Seventeen years ago, Leda Steele-Toussaint, then known as Leda Steele, told her 15-year-old friend, now known as Portia Foxx, that she had a voice for radio.
Foxx brushed off the comment, because, well, she hated her own voice.
“Diddy, you’re crazy,” Steele-Toussaint told Foxx.
Foxx really saw herself as possibly a hip-hop writer for a magazine, maybe XXL. Or something similar in the hip-hop world, but there was only one problem—Foxx said Pittsburgh isn’t a huge hub for hip-hop culture, like Atlanta or New York. “Not when I was coming up,” Foxx recalled. “For a moment we had a heavy underground influence, Shadow Lounge, but me being younger there wasn’t anything that was for me.”
The 2004 Allderdice High School graduate had creativity on her mind, the music world on her mind, and anything else became secondary. But as she looked around, she couldn’t find that perfect outlet to showcase her creative mind.
“Pittsburgh typically doesn’t have creative outlets,” Foxx told the New Pittsburgh Courier in an exclusive interview. “PNC, UPMC, or the City of Pittsburgh, that’s what you aspire to do whenever you grow up, if you’re from here. That’s from what I see, from what I know, from what I’ve experienced.”
Thus, Foxx’s job circuit began. “I’ve had a thousand jobs. I never wanted to be a person who worked in anyone’s office. I’d either quit or get fired,” she said.
Customer service positions, Giant Eagle, an extended stint at the famed David’s Shoes “in East Liberty”…Foxx worked in retail, she did data entry for the City of Pittsburgh, she even applied to become a Port Authority bus driver—but didn’t pass the initial test.
“After a while I get bored,” Foxx said about her journey of jobs. “I knew it wasn’t going to last.”
Foxx said her own mother wasn’t exactly understanding this situation of not being able to hold a job long due to Foxx’s yearning for something else. “It would be like hell, trying to explain that (to my mom). You go to work, you do what you gotta do, you pay your bills, you keep your shelter. You live to work…I’ve never been OK with that philosophy.”
Thus, the Pittsburgh born-and-bred Foxx tried her hand at a podcast, entitled “Raw Deal Radio,” in 2013. It was, one could say, her first foray into her creative side professionally as an adult. The show dealt with issues that happen in Black Pittsburgh—relationships between men and women, relationships between a father and his daughter, how to protect against STDs, and other adult topics.
A few years went by, the podcast still buzzing, the guests and topics continuing to compile. Who knows if Foxx was beginning to like her voice, or if the love of free speech and creative thinking took precedence.
Then, a man named Quincy McConnell happened to run into Foxx during this time, around late 2015, and liked her attitude, drive and ambition. He said he would talk to his people about getting Foxx a new job.
That job was on-air at WAMO 100.1 FM.
McConnell, much better known in Pittsburgh as “GQ,” served as a morning show personality on WAMO, among other positions. He currently serves as a mixer for the station. He came through for Foxx, as she got the call to come in for an audition, but then had to wait nearly over a month for a decision.
“The longest month in my life,” Foxx said.
Then the call came. February 6, 2016. WAMO 100 general manager Jamal Woodson was on the other end of the line. “He offered me the position,” Foxx said, “and after that, my life changed.”
“She has always been thorough,” WAMO 100 afternoon personality Kiki Brown said of Foxx. “She finishes what she starts and doesn’t like to leave anyone hanging. She wants to learn how to do ‘this thing.’ She wants to take it further and even when she’s afraid (which I can see sometimes) it makes her work harder. She has never done anything like this before so I can see her pushing herself.”
Indeed, Foxx is “raw talent,” in her description. “I never went to school for this. Although I wanted to go to Clark Atlanta University for mass media communications, I never made it down there,” Foxx said.
In addition to her Saturday 2-6 p.m. on-air shift, Foxx said she serves as the station’s promotions assistant and office manager.
In the years to come, Foxx said she wants to be even more of a hip-hop influencer, a cultural influencer. Rappers like Jay-Z, singers like Mary J. Blige, “I want to be able to tell their stories correctly,” she said.
In the present, the self-described “late bloomer” has blossomed into a force in Pittsburgh’s hip-hop music scene, with her distinctive rapid-fire voice leading the way.
It’s a voice that Foxx never thought would make it on anyone’s radio—it’s a voice that her longtime friend, Steele-Toussaint, always knew was special.
“We cried on the phone (when Foxx got the WAMO job), because you always said this, and it’s happening,” Foxx said of her conversation with Steele-Toussaint. “She’s still extremely proud of me to this day.”
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