“I wasn’t more talented or driven than anyone else, but I was probably the only one who had the courage to go apply for the job even though I didn’t know WHAT I was doing! My takeaway is that…you HAVE to be flexible and you never have to settle. Yes, you can pursue a lifelong dream and never give up on it and achieve it and die happy and that’s wonderful, but if you don’t like the hand you’ve been dealt, you have the option of shuffling the deck! And I’ve shuffled it many times. Sometimes I’ve had a couple of crappy hands, but many times I’ve gotten a royal flush.” says Sunny Leigh, a voice we’ve long recognized as a local Tulsa radio personality, but now, as one of the smiling faces greeting us each morning on KTUL’s, Good Morning Oklahoma.
“Shuffling the deck” has landed Leigh jobs in a variety of positions, including helping injured dolphins, whales, and sea turtles at a marine aquarium and teaching 7th grade science, before finally settling in her niche’ with media. Her dedication to radio was apparent among many of Sunny’s listeners and peers, and led to a 2013 ACM “Best Personalities” Award with her morning show partners at the time, a moment she recognizes as one of her proudest. “It’s a bit like winning an Oscar or a Grammy for those of us in radio. It’s voted upon by peers, by artists, by record label folks, so you’re being told by others in your field that you are outstanding at your job.”
Her bubbly, relatable personality put Sunny on the red carpet more than just that one time. She recalls KTUL sending her to report from the Academy Awards for the first time with a laugh, “The first year was legendary because I got KICKED OFF THE RED CARPET when a security guard thought I was taking pictures of celebrities when I was in fact, using my cellphone to check my lipstick! For some strange reason, KTUL thought it was hysterical and sent me back 2 more years in a row. I talked my way into parties at the Roosevelt Hotel, the Beverly Hills Hotel, and a slew of afterparties. It was a blast!”
After being unexpectedly let go by KVOO, Leigh felt fortunate to have already formed that bond with KTUL. “I had done some freelance work for KTUL and the news director called me just a couple of days after my firing hit social media to ask if I would come aboard full-time as an anchor and reporter and I jumped at the opportunity! I haven’t regretted a single second of that decision.”
Not to give up radio altogether, Sunny has recently found herself as a weekend personality with 106.1 The Twister. (Yes, I did ask her if she ever sleeps, she admits there is a lack of Zzz’s.)
“After nearly 15 years at KVOO, I was good friends with MANY artists and many of the record label folks who represent those artists. In radio, you always have an “in” because the artists want their songs played on the radio and will often agree to interviews, fun bits, and sit-down stories in exchange for air play. When I left radio, I lost that connection immediately. So when the good folks at The Twister approached me to ask if I wanted to work just 1 shift per week in exchange of having those connections once again, I jumped at the chance! My Saturday night show is all about new, up-and-coming artists and new songs, so the access to record labels and opportunities with singers is back in full play now. Plus, it’s so fun!! Country music is a passion for me, so my passion is also my job, and that’s a wonderful thing.”
When asked about women who have inspired her throughout her journey, she says that outside of her mother and grandmothers, one radio and television personality stands out. “ “Her name is Nancy Alexander. She worked in both radio and television in Tampa Bay, and she was hysterical! She had a top-rated morning radio show, was never afraid to make fun of herself, and was later asked to do funny, fluff-pieces for television. She had a quick wit, a wicked sense of humor, and didn’t really care who she made fun of even if it was herself. She was also great at being “vulnerable” on-air, which is an artform in itself. You always want to be “real” with your audience because they can tell when you’re fake.”
Sunny Leigh has done her best to stick true to that realness, and when asked what advice she has for the rest of us, she keeps it simple, stating, “always be kind.” She borrows the lyrics, ‘peeing in my yard ain’t gonna make yours any greener’ from country singer Kacey Musgraves to further develop the thought; It’s a bit vulgar, yes, but it’s also true. You never make a gain in life by being mean to another person.”
Though there is always a chance for another deck shuffle, Leigh cannot imagine what else the future might hold, simply stating, “I’m living a dream right now getting to work for KTUL and then do radio on the side. I get paid to do stories about things I am interested in, things I love, and stories about life and the “good” in people. And I get to play good country music one night a week as a bonus perk. I can’t imagine doing something that I would love any more than I love this.”
To keep up with Sunny Leigh, follow the links below.
Keep on shining, and bringing a smile to all of our faces, sister! I’m cheering for you!
**All photos courtesy of Sunny Leigh/Sunny’s Social Media**