Donia Duchess: “I wish someone told me to love my body in all sizes earlier on”

I wish someone told me to love my body in all sizes earlier on. I used to put so much pressure on myself at such a young age because I thought I had to be a certain size to be on camera, which if I’m honest back then felt like that was the case. Now, […]

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I wish someone told me to love my body in all sizes earlier on. I used to put so much pressure on myself at such a young age because I thought I had to be a certain size to be on camera, which if I’m honest back then felt like that was the case. Now, what you see if what you get. I’m here in all of my post baby body glory ready to be in front of the camera and do my thing because what matters is the story. Not that my waist trainer be on tighter, so I feel snatched.

As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Donia Duchess.

Donia Duchess is an award-winning, two-time Emmy nominated producer, host, model, actress and motivational speaker. Having carved her own path to success, Donia is known in entertainment circles for her determination, outgoing flair, and fearless demeanor. Hailed as “one to watch,” Donia is using her distinct gift of gab to make a name for herself as a rising television personality!

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Donia is the seventh of eleven children. Raised in Stamford, Connecticut by Haitian parents who stressed education and a solid work ethic, Donia had an early penchant for modeling and acting. A graduate of Westhill High School, Donia reveled as a budding teen actress with roles in community plays, participating in the cheerleading squad, competing and winning the title of Miss Haiti Connecticut, and lauded as Prom Queen her senior year. Destined for a successful career in entertainment, Donia studied communications at Southern Connecticut State, where she earned a bachelor’s of arts and sciences degree in 2011, and secured numerous back-to-back prestigious internships with the likes of Glamour and Details magazines, all of which helped her generate a career and build her industry network.

Upon graduation, Donia landed her first job in television production with The Maury Povich Show, where she thrived as a production assistant, helping to book and coordinate some of the show’s most watched episodes. But by 2015, Maury’s executive producer approached Donia about appearing on the show to host a national segment, and Donia’s on-air career officially commenced.

In 2016, Donia was hired by The Real as an associate producer, and relocated to Los Angeles. Eventually promoted to senior producer, Donia caught the eye of show executives who proposed she host her own segment entitled “Steals on The Real,” and ended up taping more than 19 on-camera episodes, while garnering an NAACP Image Award and two Emmy Award nominations as a producer for the popular American daytime television talk show!

Donia’s career began to soar when she amassed coveted modeling jobs with BET, Amazon and Macy’s, and more recently, a national ad with American Express.A bona fide media darling and a seasoned personality, Donia has also hosted numerous television jobs with various major news and entertainment outlets, including Buzzfeed, Celebrity Page TV, People TV, and Rolling Out, where she conducted several one-on-one interviews with A-list celebrities, including Boris Kodjoe, Emily Blunt, Owen Wilson, and Katt Williams, just to name a few!

Bold, beautiful and brilliant, Donia Duchess is a renaissance woman. With multiple television and modeling credits under her belt, Donia is quickly becoming entertainment’s go-to celebrity reporter, on-air segment host, and lifestyle expert. Fierce perseverance, sincere passion and an undeniable propensity have helped Donia climb the ranks as one of television’s most sought after talents, and she’s just getting started.

In 2017, Donia and her fiancé Joey Mejia were featured on the premier episode of TLC’S I Want That Wedding. The couple wed in 2019 and by 2020, Donia earned her first Webby Award as host of the sensational game app Song Pop Live, and the couple welcomed their first child that same year.

As a philanthropist, Donia is an advocate for the underserved, and uses her free time to support disadvantaged youth, mothers with difficult pregnancies and issues concerning the Haitian community.

Donia lives in Connecticut with her husband and their son Noah.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Donia! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in Stamford, CT with my 2 sisters, Mom and Dad and tons of extended family. I always wanted to be in entertainment so there were many nights spent watching music videos practicing dance routines with my sisters. Recording Disney shows to act out the scenes and my Mom being in the front row of the living room for all of it. I’m first generation Haitian-American and was taught very early on to be proud of my culture, skin and the importance of education. My parents divorced when I was in elementary school and my Mom became a single parent. I like to think I was a great kid. I loved school, took ballet and jazz, was part of cheerleading, played sports and ate my vegetables. We grew up poor but didn’t know it. My Mom hid it well, always kept her head up and had food on the table. She worked a lot so there were a lot of holidays where it was just me and my sisters. As a kid I didn’t really understand why she couldn’t be home but I have to give my sisters credit for always doing their best to make every holiday special. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I always knew that I wanted to host. I remember being a little girl and pretending that my hairbrush was a microphone. Like many, many hosts Oprah was my first inspiration. Seeing how she connected with her guests was and still is so inspiring. The way she made them feel comfortable enough to laugh and cry and go on this emotional rollercoaster with a happy ending sparked something in me that made me think “Wow I want to do that. I want to help people feel better, I want to help people smile.” Decades later, that thought has never left my mind and I’ve listened to that voice and followed my passion ever since.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I got into television working behind the scenes because I wanted to learn what it took to be good in front of the camera. After working for a few different shows as a Production Assistant I thought I learned all I needed to and was ready to host. I didn’t have a reel or headshots, representation and I had no experience. I just knew it was what I wanted to do. I remember quitting a show because I felt in my heart that I just needed to make that leap to focus on my hosting career and go for it so I took a job as a Nanny and figured in my free time I could go on auditions. I remember sitting in my kitchen venting to my Mom and sister about how “I just needed someone to believe in me. I needed someone to give me my big break.” A few weeks later I got a phone call from a Producer at The Maury Show. She said that the Executive Producer, Paul, wanted me to host a segment with Maury. That he wanted to give me a shot and give me my “big break” I immediately cried and couldn’t believe that it was word for word what I had been praying for. I love telling this story for the simplicity of believing that what you want WILL come true if you just ask for it. I’ve found that my life has been full of things aligning exactly how they’re supposed to. Whether that be good or bad I take it for what it is and have faith that everything happens for a reason.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake has to be when I did my first press junket. I was set to interview an A list celebrity that had been known to be a little “brutal” when it comes to the press. I was so nervous and just wanted to come across informed, professional and confident. So I practiced my questions over and over and over again. I did my best to memorize them and when the time came to sit across from him to start the interview, the words came out, I smiled, I giggled and it was over. My boss called me right after to ask me how it went and I said “I don’t know.” He said what do you mean? Didn’t you do it? I said “yes but I blacked out, I have no idea what I asked him or what he said in response. We’ll both see how it went when we watch the footage” Thankfully he thought it was hilarious and was incredibly understanding. That same interview ended up going viral for being such a great interaction. I learned that day when I’m hosting to push my nerves to the side and to be present in the moment because it goes by so fast.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are SO many people in my life that I would love to shout out and thank because they’ve all contributed to my success in one way or another. Whether it be giving me an opportunity in front of the camera, believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself or just listening to me express my fears, hopes and dreams when it comes to my career. My Mom is absolutely at the top of this list. I would not be where I am today without her listening to me when I was just a kid saying that I wanted to be in entertainment. She put me in acting classes, took me to auditions, had my back when I wanted to run for Miss. Haiti Connecticut and when it came time for me to move to LA she took care of everything. She really is a great Mom that always told me to follow my dreams. I have to also say my husband, he is truly my better half. Meeting him was the best thing that ever happened to me for so many reasons. There really aren’t enough words or time to describe what he has done for me but that man is my soul mate. We met online and were only dating for a year when it came time for me to move to LA and without hesitation he said I had to go. We did a year long distance, he proposed to me, sold everything, gave up his apartment, quit his jobs and moved to join me. I got let go a few months after he got there and his response when I told him was “don’t worry, we’ll be ok, we’re not leaving LA until you’re a star” He is constantly in my corner cheering me on and is the most amazing father to our son, Noah.

It’s so incredibly important to have a strong support system in any field but especially entertainment. You’ll hear a lot of no’s and may find yourself in doubt of your own talent so it’s vital that you have people with their hands on your back holding you up when you feel like falling down.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Don’t be afraid to fail and enjoy the journey. I always say life is like a rollercoaster, full of ups and downs. You have to be able to just throw your hands up and enjoy the ride. Don’t hide what it is that you want to do because you’d be surprised who’s willing to help you. I’ve never pulled away from telling people that I wanted to host because at the end of the day no one is a mind reader. If you don’t communicate what it is that you want how can you expect people to know? This industry is tough but you’re tougher and honestly if it was easy everyone would do it. Lastly, when you’re feeling down just remember it’s temporary and that it’s up to YOU to get back up and keep going.

What drives you to get up every day and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?

My drive is truly believing that I can make a difference in someone’s life. I absolutely love what I do. So despite the long hours, exhaustion and deadlines I wouldn’t trade it for anything. TV is a portal to connect with people all over the world and if my smile, interview or produced segment can make someone feel better and forget about all of their problems for just one second, I did my job. I’ve been working in this industry for a long time and I’ve seen so much more acceptance and diversity happen. We may not necessarily be where we want to be just yet but I can truly say it’s come a long way. Men can’t just say anything to women anymore and get away with it. I’m working on shows where I see so many more people that look like me and it’s a beautiful thing. I’ve been on film sets where people are truly from all walks of life and no one blinks because we’re all so accepting of our uniqueness. The change I wish to see is continued progression.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

I’m currently Producing for a talk show and enjoying every minute. My husband and I recently filmed a national commercial with American Express and I became a Mom this past year. It’s been quite the journey being pregnant and having a baby in a pandemic. I’m not going to paint it to be all butterflies and rainbows because it’s not. It’s hard and I have such a bigger appreciation for all those working Moms out there. It’s an amazing chapter that I’m really enjoying and living in the moment! My son is phenomenal. I know all parents say that but he really is. He’s such a happy baby and everyday he amazes me. I’m all about keeping it real and being authentic so part of my brand has expanded into connecting with more parents out there. Creating more content on Tik Tok and filming videos that will make people laugh, smile and feel good. The ultimate goal is to raise a great human being, have my own talk show and make the world a better place. I got this. Haha!

We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?

We’ve heard it several times before about how much representation matters and it’s the truth. WE MATTER. The only way to show us that you respect us and understand that we matter is to put people on tv that look like us. People that come from all walks of life. We can tell our kids as much as we want that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up but if they don’t SEE that it makes the dream feel like just that…a dream. Something unattainable. In 2021 I have to say that we’ve come a long way. While some days it may not feel like it, I like to lean on the positive. That even just 10 years ago there weren’t as many black women starring in movies, or black people running the country. So while we may not be where we want to be just yet, it’s a slow and steady progress and I’m keeping hope that it’s only going to get better because we’re finally talking about it. Putting action to it, and making things happen.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

I wish someone told me to love my body in all sizes earlier on. I used to put so much pressure on myself at such a young age because I thought I had to be a certain size to be on camera, which if I’m honest back then felt like that was the case. Now, what you see if what you get. I’m here in all of my post baby body glory ready to be in front of the camera and do my thing because what matters is the story. Not that my waist trainer be on tighter, so I feel snatched.

Outside of that I don’t have any others. I really believe that everything happens for a reason. I’ve been lucky enough to have had really incredible people guide me throughout my career and offer advice that led me to this point of not having to wish I knew something back then.

Can you share with our readers any selfcare routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

I’m all about self-care so I make it a point to get massages, facials, go to the gym and get my nails done. I communicate when something is bothering me rather than holding it in. I meditate sometimes to help me sleep. I love binge watching shows and allow myself to be lazy when I feel like it. I spend time with friends and family AND I smoke weed. This last one may feel a bit “taboo” to some but for me it’s my glass of wine at the end of the day. It helps me relax, get creative, laugh and munch on some snacks if that’s the mood I’m feeling. To each their own and I have no shame in it. I honestly think it’s funny when people find out I smoke with all of the things I’ve been able to accomplish. There’s such a stigma around people that smoke weed and if I can shock you into thinking differently about it then why not?

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

People are going to judge you whether you do good, bad or ugly so just do you boo boo. I’ve been saying this to myself for so long it’s second nature to believe it. I’m honestly grateful that I learned to implement this a long time ago. It’s saved me so many headaches over whether or not I should do something because of what people are going to think. I’m so past that and I’m blessed to be able to truly live my life how I want to without apology.

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

The movement would be to REALLY look out for each other. It’s easier said than done because I know we all have problems and things going on in our lives but helping another person can be something as simple as just listening to someone vent. Offering a hug or sharing a smile. All of these things are free. When I meet someone, who may not be in a good mood or friendly with me I don’t take it personal. I understand that maybe they’re just having a bad. day and that’s ok. That person might just need a little bit of grace so I’m not going to change who I am, I’m just going to keep my positive energy and hope that some of it rubs off on them.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I’m going to shoot my shot and say Oprah because I mean WHY NOT?! I know that day will come when I can tell her about how much she’s inspired me and talk about our love of avocados and bread!

I’d also have to throw in Cardi B! She is the epitome of self-love, positive energy and “doing her boo boo” Everyone is entitled to their opinion but at the end of the day she is living her life for herself and putting her happiness in the forefront. I think everyone can learn something from her. If we all lived our lives for the acceptance of others, we’d be miserable and what kind of life would that be?

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

My handle on all social platforms is @DoniaDuchess. I’m looking forward to sharing more of my life with you all and hopefully inspiring you to keep moving forward on your journey! Just remember to trust the process and LIVE in the moment. Oh yea…and DO YOU BOO BOO!!

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