A Conversation With Danielle Young On Leaps Of Faith And Letting Your Light Shine
I am by no means a perfect manager, but one thing I've tried to be throughout my career is fair. What that's looked like for me working in media is not hoarding opportunities for myself or preventing members of my team from seizing moments to shine and, even when I've failed, attempting to increase wages and pay rates. As an employee, I only have but so much control. But as an editorial leader, I have a responsibility to try to help those around me flourish in their careers as I build my own and to stand up for them when their time and talent aren't respected. From conversations with fellow women in media, I've learned that behavior is rare which is sadly unsurprising for an industry built on competition that has, in recent years, been shaped by an incessant need to prove one's value by any means other than doing the work.
It's for that reason I wanted to chat with my friend and fellow media colleague (The) Danielle Young. Danielle is a woman who does the work but has a history of being penalized by her superiors for excelling at it. In March, she was fired and quickly sprung into action building her own brand, including her live interview series "Real Quick" on which she's interviewed Cynthia Erivo, Lena Waithe, Amber Riley, Marsai Martin, Tank, Tamika Mallory, and many more stars. (That short list is the literal definition of to name a few.) When I asked her about branching out on her own, Danielle admitted to having a "rebellious spirit" that's characteristic of most entrepreneurs, but when it comes to the reality of now working for herself, she said, "I'm just glad that it was decided for me because I would've held on and just stayed sad."
Though she jokingly called herself a "terrible employee" during our interview, I challenged that claim with the knowledge that, like many Black women, Danielle had come to be seen as "too much" in the workplace. That perception has been a stark contrast to the ways in which she was welcomed into past roles. "Coming into these situations, it's like the second coming of Jesus," she remarked.
Somewhere along the way, however, opportunities, responsibilities, and even pay were stripped from her. Despite being promoted to create lifestyle content in one role and hired to do red carpet interviews and create video content in another, it wasn't long before she was seen as doing too much, particularly by people who felt they weren't able to do enough. It was painful, Danielle said, "To go from this beloved jewel to please get out of my face."
She added, "It was a really hurtful experience to see that mentorship and leadership and guiding people's career wasn't a priority for people who had the privilege to do so."
It was that sadness, the host said she would've sucked up had her former manager (and God) not had other plans for her. After having two mirrored experiences of toxic work environments, Danielle decided to do it her own way when she launched her digital interview series during the peak of Covid-19. Though she'd been pitching similar concepts before losing her job, people hadn't quite latched on to Zoom and IG Live as viable media mediums pre-'rona. But as the reality of the pandemic set in so did increased ad spend, so much so Danielle said, "I was still able to be faithful" [to the leap I'd taken].
A remarkable aspect of that testimony, she shared, is that in just five months she's been able to double the savings it took her an entire year to amass last year. "That's opening up so many more possibilities of how I move and how I behave and there's not a desperation," she said when it comes to taking advantage of hosting gigs that come her way. "The way that God is set up, it will come to me if it's mine."
Those opportunities have not only been of professional and financial benefit to Danielle, but they've also relieved her of an emotional burden she's carried throughout her career. "I feel lighter, I'm just not dealing with someone else trying to cause me pain," she said noting that that was the most hurtful aspect of her previous work environments. "I felt apologetic about my own light before, but the closer that I get to God the more I understand that that's also God's light."
Doing what God has called her to do doesn't come easy however, Danielle pointed out. "That's also a choice to walk in that light."
As she grows her YouTube channel and continues to build her reputation as the "Content Queen," Danielle doesn't have a single regret about not branching out sooner. In fact, she knows that she's exactly where she's supposed to be at this moment. "I believe in God's timing because I was pushed."
Check out our full conversation below as Danielle details the toxicity she's endured professionally and how she's learned to give herself grace and be comfortable in her body as someone who is always "bigger than."