CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — There's no need to ask Sonia Young her favorite color.
She drives a purple convertible, writes on a purple typewriter, eats off purple dishes with purple silverware and usually appears decked from head to toe in purple, or a derivative thereof.
Her passion for purple has made her a local celebrity, but many people who have seen her in parades, on television or in the newspapers don't even know her name--just her sobriquet, the Purple Lady.
Listed in Phone Book
She is even listed in the telephone book under her alias, in case her fans have trouble finding her.
"I always liked purple as a child," said Young, who portrayed an orchid in a dance recital at age 5. "Whenever I could find anything in purple, I always wore it. When I designed my own paper dolls, they had purple clothes."
Young, 52, estimated that she has been wearing purple exclusively for about two decades.
"It got to the point that people would get real upset when they didn't see me in purple," she said, relaxing on a couch at her home wearing a purple dress, glasses, earrings and toenail polish.
"Even now, people will come up to me, if it's a shade they don't think is purple enough, they'll say, 'This is not purple.'
Wears Lots of Shades
"I don't like any other color as well. I'm not happy wearing another color," she said. "I've tried on clothes that were blue. They don't look like me. I don't look right in them anymore. I wear lots of shades of purple, magenta, red plum, lavender. I have a wide range."
Bob Elmore, executive director of tourism for the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she had been a familiar figure for years at events to promote civic projects or charitable causes.
"She's a colorful person and does some good work," Elmore said. "I see her wherever I go. You have a tendency to notice her. She's not exactly a shrinking violet."
Bernie Sellman, who has worked with Young for years as a supporter of the local community theater, said she had been good for the city as a booster of the arts.
"Sonia is an energetic woman who is always into everything," he said. "She's pro-Chattanooga. She's always looking to better, not only the theater, but everything.
'Never Without Her Purple '
"But she's never without her purple costume," he added. "All we have to do is spot purple and we know Sonia is around."
Young says she wore the color to help entertain children and put them at ease when she worked as a psychological examiner at a local speech and hearing center and also has used purple in several business ventures, including a job as an insurance broker.
"When I was in the insurance business--you could have five women in the room, including Raquel Welch, but I'm the one they'd notice first," she said. "I mean, purple hat, gloves, shoes, bag. They'd eventually get to Raquel Welch, don't worry. But it did get you into a lot of doors right away.
"Obviously, it has been something that I've used as a marketing point. Just like other people package groceries, I packaged me," she said. "But I've used it, one, to get through to children and, two, to help raise money for charities or to promote the opera, the symphony or whatever it was."
Extensive Home Collection
A tour of her home reveals an extensive purple collection. Some standard items include purple rugs and furniture, but the exotic also is represented in such things as a purple toilet seat, purple stethoscope and a 1970 purple Charger automobile.
Book shelves include titles such as "The Color Purple" and the song "Deep Purple" can be found among her records. Closets are filled with almost every imaginable item of purple clothing.