"We were going to cover one of the burn areas," she recalls, "and someone from an Evergreen newspaper said, 'You're Julie Hayden. I grew up watching you.' And that's when it hit me. I don't want to say I was burned out" -- she laughs at the semi-Freudian fire reference -- "but I realized I was ready for some new growth."
Of course, the urge to change course in mid-stream is hardly unprecedented -- but the particular direction in which Hayden plans to head may be. After March 31, her last day at Channel 7, Hayden will become a full-time saleswoman for Mary Kay cosmetics.
There's no shortage of irony in this move. In a medium where some personalities layer on the makeup like employees at an Earl Scheib auto-paint shop, Hayden is known for looking natural and unfussy, as befits someone who's frequently seen by the glow of spinning police lights. Maybe that accounts for the reaction of her family and friends when they learned that she wants to trade in Channel 7's news trucks for a Mary Kay pink Cadillac. "They looked at me like, 'Hello? Will you please send the real Julie home now?'" she says.
Hayden began her broadcasting career at KGNU, Boulder's progressive public-radio signal, back in 1979, then skipped to several commercial radio outlets before transitioning to television in 1987. After stints with KRDO in Colorado Springs and Channel 2 in Denver, she joined the Channel 7 staff in 1990, becoming one of the station's most recognizable faces. But as the years wore on, her frustrations grew. "The nature of the business has changed," she says. "I like covering cops and courts and crime, but basically what they want is general assignment reporters who can turn a story that day. I have no quarrel with that. But it used to be that if you had a tip or an idea, you had some time to check it out -- and that's a luxury a general-assignment reporter doesn't have anymore. So it occurred to me that if I re-signed my contract, I'd be doing a lot of the things I'd been doing since college."
About a year ago, as these thoughts were going through her mind, Hayden says she "fell into" the world of Mary Kay with the help of a station photographer. "We were driving around one day, and I'd gotten an infection from some other name brand that I won't go into," she remembers. "I was griping about it, and he said, 'You should try Mary Kay. My wife sells it, and you'll love it.' Well, I let him call her out of politeness and let her come to my house. But I really liked the products, and I've had a ball selling them. It's an opportunity to help enrich people's live in little ways and bigger ways. And the biggest appeal for me is the chance to be my own boss.
"No one believes it," she adds, "but the financial opportunities are amazing. One woman made $100,000 in a month selling Mary Kay, and there are women in the Denver area making $40,000 to $70,000 a month -- and bunches more that are able to make my current salary in half a year. That's what I'm shooting at. Or else, like my husband says, we'll be living in a van."
Television may continue to play a part in Hayden's life; she'd like to land the occasional freelance assignment. But for the most part, she's casting her lot with Mary Kay, even though this turn of events is as surprising to her as it is to everyone else in her life. As she puts it, "I don't know in what alternate universe this could have occurred."
The gone Ranger: Like Julie Hayden, Ron Franscell, who recently served as the so-called Rocky Mountain Ranger for the Denver Post, has a new project, albeit one that has nothing to do with lipstick and blush. After leaving the Post at year's end, Franscell, who's written a pair of novels, set to work penning what he calls a "true-crime memoir, about a crime that happened thirty years ago in the small town in Wyoming where I grew up. All this time later, it continues to resonate in this town, and I'm eager to explore how that happens -- how some people heal and some people don't."