Charese Fruge’ Talks To Heather Collins
This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on October 6, 2020
Heather has worked her way up through the ranks and has an amazing story to share. “I started radio in this crazy industry as a photographer,” she says. “I grew up on Mix 94.1 and I always wanted to go to these private shows called ‘The Underground Lounge’ (I legit used to think they were underground). Well, when I was 19, I went to my first one and I happened to bring my camera and asked if I could snap photos for a photography class I was in. They loved them enough to use them on the website and invited me back to a few others… Plain White T’s, Goo Goo Dolls and my absolute favorite Rob Thomas (I CRIED LIKE A LITTLE BABY MEETING ROB).”
After hanging around the station for 7 months Heather got lucky. “The music director at the time said I had a great voice and would love for me to try out. I WAS SO NERVOUS!!!! I BOMBED it so bad! I think he knew I was nervous, so he let me try again. I was officially hired and had my first on air shift in October of 2010. This year will be my 10-year anniversary,” says Collins. “I started as weekends on Mix 94.1, helped with promotions, moved to weekends on X1075 and filled in on ‘The Dave and Mahoney Show’ as a producer, then I landed my first full time gig on Mix 94.1 as the night host. A few months after that, the midday jock left to go to Texas, I was given a chance at middays and the rest is history!” She says. “About three years ago I started doing a little more with music, management and I’m still learning every day how to be a great jock and music director.”
Living and working in the Entertainment Capitol of the world has had its benefits for Heather’s career. “You know, honestly, my biggest accomplishment is being at the same station while continuing to grow after ten years! Some huge moments for me were interviewing my idol Rob Thomas for an hour-long special for Entercom and the radio.com app. It was broadcast on every Entercom Hot AC station across the country!” she says. “Another great accomplishment was landing some amazing interviews… Chris Martin of Coldplay, Billie Eilish, Twenty One Pilots and Ed Sheeran to name a few.”
One of the bigger challenges Heather has faced is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in a city like Las Vegas. Seeing the Strip empty and watching the tourist industry collapse has had a massive impact on the local economy and revenue. “This pandemic has definitely taken a turn in my radio career and I’m doing a lot of digital now which has been challenging but so fun too.” she says. “As of right now I am middays on Mix 94.1, MD, Social Media for the cluster and creating videos and graphics for the cluster along with maintaining all of the websites–it’s a lot!”
“I HATE WORKING FROM HOME!!!!!” says Collins. “I’m 10000% an extrovert! I need to feed off people to get creative so me sitting in my house with my 10 year-old brother is hell!!! (My family is living with me right now due to hardship). But having a kid want to watch television and a loud family makes it nearly impossible for me to focus and I miss my friends and concerts,” she adds. “I see how bad the pandemic has impacted my family as well as Vegas. I would say 80% of my friends are still jobless because a lot of them worked in nightlife. It’s really sad to see this town fall apart the way it did. A lot of restaurants, stores and even casinos are still not open and may never be. We live off tourism. So please come visit when it’s safe!”
And now to the fun part of the interview. “What’s it like to be born and raised in Las Vegas?” I ask. “It’s strange. I think a lot of people think I am a wild child because I grew up here but it’s quite the opposite. I’m pretty mellow,” says Collins. (I beg to differ LOL). “I will say this, we are so lucky in Las Vegas. It is nothing but pure entertainment 24/7,” she says. “If I want a bomb steak at 1am, I got it! Wanna do karaoke at noon, got it! Every band normally stops here and guess what, we have football and hockey now!!!! It is seriously the best place to live and grow up. Also, in high school our prom party was the whole top floor of a casino instead of a house party. We were spoiled.”
Her best recommendations for first time Vegas visitors: “Go to a cirque show. Go grab a steak from Herbs and Rye. Stay at Red Rock Casino, go walk the Strip at sunset, checkout Fremont Street,” she says. “If you are in the radio fam and you come to Vegas, tell me. I will show you a good time. Ask Jeremey White from the Beat in Montreal! We had a blast downtown and I love meeting new radio fam.”
One thing I have learned over the years about Heather is that she is extremely superstitious and fascinated with EVERYTHING HALLOWEEN. From the decorations, to the candy, to the makeup, to the haunted houses. I often wonder if it’s a healthy obsession LOL. I once brought her a JuJu Doll from Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo in New Orleans and she swears that thing continues to move around her house on its own, but she won’t get rid of it because she’s worried that it will come back to haunt her.
I love following her on Instagram during Halloween. The crazy, yet creative things she posts and the Halloween makeup and hair she does keeps me fascinated and entertained the entire month. I often wondered why she is so obsessed with the holiday. “HAHA! 6 years ago, I got to see the behind the scenes working of a major haunted attraction in town, Fright Dome,” says Collins. “I became obsessed with everything Halloween. Everything about this time of year is amazing. The crisp air, pumpkin spice everything, skeletons, all black everything, it just makes me so happy and puts me in this great mood! I’m working with the owner of Fright Dome, Jason Egan, on a new attraction this year called ‘Fright Ride.’ I have been doing all the social media for it, so expect a lot of Halloween content on my IG and Tik Tok @RadioHeather.”
It is not always fun and games in Vegas though. Like many people in the business, Heather has her concerns about the future. “This year has taken a huge toll on the radio industry, and we all know it–it’s not a secret, but I’m watching a lot of companies have to cut back and it’s so sad to see,” she says. “One thing a colleague of mine, Dustin Carlson, taught me when I first started was learn as much as you possibly can. That has always stuck with me and probably the only reason I have survived budget cut after budget cut. I hope I get to continue my dream just like I hope a lot of others can get back into this crazy industry soon. This is all I’ve ever known, I started when I was 19 and I hope I get to do this till I’m 60.”
“That’s why mentoring and giving back is one of the most important things you can do in radio,” she says. “I don’t know where I would be without Dustin Carlson, Ross Mahoney, Shawn Tempesta, J Love and Charese. Every single one has played a huge part in my success! I honestly think every single person in radio needs at least one person to help them through this crazy industry. Its super freaking hard sometimes on your self-esteem and sometimes you just need the guidance! If you don’t have someone to be your mentor–hit me up!”
What helps to keep Heather focused in this constantly changing business? “Music! If I’m having a stressful day, I crank some music and go for a drive. It’s how I stay sane being at home every day. I also bought an electric bike recently and I love riding in the dirt and just enjoying what’s around me.”
As for what we have to look forward to from Heather, there’s a long list; “I recently got a new vlogging camera and I’ve been doing fun videos like best place to get Halloween decor, what’s the best pumpkin spice latte and more.” she says. “It’s been fun to create more content for our stations website, Mix941.fm, as well as getting creative for virtual remotes! I hope to continue my growth in radio, maybe be in other markets, and more radio.com national interviews,” says Collins.
“But most importantly, I am super excited about my new Podcast. I wanted to start this podcast over 2 years ago after a boy dragged my heart through the mud. I ignored every red flag possible and I wanted to teach people to love themselves, show them the signs and maybe give some kind of relief when they too got ghosted, cheated on etc. We tell a lot of personal horror dating stories and much more. It’s called “Confessions of a Dating App” and can be found on the radio.com app, apple, google and more. Thanks, Nudia for being my partner!!!”
Speaking from experience, Heather is the kind of person who will go above and beyond when it comes to something she is passionate about. I have often looked her in the eye and told her that she would be a Program Director one day. She even went the extra mile to do an extended version of this interview on video for us. Click Here to watch.
Follow Heather Collins on social media @RadioHeather on IG and Tik Tok, @Heather_red on Twitter