You know his voice, but do you know his name? Nora Popillion is the frequent emcee behind many of Lake Charles’ most popular community events including Live at the Lakefront, Downtown at Sundown, Delta Downs Racetrack Casino concerts and numerous other activities that bring Southwest Louisiana’s residents together for entertainment value or a charitable cause.
As entertainment-public relations director for Delta Downs and recently named Humanitarian of the Year for Family and Youth Counseling Agency, commitment to community is what drives Popillion to use his talents for the betterment of Southwest Louisiana.
“I’ve always had that passion of community and that passion of sharing. When I was young all we had to share was ourselves,” he said.
It wasn’t until later in life, after his retirement from the military, that Popillion realized his speaking voice was a talent that could support his livelihood. His first speaking job was making back-of-house announcements for casino guests.
A booming and mysterious, yet warm “welcome” and “good afternoon” could be heard over the loud speaker.
“I would do in radio voice even though I’d never done radio before,” he said.
Over time, “Who’s that guy?” and “Who’s that voice?” became common questions on the casino floor, a clue that led Popillion to realize his voice talent and potential. “That’s when I really discovered, ‘Hey, I’ve really got something here.’ ” he said.
He eventually made his way from behind the scenes to the forefront of casino events as ring announcer, event promoter and a host of other work-related speaking engagements.
His move to Delta Downs afforded him the chance to use his talent beyond work events and into philanthropic involved activities. “Through Delta Downs, I was able and awarded the opportunity to go and do this job in relation to my true compassion, the community.”
With the title of public relations director, he said he views his role as not only the “voice” of an organization, but as the hands and feet as well by sitting on numerous boards, community partnerships and business sponsorships.
“I’m so blessed that my job says ‘Do the best with your talent,’ which is my voice,” he said.
Just as his employer celebrates his talent, Popillion said his tag line “Ain’t no party like a Delta Downs party,” is also a celebration of the many individuals talents that come together to launch a single event towards success.
“I meant that (tagline) not just because of the amazing entertainment we had but because of the amazing environment and the experience that we were providing from all the team members, staff and management.”
Whether it’s Delta Downs, NAMI, Community Foundation, Family and Youth or any other community event he emcees, Popillion said, “It’s always more than just one piece. There’s so many entities involved to make the party. You can’t just have a party with the just the tuna fish sandwiches, right? The way I see it, all the pieces and people must come together to make that.”
Celebrating the individual pieces community comes easy, he said, because genuine relationship with stakeholders is one of the key components of his vocational success. “I’m not talking about forming a lot of committees but actually building relationships with each other. Once we’ve built that, I think we’ve got better opportunities to get things done or bring our community together for good.”
Whether it’s leveraging his talent professionally or as a humanitarian, Popillion ultimately believes the opportunity to use his talent for the greater good comes as a mandate from God. “I feel like God’s taken me on my journey and He gave us all talents to do certain things — some sing, some preach, some are politicians, some are mentors. Me, I actually think He gave me this voice to speak and do good with it. I’m not speaking on behalf of being a preacher with it but of being an advocate with it for community.”
He continues his journey, he said, with a passionate pursuit of growth — a task everyone with talent should be committed to regularly. Being self-taught is not an excuse to not pursue excellence of craft.
“My voice, to be honest, has grown with me. When I get ready to go an do events, I do research. Everybody thinks I can just wing it but I did study my craft.”
Study and commitment do not produce overnight success, he said. Such expectations can lead to a very unfulfilled life. Rather, daily progress is the key to reaching goals.
“All you can do today is be the best person at what you’re doing, today. Wake up tomorrow and then take on tomorrow. If you’re thinking about Friday, right now, you’re going to miss Monday-Thursday,” he said.