Kauai girl Ashley Nagaoka has been doing Oahu TV news for a total of eight years as a general assignment reporter. She recently celebrated her third-year anniversary at Hawaii News Now.
Although we see her on Oahu broadcasting news on all social media platforms, this local girl has a special spot in her heart for her own island. You can see it on her social media platforms when she meets up with Kauai folks or doing something fun here.
You know the saying, “You can take the girl away from the island but never the island away from the girl.”
If she isn’t running,she is hiking, hanging out with friends and families, or traveling.
TGI recently sat with Nagaoka at Plantation Coffee Company for a special cup of coffee made by Manager Kawika Kuali‘i and some local laughs. It was a little after rush hour and the coffee cafe was quieter. The doors opened and Nagaoka came in with her local girl attire and professional short hair cut. She gave hugs and quickly settled into the high chair that was reserved for her.
How did a local girl like you who loves outdoors become a professional news reporter on TV?
I always loved telling stories and I was always very curious, so it seems like a perfect fit for me. But actually, I went to school thinking I would be a print journalist. In college, my counsel talked me into going the TV route. And here I am.
What do you like about your job?
I like that it’s something different every day. I love that I get to meet new people. Especially when it’s Kauai stories, you know … I love coming home. In a business where it can be so Oahu-centric … I really feel it’s important to get neighbor island news out there.
Right, I notice Hawaii News Now has covered all islands.
At Hawaii News Now, I feel like we are lucky. We have reporters from all four counties. I feel for our viewers if they know we are from the place we are reporting from, they believe it’s more sincere. They know we care about where we come from.
You represented Kauai well when you did that “Ha la la co co na na” episode. I didn’t know that every island had a different version of that childhood saying.
Nagaoka began to laugh and smile. Kuali‘i was asked if he watched it. He said, “no.”
Nagaoka was a great sport and shared how she learned how to say it growing up.
When representing Kauai you are reporting live outdoors, and sometimes as a news anchor at the desk. Does it feel like a huge responsibility or do you pep talk yourself before you report.
I think with any story we put on, we definitely take the time to research it, make sure it’s accurate, with the latest information you can. In the eight years you know I’ve done it, I still get butterflies every time I go on. I think it’s a good thing. It means you care.
I think the day you don’t have butterflies is when you should start thinking about doing something else.
So when you are on TV, I notice you have this professional voice or talk? Did you train for that, or learn that in school?
I don’t know. We don’t train for that. It’s just how you have to present yourself. But you should see behind the scenes. It’s chaos right before we go on air. We got a great crew, though.
Do you write your own stories that you broadcast?
Yes, I write my own stuff, but when you become an anchor, someone else writes it for you.
Do you have bigger dreams? I see you anchoring at times. Do you want to be an anchorwoman full time?
Yes, I am working toward it. If the opportunity presents itself, I will definitely go for it.
What is your favorite story you had to cover?
Covering the historic April flood in 2018 will be an unforgettable moment in my career because it was extremely personal to me. I remember waking up that Sunday morning to photos of entire neighborhoods underwater and massive landslides blocking Kuhio Highway. I immediately called one of my managers to say we need to go to Kauai now.
Once we were on the ground, there were so many stories to tell — stories of survival, loss, hope, resilience — I wish I could have shared them all because they were all so powerful.
Has the news business taught you anything during these tragic events?
The news business has taught me to keep my emotions in check in whatever situation I’m in, but it was really difficult to see these places I love and where I grew up forever changed. I remember seeing the destruction at Black Pot Beach Park and the Hanalei Pier, a place where my brother and I used to sit in the back of my Dad’s truck and eat shave ice and Spam musubis and where we spread his ashes when he passed away, and I just broke down in tears over how unrecognizable the area was.
How do you feel when you hear stories from home?
They usually always assign Kauai stories to me, which I love. When stuff is happening here and I am not here, I feel a sense of guilt.
OK, enough of the news or work. Who is Ashley Nagaoka?
I like running. And on my days off, I love vegging out on the couch and crashing out to trashy TV. I love to tune everything out.
I see you post photos of your travel. Do you like to travel?
I love Southeast Asia, like Thailand. Indonesia, Europe, Italy.
How have your parents influenced you?
Everything good about me I got from my parents. The two of them are so different on the surface, yet they both share the same work ethic, positive attitude, and generous heart.
My mom is a powerhouse. From when I was a little girl, I would watch her excel at every level of her career with such grace and admiration from her colleagues. She worked long days, volunteered in the community, and was still always present at all my volleyball games and school functions. She taught me the importance of being a strong, independent woman who isn’t afraid to speak up or challenge authority for what’s right. But no matter how old I get, I’ll always need my mom.
We lost my dad to cancer several years ago and I’m still trying to adapt to a world where he’s not here. I miss him and think about him every single day. He was extremely kind, humble, and led by example. While he was a grocery store manager, you would often see him bagging groceries or collecting shopping carts from the parking lot. No task was too small for him if it helped his team. My dad also shared his love of running with me, and having done marathons and half-marathons together, he made me realize how mentally tough I really am. I hope I continue to make both of them proud.
I know you like to eat and post some ono photos of some great food. But what is something you love to eat that maybe your mom makes that you crave for?
Oh my gosh! My mom makes so many good things. It’s nostalgic! I would have to say her Shepherd’s pie.
What would you like Kauai folks to know about you?
What I think is funny a little bit is people don’t contact me about stories or ideas. I think it’s cause they don’t want to bother me. It is really sweet but please send me anything. They can email or in-box me on social media.
What is a fun fact we don’t know about you?
My hidden talent is that I can make animal balloons. I learned how because Island School had those summer programs. It was a clown class, so I learned how to do magic tricks and make animal balloons.
What school did you graduate from?
Kauai High School, Class of 2002, but I am from Kapaa. I had a district exemption.
Well thank you, Ashley, for your time. I hope you get your shepherd’s pie, run, hike and have a great time with your ohana. Keep going after your dreams and Happy New Year!
Thank you. Happy New Year, too! I appreciate the opportunity to talk story! It’s always good to be home!