Radio Host Jasmine Sanders: “Don’t change who you are, change the narrative”

Don’t change who you are, change the narrative — When I first started in radio, there was a ‘type’ of personality females were expected to be. Program Directors leaned toward light airy voices with bubbly feminine personalities. I had a husky voice, a loud belly laugh and slightly blue humor. For years people tried to change me. […]

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Don’t change who you are, change the narrative — When I first started in radio, there was a ‘type’ of personality females were expected to be. Program Directors leaned toward light airy voices with bubbly feminine personalities. I had a husky voice, a loud belly laugh and slightly blue humor. For years people tried to change me. They wanted me to speak softer, tell less jokes but giggle more. I tried to be all those things. It was tiring and I developed throat issues. I finally decided to be exactly who I am. Once I became comfortable with who I was, people saw me differently. They also stopped trying to make me fit their definition of a female personality.

I had the pleasure to interview Jasmine Sanders. Jasmine is a self-proclaimed media maven known for her commanding voice, warm spirit and infectious personality. She has become a multi-media powerhouse, working as a host in various industries ranging in radio, television, and entertainment. Ranked in the Top 3 of nationally-syndicated Black female personalities, Sanders captivates audiences around the world through hope and humor. She currently dominates the airwaves alongside comedian and actor, D.L. Hughley, as co-host of the top-ranked, nationally syndicated “The D.L. Hughley Show.” With over 3.5 million weekly listeners the show can be heard in 65 markets nationwide. The popular show was recently adapted for television and airs M-Th nights, on TV One. Her podcast “Brunch Therapy with Jasmine Sanders” is an authentic, relatable conversation about issues that everyone can relate to and is being developed for a televised talk show format. Sanders has appeared as a correspondent/co-host for HLN and BET and featured as a music expert and pop-culture pundit for Billboard Magazine, WTFV/CBS News Channel 5 and WTVC/ABC News Channel 9. She is the recipient of many career achievement awards, including being named at the top of Girl’s Incorporated’s “Most Influential Women” list and recognition by NABFEME (National Association of Black Female Executives in Music & Entertainment). Sanders has also been known for hosting high profile events, such as The D.L. Hughley Friends and Family Tour and Radio One’s Women’s Empowerment Conference. Sanders is very passionate in her work as a youth mentor and bringing awareness to the subject of adoption. Her own compelling story of her journey in foster care, adoption, teenage pregnancy and surviving domestic abuse creates a platform for her to help women all over the world. Sanders works with the some of the “aged out” young women at the Tennessee chapter of Youth Villages, a non-profit that provides help for children and young people across the United States who face a wide range of emotional, mental and behavioral problems. With her “Jasmine Cares” initiative, she plans to mentor and motivate young women who have lost their will to dream. She is also working diligently on starting an annual charity event to reduce fees for people who want to adopt but are deterred by the initial cost through her “Adopted and Winning” initiative.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Jasmine! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up on a working farm in the small country town of Ooltewah, TN. My life was pretty simple. I spent my weekends (and summers) helping my granddaddy with the animals and farm chores. I did everything from milking the cow and feeding the pigs to gathering ripe vegetables and making molasses. The other months of the year, I went to school and played sports. I loved the way we lived. It was quiet, uncomplicated but very structured. I spent a lot of time alone hiking, playing with the animals, reading, and bossing all the other kids (laugh). I was a natural leader. That balanced mix of work and play would serve me well when I became an adult.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I always admired Barbara Walters and Oprah Winfrey. I also had an avid love for the radio personalities in my hometown. I’d listen to the radio every single day. The personalities were like best friends to me. I would sit for hours and write down everything they would say and every song they would play. When I got to college, I didn’t declare a major right away. I always knew I wanted to be a TV anchor or reporter but had no idea where to start. So, I met with my academic advisor for help. I talked nonstop for about 45 minutes. I didn’t even give him a chance to interject. When I finally shut up, he looked at me and said you should definitely talk for living. He suggested I study radio. The funny thing was I had never considered radio until that moment. I never thought in a million years that I could do the very thing that I loved the most as a kid. My love for TV never went away though. So as I worked in radio, I dabbled in TV part time. Now doing them simultaneously time is a dream come true.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I have been a superfan of Prince since I was a kid. Because of my love for radio, I developed a relationship with a few local radio personalities. This led to an opportunity for me to meet Prince when I was about 15 years old. Years later at a radio convention, I ran into him again and he remembered me. I thought he was trying to be nice until he told me the details of our meeting. I was shocked and embarrassed!! He remembered how I cried. I was lucky enough to meet him two more times after that.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I remember my first radio job was in Nashville Tennessee, ironically it was at the same radio station where Oprah Winfrey got her start. I was hired to do the overnight show. I knew it would be challenging because I’ve never been a night person. I think it has a lot to do with being raised on a farm and having to get up before dawn to begin work. Not even college life broke me of this. So when I was hired to work overnights, I almost lost the job. I was training for the gig and I remember being so sleepy that I would tell the guy training me that I wasn’t feeling well. I’d then go to the bathroom and sleep on the floor for roughly 20 minutes. I would then return to the studio and apologize to him about my illness. I did that repeatedly for 6 hours. The guy training me (who figured out I had been sleeping in the bathroom) told the boss that he didn’t think I was “fit” for the job. I argued that I could reset my internal clock. I also lauded the guy training me for being such a great teacher (while I was awake). My argument was so convincing he didn’t fire me.

Lesson: Always be prepared to argue your case (and be able to back it up) and never burn bridges.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

At the moment I’m working on a book, a retail store, a comedy driven webisode and some philanthropic efforts for foster care.

I’m very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Education, inclusion and love. Education is important because what you don’t know can hurt you as well as others around you. There are many misconceptions out there about different cultures. And when there is a difference in perception, there’s always a difference in reality. Education is key in dispelling preconceived notions as is inclusion. Separation only feeds into whatever narrative about someone’s culture you may have. We must love together, work together and most of all play together. This must be reflected in what we see every day.

It helps to tear down the walls of negative stereotypes and a sense of superiority. We need to actively see this represented in all areas of entertainment. We tend to believe what we see has a certain reality to it. So, if you only see certain images all the time, you tend to believe those characters are the only ones that exist. You probably also believe they are the only ones that are important. I think back to the impact the fictional movie The Black Panther had on the country. Seeing strong, smart and positive Black characters allowed not only Black people to believe in what we are, it allowed others to believe it too. Imagine if we saw more diversity all the time. We become what we ingest, and that reflects in how we interact with one another. I don’t think we will ever truly become a united nation in reality if we have yet to see it in fiction.

From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do to help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?

Respect, appreciate and be open to an individual’s being and their experience. I think we have so many biases about people and their abilities. Race should not be ignored, because it’s part of a person’s existence and therefore a part of their ‘being’. However, the problem lies in the internal biases we have and the stories we tell ourselves based on stereotypes. I remember sitting in a meeting with a potential advertiser. They were interested in using me as a radio spokesperson for their eyewear. When our team finished our presentation, the advertiser was still reluctant because he simply didn’t believe black people read. I was shocked. I asked him how he came to that logic. And he looked at me and said, ‘everyone knows that.’ He was judging me based on a stereotype. Diversity allows us to interact with other people and their life experiences which in turn can help dispel misinformation.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Failure will happen don’t cry about it — I used to believe that if I worked hard enough, I would never fail. Shortly into my career, I quickly realized failures will come. The first time I got fired from a job, I spent so much time crying about it that I lost out on other job opportunities. If you’re going to cry about it, you better do it with your head up so you don’t miss what’s going on around you.
  2. Don’t change who you are, change the narrative — When I first started in radio, there was a ‘type’ of personality females were expected to be. Program Directors leaned toward light airy voices with bubbly feminine personalities. I had a husky voice, a loud belly laugh and slightly blue humor. For years people tried to change me. They wanted me to speak softer, tell less jokes but giggle more. I tried to be all those things. It was tiring and I developed throat issues. I finally decided to be exactly who I am. Once I became comfortable with who I was, people saw me differently. They also stopped trying to make me fit their definition of a female personality.
  3. Don’t obsess so much about being perfect — it doesn’t exist. This is self explanatory.
  4. Don’t try to have it all, have what you can handle — Trying to have it all placed me in undesirable situations. I wanted a great job, husband, kids, a dog, a house and happiness because I thought those things equaled success. This desire made it easy for me to stay in bad jobs and bad relationships. Now, I’m not looking to have it all, just for what makes me happy. That’s all I can handle.
  5. Time will not wait for you so make every moment count — When I was a kid, I would hear people say ‘time flies when you’re having fun’. What I know now as an adult is that time flies no matter what. Time is undefeated. I wish I had truly understood the concept of this when I was younger. I would have taken more chances, made more memories and laughed more. Time doesn’t care whether you consider the day a good one or a bad one. You will not get a minute more out of it.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Self care!!! Vacations and time outs don’t equate to the loss of your job. If you never unplug, you will burn out. Even a light bulb eventually burns out.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Do one good deed (with a smile) for a different person, each day.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many people that helped me in my journey. It’s hard to narrow it down to one. But there is one person I always remember whenever someone asks me this question. I met Mel Jones when I got my first gig in radio back in the 90’s. At the time, he was a record rep based in Memphis, TN for Capitol Records and I was the night jock and Music Director for the station. On a visit to see me, he asked if he could give me some advice. Being as green as I was, I needed all the advice I could get so I welcomed his wisdom. He sat me down and told me about all the pitfalls of the music industry. He warned me about the trappings that would come my way as a young woman in the entertainment business. He gave me secrets to longevity in the business and how to pave my own way. Every scenario he warned me about, came my way. Not one piece of advice he offered went unused. I am forever grateful for the kindness he showed me all those years ago. I will never forget him and I shudder to think of what might have happened to me had I not met him when I did.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be a victim: he or she has become a threat.” James Baldwin

This quote gives me life! Like most, I’ve been a victim in so many circumstances throughout my life. There was a time that I couldn’t seem to figure out why things were happening to me. But when I figured out how to give voice to what I was going through, I better understood the truth of how I got there, why I was there in the first place, and more importantly how to get out. After that, I no longer felt like a victim. I knew exactly who I was and what I was made of. The honesty in this gave me power. I now believe myself to be a threat to any circumstance I may find myself in the middle of. This doesn’t mean it’s always easy. It just means I am not willing to be powerless.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Oprah Winfrey. She and I have similar life experiences. We faced similar hardships and found a way to overcome. We have a lot in common. I’d love to break bread, pray, laugh, share stories and do tequila shots with her.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook, IG and twitter: @iamjasminesanders

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