Grace Lee is busy. With a 2am wakeup call for Hawai`i News Now’s Sunrise morning show (which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary) and the relentless daily pace of the news cycle driving her professional life, it’s amazing she is still poised and effervescent by happy hour, but there she is, with the same wide smile and charisma that island folks have come to count on to usher in the day. “The first time I was on camera, I was horrible,” she laughs. “But there’s something about that pressure of having to perform, and I just haven’t turned back.”
The relationship between a morning anchor and her viewership is oddly intimate—for many islanders, Lee’s voice is the first one they hear in the morning—and it requires great emotional range to report on the tragic turns the news often takes and then smoothly shift to, say, the intricacies of the bacon-and-egg waffle mochi donut breakfast at MoDo Hawai`i. Lee’s remarkable ability to do just that, and to navigate those transitions with compelling sincerity, contributes to her fan-favorite status.
An Alabama native, Lee moved to Hawai`i on assignment and has acclimated so well that many people mistake her for a local. “There’s something about Hawai`i that always felt like home to me,” she says. “I love that people are superfriendly. There’s a small-town feel here, and I grew up in a small town. You moved to a neighborhood and people would bring you pies and casseroles and pineapple upside-down cake, and there’s the same spirit here.”
Main image details: Navy knit dress, $2,890, by The Row; gold hoop earrings, $430, by Lana Jewelry; mother-of-pearl necklace (worn as bracelet), $1,295, by Ippolita; all at Neiman Marcus, Ala Moana Center.