Editor’s note: Greater Union Life Center in DeLand is sponsoring Black History Month 2021 banners honoring 16 individuals who have made a positive impact on the city of DeLand, and Volusia County. The banners have been installed along Woodland Boulevard in Downtown DeLand, and The Beacon is compiling profiles of the individuals.
JoJo O’Neal — radio personality, community advocate
You may not have realized it, but you’ve probably heard JoJo O’Neal’s voice.
For years, O’Neal has lent her voice and personality to radio programs on STAR 94.5 FM, an adult contemporary radio station broadcasting in the Central Florida area, and HOT 99.5 FM, an R&B station broadcasting in Duval County, as well as commercials and other voice-over projects.
While she enjoys radio, O’Neal said her love for interacting with the community is what keeps her going.
“For me, it’s not so much a love for radio; my love for radio is No. 2,” she said. “I love people first. Radio is a wonderful avenue to reach people, and I’m fortunate to work for a company that is very community-oriented.”
O’Neal got her start in radio in the 1980s when she was studying radio and television broadcasting at the University of Central Florida.
“I fell into broadcasting,” she said. “I like to say radio found me.”
While participating in a pageant sponsored by a radio station, she said, someone from the station came backstage and offered her a job after hearing that she was studying broadcasting. O’Neal has worked in the Orlando area as a radio personality and voice-over talent ever since.
Since 1985, the broadcasting landscape has changed quite a bit.
“Nowadays, people are engaged with social media and podcasts and so many different things that capture their attention. We have to compete and say ‘Hey! We’re still here,’” she said. “We’re still here, and we’ll be here; the advantage we have on radio is we’re able to be localized. People are always going to want that localized information. They want to relate to the people they hear on the air.”
O’Neal also works behind the scenes, doing technical work at the television station WFTV in Orlando.
As a Black woman in broadcasting, she hopes she can be an inspiration to others.
“I never thought of color when it came to certain things. Only when I got older did I realize that there weren’t a lot of people around me that looked like me,” O’Neal said. “It’s important for our children to see people like them doing different things. I’m glad kids can look up to me and say ‘Hey, if she can do it, I can do it.’”
O’Neal said she is honored to be among the other Black History Month nominees in DeLand. Even working in Orlando, she said she spends plenty of time talking about Volusia County on-air.
“To have an honor bestowed on me by my hometown, that means so much to me to know they love me back,” O’Neal said. “Just a big thank you to my hometown, I will always love DeLand and be proud of it wherever I go.”