MF 054.5 : What’s Happening Today with Dr. Danielle Spencer-David: a Journey of Career Pivots,
Updated: Jun 16, 2022
We celebrate Moving Forward’s one-year birthday with Dr. Danielle Spencer-David. Known to millions as the bratty little sister, Dee, from the hit television show, ‘What’s Happening,’ Danielle has since had a full career and a life that has overcome great adversity. Find out what’s happened since the days of ‘What’s Happening:’ a career pivot from acting to veterinary medicine, a forever impactful cultural experience abroad and survival after facing both a life-threatening injury and a battle with breast cancer. Get ready to be inspired by Danielle and move forward as we celebrate a year of inspirational guests and stories.
Successes at a glance:
Survived a near-fatal car accident that almost left her paralyzed.
See Danielle’s story on OWN.
Fought a battle with breast cancer and won.
See Danielle’s story on The Doctors.
Multiple entrepreneurial ventures, including upcoming doll and candle lines and a children’s book.
Will be honored by President Obama later this year, as the youngest African-American female artist at the upcoming opening of the African-American branch of The Smithsonian Institute.
How Danielle gets inspired to conquer the day:
As a veterinarian and animal lover, Danielle’s pets (3 dogs and 1 cat) are the first thing that inspires her to get out of bed. From there, early morning motion creates happy thoughts which leads Danielle to meditate or exercise. For Danielle, physical activity is an important part of her morning to get the adrenaline and endorphins running. Having endured the physical, mental and emotional stress of both a spinal injury and breast cancer, Danielle sometimes feels run down and low energy. To combat this and “get out of her funk,” Danielle will listen to gospel music and finds it does the trick every time.
Setback or failure that led to pivot and shift:
For Danielle, worldwide stardom came at an early age. However, after ‘What’s Happening’ finished its run, Danielle found herself in high school and auditioning for parts against the harsh reality of few acting roles, particularly for African-American teenagers. For many child actors who find early fame and fortune, this can be a brutal transition period, with many ill-prepared for the challenges of adjusting to a normal life. However, Danielle is an extraordinary individual who isn’t defined by three seasons on a hit TV show. From the beginning, and long before she got into acting, Danielle had a passion for animals and her dream was to become a veterinarian. So Danielle put her acting career on hold and pivoted. She went to school, studied hard and reinvented herself into a whole other career that channeled her passion. Ironically, Danielle never intended to go into acting but originally took classes as a side-hobby. Danielle is a shining example of someone who is true to herself and keeps moving forward.
Resource or cultural experience that inspired Danielle to move forward:
As a Gospel lover, a song that inspires Danielle is Imagine Me by Kurt Franklin (from the Hello Fear album). As Danielle describes, this song encourages individuals to be what they aspire to be by inspiring you to act as if you are that person now.
When Danielle was 10 years old she lived on the Ivory Coast in Africa for 9 months and found it to be a freeing experience that changed her whole perspective. Although the locals spoke a different language, foreign to Danielle, she found them to be very welcoming. In sharp contrast to life in Hollywood, Danielle was surrounded by genuine people who didn’t know who she was or anything about her past stardom.
How Danielle stays organized and manages her time:
Danielle carves out time before appointments to make sure she is able to get the most of that upcoming visit, whether it’s a doctor’s appointment or some other event. Danielle uses this preparation period to formulate questions and articulate goals to accomplish. With this practice, Danielle recommends devoting an hour to an hour-and-a-half to get the maximum benefit.
Favorite app / website / resource or productivity hack:
As a book lover, Danielle’s favorite device is the Kindle. Because she walks with crutches, it’s difficult for Danielle to carry books. Thus, the lightweight device is perfect for Danielle to carry thousands of
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Danielle’s Advice for you to Move Forward:
Make a list of your likes and dislikes (on the other side). The act of writing it down will separate it from the million other thoughts that fly through your brain. Next, hop onto Google and do as much research as you can on each list-like. As you immerse yourself in the research, you will discover whether a particular like is something you want to pursue further. Danielle also recommends a “vision” or “goal board” and putting pictures of what you want to do or accomplish. This provides a visual reminder of the work you have to invest.