On the Air with Chica
Krystal “Chica” Montez can be heard weekday mornings at K94.5 FM.
Local radio personality keeps it real
Everyone has a story.
Each edition, Tony Taglavore takes a local person to lunch – someone well-known, influential or successful – and asks, “What’s Your Story?”
Funny how life has a way of working out – sprinkling a little irony along the way.
Just ask Krystal “Chica” Montez, one of our area’s most popular radio personalities.
Growing up in a small California town, Krystal – whom you can hear weekday mornings on K94.5 FM (“Chica in the Morning”) and afternoons on KISS Country 93.7 – was raised a pastor’s daughter. And in her father’s faith – Assemblies of God – music was not allowed to be listened to unless it was religious music.
“We were kids at the time, so we didn’t know what we were missing out on,” Krystal explained to me over lunch (we both had grilled chicken burrito bowls) at one of her favorite places, Pepito XO, in downtown Shreveport.
“But we did know our car had a radio.
We found the country stations, and that’s how I fell in love with country music as a little Mexican kid. My parents didn’t know the difference between that and (a Christian station) because there’s a language barrier.
My parents are immigrants from Mexico. They spoke very broken English. We would tell them, ‘This is a song about God.’ We were liars. We should feel guilty for that!”
One of eight children (four girls, four boys), Krystal and her parents moved to Seattle, where she grew up working in her parents’ Mexican restaurant.
“We didn’t get to do after-school programs or anything like that. We would go straight to mom and dad’s restaurant because it was all-hands-on-deck. We weren’t by any means wealthy.”
And what they did have, didn’t last. “My dad lost it all when my mom got cancer. My dad had taken every ounce of what little money he had, and he was determined to save my mom. This was back when stem cell research was a thing. They were going to Mexico. My dad eventually burned through everything he had.”
Krystal’s mom, Felicita, died following a second breast cancer diagnosis when Krystal was 13 years old.
“That made high school very difficult for us financially. If I wanted to play sports, we would play sports. But then on weekends – to pay for the basketball shoes or whatever – we would go work at one of my brother’s restaurants as a buser, a dishwasher or whatever we had to do to make that money to be able to do all of those extra-curricular activities.”
After graduating high school, Krystal “tried” college and worked as a real estate agent. But neither were in her heart. So, she packed her belongings and moved halfway across the country.
“I will always remember the date. July 10, 2011 – the day I made the move from California to Tyler, Texas, to help my brothers with their restaurants.”
The plan was to learn the management side of the business. But one day at lunch – here comes life again – that plan changed.
“I was a loudmouth. I approached a table and I recognized everybody from radio. I recognized all their names. I said, ‘You guys are in radio! I think I can do that!’ They kept coming back in, and I would always remember their orders. It was like a table of 20. … Finally, they said, ‘Why don’t you come in for an interview?’ I thought I was walking in for an on-air position. Turns out, they wanted me to work in sales. I knew if I got into sales, and I could sell radio, eventually I could sell them on putting me on the radio.”
Krystal did, and they did. She was a sideline reporter for a football show, then moved to a regular 7 p.m.-midnight shift before landing the midday (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) spot.
“My brother Carlos has been a huge influence in my life. He’s a dreamer, but he’s also a doer. He’s the guy who says, ‘Dream big, because you’re going to hit something. If you don’t dream big, you’re not going to hit anything. You gotta dream big so people around you think you’re crazy. And guess what? You’re going to go home with something.’ I’ve kind of taken that from approaching that table and saying, ‘I know I can do radio,’ and them laughing at me several times.”
After three years, Krystal was offered an on-air job at Shreveport’s Townsquare Media. She took it with the expectation of being a short-timer.
“My original plan was to be here two years.
In radio, (people) use all the towns as stepping stones. Shreveport was going to be a stepping stone. Then, the worst thing happened to me. I fell in love with what I was doing. Radio felt local. It was different than Tyler.”
One thing that attracts listeners to Krystal is her unapologetic determination to keep it real.
“People like real. I don’t want to turn on the radio and hear about how you flew out to Bora Bora, and I’m here without power, checking my SWEPCO app trying to figure out what’s going on. People want to know that you’re in there with them in the trenches.”
Another way Krystal has endeared herself to listeners is her willingness to let them into her personal life.
“This isn’t Facebook. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you about how great my relationship is. I’m not going to necessarily put out there who I’m dating. But I’m going to be honest with you and be like, ‘Hey, X person and I went on a date, and he did this. Have you ever experienced that?’ It’s like having a huge network of friends who literally will call in and say, ‘Girl, you think that’s bad? Check out what happened to me!’
All of the sudden, you realize we’re all in it together.”
But Krystal’s radio gig – she’s also heard on a station in Lafayette – isn’t enough. Remembering what happened to her father – “That’s one of my biggest fears, losing it all” – Krystal owns a side business named “Bringing Life to the Party.” She DJs events and rents out a photo booth. Last year, Krystal – who is single and doesn’t have children — worked 46 of 52 weekends, and she’s on pace for the same workload this year.
“Our upbringing made us hustlers, to where I’ve always had a plan ‘B.’ There’s no net. There’s no one coming to save you.”
Now six years in town and riding a wave of popularity – and with her successful side hustle – Krystal no longer views Shreveport-Bossier as a “stepping stone.”
“There’s so much work still to do here.
There’s still so much happening. We’re not done yet. I think that’s what’s kept me here. There are a lot of heavy hitters in town, and there are a lot of people in town that have a vision for Shreveport. I guess I drank the Kool-Aid, too. I’m like, ‘All right, if you guys are in for the ride, I’m in, too. What are we doing? What’s next? Where are we going to go?’”
My final question, as always, was before Krystal had to return to the studio, where she had been since 5 a.m.: “What is it about your story that can inspire others?”
“If somebody tells you that you have no business doing something, do it twice. Dream big. Dream as big as you can. You’re going to land on something.”
Do you know someone whose story you would like Tony Taglavore to tell? Email Tony at email@example.com.