It’s not too often that I write a “Featured Dream Chaser” piece, but this one is loooong overdue. Let’s just say it probably should have been one of the first features I ever posted here, especially since I know this Dream Chaser all too well. Yup, she’s my bestie! And her journey is everything short of a Cinderella tale. As gorgeous as she is, Danni Washington is a BEAST! And anything else that’s resilient, unshakeable, unstoppable, and UN-breakable. And she’s been that way long before I met her when I was just a 17-year-old soon-to be senior in high school, who’d been following her hairstylist mother around backstage as she whipped the manes of some of South Florida’s most beautiful models for a beach-side fashion show.
Danni, the same age as me, was a model in the show. And although I don’t remember most of the details of that day, I do remember having a very brief conversation about our goals for the future. She had plans to attend the University of Miami to study Marine Biology, something that I had no clue about. When she said it had something to do with swimming a whole lot, and being alongside ocean creatures, I knew right away just why I knew NOTHING about marine life. With a mother as a hairstylist, I had probably been getting relaxers (permanent hair straighteners) for most of my life. And if you know what that is, then you know that water and perms DO NOT MIX! Therefore, I had no interest whatsoever in what she was talking about. But, I was magnetically drawn to her undeniable passion as she spoke of this goal of hers to attend a university that had one of the best Marine Biology programs in the country. I shared with her that I too had plans to attend the University of Miami, but not because I had actually researched any of its programs. My wish to attend UM was mostly because it was always a spoken of with such high regards in my family and surrounding community. I mean, everyone in Miami knew and loved “The U! And if I was going to continue my education, I wanted to be associated with the “The Best.” Sounds crazy, I know. Especially given how expensive UM is (I’ll be paying for it for a while). But college was always an after thought for me. If it weren’t for my desire to set an example for my family as the first to graduate college, I probably would have never gone…
Any who, the next time I saw Danni was about 3 years later. We were both juniors in college and I had just transferred to the University of Miami after completing two years in junior college (I had to figure out a way to save some money somehow if I was gonna pick the most expensive school in Florida). I must have recognized her instantly as we were both leaving the bookstore and heading towards the University Center. I remember tapping her shoulder and belting out a “HEY! How are you?!” with my arms open and ready to embrace a long-lost friend. We hugged and reminded each other of how and when we first met, and we both shared an implicit “WE MADE IT” moment, as we acknowledged that we both did EXACTLY what we said we would, in spite of. That moment solidified the foundation of our friendship, and we’ve been sisters ever since. We shared some of our most embarrassing, hurtful, happy and joyous moments throughout those years at UM. Our deepest connection, however, was our passion for understanding life’s mysteries… Yes, our curiosity of GOD and Spirituality, and our love for mankind is the glue that kept us connected and focused on the tasks at hand. We might not have quite understood our paths and why they crossed, but we had an understanding that our journeys were much bigger than we could have ever imagined, and that we could NOT travel alone.
Since graduating college Danni has gone on to start her own non-profit organization, The Big Blue & You, which is dedicated to educating youth about the ocean through media and an annual Art By The Sea event. Every bit of her dream has required courage, hard work, and huge leaps of faith. In 2012, she packed her bags and took her talents to Los Angeles, California to solidify her dream of being an Ocean Advocate and On-Air personality. So far so good as she’s been invited to The White House at least twice, has worked on phenomenal marine life projects alongside some of the best in her field (including Life After Earth Science with Jayden Smith), has her very own TED Talks speech, and was recently featured in SEVENTEEN Magazine’s “Score Your Dream Life.” My girl has been WERKIN’! And in my eyes, she will forever be THE ULTIMATE Dream Chaser.
Meet Danni Washington: 2014 Reel
Check out Danni’s TED Talks as she explains her journey:
Be sure to pick of the latest copy of Seventeen’s August 2014 to see how Danni exercises her GIRL POWER!