Danielle Robay: A Female Role Model On How She Made It
Danielle Robay is among an
elite group of
20-somethings currently "making it"
Though Danielle Robay is a seasoned entertainment journalist and now co-host of The U's "The Jam" in Chicago, she tells Beyond The Interview that she still doesn't feel like she's made it—but that doesn't mean she doesn't have some wisdom to drop on the rest of us.
So, What are some of Robay's career secrets?
"I really was never afraid of failing or really embarrassing myself," Robay says. "I always went for it whether it was sending an email that I thought would never get a response, or reaching out to another reporter at a screening or on a red carpet who was more experienced."
Robay also incorporated creativity into her approach tactics when her targets wouldn't respond, like sending cookies to get noticed.
The TV News host recalls the importance of collaboration in her earlier days.
"I really really love what I do," she says. "I was always willing to stay late and put in a ton of extra effort and brainstorm new ideas and tag-team segments with other producers or friends who I worked with. I think you have to love something in order to succeed because otherwise you'll just quit."
Empathetic, vulnerable, and most of all, strong-willed, Robay displays the characteristics of a true role model, underscored most of all by a very young age.
But entertainment—a rough field with few open positions—wasn't always kind to Robay:
"I had a boss once who really was kind of dispiriting. He was demoralizing. No matter how hard I worked or what I did to prove myself, he never gave me the opportunities that he would give my co-workers. If I would present to my co-workers he would walk out of the meeting mid-presentation. You could tell that he didn't believe in me."
A common issue for many, Robay says she no longer ruminates: "I've had a lot of moments where I've wasted a lot of time and tears in weird encounters with people who I thought would want to meet and talk about work—and that's not what they wanted."
But there's hope.
"I think we are finally at a time there are women in positions of power," she tells BTI. "I was never willing to trade my integrity for anything, so it was difficult to try and navigate those situations because I didn't want to ruffle feathers.”
Every career has a turning point. Robay says hers happened while she was working at ClevverTV in 2014.
"I think if I didn't get my job at ClevverTV, I wouldn't be here now because in hosting, you really have to get your reps in. You can't study it, no matter how much you watch something or read books. You have to just do it," she admits.
Clevver was Robay's first full-time hosting, producing, and writing position. "I really cut my teeth there," she tells us. "I learned how to truly produce something. That's where I got my footage initially. I already had a reel from college and red carpets, but at Clevver I started filming footage that I was really proud of and cultivating my craft."
Los Angeles changed everything for Robay, who admitted to a culture-shock when first arriving.
Robay grew up in Chicago, and even though it's a big city, she says it's very different from L.A.—basically, the things people talk about in the Midwest are different. The main industry in Chicago is business and real estate, so when she moved to L.A., "all of a sudden I'm at a dinner table, and everyone is talking about movies and pop culture and yoga, and it's everything that I've ever wanted to talk about. It was so different to me."
A humble and opinionated book-worm, Robay admits she spends most of her time outside of the studio reading.
"Reading is the key to life," she says. "I love non-fiction. I read everything I can get my hands on."
What's on her current reading list?
- Originals by Adam Grant
- I Thought It Was Just Me by Brene Brown
- Hitmakers by Derek Thompson
A consumer of books, but mostly of media, Robay says she's always trying to stay up-to-date.
"Before we go on air, we have morning meetings where we discuss what we're going to be talking about on the show that day, but I feel like I am on 24-hour-watch." Robay says. "I'm constantly trying to read and keep up. I'm having to consume faster, and I think the best part of it is that I don't just consume—I consume and then formulate my own opinions."
A role model herself, Robay has many mentors whose shoulders she stands on.
“On TV, I look at Robin Roberts," she says. "I'm pretty in awe of the way she maneuvers through every situation. She can talk about news and sports and entertainment and she does it with finesse and with utter kindness."
"Someone I go to is Michelle Weiner," Robay says. She's an agent at CAA. No matter what time of day, she answers my texts and calls and talks me through any situation. She has such wisdom and sound advice, and it's so realistic too. It's never idealistic."
Robay's audience might also be surprised to learn that she's been fired before, and without good reason.
"I was once fired from a job because I wouldn't ask a woman a question that I deemed entirely inappropriate," she reveals. "I always felt like at the end of the day, it was my face and my name and my reputation that was on the line, and that wasn't the type of journalism I wanted to practice."
Of course, Instagram has played a huge role in Robay's career:
"I think Instagram can be really overwhelming if you let it be. If you start feeling guilty about not posting, then it’s overtaking your life, but if you're using it as a tool to share content and connect with different types of people and spread ideas, then it's the most incredible tool."
Positivity is one thing she's always trying to put out into the social sphere.
“It's part of my job but also I really believe that if you are what you eat, than we think what we consume," she says. "I work really hard at trying to add value on my Instagram. If that value one day is a cool outfit, then awesome, but most of the time I have that value be a cool article I read or sharing ideas or opinions about social issues."
On social media, Robay gets plenty of messages from women who are trying to figure out their careers.
"I feel really lucky with my Instagram community. They're supportive of each other, have insightful opinions, and are constantly asking me and each other questions about how to further their careers."
Robay says she feels incredibly lucky to be living through this women's movement.
"When Oprah made her speech at the Golden Globes earlier this year, there was a moment where she bellowed into the crowd: TIME IS UP. I lost it," she says. "I started bawling because I've felt put down before because I’m a woman and I've seen it happen tons of times to women around me. I really don't want the next generation of women to have to deal with it, and I don't think they will."
The biggest problem for women in the industry?
According to Robay, value is the biggest word that comes to mind.
"I think the pay gap is all about perceived value, and that's why it's so upsetting," Robay says when discussing the wage gap between men and women. "So when women are paid equally to men, our value will immediately rise. I think of value in terms of valuing our bodies as more than commodities and vessels.
"We should raise our men to expect more of themselves and to view women as more than physical objects. Let's value a spiritual connection and an intellectual connection. Let's place a value on that instead of on this frat culture that glorifies numbers. The responsibility is always on women. Let's encourage men step up."
What else does the future hold for Danielle Robay?
First, she wants to host and create content and produce shows that are female-focused, like The View: "I've always felt like I have a lot to say. When I was younger I felt like I was too much, and I was embarrassed by it but now I just sort of lean into it." She also wants to do more one-on-one interviews with politicians and entertainment figures.
As one of the first broadcasters to report on the shooting in Las Vegas, for Robay, it was the hardest story she ever had to cover. "It was very difficult. It was the first time I've ever cried on TV," she says.
Career is very important to Robay, but there are still changes she'd like to make in her personal life.
“My New Year's resolution was to be a more active friend," she says. "I love to work, but my friends mean so much to me, and I'm realizing how much of an impact they make in my life as I get older."