Lindork’s Lists: Q&A #16: Lauren Hunter
Originally published to newsletter subscribers on Oct 31, 2021
The sixteenth person I’m profiling in my paid newsletter subscriber Q&A series is:
SONiC 102.9 Radio Host Lauren Hunter
Getting to know Lauren Hunter:
Lauren Hunter, 28, is a popular local radio host and afternoon announcer for SONiC 102.9. She entertains, informs, and makes a difference in the community through her work on air, online, and actions in person too. I’ve been a fan of Lauren for quite some time, initially through my husband Mike (he’s the SONiC listener in the house lol).
Over time, I learned many of my friends were fans of Lauren, and over time, I kept hearing about the amazing projects she was involved in—most recently, her efforts to have a pavilion named after Edmontonian Nathan Fillion. Each Halloween, Lauren brings a big smile to your face with the unveiling of her unique, homemade Halloween costumes too (see what she went as this year—getting international attention!)
She’s an immensely creative and interesting person, and locally, has probably “gone viral” for her funny content more than anyone else locally out there. I knew I needed to chat with her for this Q&A! Read on to learn more about Lauren below and be sure to follow Lauren on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
Let’s Dive Into the Q&A with Lauren:
Can you tell me about the work you do at SONiC? What does your day-to-day involve?
At SONiC 102.9 I’m on air from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., but there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes! My typical workday involves heading into a production studio a few hours before my radio show to do “show prep” (a.k.a. internet research)! Show prep involves gathering audio, recording interviews, and finding articles and trending stories. I always aim to find fun and interesting topics I think our audience will love.
For example, a story about Edmonton bringing goats to city parks to get rid of weeds would be right in my wheelhouse. Once I find those stories, I try to figure out how I can put our own, unique, fun and entertaining spin on them. For example, is there someone we can phone to interview to learn more? Can I write some punchlines? Can I make a parody song about it? Make a bit? Once I’ve got that all figured out, I’ll put all my notes together in a document that gives me a general idea of what I’m going to talk about on the show that day. Then I head into the studio for my on air show.
From 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., things are very busy, but very fun! I’m manning our text lines and phone lines, updating Twitter/Facebook/Instagram etc., editing phone calls for air, updating listeners on traffic, weather, and breaking news, and more! And of course, chatting with our listeners and trying to make fun entertaining conversation for the awesome folks of Edmonton on their way home. If I can get a text or two from a listener saying, “Hey, you made me laugh today!” that truly makes me feel so amazing –and like to think that I did my job for the day.
There’s also a strong social media component to being a radio announcer as well – so I’m always trying to brainstorm and create original digital content to bring to our listeners online!
What’s something that people might know about, that may be surprising, about being a radio announcer, or working in the radio industry?
We definitely have a fun job – but I would say people don’t realize that there IS a lot of the work that goes on behind the scenes to bring you that fun! As mentioned above, a lot of the content I create on air and online SEEMS silly and spontaneous, and sometimes it is! But there’s definitely a LOT of work put in behind the scenes to brainstorm and bring those ideas to life.
Even in our off time, as radio hosts we’re constantly writing down ideas of things to talk about on the show or post online! Radio is one of those things that you can’t just turn off – it’s kind of a lifestyle that you have to be willing to incorporate into your life. You have to love doing it.
Can you share some memorable moments or ‘successes’ for projects you’ve been proud of (I’d love to hear more about the Nathan Fillion Civilian Pavilion here, and I think you have a great McDavid painting story, plus your unique Halloween costumes!)
There’s a lot of things I’ve been proud of at my time in SONiC, and here’s some of them:
The Connor McPortrait: In 2017 I spent 70 hours painting a portrait of Connor McDavid that went viral online. We sold prints for charity and raised over $25,000! It was covered in news outlets across North America including NBC Sports, TSN, NHL.com, CTV News, and more. It was truly meaningful to me because it wasn’t just a fun painting, we were able to do substantial good in the community with the funds raised for charity.
My Halloween costumes: I put many hours into making fun Halloween costumes and they’ve received lots of love online over the years! In the past I’ve dressed up as Edmonton’s Walterdale Bridge, which received over 2,000 likes and got a shoutout from Edmonton’s Mayor Don Iveson! I also dressed up as Edmonton’s Stantec Tower and received an invite from the Stantec Vice president for a personal tour of the tower! This past year, I dressed up as a bottle of Lysol for Halloween, that might be my favourite! (Check out what Lauren went as for Halloween 2021!)
The Nathan Fillion Civilian Pavilion (NFCP for short!): This idea started when I was brainstorming ideas of “fun” things Edmonton could do with their new downtown park. I mentioned the NFCP on air and instantly got a lot of positive reaction. That’s when I started the petition, and it went a viral online, receiving some news coverage at the time. However, I was never really sure how to move it forward or get the city to actually name something that. In early 2021, a city councillor advocated for the NFCP on Twitter and the idea began to circulate online again. A few months later in 2021, Warner Brothers reached out to me in an email, saying they saw the petition and that Nathan was a part of their new movie, The Suicide Squad. They asked if they could get the cast to react to the NFCP petition in a video, and I said, “HECK YES!!!!” And the rest was history. After that, it blew up to INCREDIBLE heights that I could have never imagined – and Edmonton even got on board by renaming City Hall, “The Nathan Fillion Civilian Pavilion” for the weekend. It was truly an amazingly fun experience and I’m so grateful to all the support from Warner Brothers AND the awesome folks of Edmonton that made this happen. It’s because of the relentless support from Edmontonians with their tweets, shares, likes, and signatures on the petition that this all became a reality.
Lastly, while those are some of the “big” successes I’ve had at SONiC, there’s some little ones that are meaningful too. I’ve talked about mental health on air and online before, or death of loved ones – and some of the messages that people send to you after you open up about that kind of stuff are so wonderful. Just to connect with others on a deep level about the shared human experience—and to hear from people that THEY feel a little less alone because they know that you’re going through that too—is very meaningful to me.
Can you share challenging moments, obstacles or even failures, you’ve had to overcome in the projects you’ve been involved in, or while in radio?
I’d say failures happen every day—it’s what keeps you growing. In radio, you have to produce a LOT of content – you’re talking to people multiple times an hour, every hour, every day of every week!!! So you have to realize that even though you may have the BEST, most engaging talk of your life… you have to do another one! It’s impossible to have every talk break be a home run – you just have to go for quality and consistency.
I’ve learned that if you screw up a talk in the middle of your show or push a wrong button and an embarrassing sound effect plays where it shouldn’t (which definitely happens!)…. you have to compartmentalize and realize, “Hey, I still have half a show to do!” You can’t get down about it, you have to keep moving forward and put it behind you because the show must go on and you can’t let that past mistake ruin the rest of your entire show!
Can you tell me about your hobbies (art, videos, etc.)
I am an intensely creative person, and I have a lot of hobbies! Painting, drawing, graphic design, videography, audio production, jewelry making, pottery, you name it – I LOVE it! I also enjoy outdoor and athletic pursuits too: scuba diving, camping, golfing, ultimate frisbee, basketball, baseball… hobbies are awesome, except to my wallet, haha! The fun videos and social media I put online is a very interesting component to being a radio announcer. They’re something that started out as a passion project/hobby for me but they definitely grew into an important part of my job with the expansion of social media.
A lot of people don’t know, but I film and edit the vast majority of videos I put up online! I’ve been experimenting with video editing as early as Grade 4! I also have a background in graphic design and virtually all of the graphics I post on my or SONiC’s social media are things I’ve created personally in Photoshop. The aim of the social media I create is to make you laugh, think, or generate fun conversation online. Creating social media is a lot of fun, but I definitely put a LOT of time and effort into making the things I do. Often, they’re ideas I’ve carefully crafted behind the scenes with many hours that go into filming, editing, or brainstorming them.
My approach to creating social media is similar to the on air side of radio hosting, where I’ll look at trending stories in the news and figure out how I can put our own, unique, fun and entertaining spin on them. Can I make a Twitter punchline? Can I turn it into a video? Can I create a meme or graphic? Those thoughts are always buzzing in my brain! Ultimately, I think my goal with social media is to just KEEP creating quality content.
As I like to say, “throw mud at the wall, you never know what will stick.” I’ve had lots of ideas I put tons of effort into that I think will work great, and they don’t. But other times, things I never DREAMED that would take off, do!
Can you share advice for others on your perspective for pursuing their dreams, hobbies, passions, turning hobbies into reality, ‘going for it?’
It sounds cliché, but you have to enjoy the JOURNEY of what you do in life, and not just the rewards. You can often get to those rewards by putting in a lot of hard work over very long periods of time. You just have to be consistent at your hobby or passion and commit to giving it your 100% best effort.
I’ve been in radio now for eight years and I feel like I can compare radio or wanting to pursue your dreams/hobbies/passions to planting a garden. Some people may look at another’s garden and think, “Wow, what a great garden! All those flowers, all those trees!” But it takes YEARS of work to grow a great garden—to grow those trees!
In radio, each idea I put out there is like a seed. I just have to keep planting seeds. The hard work comes from the watering and weeding, coming back every day year after year to try to make those ideas grow. Sometimes the seeds die, but other times they grow into the most incredible tree that you could have ever imagined.
Love what you do, and you will WANT to spend time in your garden every day.
Lastly, my mantra is (in a less metaphorical sense): give every idea, every video, every talk break, every Halloween costume… the best effort you possibly can. I try not to ever half a** anything – because I want it to have the best chance it possibly can to succeed. If I give something my full effort, I can leave knowing I’ve tried my best and the rest is out of my control.
Could you articulate “why you do what you do?” Why are you passionate about radio? Art? Community building?
I am passionate about radio because I love comedy, creativity, and connecting with people. I’ve been a massive comedy fan since I was very young, and also a massive creative nerd since I was very young. I want to make you smile and hopefully make a positive impact on the world too. I also think being able to give back to the community and get involved in local charities is very important.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Fun fact: I once Scuba dived in the Lagoon at West Edmonton mall! I dove off the pirate ship to get in there. 10/10, would recommend. Plus, they donate all the coins in the bottom of the lagoon to charity! So don’t be afraid to toss a toonie in and make a wish!
Wrapping up our Q&A:
What show would you recommend people watch on Netflix (or other streaming services) and why?
Honestly, I actually don’t watch a ton of Netflix! Shocking, I know! I just watch WAY too many hours of Tik Toks haha. OH! But I do LOVE @GreatGramsofGary – the Meow-ntaineering Alberta cat that hikes and skis through the Rocky Mountains with his owner!!! It was actually you, Linda, that introduced me to Gary through your Edmonton Cat Festival and now I follow him religiously!!! Like I seriously check for updates EVERY day. Note from Linda: You can follow Gary on Instagram, TikTok, and check out my Q&A with Gary’s dad / social meowdia meownager!
Is there a book or podcast you recently read (or doesn’t have to be recent) that you would recommend to others and why?
HAHAHAH is it bad to say I don’t read?! Yes, yes it is. However, I DO I read a LOT of online articles and non-fiction real life stories, but honestly I just don’t read a ton of books!!! It’s weird to say, but I don’t listen to a ton of podcasts either! I guess a lot of my time is spent trying to CREATE media, so I don’t often get lots of time to consume it!!
What is one of your favourite restaurants or stores you’d recommend in Edmonton?
There’s SO MANY!!!! As a painter, there’s a local art store I love dearly called Colours on Calgary Trail. They are so friendly and helpful and I’ve been going there for years! Restaurant-wise, I love Sicilian Pasta Kitchen on the southside, The Next Act Pub on Whyte, and Wok N Go in Riverbend is owned by some local folks and they always leave me the cutest messages on their food! Japanese Village is also AMAZING!
What’s something about Alberta you love or recommend others check out?
THE TORRINGTON GOPHER MUSEUM! There’s so many great places in Alberta… If you’re in Jasper, I’d recommend taking a boat trip at Maligne Lake to see Spirit Island. One of a kind views!!! If you’re in Kananaskis, the Nordic Spa is AWESOME. Also, would highly recommend camping at Mount Kidd. It’s a private campground, but it is EXCELLENT. Basically just follow @GreatGramsofGary or @lindork and go where you guys go because you truly find Alberta and Edmonton’s hidden gems. Note from Linda: THANK YOU LAUREN!
Thank you Lauren for sharing your story!
You can connect with Lauren on:
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