Rolonda Watts: Famous Winston-Salemites

Winston-Salem is one of the greatest small cities in the world. Famous Winston-Salemites will feature some accomplished people that lived in Winston-Salem and now have moved on to do great things. All of the questions will be about their time in the Twin City.
Famous Winston-Salemite, Rolonda Watts, has many hats to fill as a novelist, motivational speaker, voice over artist, and radio and television talk show host. She grew up in Winston, where both of her parents worked in academics at Wake Forest (her mom) and Winston-Salem State (her dad).
Rolonda’s mom, Dr. Velma Gibson Watts, was an associate dean, and her dad was chairman of WSSU’s Fine Arts Department. She went to undergrad at Spelman in Atlanta and then to Columbia for a master’s degree in Journalism. She also holds an honorary doctorate from WSSU. After spending time as a reporter at WFMY in the Triad and WNBC in New York, she began her acting and correspondent career.
After working for Inside Edition, she had her own talk show, Rolonda, from 1994-1997. She then moved to California and began her acting career. She has done voice over for shows like The Penguins of Madagascar and Curious George. She spent time as the on-camera announcer for Judge Joe Brown and Divorce Court. She has also starred in several movies, including, Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Tough Love, and several television shows like The West Wing, 7th Heaven, JAG, and Day’s of Our Lives.
This past March, Rolonda released her first novel, Destiny Lingers. Dr. Maya Angelou said, “I fell for this story and the characters novelist Rolonda Watts introduced.” Rolonda currently lives in Los Angeles. Read her answers to questions about her favorite things about Winston-Salem below:
Winston-Salem Questions:
When all have you lived in Winston-Salem? When did your family come here?
My parents came to Winston-Salem as a young couple back in the 1950’s, each seeking teaching careers. in 1959, I was born in Katie B hospital, which was then, during segregation, the Black hospital. My parents bought our first house after I came along. It was a starter house in a new community on Caledonia Drive. Then we bought a larger home on East 5th Street, before moving to Woodberry Forest when I was 11. I left for Spelman College at 17 (1977) and have spent many years coming back for holidays at my Auntie Maya Angelou’s home.
Do you still have family in the area?
My mother, Dr. Velma Gibson Watts, is still in W-S.
How long was your dad at WSSU and your mom at Wake Forest?
My Father, Roland Smith Watts, a well-acclaimed wood cutter and graphic artist, served as Chairman of the Fine Arts Department at Winston Salem State University for about 34 years. He donated his artwork to the university’s archives, which today can be enjoyed on campus in the Diggs Library. My mother was at Wake Forest University for about as much time as an Associate Dean of the medical school. She has an endowment there in her name.
What different schools did you go to in Winston-Salem?
I attended Centenary Kindergarten, the first Black child there, thus helping integrate the W-S school system back in the early 60’s. From there, I attended Brunson Elementary, then Wiley Junior High, before moving to private school, Salem Academy, a college-preparatory school for girls, founded in 1772.
Who were some of your favorite teachers at each school?
My favorite teacher at Brunson was Miss Suite, my fifth grade teacher, who never spoke down to us and encouraged our curiosity and sometimes our very over the wall questions about the birds and the bees! At Salem Academy, Mrs. Jean Burroughs, who is still to this day like a mom to me. She inspired the performing artist in me and applauded my daring spirit. She recognized my drive and her belief in me was like gas to my engine. I feel so blessed to still have her in my life, still supporting me and cheering me on to this day.
Where all did you have jobs in Winston-Salem?
I worked in a pre-school toy supply factory. I was a camp counselor at Sherwood Forest Day Camp. I was a store clerk at The Limited at Hanes Mall. I was also a baby sitter. I had internships with the W-S Police Department and the W-S Journal.
What are your top three favorite local Winston-Salem restaurants of all-time?
I love The Village Tavern and have to go there every time I’m back in town, before or after my traditional shopping trip to Monkee’s! Sweet Potatoes and Bone Fish are two other favorites. (Does Krispy Kreme count as a restaurant? LOL)
Are you married?
No husband — No kids. I have a dog and a cat and have been waiting around for Mr. Right for so long — I have become the man I wanted to marry! LOL I’m currently performing a whole stand up comedy routine about it, performing my act at some of the most famous comedy clubs in Los Angeles – The World Famous Comedy Store, Flappers, and The Comedy Union. (I have a “Sexy Singles” show coming up on Valentine’s Day)
If you were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which would you choose: Moravian sugar cake, a Bojangles biscuit, or Krispy Kreme doughnuts?
HA! I love this question! Now, this is a really hard one for me! Hmmm. I’ll have to go with the Moravian sugar cake – it’s like nothing else and all that gooey goodness gloriously celebrates our Old Salem heritage. Reminds me of Easter Sundays and riding my bike up Reynolda Road to get a bag sugar cake from Dewey’s Bakery!
Do you have any siblings?
I have one younger brother, Brett, who lives in Florida.
What is your favorite North Carolina Beach?
Hands down – Topsail Beach — where my grandparents helped found Ocean City, the first Black beachfront resort area in NC. I grew up on Topsail, where I spent my summers, still vacation today, and where my new novel, Destiny Lingers, takes place.
Where is your favorite place in the mountains in North Carolina?
My favorite place in the mountains is Boone, where I learned to ski on Beech Mountain and hike. I also have some wonderful pieces of pottery from the area. I love the Native American spirit there and the arts and crafts. Apple-pickin’ in the Fall is fun too!
When did Destiny Lingers come out?
My first book, a contemporary romance novel called Destiny Lingers, came out in March and can be found at Barnes and Noble, as well as Amazon and Kindle. Endorsed by Dr. Maya Angelou, it is an interracial love story about an investigative news reporter in NYC who uncovers her husband’s affair and flees to Topsail Island to get her head together and while there meets the handsome police chief who she soon discovers was the boy she loved in childhood, but couldn’t be with because of segregation. Time moves on – but destiny lingers and the two star-crossed lovers have a second chance at first love. The laws that kept them apart could never separate their love.

One thought on “Rolonda Watts: Famous Winston-Salemites”

  1. Thanks to you, Rolanda, for your kind remembrances of your fifth grade teacher. Didn’t we have fun all learning together! That was my first year as a teacher! I remember what a beautiful, bright and happy child you were, always wearing a beautiful smile and sparkling eyes. I also remember your very kind and supportive parents.

    How happy I am for you and your continued successes and happiness. Life is good!

    I cannot wait to read your novel! I will order it tonight!

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