East Cobb Resident's Voiceover Talent Heard Nationwide
Saturday, July 17, 2004 3:59 AM EDT
By Andrea Lynn
Marietta Daily Journal Staff Writer
Catherine Zeta-Jones may be the face of T-Mobile, but Walton grad Liz Raphael Helgesen is the voice.
From the announcement of stops on the MARTA train to automated phone systems for banking needs to the audio commands on a cell phone, the east Cobb resident has been the voice that millions of people hear for more than 18 years.
"My job is to touch you and communicate with you," Mrs. Helgesen said. "When I hear myself, I critique it. 'How do I sound? Have I communicated and gotten you what you need?'"
For her three- to five-hour daily voice-over sessions, a majority of which are recorded in her basement studio, Mrs. Helgesen relies on sipping hot water and using throat lozenges and zinc to keep her throat moist and her voice effective. Everything is a different approach when your voice is used as a career. She will not eat 15 minutes prior to recording because of the "mouth popping" sound it adds to her sessions. Drinks such as hot tea dry her throat out and some toothpastes give her a film that is bothersome while recording.
It has been estimated that every one out of four Americans hear her voice on a daily basis, most important being her son, 10-year-old Evan, also known as his mom's junior publicist.
I think it's neat to hear her voice (while I'm out)," said Evan, who promptly notifies his friends.
Although the glamorous part of her career includes the voiceover work for television commercials and videos such as the Brainy Baby Video Series, the bread and butter of her career comes from automated systems, including recording the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international voice automation system that relays immediate and critical outbreak information all over the world.
Regardless of the level of glamour in a project, Mrs. Helgesen ideally seeks to be more than just a pleasant voice, but also a company spokesperson.
"I want people to know me. I want to be able to represent the total package. I have a message I want to put out there," she said.
The message is that although the successful mother of four, married to John Wieland builder Bob Helgesen, has a picture-perfect life and a Lloyd's of London-insured-voice, it's taken hard work to overcome a number of obstacles - including never knowing her father, which gave her a strong need to be heard.
"I understand deeply how others need to be seen and heard and acknowledged. That is my message. Some of my wounds of the past translated into my greatest strengths," said Mrs. Helgesen, who credits her mom - east Cobb resident Marjorie Raphael - for instilling her with these survival skills.
In the 1980s, Mrs. Helgesen's career began surprisingly as a human resource manager for Southern Net - a pioneer company in telecommunications - when the company asked her if they could use her voice for a budding voicemail system.
Voice work continued as a side project as Mrs. Helgesen progressed in her corporate job - becoming vice-president of human resources - until the early '90s with the birth of Evan, now 10.
In 1996, she began doing voice-overs full-time with her own company, Passion Fruit Productions Inc., where common requests included the "MTV-hip" sound or the friendly voice of a mother. Although she's mum on the exact amount she makes from the company, she will say her business currently brings in six-figures.
"I have to have a purpose in what I do. The purpose is the same in human resources as in voice-over work - connecting with people and making their lives better," she said.