Charese Fruge’ Talks To Sandee Bonita

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on July 7, 2020

Sometimes it’s about the journey, and for Sandee Bonita, her radio journey was an unexpected one that will be filed under ‘everything happens for a reason.’ As a Salvadoran-American, her traditional background changed the course of her career goals quickly and set her on a different path. “I grew up in Los Angeles and my goal was to pursue a career in fashion. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved music but I’m not talented at making it, haha!” she says. “My family moved to Las Vegas during my senior year in high school and coming from an extremely traditional Latin household, they were not entertaining the idea of letting me go to fashion school away from home,” says Bonita.

“A month after moving to Las Vegas, I was at the mall and the promotions director for 97.5 KVEG approached me to apply for their street team. I was always interested in radio, but at 17, I thought I was way too young to get my start. I was hired to do their high school takeovers and eventually worked my way up to the mic,” says Bonita. “I was determined to get on air and while working alongside the night girl at the time (Hey Cece!), she recognized my passion for the industry and started training me undercover. Months later, I did an air check for the PD and eventually landed an audition for the appealing 2a-6a weekend shift. From there I was able to transition into my own show, which allowed me to begin the loyal connection I now have with my listeners.”

Four years later, Sandee crossed the street to work for CBS Radio/Las Vegas. “I worked part time on air on 98.5 KLUC and took on various roles such as the sales assistant, Public Affairs Director, and became the Executive Programming Assistant to the Vice President of the cluster,” she says. “I became a jack of all trades in the building, and that put me in the position to help in the launch of Q100.5 (KXQQ) where I became the first person to grace the airwaves as the midday diva.”

After just 8 months on Q100.5, Sandee caught the attention of market #7 thanks to her chops and bilingual skills. “I took a leap of faith and sent a demo to El Zol 107.9 in Washington, DC just to see what would happen. I was offered a job immediately after sittng down with the PD,” she says. “Ummm, I had never done Spanish radio, but my family’s heritage is what I maintained as motivation to conquer the most powerful city in the world. I bridged the gap between the older generation and the new with my unique take on a Spanglish radio show. Even the Washington Post took notice, and I was featured as the Top Latina Radio Personality in the DMV area in 2017.”

That’s one of her biggest career highlights says Bonita, not to mention being able to help pave the way for a connection between the English and Spanish cultures. “Being bilingual has helped me more than I could ever have imagined!” She says. “It’s beautiful to be able to contribute to the growing representation of Latinos. My ability to transition from English to Spanish has proven to be beneficial for whatever company/brand I represent. The purchasing power of the Latino population is expected to reach the trillions within the next 2 years, and if a company isn’t open to market to us, let me just say you are losing a huge opportunity.”

Working at El Zol 107.9 was also one of the biggest challenges in her radio career according to Bonita. “I went to Washington, DC without any knowledge of the market, no family, and I was moving from doing a radio show in English to Spanish,” she says. “I had a lot of success; I gained a new audience and my brand grew exponentially. I would never trade this experience for anything. Besides career growth, it allowed me to learn my value and how to set boundaries.” She offers this advice to young women who want to get involved in the business. “I want them to know that it’s okay to set boundaries, speak up, and always believe in your projects or goals,” she says. “The biggest lesson I learned is to ALWAYS remain true to myself. To not let any business/industry question my morals, my self-worth, and my talent. Every move I make is in faith and not fear. Trusting the process of things is something I never question, because I know everything always works out in my favor.”

“I want to serve as an inspiration for all women. I’ve been lucky to have wonderful female mentors in this business, and I hope that I can become that for others,” says Bonita. “I want to be known for my bubbly and positive personality, for using my platform to help others, and always honoring my culture and heritage. What you see is what you get with me and it is something that has given me the loyal followers I am blessed to have.”

I’ve watched Sandee develop her brand over the years and she’s done a great job. So much so that she now currently has a successful side hustle helping other companies develop their brands. “The key to creating a brand that sticks is 100% transparency,” she says. “Be transparent with your audience/clients/ customers/and employees. It comes down to knowing exactly who and what you wish to represent and have a clear picture of how that will translate to your listeners/customers/clients. Prepare a calendar of content that is appealing and relatable and stick to it. Be consistent with the promotion of your material and build a connection with those engaging with you online or in person.”

Some of the best lessons she’s learned for her own brand have come as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’ve learned that there is bigger world outside our radio bubble. I love radio and I have so much passion for it, but I’ve realized that there isn’t much loyalty left within our business,” says Bonita. “People are getting let go without mercy, and it’s so tragic to see how entire lives collapse because radio is what defined their entire being. I’ve learned to invest in myself and enhance my corporate business skills. Radio is a part of me, but not all of me, I have so much to offer. Social media interaction and content creation have been an incredible outlet to maintain connection with my listeners.”

With the pandemic, Sandee has been doing everything she can to keep balance in her life. “I have been reading a lot, spending time with my lovely family, and re-learning the importance of quality time. My family is the reason I can find a perfect balance among the chaos, since they are quick to remind me of how blessed my life has been.”

Once the pandemic is over or slows down, it will be full speed ahead for Sandee. “At the moment, I plan to continue building my brand and providing voice work or voice tracking services to anyone who enjoys my sound,” she says. “But when it’s done, I want to get back to hosting my philanthropic events, and hopefully get back to gracing the airwaves. I have tons of ideas that I wish to share with a radio station, and I cannot wait to team up with a great group to make those a reality.”

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