Watching Raphael Miranda on WNBC’s “Weekend Today in New York” deliver the weather with panache and engage in friendly banter with co-anchor Pat Battle about flurries that she claims she saw that were not on the radar, you would never know that he felt like an “odd puzzle piece” as a child. But for this charismatic meteorologist – who grew up in northern Westchester County, where his passion for weather began – the journey to his dream job has been a mix of clouds and sunshine.
“I am living a life I never could have imagined,” says Miranda, who joined WNBC as a weather intern in 2007. “I get to work with my love of weather and have fun.”
Miranda, who received an Emmy in 2011 for his coverage of Hurricane Irene, says that the most challenging forecasting event for him was Hurricane Sandy the following year.
“Trying to forecast something we had never seen before in our lifetime and beyond our imagination and to figure out how to present it to the public was a challenge.” He and the Storm Team 4 meteorologists had to find a delicate balance. “We were freaking out about the storm surge numbers. You want everyone to be safe and want to inform viewers without sounding panicky.”
Miranda – affectionately known as Raffi to the News 4 team – is one of the most stylish men on air. So it should come as no surprise that he worked at Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent after graduating from New York University with a degree in Spanish. He also speaks Portuguese and a little French. But fashion didn’t quite suit him. (Pun intended.)
“I didn’t feel connected to retail as a career.”
Then in 2004 a life-changing illness set him on a different course. “I was hospitalized with meningitis and spent more than a month in bed, which gave me time to reflect on what I was doing in my life, and I had an epiphany.”
Miranda reached out for advice to a meteorologist he knew, Craig Allen. “He encouraged me to go back to school, so the illness was a blessing in disguise.”
Miranda went on to receive degrees in broadcast journalism and geosciences/meteorology from Brooklyn College and Mississippi State University. He is a member of the American Meteorological Society, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association.
Truth is a word that resonates in Miranda’s life. “Being true in my career and in my personal life has led me to the place I am now.”
Not only did he struggle with being gay as a youth, but he also had other identity issues. “Since I didn’t grow up in a diverse community, I was ‘other’ and different. With a Hispanic immigrant father, Jewish mother and name ‘Raphael,’ it was hard for me to fit in.”
Miranda says his mother – the author Susan Picosa, who is also profiled in this issue – is his role model and greatest influence. “She always taught me to dream and that I could do anything. This key concept became my reality. She taught me to create my own rules and not to worry about being ‘normal.’ That’s how I’ve found my own way.”
Miranda uses his celebrity to help others find theirs. He has served as honorary chair for Live Out Loud’s “Pride in the Hamptons” and supports the Cancer Research & Treatment Fund Inc. as well as Green Chimneys, a Brewster-based organization for children with emotional, behavioral and social challenges.
In the spring of 2012, Miranda spoke at Fox Lane High School in Bedford with members of the Gay Straight Alliance as part of The Homecoming Project, Live Out Loud’s campaign to encourage members of the LGBT community to share their personal journeys with the next generation.
“It’s important for me to be visible as a member of the gay community. It’s a choice I make to be publicly out there and proud. I can’t imagine trying to hide any aspect of myself. It’s easier to be open and honest.”
With his mother at his side, Miranda spoke candidly with the students.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t have gay and lesbian people to look up to, or any role models and examples. That had a lot to do with my struggles in accepting my gayness.”
Meeting the Gay Straight Alliance kids, who are now out in high school, was an amazing experience for him.
“I saw real people going through real problems. It was a fantastic interaction and gave me even more momentum to keep up what I’m doing to help young people as much as I can.”
Miranda remembers coming out at age 19: “That process made me stronger. It’s made me more of a fighter. I’ve had to fight myself to learn how to accept myself and how to come out and ask other people to accept me. I never thought I would come out. I had a whole other chance at life, which was liberating and has made me more empathetic.”
Miranda says his most noteworthy accomplishment is being married for 10 years to Doug, with whom he lives in New Jersey, along with their two cats, Spanky and Zippy.
Miranda also goes to numerous schools to speak to kids about weather.
“I feel it’s a part of being on television to make yourself available to the public. Kids ask tons of questions, and I hope to spark an interest in them to be a meteorologist.”
Last spring in my role as a school library media specialist, I invited Miranda to White Plains to speak to a group of second-graders who had been studying weather as a nonfiction research unit. Miranda captivated their imagination and entranced adults for nearly an hour answering their thoughtful questions about such weather phenomenon as waterspouts and tornadoes.
So what’s in the forecast for Miranda? He lives in the moment and loves his life.
“I am open to whatever the future brings. I haven’t planned this so far so I won’t plan now.”