[extended pause] forever young in my head, woman, who despite everything is extremely emotional and connected to the world. I view myself as not human, I view myself as a spirit. I always view others as spirits and how you make me feel, that’s how I connect with people. I go by how people make me feel, their aura, their spirit, everything about them. I am just a girl, emotional but a strong person, very passionate about the things that I love. Wow, I’ve never really had to answer this question. It’s really hard. I am extremely passionate and loyal. At times that’s really hard when you have a position in a public job because you always have friends but you always have to figure out who your friends really are. I am loyal and passionate to my core. I think at fault sometimes.
D. Almaroof: We all have a story, before we started I gave you brief insight into my story, a story that most people wouldn’t believe from just looking at us. What is your story?
Sunni: Oh, this is easy because sometimes I think of my life as a movie. Even when I look back, I’m like did this really happen. When I look at pictures with my mom, I’m like wow. I grew up on a refugee camp. I am from Bosnia and when I was eight years old we had a civil war. My family is Muslim and there was conflict due to a religious war. We basically went to three camps; we moved back and forth between the camps. Then we were sent to the United States when I was thirteen years old. I learned how to speak English in six months.
D. Almaroof: So English is your second language?
Sunni: Yes English is my second language, I learned in six months because they put us in school according to our ages and by the time I started eighth grade I wanted to be fluent. You know because kids would make fun of me. So yes I learned English in six months and I started working in radio when I was eighteen. So I would say my life from twelve to eighteen, that’s only six years –at twelve I was in a completely different world. If someone was to tell that twelve year old girl in a refugee camp that in six short years, you’re going to be in the United States in radio. I would have been like, what is that. It’s the craziest thing.
D. Almaroof: How did you get into radio?
Sunni: Well after high school I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just didn’t like anything. My sister got me a job at a dentist office. I use to hide out in the film closet, you know where they would develop the x-rays? It was a radio in there and I would listen to this hip hop station from time to time. One day the radio station made an announcement – they were looking for interns and I called. I somehow got through and they were like we are having an open call tomorrow. So I went and when I went in front of the program director I just cried. I had this really thick accent, and I’m like I don’t know what I want to do, I’m just here. She said, okay well I will give you an internship but you have to go to school, you have to be in college. I enrolled that fall my freshman year and I got an internship. Started that fall, October 22, 2002 and I never left.
D. Almaroof: Wow!
Sunni: Yup! I’m a veteran, thirteen years in the game. Thirty-one now.
D. Almaroof: So do you believe that those were destiny steps? The fact that you went from a dentist’s office closet, listening to the radio and then to a radio station internship?
Sunni: Oh yes, I am a big believer in that. I know its so cliche to say. People always say “oh whatever, every person says that when they get to a certain point in their success, they always have those stories. Like let me tell you, this happened to me.” The person who’s in that situation right now, who is having a hard time, they’ll just brush it off. Like “everyone says that, everyone has that story” but its really true. You will have a point looking back, like oh my gosh, this had to happen for this to happen. I had to do this. It’s a written story for each of us already.
D. Almaroof: Would you say that was your greatest pain in life? Having to live in refugee camp and being pulled from your culture.
Sunni: Well I think that was the hardest thing my family went through together but for me I think the greatest pain has always been the fact that I am so focused on my career and the things that I am doing, that I am always away from my family. I am the only one that’s kind of separated from them. I went to pursue my own thing, out of state. So I am not as close to them, as I think I should or would like to be. There were some points in my life where things were not working out my way, you know it’s tough until you get a big contact, you’re basically poor all the time. I moved from Detroit, to Miami to New York to DC in ten months in 2006. So that was a big transition for me. A lot of things I went through that year, my family didn’t even know because I don’t like for them to worry. That has always been like my guilt or my greatest pain, being away from them. I think the refugee part was hardest for my family but because we were together and everyone around us was in the same position, I don’t think you view things in such a bad way. If you’re poor and everybody else around you is poor, y’all all are just poor together. When you’re poor in a country around friends who have money and their families are doing well, that presents a different kind of pain. You feel like you are no worthy within yourself.
D. Almaroof: Very insightful. What is the best life advice you’ve gained from your experiences?
Sunni: There’s a couple of things. I always tell people, really try to figure out what your purpose is. Then really follow it because you have to be happy. There were points when I didn’t have a lot but I was happy because I had something to look forward to, you remind yourself that it’ll get better. Then there are points where I get down and I have to tell myself, you’re crazy because your life has changed so much and you’re just not appreciating that. So I think we all have to some how find that inner happiness and figure out what it is that is making us sad, battle it and get rid of it. If you’re not happy, it doesn’t matter how successful you are, it’s not going to work for you. I think finding your own purpose, happiness and being connected to something is the best thing I can always tell people. That’s the message I’ve always got. When I watch my Oprah: Soul Sundays [giggles]. When I was younger I use to think what are these people talking about, you’re rich, how can you be unhappy. You see celebrity children, who are heiresses committing suicide, overdosing and I am like why. Then you get to a certain point in your life and you’re like, I do have a house, a Range Rover, a great job, great friends, great family and a boyfriend. You have all these things but you’re like I’d rather be at home today in my pajamas and eat this cake and I don’t feel like dong anything. I want to close my curtains and you’re like why. What is that thing that’s making you feel that way. So I think finding your purpose and happiness first -that’s something that’s important and I think everyone should work on that.
D. Almaroof: What is one of your life codes, one of your girl codes that you see is often broken that you want to share?
Sunni: Oh, you with the hard questions! A girl code? I don’t know if me and my girlfriends have a girl code. Okay, so I tweeted this the other day and people were like you are crazy. You know how they say, you should never date your friends’ ex. That’s a girl code right? I on the other hand believe that I would definitely set up one of my girlfriends with one of my exes because I don’t have any exes that I really like hate or hate me, we are all still cool. From just working on myself and being more spiritual, I believe that everything happens for a reason. So if it didn’t work out with me, why would I block their blessing. What if they are soul mates and I’m blocking them because I want to be bitter. When I could be blocking my own blessing because my husband may be over there. I think girls end up breaking that anyway because it’s hard out here. I think it could work with your friend’s blessing. Now I have never dated a friend’s ex but just me, I would hook up one of my girlfriends with my exes because their great guys.
D. Almaroof: Do you think it should be a time limit on it?
Sunni: Yes, of course. Okay one, it cant be like your greatest love. You know we all have like that one great love, that’s off limits. I don’t care if I never see this man again, you can not talk to him! Everyone else, I’m like okay come on.
D. Almaroof: What is the greatest misconception about you and what would you like to say to that?
Sunni: This is why I love social media. People do get to know you through that and I think you can get a pretty good idea of someone through their social media. Not from like pictures, I mean like twitter. From that avenue you really get to see how people feel, things that they say. When people meet me, their always like “oh my God, you’re so nice” or “you’re just like your twitter!” I’m the exact way, if not worse in person.
It is funny to me that people think I date a lot and I have like my choosing of whoever. Now I date, I call myself like a dating machine. I date, date, date but its slowed down a lot. People just think this life is so glorious but I’m like its not that glamorous. That’s something I always try to convey to people, especially younger girls. You can’t look at someone’s social media and paint this picture of them, then make yourself feel bad about whatever is going on in your life. People are really putting their best everything on social media and you’re comparing it to your struggles. But I don’t think I really have many misconceptions about me, I think I am pretty straightforward. I haven’t heard anything crazy, other than girls are always like, ‘oh my gosh, all these people follow you, guys and athletes.” It’s apart of my job and they don’t really say anything, there’s nothing crazy going on. I’m also not messy, so its usually charity and I’ll invite someone to events but it’s never anything crazy.
D. Almaroof: Who is your WCW and why?
Sunni: Hmm, who do I love? I’m obsessed with this blogger. Huda from Dubai. I’m obsessed with her. Hudabeauty on Instagram. She has the best personality, she’s super bubbly and super fun. I learn everything from her. I watch every video, I’m like trying to do my make up, my hair. I’m trying to be like her. She”s married. She has a cute little daughter name Nor. She has all her sisters that work with her. She has the best office in Dubai. I know what she had for dinner last night [laughs]. I’m obsessed with her, she’s so cute. She has like this really great spirit. That’s my woman crush.
D. Almaroof: I’m going to check her out. So I want to change gears and move into you as a business woman. I know in your line of work you’re a radio personality.
What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Sunni: Best business advice. I guess this could go with financial as well because I am my business. Live below your means. Just because your salary increases, doesn’t mean your spending and your bills should. I am not very materialistic, so I am not into buying Louboutins and all of that. Now don’t get me wrong I have a few but I bought my home, I have a mortgage, I can’t afford these crazy shoes. Plus I am always raising money for charity, so I can’t ask people to donate to my causes when I’m splurging on shoes. So I’m right in DSW, getting some Jessica Simpsons and rocking them just as well.
D. Almaroof: Do you think you’re like that because of your upbringing?
Sunni: Yeah. See this is why I can’t wait to write my book because my life has had so many ups and downs. I’m 31 and there are ten solid different parts of my life that I could describe and people would be like wow you lived through that and you’re only thirty-one years old. I have this really big fear of failure, I have nightmares that one day I am going to wake up and everything that I have is gone. Because of that, I am always very cautious and careful. I work so hard to get where I am, I can’t just be out here crazy. I need to make smart decisions and think long term. So yes, I think everything I’ve been through attributes to how I spend and how I treat my brand and my business.
D. Almaroof: It’s my belief that God orchestrates our past and present life events for our future. Because of what you went through in the past, you know to appreciate what you have versus “rich kids”, who grew up with a substantial amount of money. They don’t have the same principles you have when you grow up without money.
Sunni: Like Oprah said, she earned every single penny she has. For me money has a different type of value then someone who was just given things. I think you just appreciate it in a different way.
D. Almaroof: What is your proudest accomplishment to date?
Sunni: Buying my home in DC. It’s hard out here. I did it when I turned 30 and it was just a crazy moment. In 2010, when I moved through all of these places, I was literally about to sleep in my car in New York. Now fast forward four years later and I was able to purchase a home in Washington, DC. Which is like ridiculous. It was definitely a moment. I just sat there, on the floor with my little papers. I was like they basically own me for the next 30 years, they even own my first born. I have a cat (named) Mason, I was like they even own my cat. So me and Mason sat there and we just drank all the champagne my Realtor gave me when we closed. It was very surreal, finally owning something that’s just yours. It’s the biggest investment that we are going to make in our life, to purchase a home.
D. Almaroof: I love that. The simple joys of life. Congratulations!
Sunni: Thank you!
D. Almaroof: What keeps you up at night?
Sunni: What keeps me up at night are these documentaries I’m obsessed with on YouTube about the old English world and Russian mafia. But I really think about a lot of things. Honestly, lately I’ve been so scared for the world. It’s just so much going on and I’m a news junkie who takes everything to heart. To watch Syrian refugees, those kids, I see myself in them. I see them walking, they have no clothes, no food. Its just heartbreaking. So I’ve had to learn to just cut off the news at a certain point because it’s just too much. I think about a lot. My family, my family back at home. I feel like the world is spinning really really fast. I think because I feel connected to so many different parts because I’ve been through so much, it takes a really hard toll on me. Where I can’t watch anything and I just have to tune everything out. I watch the documentaries to take me back, to where I am not here.
D. Almaroof: That’s how one of my sisters is, she gets really depressed when she watches too much of the news. So I understand.
So what is your greatest aspiration for life?
Sunni: I just want to be happy. That’s really all I want. I feel like I sound like the Beyonce song. I just really want to be happy. I think if you would have asked me that question five years ago, I would have said I just want to be married and have kids. Now that I’m thirty-one, it’s not that I don’t want that, I just had to take everything off the table because if I wake up tomorrow and I’m fifty and I’ve never been married and never had children, I need to be okay with that. I need to be okay with my life because that’s just how it is supposed to be. I think putting that extra pressure on yourself -it’s like you have great friends and family, a career, you travel the world. You need to just learn how to be happy and create a life that’s amazing for you. Everything else is an add on, rather than striving for something that’s going to make me feel if I don’t reach it or if I fail at it that I am going to be a failure. Even with all the other years, where I worked so hard for everything else. It’s kind of like just relax.
D. Almaroof: We are truly soul sisters. I just finished my second book and I was just writing that for women we are conditioned for that to be our greatest aspiration in life –to get married, and we feel like if we don’t get married then we are not successful and that’s a lie that many women have accepted. I have a whole run down in the book, about how I want to live my life to the fullest and whenever he comes, he comes but I can not focus on that right now.
Sunni: Yes, I agree. I remember at some point saying, I wanted to get married so I could hurry up and get a divorce. So that people would get off my back. I could get a divorce and my family would get off my back. That way, they could say she was married and it just didn’t work out. Rather than “oh she’s never been married.” Everything I’ve done up to this point in my life is because I wanted to, it was my decision to move away, to do this, to pursue radio. To do all these things, my family wasn’t necessarily about. I think they’ve now accepted that I am just going to do me. Now I feel like this weight has been lifted off me.
D. Almaroof: What do you want your legacy to be?
Sunni: I want to somehow contribute to the world. I work in radio and we talk about celebrities everyday. It is not very fulfilling spiritually for me but it’s crazy because this is what people want to hear. They want to hear the back it up song and they want to hear what Kim named her baby. That’s our job, that’s the business, we give them the latest music and that’s it. If this was all I did and nothing else, I would definitely go crazy. That’s why I do so much charity work because it makes me feel like I’ve contributed to humanity. Because again, all of the things I’ve been through, I can relate. Homeless, I can relate. I see myself in all these different people. I want to be remembered as a person that was selfless, who gave all she had and in my way contributed to the world. It may be small or big, I just want people to know that was my number one thing.
D. Almaroof: You’re amazing. Okay so what do you have coming up and where can people reach you and support you?
Sunni: All my social medias are Sunnindacity. I’ve been taking it easy lately, just focusing a lot on charity work up until now because Christmas is next week. I found one of the easiest ways that people can donate and it’s really great. Every year, a few weeks before Christmas, I go on our WPGC Facebook page, which has like two hundred thousand followers and I post a paragraph. The paragraph states, “if you know a family in need, email Sunni@wpgc.” I keep the post up for five minutes because I know they are going to go crazy. Then I’ll delete it. Then I’ll go in my email and I’ll have hundreds of emails. The email is specific, it has to list the number of people in the family and the ages. Then I tweet out, “if anybody wants to sponsor kids just email me.” So then I go back to my email and all I do is forward. You connect with the family, you go buy them gifts, you go meet up with them, and you deliver. Within a day, all the emails are gone. When you give I feel like it’s comes back to you ten fold. So that’s what I’ve been focusing on right now and we are almost done. We have a few more families to link up.
So just preparing for the new year. I do my women’s empowerment brunch every March. I want to honor women who serve every single day of their lives, whether it’s a teacher, social worker, etc. I have other women nominate these women and I throw them a huge brunch. We just come and we exchange stories, we cry, we laugh, we make a whole night of it. This year will be my third annual brunch, so I am really excited. I’m trying to make it a little different and include high school girls. I want to expose them to something different because when I was in high school I didn’t see any fabulous women in their twenties and thirties. I feel like when they see these women, even if it’s just one, it’ll hit them in some type of way that may change their life. That’s up next!
D. Almaroof: So we know that seven is the number of completion. So I want to complete our interview with Deborah’s Seven. Now Deborah’s seven are just seven very short questions, which generally require one word responses and lets the readers know fun facts about yourself and lets us have a little fun.
Three words to describe yourself
Bubbly, fun and emotional
Top beauty regiment
I have this eye cream that I love. I use to tan a lot when I was younger, so I need my eye cream now everyday to smooth out the wrinkles.
Beyoncé or Rihanna
Rihanna, I am obsessed with her. I just want to like party with her in Vegas. Once I have children, I’ll probably want to hang out with Beyonce but right now Rihanna.
Coke or Pepsi
Introvert and extrovert?
Who’s locked in your music player right now? Your current music obsession?
I don’t think you’re going to believe it. I am obsessed with country music. So when I leave here, all I listen to is country music. Carrie Underwood, Hunter Hayes, Lady Antebellum, Luke Bryan. Obsessed.
Your favorite book?
My favorite book. I think I’ve read it twice and it was on Oprah’s book club. Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth; Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.
Another one of my favorite books is –I am a UNICEF ambassador and Karen who is the president and CEO of UNICEF, she wrote a book called ‘On the Way to Zero’. It’s about her travels and meeting all these refugees and kids in Africa. When I first bought the book, I was like okay I’m just going to buy it because I am here. Then when I read it I saw myself in it. So that one has to be more personal for me.
I read a lot of inspirational books and I like to read other peoples stories. I love Karen Civil and she just released a book. I like people like her. Being in this industry, people may think you don’t have a lot of substance, like you are just this party girl. Now I don’t deny that but when you get to know me, I think you see more.
What makes you laugh?
Stupid stuff. Funny memes. I tag my friends in funny memes.
Well there you have it! Great interview with one of the great philanthropist in our generation. Keep you ears to the street for our next 2016 WCW! Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get new interviews directly to your inbox!
Until next time, I wish you..
Love & Happiness
Sunni is a radio host at Washington D.C’s Powerhouse; WPGC 95.5. Her show can be heard LIVE Monday- Saturday 10:00am until 3:00pm.
Previously, Sunni has graced the airways on Power 96 in Miami, FM 98 WJLB and Channel 95.5 in Detroit. As a Bosnian native, Sunni and her family lived in three refugee camps in Croatia before being transported to the United States in 1997. It was a huge culture shock for Sunni and her family, but she adapted quickly and learned to speak English in 6 months. She began her career in radio at the age of 18 and became the youngest radio personality in the Detroit market. She’s also the first woman from her native country to host her own radio show in the U.S.
As someone with a huge audience, platform and a voice.. Sunni believes that it’s her duty to give back, volunteer, and inspire others to do as much charity work as possible.