“I recognize the importance of, ‘If you can see it, you can be it,’” he told Project Q Atlanta. “I did not know of any Black meteorologists growing up, and I think it’s important to show representation for me as a member of the LGBT community for kids who are struggling to come out to their friends or their family or their peers.”
“I want them to know there’s a life out there where they can be their true authentic self. They can be a powerful person,” he added.
Wooten, 28, moved to Atlanta in 2018 to join The Weather Channel, which is headquartered here. It was a world away from his hometown of Camden, Ark., and its population of 11,000.
“It’s a very small town,” he said. “There was not a lot for us to do, however growing up in a small town allowed me to make different friends in the community — black or white, gay or straight, religious or not. I was able to be immersed in a culture and community that cares about me.”
Road to ‘a great career’
Wooten had an early passion for science, math and technology. He even scored an internship with NASA while still in high school. He became interested in becoming a meteorologist as an undergraduate at the University of Arkansas, switching majors from engineering to broadcast journalism.
After graduation, Wooten went to Florida State University for his meteorology degree. He became a weather anchor and reporter at Nexstar Media Group in Fayetteville, Ark., landed an internship at The Weather Channel, then came on full time after that.
“It’s a very complex path, but down the road it’s hopefully what will prove to be a great career,” he said.
Wooten forecasts on several shows for The Weather Channel, including “America’s Morning Headquarters.” He is also a field anchor for severe weather events.
“I travel a lot because the weather doesn’t stop, and neither does our mission of saving lives and protecting people,” he said.
Hurricane Sally stands out as one of Wooten’s most memorable experiences in the field. He anchored coverage for nearly six hours in treacherous conditions during the September 2020 event that made landfall in Alabama as a Category 2 storm.
“We were in one of the best spots, and by best spots I mean worsts spots because this is where natural disasters are occurring,” he said. “Winds were about 110, 120 miles per hour. We were getting absolutely walloped with some of the strongest rain as well.”
Out and proud at The Weather Channel
Wooten came out to his parents in 2019, and he’s been out at The Weather Channel since Day One.
“One of my great friends when I first started gave me a rainbow bracelet that I wear on TV every single day,” he said. “I get messages about that bracelet, and most are positive.”
The pandemic makes it harder to take part in Atlanta’s gay nightlife at the moment, so you’ll find Wooten running, hiking or hitting the Beltline with friends. His dog — appropriately named Radar — is often by his side.
“He loves not only the outdoors but loves people, so Piedmont Park is probably one of his favorite places to go in Midtown,” Wooten said. “I enjoy meeting friends out there.”
Meanwhile, the meteorologist will continue setting an example on the job.
“I just really want the next generation of LGBT scientists and Black scientists to know that there’s a struggle in everything you do, but it just makes the endgame or results so much more worth it,” Wooten said.
Wooten joins several metro Atlanta-based TV news figures who are LGBTQ. WSB-TV has meteorologist Brian Monahan as well as Jorge Estevez, the station’s first openly gay anchor. ABC News senior national correspondent Steve Osunsami lives in Brookhaven.
This story is made possible by Google News Initiative’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.