“I’m tone deaf,” Thomas acknowledges. “For Hooked on Phonics, instead of singing the alphabet song, the director had me rap it.”
Thomas grew up in Miami Beach, Fla., and Detroit, where she first realized her vocal gifts as a teenager while talking on the phone with boys. “They always thought I was older than I was,” she recalls with a laugh.
She moved to New York City to study acting for one year and got her first radio job at campus station WORB while attending Oakland Community College in Farmington Hills, Mich. In 1973, she joined FM-106.7, becoming one of the first female disc jockeys at a major Detroit radio station. Work followed at other stations in New York City, Miami and Los Angeles.
While hosting the morning radio show for L.A.’s 94.7 The Wave, Thomas was invited to audition to announce the Academy Awards show, which she since has voiced seven times.
“When I first got the job for the Oscars in 1993, the producers asked me, ‘How will you feel going live to a billion people?’” Thomas recalls. “I said, ‘I come out of radio. I’m at the top of my game when it’s live.’ That took all the pressure off them.”
Thomas describes her voice as “strong, authoritative, warm and elegant.” To bring to life the words on a page, she works with her clients to understand their messages and brands, and uses her acting training to present her voice accordingly. Since her voice is her primary tool of the trade, she keeps it healthy by avoiding acid-forming foods containing sugar, dairy products and wheat, and by drinking water laced with organic essential oils.
“Before the Oscars in 1997, I gave a throat elixir to Billy Crystal, who was hosting,” Thomas recalls. “He said, ‘Wow! This burns!’ I told him, ‘That means it’s working,’ but I was thinking ‘What have I done?’ Thankfully, he went on and did an amazing show.”
To pass along her experience and knowledge, Thomas has led voice-over workshops and, in 2008, teamed with New York vocal coach Peter Rofé to write Voice for Hire: Launch and Maintain a Lucrative Career in Voice-Overs. She’s also developing America’s Next Voice, a voice-over competition.
Back at home, Arnie Wohl, her husband and manager, peeks in as Thomas works in their shared office before he leaves to pick up their daughter, Rachel, 15, from school. “She’s the most-heard female voice in the world!” Wohl proudly exclaims.
Thomas smiles. Sometimes, even for her, words aren’t necessary.
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