Danielle Robay, 26
TV Host + Entertainment Journalist
Danielle Robay, the youngest on-air host in Chicago, navigated the competitive entertainment industry as a young woman in her early twenties under a constant stream of scrutiny. Rising through the ranks, she was soon to realize that she had to work harder than her male counterparts, and would routinely be met with judgement regarding her appearance. “As a TV host you have to walk into meetings dressed up,” she says. “Makeup, hair, heels, the whole thing. I can see the look in their eyes, it’s a ‘here comes another one’ kind of look. And you feel like you have to overcompensate just to start on equal footing.
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
I chose to become a journalist because I love talking to people and more so, I love asking questions. I’m passionately curious about who you are, what you’re in love with, what you’ve overcome, and what makes you tick. Also, I’m really driven by amazing women. I was raised by one, named after two (Robay is created from my two grandmother’s names Rodi + Barbara) and constantly inspired by the women I meet. I am determined to help tell their stories
My greatest professional achievement is my current role as co-host of WCIU’s The Jam. I’m the youngest TV Host in Chicago- my hometown- and I truly look forward to waking up in the morning to go to work. And with a 2:30AM wake up call, you must really love your job! And I do; my co-hosts make me laugh every day, I’m constantly learning about the world and different people (one day I get to interview David Yarrow one of the world’s foremost wildlife photographers about traveling to some of the world’s most dangerous places, and the next I’m interviewing Sarah O’Hagan the CEO of Flywheel on her career or Mo’nique about feminism).
Aside from pure professional achievement, I’m most proud of the community of amazing girls and women that has developed on my Instagram. I get tons of messages every day from women of all ages sharing advice, asking for advice, recommending great books, asking for book recs. It’s incredible!
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
It’s been tough being a young woman and being taken seriously. As a TV Host you have to walk into meetings dressed up, makeup, hair heels, the whole thing. I can see the look in their eyes, it’s a “here comes another one” kind of look.
3. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?
As a woman I have to do the same job as a man and more just to be taken seriously. At first it angered me, there are moments when it still does, but I’ve really learned to accept it (for now) and know that the extra hard work will make me even better at my craft, more resilient, more creative, and hopefully more impactful when the time comes to tackle the next adventure!
I didn’t always feel that way…some of the judgments used to upset me, and I think I used to overcompensate for them- especially the young/”cute” girl stereotype instead of being seen as professional or as a skilled broadcaster. But when I started this morning show I made a conscious decision to stop caring about what other people think or to try to prove a thing. It sounds so obvious but much harder in practice; it set me free. As women, we get to be ‘and’s’ not ‘or’s’. We can be pretty and smart. Just like men get to be handsome and accomplished.
Also, I learned early on in my career that when meeting someone for the first time I don’t take a meeting outside of someone’s office or past 6pm. If they are serious about what we are meeting about, they will invite me to their office during the day.
4. What did you learn through your personal journey?
I truly tuned them out- the words went in one ear and out the other. Every time someone said “there are so many people who want those few jobs” I thought “Yep- and I’m going to be one of the few who get them”. When you know your purpose, in your gut, nothing can sway your narrative.
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?
Whatever you think your limitations are, they all have a corresponding strength. And, they are what make you unique. For instance:
Naive -> Positive
Disorganized -> Creative
Shy -> Reflective
Don’t hide from your weaknesses. Embrace them, talk about them (super important to talk about them and not shame them), leverage them. Your weakness may just be your competitive edge. There has never been a better time to be an ambitious woman. We got this.
4 min read
One of the few things I remember from grade school biology is the concept of tropism. In plain language, tropism is the reaction of a living thing, like a plant, towards a stimulus like sunlight or heat. You've likely seen this before but just didn't recognize it for what it was. If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action. The plant is bending towards the sunlight.
If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action.
In our everyday lives, we are all inundated with stimuli throughout the day. The driver in front of us that stalls at the yellow light and zooms through the red light, leaving us behind to wait. Or the customer service rep that leaves us on hold for an ungodly amount of time, only for the call to prematurely drop. There are so many examples both common and unique to our individual lives. The trouble begins when we form the habit of responding to everything — particularly negative stimuli. By doing this, our mental peace is disrupted and diverted making us slaves to whatever happens to happen. Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us. Now take that concept and multiply it by the number of things that can happen in a day, week, or month. What happens to you mentally with so many emotional pivots?
For me, the result is: Restlessness. Anxiety. Sleepness. Mindless Eating. Everything besides peace of mind.
Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us.
Earlier this year, something pretty trivial happened to me. I'm sure this has happened to you at some point in your life also. I was walking through a door and, as I always do, glanced back and held the door longer and wider than normal for the person coming behind me. My gracious gesture was met with silence — no thank you, no smile, not even a nod. I remember being so annoyed at this travesty of justice. How dare they not acknowledge me and thank me for holding the door? After all, I didn't have to do it. I know I spent the next few hours thinking about it and probably even texted a few friends so that they could join in on my rant and tell me how right I was to be upset. In hindsight, I should not have allowed this pretty petty thing to occupy my mind and heart, but I did. I let it shake my peace.
I've since taken some classes on mindfulness and what I've learned (and I'm still learning) is the art of being aware — being aware of the present and my feelings. Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy. We're all human and having emotions is part of the deal but as mindful adults, it's critically important to choose what you're going to care about and let everything else pass along. There are several tools on the market to help with this but the Headspace app has really helped me in my mindfulness journey. The lessons are guided and coupled with some pretty cute animations.
Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy.
Over the course of the next week, I'd like to challenge you to pay more attention to your reactions. How aware are you of how you allow your environment to affect you? Are you highly reactive? Do you ruminate for hours or even days on events that are insignificant in your life? If so, practicing a bit of mindfulness may be the way to go.