Charese Fruge Talks To Deanna Regalado

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on December 8, 2020

“I moved to Craig the next week. It happened so fast that if I would’ve stopped to think about it, I probably would have over thought everything and chickened out,” says Regalado. “It was like radio boot camp and I learned every aspect of the business. I did middays, did the news during the morning show and was the news director which meant reporting on city council meetings, school board and digging into the police blotter. In this town residents tuned in for all the news reports.”

“After my 2-year contract was up I applied for a part-time gig at KYGO in Denver, a heritage country station. I was surprised I was offered the job since I knew nothing about country music, but I got it and learned along the way,” she says. “After a few years I was able to get on with Clear Channel (eventually iHeart) in Colorado Springs where I was the APD/AMD and middays for a Hot AC station, MY 99.9.

After a few years of being in Colorado Springs my Operations Manager asked me to co-host a new morning show that was launching at the Top 40 station, 95.7 the Party in Denver. The morning show didn’t work out, so I moved to afternoon drive. I was part of the RIF in January of 2020 ending my time with iHeartradio,” she says. “Six months later I joined Max Media Denver and took on a solo morning show for the new station HOT 107.1 and have been there since June and I’m having the best time!”

According to Deanna, radio was always in her blood. “I always knew I wanted to be on the radio. I was a pretty introverted kid growing up, but I loved listening to the radio, it was my constant companion in the summer when I was off from school, or when I was doing my homework at night in my room when school was in,” says Regalado. “Music and listening to the radio personalities kept me company. I went to college for journalism, but my heart was not in it at all.”

“One day we had a guest speaker, and she was a radio personality and spoke to the class about her time in radio. I approached her after class and asked her how to get into radio and she told me to drop out of college and go to broadcasting school,” says Deanna. “To the dismay of my parents I did just that. My parents were worried that I was getting into a business that no one actually survived in. I couldn’t explain it, I just knew I was meant to be in radio. While in broadcasting school I interned at Clear Channel and even though I was putting up tents or dressing up in character costumes I knew it was part of paying my dues, so I gladly did any assignment I could get.”

Like a lot of people in the radio business, Deana’s favorite part is the connection she makes with listeners. “I love being able to tell a story about my life and someone will tell me they have a similar situation. One time I was at a Lizzo concert and this girl came up to me and told me she loved hearing my dating stories because her dating life was a disaster too! I don’t know if that was a compliment exactly, but I loved that I could connect with her on some level,” she says. “I also had a woman come up to me and she made me cry because she said she loved listening to me on the radio and that it made her day better and she needed it because she had just lost her daughter and she needed some laughter in her life. Even if you don’t agree with everything I say, I love that I can make someone think about why they do or don’t side with me. It’s about making the listener feel an emotion and making them feel like they are hanging out with a friend. I also love that listeners can count on me to talk about the latest news or bring them a local feel. It’s always been my goal to be a reliable source.”

Over the past 15 years of her career, Deanna has experienced many accomplishments, but one her biggest is her current position. “I’m so lucky to be hosting a morning show. We still don’t see enough female solo morning shows and the fact that my PD and Max Media trust me to wake up Denver is such an honor. I can’t believe that I’m lucky enough to live out my dream every morning,” she says. “I also love when I can give back to the community. When I was the APD at MY 99.9 in Colorado Springs I approached my higher ups with a $10 prom dress sale. I had seen similar events across the country and thought we could do it for our market. At first, they weren’t on board, but I convinced them to give me the chance to pull it off with our sister station. The event was a huge success with lines down the block. It wasn’t just about pulling off a successful event it was also about giving high school girls the chance to buy a prom dress that made them feel beautiful at an affordable price. After the event, my Operations Manager told me he was so proud of me and that was the cherry on top.”

“One of the most thrilling moments of my career happened in the summer of 2019. I went on stage with my fellow on air personalities to introduce Post Malone,” says Deanna. ‘When I grabbed the mic to introduce myself, I wasn’t expecting the cheers that I got, it was a rush that I had never felt before. It reassured me that radio is still a part of people’s lives.”

It hasn’t been a cake walk for Deanna over the last 15 years. She’s paid her dues and faced her challenges like everyone else. “Unfortunately, radio is still a boys club. At times it was hard to find my voice or feel like my opinion was worthy. Sometimes when I did speak up, I felt like I was just getting the brush off,” she says. “It’s taken me almost my entire career, but I’m finally learning to really speak up. When I was co-hosting, I felt like I was just expected to be the agreeable giggle box. I also felt like I was treated as just an accessory, like there’s the girl that’s supposed to laugh and agree with the male host. I hated that feeling. I didn’t feel valued in that role. I‘m thankful that we women are getting more opportunities to branch out and show that we can lead and command an audience.”

2020 was a double-edged sword for Deanna. “For me it started off rough, even before the pandemic when I was laid off from iHeart. I felt like my identity was ripped away. Who was I if I wasn’t the girl on the radio? For weeks after being let go I didn’t want to go on social media. I didn’t think my followers cared about what I had to say if I wasn’t behind the mic,” says Regalado. “I slowly got back on and was amazed by all the positive messages and support that I received from people that I just knew from social because they listened to me on the radio. When I got my new position in June, I almost felt guilty because of how rough everyone’s 2020 has been,” she says.

“I feel lucky that I was able to land my dream job during a pandemic. It has been a challenge on the air finding that audiences. Not only because HOT 107.1 is a new player in the market but because everyone’s routine has changed,” she says. “People are working from home and their listening patterns have changed. It’s all about figuring out where our audience is at now. 2020 has taught me how important social media is. Even though listeners might not catch my show because their routine has changed, they still follow and interact on social media.”

It’s an extremely difficult time in the radio business due to fall out from the pandemic and the downsizing of jobs and opportunity. That’s why Deanna thinks it’s important for the lucky ones to make sure they are giving back. “I wish I could mentor more, especially young women who want to use radio as a platform to speak about their passions,” she says. “My mentor is my former Operations Manager, Paul Kelley, with iHeartradio. He not only taught me the ins and outs of the radio business, but he has taught me how to be more compassionate, treat others with respect no matter what their role is and to be a good listener. I’m thankful that I not only had him as a boss, but I can call him a friend.

In her spare time, Deanna is passionate about Breast Cancer Awareness and the LGBTQ Community. And outside of COVID-19, she’s also a social planner. “2020 has been hard because I’ve always been the “cruise director” in my group of friends. I love hosting parties and finding new brunch spots,” she says. “I’ve always been a reader so I’m taking time to catch up on books and I’ve always discovered the greatness that is ‘90-day fiancé.’ I also just got a new air fryer so I may learn my way around the kitchen.”

Like most, her family brings her balance. “When I’ve had a day where I feel like I couldn’t get my words right or maybe I stepped on an intro, I go to my parent’s house and have a home cooked meal and reflect about growing up in my childhood home and listening to the radio and wishing I was the one behind the mic and now I am, and it feels surreal. How many people can say they landed their dream job? Not many and I never want to take that for granted.”

As far as what we have to look forward to from Deanna: “I hope to continue my career doing mornings in Denver. With the pandemic it’s uncertain which way radio will go,”

she says. “But I’m hopeful to keep that local feel in an industry that seems to be letting go of local on-air personalities. I want to be here as long as possible. I want to be able to make someone’s day better whether it’s by a relatable story I told or if I was able to hook up a listener with a prize. Just being able to make someone smile is worth all the work we put in behind the scenes.”

Follow Deanna Regalado on Instagram @Deannaonair and Twitter @DeannaRadio