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Have you ever felt so motivated in your life, that you would stop at nothing to get where you needed to be? If there’s a burning fire inside of you to achieve a goal you’ve set for yourself then you could relate to Donna Drake.
Elementary school was nearly four decades ago, but Drake will never forget the name of the girl who bullied her and made her feel like less of a person than anyone should ever feel. The memories Drake has from elementary school will forever be etched into her brain but not because she feels sorry for herself. They fueled her. Drake refused to stop until she felt significant enough, not for herself, but for the bullies that shaped her childhood. “What happened in second grade impacted me so severely that I thought to myself, ‘someday I’m going to be so famous that these kids are going to wish that they were my friends. Im going to be somebody someday,” Drake said. Now a wise mother and a successful business woman, she laughs at the distant memories of elementary school days.
Drake, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, is currently the host and producer of her own talk show, “Live It Up,” which adds to a long list of other successes she’s quite proud of. “Live It Up” is a weekly talk show bringing motivation and inspiration to its audience. It airs on Saturdays at 6:30 a.m. on CBS-10, WLNY.
It was the success of this current endeavor as well as other career tips that Drake offered to students who attended her lecture on February 21, as part of the “Food for Thought” lecture series hosted by the Media Arts deparment.
According to Professor Sandra Mardenfeld of the Journalism department, more students than usual stayed back after the lecture just to meet the speaker.
The beginning of Drake’s lecture was unconventional compared to previous “Food for Thought” speakers. She went around the small room of the basement of Humanities Hall and asked all of the students there to introduce themselves and give a quick detail about their lives. Students offered names, majors and whom they aspired to be one day. According to Rebecca Martelotti, sophomore Journalism major, it was a refreshing start to a lecture. To Drake, it was important to do this because she doesn’t speak with a certain plan of action in mind, she likes to mold her speech around the individuals in the room and make sure that they can all benefit from it.
Drake’s journey began in St. Louis, but she knew from a young age that she wasn’t going to die in Missouri. She knew that eventually her career would take her to either California or New York. “Who I am as a woman today is a direct result of who I thought I would be when I was little,” said Drake. According to her, all she kept doing was taking the next right step and doing what felt right. Before she knew it, in about 2002 she was exactly the woman who she thought she would become.
Late 2008 was the start of the next big chapter of Drake’s life. It was during that time that she became aware of a show that was being created about paying it forward. Drake was interested in becoming the host but the economy took a dip and her new job pursuit was crushed. On her drive home from the audition, Drake had an epiphany. “For goodness sake, I’ll do my own show,” Drake thought.
Following her epiphany, Drake dreamed of her new show. “I dreamt the entire thing in color,” Drake said.
In her vision she saw who her co-host would be, who the camera people were, the different segments of the show and other vivid details.
Drake promptly called all of the people who made an appearance in her dream and told them that she thinks they are supposed to use their talents to do this show and help people. They all agreed. “Sometimes you have to invest in yourself,” Drake told her audience. “Live It Up” was created on barter deals, credit and their own money in the beginning.
The dream happened in December of 2008 and the show went live on April 9, 2009. “It kind of just got a life of it’s own,” Drake said proudly, when talking about how quickly the show launched.
Drake also offered career tips for the students in the room. “Be a good writer, let people know they can rely on you,” she reminded the audience. Being resourceful and using humor were also qualities that were significant, according to Drake.
Junior Journalism major, David Otero, found Drake’s lecture excellent. “She has had a broad range of media-related experiences throughout her professional career and I found her journey very motivating, inspiring and interesting,” he said.
These days, Drake hosts and produces “Live It Up” weekly as well as works on various other projects, including volunteer work. She is currently working with Facebook to create an app that allows people to download and watch a version of “Live It Up.” When asked when she finds time to relax, Drake answered by saying that thankfully she enjoys her job so it doesn’t seem like work but her kids do help her relax. “I want to be used up. When I die I just to be all out,” she added jokingly.
“The message I got from her was to never let anyone hold you back, just because someone doesn’t believe in you, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t believe in yourself,” said Gabriella Ianiro, Journalism major.
The next “Food for Thought” lecture will be next Thursday, March 7, featuring Dr. Elizabeth Wollman, author of “Hard Times” and “The Theater Will Rock.” The goal of the lecture series is to bring in professionals who have inspiring stories to tell the students, according to Mardenfeld. “My goal is to expose our majors to a variety of careers in the Media Arts field,” she says.