Anyone who listens to Southern Miss Radio knows Bec O’Neal follows the beat of her own drummer. Decidedly unlike the other on-air talent one would find anywhere on the radio dial, O’Neal, whose real name is Rebecca Huddleston, is the same in real life as she is when she hosts WUSM’s Southern Miss Today radio program. Perhaps her quirky realness is why satellite radio giant SiriusXM Radio chose her to intern with them this spring in Washington, DC.
Huddleston graduated from The University of Southern Mississippi in 2011 with a degree in Elementary Education, and even then wasn’t completely sure of her future.
“I made a list of things I enjoyed doing and critically looked at each,” said Huddleston. “One of the top things on my list was music, and at the time, I had just gotten into listening to BBC Radio 1. It was vastly different to the radio we have around Hattiesburg and it was the moment I realized that I could actually do something like that with my life.”
She returned to her alma mater to take radio classes and work at the campus radio station, and is now an entertainment and media production major and the host of the weekday noon program that features guests from the Southern Miss campus and Hattiesburg community.
“That was terrifying. I went from zero to ‘here.’ Now you have a four-hour radio show Monday through Friday,” she said. “It was weird sitting in a room by myself talking to a microphone about music and local events. I felt like I sounded insane and weird. Then, one day, I decided it didn’t matter if I sounded like a crazy person on the radio because my show was boring and I wasn’t really enjoying it. So, I gave up on sounding like I knew what I was doing and just started being myself.”
Huddleston found out about the radio internship through the SiriusXM website and applied. She starts this month as the music-programming intern for The Village folk station on SiriusXM 741.
Her duties include behind the scenes work, as well as working with audio editing equipment and music scheduling software, assembling promotional pieces, show preparation for on-air talent, listener interaction, and occasional on-air participation.
Huddleston knows this internship will further her radio experience, particularly in a professional environment under supervision of professionals in the field. The decision to apply for the internship was also inspired by the man who gave Huddleston her very first radio show - Justin Martin.
“During one of my radio production classes, my professor (and boss) mentioned SiriusXM several times and always had pretty good things to say about the stations. I wanted to go from Southern Miss Radio to an internship, because I am very aware that there is a lot I still need to learn in the radio business,” said Huddleston.
She says that working at WUSM has helped prepare her for the internship at SiriusXM. She explains that everything that goes on air is important, and that it’s necessary to make sure all the information given is accurate and up-to-date.
“I came into this with absolutely no experience. Now I can quickly and easily navigate the software we use and have developed a pretty intense sense of attention to detail, which is something I will need to have for the position,” said Huddleston.
Whether living in Hattiesburg or not, Southern Miss holds a special place in Huddleston’s heart. She has a connection to the area and love of the university and people.
“Southern Miss is my home. I grew up in the Hattiesburg area, and have been on and around campus for about seven years,” she said. “Working at WUSM has been absolutely the best experience of my life. I’ve become friends with some of the most amazing and passionate people I’ve ever met. I cannot stress enough how much I will miss my new family, and every single person at WUSM who has helped build me into who I am now. They are the best people. Period.”