Florida State University Alumni Association

Sunny Tillman
Sunny Tillman

Natalee Holloway is a name most people know and remember. We remember the struggle her family went through when she went missing in Aruba during the summer of 2005. We also recall the tsunami of news coverage surrounding the case. In 2007, Beth Holloway, Natalee’s mom, was approached by Harper Collins Publishers in New York about telling her story. When that time came, she reached out to her longtime friend and media consultant Sunny Tillman for help.

Sunny Tillman is a 1979 graduate of The Florida State University. She has had a very strong media career since graduation. Sunny explains that when she looks back, her career in media and communication had a fortuitous beginning. It all began when a guy stopped her in the mall for an interview for a public affairs radio show. After the interview, the guy told her, “Hey, why don’t you take this job for me?” He was graduating and needed a replacement. Sunny looked into it and ended up getting the job. That one moment changed the course of her professional future. Little did she know how helpful her career in media would become for her friend, Beth Holloway.

Beth Holloway and Sunny Tillman became friends about ten years ago when Beth began dating one of Sunny’s husband’s golf and hunting buddies. Their children grew up together. When Natalee went missing, Sunny and her husband, Hal, decided to jump in with both feet and do everything they could to help. Sunny quit working for almost three years and dedicated her time to helping Beth. As soon as Beth arrived on the island, she called upon Sunny to help her get the story of Natalee’s disappearance on the news. Beth set up the first news story with a FOX affiliate in their local town of Birmingham. She then set up daily press conferences presented by Beth’s sister-in-law. It took only three days for the story to make national news. Sunny and Beth talked everyday about the reports coming in on the island and state side. During this time, Sunny describes Beth as being “heroic and remarkably poised.”  As the whole world watched, Sunny explains, “Everyone could feel Beth’s anguish. She’s the most courageous woman I’ve ever known. I’m still incredibly proud of her bravery and her determination to get answers.”

Throughout this entire endeavor, both Beth Holloway and Sunny Tillman kept journals. Sunny also recorded and saved as many TV interviews as possible. Sunny says it took about two months before the thought, “We might not get Natalee back,” ever crossed her mind. However, Sunny kept journaling simply to help her peace of mind. It was these journals and TV interviews that Beth and Sunny referred to in order to write Loving Natalee.

Loving Natalee is now on the New York Times Best Seller list and has been made into a Lifetime movie. It has been written in Dutch and is printed in both hardback and paperback editions. In spite of the book’s success, Sunny still explains, “I would have rather not written this book. I’d prefer it if none of this had EVER come about. I’d rather Natalee were here getting ready to graduate from college and looking at medical schools. I’d rather Beth and I were still just girlfriends. But everything has changed. I’m just thankful I was able to lend a hand to my friend and pray that in some small way it helped.”

When asked what main message she and Beth wished to convey with this book, Sunny had this to say in response, “The preface says it all.”

“Messages of personal safety, travel safety, and strength of faith are clear in “Loving Natalee.” It’s about hope. It’s about rising from victim to victor. It’s the story of one woman’s courage to fight for her daughter. Every parent and every young adult must read the book.”

Beth Holloway now travels and gives safety speeches in an effort to help others and educate people on the reality of her situation. With this work, she hopes to help prevent the experience with Natalee from happening to another family.  If you are interested in learning more about Loving Natalee, please visit this web site.

Are you or someone you know doing great things? Let us know! Send your story to jsantoro@fsu.edu.

We thank our corporate sponsors for their support: Church Hill Classics, Legacy Toyota, Liberty Mutual | Mercer, The FSU Tag and Sonny's BBQ Church Hill Classics Florida Prepaid College Board Show Your Pride, Brag with the Tag Legacy Toyota Liberty Mutual Insurance MERCER Sonny's BBQ
Florida State University logo oneFSU logo Alumni Association logo Seminole Boosters logo FSU Foundation logo Ringling Museum logo Real Estate Foundation