Before yoga teacher Sunny Young came to Pierce College Puyallup, her life took her many places along the way.
“I’ve had a very eclectic career and a very eclectic life. I believe in destiny, so I let my heart and the heavens guide me,” she said.
As a single mother in the ’70s she worked multiple jobs and professes to have never had one job at a time.
Her long chain of careers started at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev. where she worked as a window designer. When higher ups in the casino noticed her skill and initiative, they pulled her out of the windows and made her the fashion show coordinator. Unlike many of the fashion shows at the time, Young didn’t only feature skinny, mainstream models, but plus size models too.
“I wanted to feature real women, all shapes and all sizes because that’s what the women in the audience looked like,” said Young of her at the time unheard of approach to the fashion industry.
After having shed several unwanted pounds herself, Young was offered modeling jobs which she accepted, though she admits that it wasn’t her desired field of work. She was frequently used to model swim and sports wear. In 1984 she became one of the first to model the infamous “milk mustache” which in 1996 became the popular advertising campaign ‘Got Milk.’
During this time she also worked as a dancer and fitness instructor inspiring and educating others live a healthier lifestyle. She started her own modeling agency called Professional Modeling Services. Hers was one of the first agencies to feature plus size models and Young became, and has remained to this day, an advocate for body image acceptance.
Young describes one of the highlights of her adventurous life as working and performing with a show elephant named Bertha. It was in Reno while working as a dancer and choreographer that she met Bertha the Amazing Elephant, who soon became an inspiration and best friend to Young.
“I walked into her barn and the first thing I saw was six tons of elephant batting her long eyelashes and waving her ears at me,” said Young of her first encounter with Bertha. “She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my whole life.”
“When I stepped closer to her she scooped me up with her trunk and began to gently rock me. We became instant friends.”
Young says that she has never liked the idea of animals in captivity, but Bertha was treated extremely well and she loved to perform. This was the start of a seven year partnership between the pair. Though Young had no previous acrobatic training, she soon found herself on stage with Bertha, performing in front of audiences.
One particular move, which consisted of Young dangling backwards from Bertha’s mouth 35 ft off the ground, nearly cost Young her life. During one performance, Young failed to position her legs in the elephants mouth correctly, and as Bertha lifted her into the air, she started to slip.
“Bertha new something was wrong,” recalled Young. “Before I could fall she gently set me back down on the ground and we started the routine over again-and we did it perfectly, as if nothing had happened. Everyone applauded!”
While her time with Bertha was Young’s career highlight, once again she found more opportunities coming her way, and so began the next phase of her life.
Young’s career as a makeup artist took off and she began traveling the world as an international makeup artist specializing in glamour and theatrical make-up. In her travels, she was approached about her unusual makeup skills. She was recruited to create injury simulations for mass casualty training exercises.
The program’s purpose was to simulate accident scenarios, such as car accidents, plane crashes and more. The goal was to educate firemen, paramedics and other emergency response workers to test their skills under pressure.
Young also specialized in corrective cosmetics, teaching people with facial disfigurements how to conceal scars, burns, birth marks, and other imperfections. On her way home from a month long tour, she was in a car accident and was seriously injured, but this eventually led Young to her greatest passion in life; yoga.
Throughout her many careers, Young used yoga as a means to stretch the body before performances, but she never knew of its rehabilitative properties. But when she found herself critically injured, it was yoga that she turned to for recovery.
When she experienced the fantastic results she knew that it was something she wanted to pursue further. After using yoga to get into the best shape of her life, she sought out training to become a professional instructor.
Today, she continues to let her life take her where it will and welcomes whatever comes her way. Her and her husband Frank have opened a new 2,000 square foot hot yoga studio in Puyallup. Her studio Yoga Sun offers hot and warm yoga as well as a variety of other yoga programs. Pierce College Continuing Education plans to add Young’s hot yoga into their CE programing.
“I have had a very diversified career full of many valuable learning experiences. I wake up with gratitude in my heart everyday,” said Young. It sounds that, for a while at least, Young is content to remain in Washington doing something that she loves; teaching yoga. “Pierce College feels like home, “ she said. “I love Pierce, and I love this community. I’m looking forward to this next chapter of my life.”
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