Sunni Cranfill West
Sunni Cranfill West has a background of more than 30 years in the dancing and performing arts industry. She has studied and danced professionally with ballet companies, including Ballet Arkansas, Ballet Austin, The Lone Star Ballet, and the Russian Ballet. Eventually, Sunni turned in her pointe shoes for a pair of white cowboy boots. Sunni spent three seasons with the Dallas Cowboys as one of America’s Sweethearts and performed in front of the NFL’s record-breaking crowd of 105,000 in the inaugural game at AT&T Stadium. She was also honored to travel to Korea and Japan on one of the USO tours. Sunni is no stranger to the Miss America Organization. She competed within the system for five years and ultimately won the title of Miss Texas in 2003. Through her years of competition, she won over $53,000 in college scholarships, which completely paid for her education. A graduate of the University of North Texas, Sunni now lives with her husband, Collin, her identical twin boys, Ridley and Stone, and her daughter, Sky, in Austin, Texas.
What is your favorite Texarkana memory?
The memories I treasure the most are the ones made at Wright Patman Lake. Wright Patman Lake will always hold a very special place in my heart. For starters, it is where my dad asked my mom to marry him. My entire family spent most of our summers there camping together. It is where I learned to water ski with my cousin and my uncle, and it is where I caught my first fish! My Pepa took me fishing, and after what seemed like an eternity of waiting, I caught a fish! He helped me pull it into the boat, and I had somehow caught that fish by the belly, a story that has had my family and I laughing for years.
Who is someone from Texarkana who impacted your life?
Judith McCarty—I took my first ballet class with “Miss Judy” when I was three years old and continued dancing at Judith McCarty School of Dance throughout my childhood and beyond. Of course, she instilled in me a love of dancing, but the time I spent with her away from the ballet barre was what made the biggest impact on my life. She believed in me when I did not believe in myself, and she gave me the courage to chase my WILDEST dreams. Although she passed away before I accomplished some of those dreams, she was never far from my heart. Her words and guidance were empowering, and I will forever be changed by her love. I strive to live my life as she did and empower others around me to fulfill their wildest dreams.
Were you a Hawk, Leopard, Razorback, or Tiger?
I was a Hornet! Quite literally. Before I was a Hooks High School Cheerleader, I was “Henrietta Hornet,” the mascot for Hooks High School. Being able to put on Henrietta’s “shoes” and entertain a hometown crowd for three hours of football was exhilarating.
What do you think makes Texarkana famous?
There are so many things that make Texarkana famous. It sits at the crossroads of four states, the courthouse and post office that straddle the state line, and the Perot Theatre… but to me, what makes Texarkana famous is the people. From Scott Joplin, Ross Perot, and Dr. Otis Williams to my parents, Miss Judy, and the wonderful employees at Bryce’s. The PEOPLE of Texarkana are what makes it famous. The people are the heart of Texarkana.
What do you miss about Texarkana?
I often visit because my family still lives in the area, but I miss performing on the Perot Theatre stage. I spent so much of my childhood on that stage. Dance recitals, Texarkana Community Ballet productions every Holiday season, exhausting rehearsals, and competing for the coveted title of Miss Texarkana. The Perot Theatre became a second home and always sweeps a wave of nostalgia over me when I think about each precious moment I spent there.
What is your nickname for Texarkana?
Where was your favorite place to eat in Texarkana?
I LOVED eating at Bryce’s! After church on Sunday was my favorite. The owners and all the employees were always so kind, and the pies were AMAZING! Bryce’s was such a Texarkana gem.
Where was your favorite place to shop in Texarkana?
The Owl’s Nest has always been my favorite place to shop in Texarkana. Even today, I still love browsing to get ideas or discover rare finds!
What words do you live by?
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden, a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
TXK Roots is Texarkana Magazine’s forum to highlight and honor Texarkana natives who have accomplished big things in the world. These folks may have relocated, but they took the values, education, work ethic and creativity instilled in them by growing up in this unique border city and used these qualities to blaze extraordinary trails. We asked them to share their thoughts about growing up here. No matter how far from Texarkana they may find themselves, we will always consider them our neighbors and we are proud to claim them as forever members of our extended Texarkana community. After all, “everyone is famous in their hometown!”