Please introduce yourself. What do you do? Why? What do you want people to know about you?
I’m never afraid of heights! My name is Danielle Duke and I am an actor, model, and creative based in New York City. Honestly, I want people to know me so there is an example to others that you deserve to live your life and pursue what you want however you’d like.
Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, there is a very traditional standard among young people that after you graduate high school, you go to college. However, in my case, I grew up knowing that I always wanted to be an actor in New York City.
While I was a high school senior I had two options handed to me. First option was to study acting at a four year collegiate program or to move immediately to New York City and pursue my dreams as soon as possible.
At 17, I decided to move full speed ahead and move to New York to pursue and LIVE my dream. I was terrified and questioned my decision a lot as I struggled my first months in New York City. I knew nobody and found myself crying on the subway quite often. I was living my dream at such an earlier age than I expected, since I did not go to college. Yet, I wouldn’t change any part of my story for any amount of money. I love to be the example to people to show them that everyone has their own journey. Yes, sometimes you cry on the subway.
But there’s also beauty to it. To immediately push for my dreams at a ripe age is something I know I do not give myself enough credit for. Yet, now at the age of 21 and am a well rounded working actor in the city I could not be more proud of myself for diving head first into my dream that motivates me to always explore the world.
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
I have a really niche love of people in the world. One of my favorite activities is to sit on a bench, hope a stranger sits by me, and strike up a conversation with them.
I find myself having conversations that range from the NFL standings to what it means to be an artist to the tap water qualities in different places in the world. I find that I am very comfortable to just talk with someone and make a connection. That’s what I love most-making connections and learning from others and their perspective on the world.
My love for new experiences and soaking in life has made me into the actor I am today. What is there not to learn? My ambition to make connections and make beautiful pieces of art is what drives me and makes me unique.
We truly are in relationship to everything. Your relationship to your mom, to your morning cup of coffee, your environment, whatever. My curiosity to explore these relationships in my craft is what excited me the most about the arts.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you’re doing what you were born to do.
Well, I have two parts to this answer that I’d love to discuss. There was a part of me that knew that I was meant to do this because no one told me to stop. And I think that’s an important topic to discuss that I don’t think artists talk about a lot. As an artist, you receive constant feedback from a wide range of people.
So, as I was in high school, I figured I was meant to be a creative because no one told me that I sucked and needed to stop. Also, my craft made me feel euphoric, so why would I stop? It’s also important to note that I have extremely supportive and brutally honest parents. If they thought I sucked, they would have told me by now. Haha.
However, the moment that solidified everything happened this past summer as I was filming my first feature film in upstate New York. Our last shoot day ended up being a 19 hour day. I was wearing a mini skirt, tank top, in 40 degree weather and rain. I had to pee in a portable potty.
Very glamorous right? I was exhausted, yet felt so blessed to be exhausted. It was probably around 1am I ran through the rain to get to the portable potty. Shivering, I close the door, squat, and well, start to pee. As I was peeing, I looked around me and my circumstances. 1am, 40 degrees in the rain, tiny outfit, shivering, exhausted.
Yet, there was no place I’d rather be. And it hit me there. Squatted over the toilet. There was no place I’d rather be. There was nothing else that I wanted to do. Most importantly, there’s nothing else I should be doing. Everything brought me joy. I started to cry happy tears, feeling so blessed and excited for my future. I then finished, wiped, hand sanitizer, ran back to the set, and filmed until 6am that day.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to go through and how did you grow through it?
My biggest challenge was accepting the fact that I was actually afraid of what people thought of me. For a long time, I brainwashed myself into believing that I didn’t care what people thought of me or the work I put out into the world.
Yet, I learned through a very hard conversation with my mother one night last February that I did actually care what people thought of me. I found myself too scared to try this or that new thing because deep, deep, down, I was worried what Jane Doe was going to think. How did I conquer it? A lot of painful moments where I had to tell myself “Just Do It.” (Thank you Nike!) However, it’s so true.
My just do it mind set allowed me to open up into other forms of arts, not just acting. I now am extremely greedy with what I want to create. I now write poetry and publish it on my website for the public, I model, I have a new spark of interest in filmmaking.
And it’s so silly to me, yet so rewarding that ever since I decided to just do it, I have felt more fulfilled not only as an actor, but as a human. And, all of those silly things I do that I’ve at times had to force myself to do have been so rewarding. And people don’t hate, they love it. Now even more so, I found the true joy of my craft.
If you had to pick the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could take your career (or business) to the next level…who would those 3 people be?
I would love to meet Tyler the Creator, Reese Witherspoon, and Lady Gaga. Here’s why- yes, it’s true; they could get me into great audition rooms and put in a good word on my name.
However, I’d feel more fulfilled if I was just able to sit down with them, have a normal conversation, and thank them for their ability to say fuck it. If I got coffee with them, that inspiration that each of them give me would fuel me to keep working and growing.
Tyler taught me through his craft to branch out and try new forms of art. Reese taught me through her films that woman can do anything. Lady Gaga taught me how to be brave.