FARGO — When you hear the name Randy Thomas, you may think it belongs to a man. When you see the face the name belongs to, she won’t look familiar.
When you hear her voice, however, you’ll feel like a winner.
The voice-over actor has been the live announcer for the Academy Awards, the Tony Awards, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction and "Nightline." Oh, and she’s lent her voice to introductions at a little thing called the Super Bowl.
She may not look familiar, but if you watch some of the biggest special events on television, she’s immediately recognizable.
Attendees at this year’s TEDxFargo will be able to put a face to the voice when Thomas is one of the featured presenters at the event that will be held at the Fargo Civic Center on Thursday, July 25.
Speaking up wasn’t always easy for Thomas. During her time on the stage in Fargo, she’ll discuss her troubled childhood and how that led to her professional success.
“I literally felt voiceless as a kid. My family life was very dysfunctional,” she says from her home in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
While her early home life may have been problematic, she would eventually find a new home on the radio where she worked as a DJ for two decades.
Her big break in voice-over work came when she recorded some Hooked on Phonics ads, then was tabbed to become the voice of the product.
Her voice, which she describes as “authoritative,” didn’t just hook Phonics users but also producers of the Tony Awards show, where Thomas has been the live announcer for more than two decades. Just over 10 years ago, she started announcing the Academy Awards show, where she is heard introducing presenters and offering info as winners walk up to the stage, like how many awards they or their project has won.
“The key to being a good announcer, whoever you’re introducing, regardless if you have personal feelings about them, you love everyone,” she says. “You want to say their name like they’re the cat’s pajamas, and it’s the style that they should be welcomed. It’s an elegant evening.”
Thomas’ ties to the Academy Awards brings her to TEDxFargo as the show’s publicist, Steve Rohr, is also on the TEDxFargo advisory board. He was the one who invited Thomas to speak.
So what’s the key to successfully announcing live award shows?
“I would say I’m grounded,” she says. “The voice that seems to come through me for these shows, I like to embrace the elegant aspect of where I am. Hopefully there’s some authority. Like this past year with no host, I felt it was my job to let the audience know I’m taking you through this night without ever saying it…"
Thomas says while she's working, she feels like she's "only talking to one person," which helps.
"I don’t get overwhelmed by who’s in the house, sitting there waiting for their Oscar. I focus on the job at hand," she says. "There are so many people, we all have to do our best job for the show to be great.”
And these shows can be a bit of a marathon, prompting Thomas to treat her voice with care. She drinks lots of water and eats veggies and fruits, but avoids citrus and dairy as well as sugar, especially the day of and leading up to a speaking engagement.
“I don’t like taking chances with food on any show days, so I keep it clean, light. I definitely make up for it at the dinner after,” she says.
At these events, Thomas works in an on-site trailer with just an aide handing her scripts to read. To fight off the long times in a confined space, Thomas takes care of her mental well-being as well with meditation or other exercises.
“I’ve been known to do a headstand during a long show. It puts the blood back where it belongs. I feel invigorated after a good headstand,” she says.
Still, sometimes no matter how much she prepares, the unpredictable nature of a live event can threaten to upset even the most grounded individual.
Such was the case at the end of the 89th Academy Awards in 2017. Presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty read “La La Land” as the winner for Best Picture and Thomas read some walk-up info. After the filmmakers took the stage, confusion took over and eventually a “La La Land” producer took the microphone and announced “Moonlight” was actually the winner.
“It was pretty crazy,” Thomas says. “Because it’s live, we never know what’s going to happen.”
Even in non-live settings, Thomas sometimes takes a do-over. Like many of us, she will re-record her outgoing voicemail message a number of times to get it right.
“I actually listen to people’s voicemail and critique them and empower them more and make it come from a strong place,” she says. “I’m always astounded when you hear someone’s voicemail message and they make a mistake in it and let it sit. There’s no reason to not have a great sounding voicemail that encourages people to leave a message for you.”
If you go
When: Speakers from 8 a.m. to about 5 p.m. Thursday, July 25
Where: Fargo Civic Center, 207 Fourth St. N.
Info: Tickets range from $90 to $200, with various discounts available; http://tedxfargo.com/