice reaches up to 72 dB, like the voice of someone raptured about her thoughts.

And then, the smoothly flowing speech becomes a syncopated clutter of ideas that bump each other into Ms. Kelly’s throat, before coming to life as a fast succession of speech sounds, errors, and even some stuttering. The tightness we hear in her throat doesn’t come from a lack of self-confidence, or a paralyzing need of perfection. In her case, it comes from her being open to possibility. And she welcomes error as a possibility.

Uncompromising

Being spontaneous and open doesn’t mean she’s careless. On the contrary, she’s a stern worker, a tireless and methodical trier. During the first 2016 Republican debate, the efforts she did to perform at the top of her professional skills were shown by the clicks her tongue did against her palate before every question she asked the candidates.

And she wouldn’t compromise. She wasn’t interested in trading a pat on a candidate’s back for his, or the audience’s likes. As she said after in this interview with Howard Kurtz, she “had anticipated some of the audience might boo us,” but she didn’t seem to worry about it. Her low-pitched no-joke tone when wording her questions made it clear that it’s not her style to ask for approval.


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