TRAVEL + LEISURE
Growing up on the South Side of Chicago and then in San Bernardino, Calif., Kellee Edwards enjoyed going on road trips with her family. She had no idea at the time, however, that a career in travel journalism might be an option.
Edwards grew up watching travel shows with very few women and no African Americans. Her curious nature and love of storytelling led Edwards to pursue a journalism degree while working as a banker to pay her way through school.
Travel personality Kellee Edwards is unstoppable, exploring the world by land, sea and air. A licensed pilot, advanced open water scuba diver and a solo adventurer she takes travel to a new level flying herself to remote locations around the world, landing without a runway or air traffic tower. She's the first Black woman to land her own travel TV series, hosting Travel Channel's Mysterious Islands. Edwards has explored Indonesian caves with thousands of buried bodies, freedived with the matriarchal divers on South Korea's Jeju Island and piloted an aircraft in Alaska's temperamental Aleutian Chain.
TRAVEL + LEISURE
Over the season, Edwards will introduce you to a diverse and inspiring mix of travelers who have embraced their differences and tackled travel head on. You’ll meet Jesse Billauer, a quadriplegic surfer who made the incredible trek to Machu Picchu in a wheelchair, and Jessica Nabongo, the first black woman to travel to every country on Earth. Find inspiration in the story of a gay couple navigating America in an RV on a quest to discover what makes our national parks so incredibly welcoming, and hear what it’s really like to travel while Asian, Muslim, or Latinx — both far away and close to home.
NPR: WAIT WAIT...
Kellee Edwards is a pilot, scuba diver, sailor and mountaineer who has explored many remote islands ... but how much does she know about Staten Island? Three questions about a pretty normal island right off the wild coast of eastern New Jersey.
In honor of the women's suffrage centennial, we are highlighting women who were pioneers in exploring the world in the past 100 years. These real-life wild women threw caution and convention out the window—such as the first women to ride solo across the U.S. in motorcycles; the first woman to summit the tallest peaks on every continent; and the first Black woman to host her own travel TV show, flying her own plane to remote islands around the world. While we won't be taking the freedom to travel for granted ever again post-pandemic, we owe a lot to these trailblazing women who paved the way for all of our adventures—even the ones yet to come.
Kellee Edwards is a multi-hyphenate achiever with a résumé that reads: Pilot! Television host! Journalist! Scuba diver!Her impressive achievements, easy enthusiasm for adventure, and strong advocacy for solo women travelers provide a standing invitation for all of us to stretch beyond how we would normally define ourselves.
After the Travel Channel’s seven-year spell without a female host, Kellee Edwards stepped in front of the camera. But, as with most recent travel shows, Edwards’ Mysterious Islands is on the more extreme side than, say, Samantha Brown’s wandering through Tuscany or Buenos Aires. The show, which premiered in 2017 and takes you to—you guessed it—mysterious, often far-off islands, comes with a twist. Edwards, a licensed pilot, certified scuba diver, and former entertainment journalist, flies herself to the remote destinations.
Born on Chicago's South Side, Edwards is used to succeeding in environments that would be a challenge for others. As a licensed pilot, certified scuba diver, and seasoned mountain climber, calling Edwards the future of adventure travel would be an understatement. Her journey is a significant accomplishment given the overwhelmingly white male industry she has been called to pursue, but her success — which has been nearly a decade in the making — is by no means an accident. Edwards's love for exploration began the first time she saw mountains on a Greyhound bus trip from Chicago to California.
Describing herself as having the skillset of a Bond girl meets Laura Croft, Edwards is tasked with exploring the remote corners of the earth, uncovering unique cultural traditions and sharing stories of people in far flung places.
From mountaineering to skydiving, there’s nothing off limits for Edwards. She has explored Indonesian caves with thousands of buried bodies and trekked to an Alaskan island with a population of 22 people.
A life of adventure is thrilling in theory and significantly harder in practice. It takes real grit, a pinch of madness, and a wild heart. Kellee Edwards knows this all too well. She seems to take her travel advice straight from Indiana Jones. She’s been certified as a diver, a pilot, and spent years traveling the world with a camera and dream.
That dream was to be the first black woman to host a Travel Channel show. And it’s not a dream anymore. It’s a reality.
Kellee Edwards rode in a small plane for the first time in 2012. Now, only six years later, she flies planes to remote locations on her own Travel Channel show, Mysterious Islands. Edwards is the first black woman to host a regular season show on the network. She broke into the overwhelmingly white and male world of travel television with over-the-top credentials, like pilot certification, scuba diving certification, and soon, a motorcycle license.
Despite what social media might lead you to believe, Black people are still missing and underrepresented in the travel space. For Kellee Edwards, seeing pretty photos wasn’t enough, she did not see Black people on television talking about travel and diving deep into the global community. So with her passport – and her broadcast journalism degree in hand – Edwards set out to change the images we see of Black people and travel.
Kellee Edwards teared up and could barely get through the first introduction to her Travel Channel show Mysterious Islands. The show was such a dream come true that the self-proclaimed “adventure traveler” was overcome. But, like everything this bold young woman attempts, she persevered and her adventures around the world have now become one of the Travel Channel’s most-watched shows.