Photography by Claudia Lucia
Danika and I are connected on many levels! We first met when she was a model and she walked in my runway show (Winter 2007!), we reaquainted through mutual friends about 4 years ago, our older sons were in pre-school together and will now be in elementary school together, our littles will be in school together next year, our husbands are friends, we share a love of womanhood and motherhood....
I love being around Danika - she is strong and dynamic and interesting and warm and articulate. She is always open to learning and exploring. She is a lovely friend and an incredible mother. Its been a treat to get to know her, both professionally and personally. Read on...you will love her as much as I do!
- Rachel Pally
You and Rachel first met when you were a model and walked in a runway show for her at the Sheats-Goldstein house. What brought you to modeling? Are you still doing it?
I started modeling when I was 15. Modeling was never a dream of mine. I’d never purchased a fashion magazine or even heard of any of the designers I would come to work for over the years. I was tall, thin, had bad skin and unruly hair (some things never change) so I was a little surprised when I got approached by three agents in the span of about 6 months. I moved to Paris just before I turned 17 and ended up moving to New York just over a year later. After living in New York for 4 years I moved out to LA where I met Rachel. I stopped modeling around the time I got pregnant with my son, around 6 years ago. Someone will occasionally drag me out of retirement, but I get too little sleep to be stepping in front of the camera on the regular. Ha!
You co-founded Alliance of Moms to help parenting and pregnant teens in the foster system. That is quite remarkable. As you move forward in your life, as a doula and as a mother, what lessons did you learn through your experience with AOM that inform your new direction?
Wow, where do I begin? As anyone who has ever built anything from the ground knows, you have to wear a lot of hats. Volunteer Coordinator, Program Developer, Event Planner, Fundraiser, Graphic Designer, Database Manager…..the list goes on. Starting and growing an organization has felt very much like pregnancy and parenthood. The growing, stretching, sleeplessness, challenges, highs, lows……all while actually being pregnant, having a newborn and a toddler, right in the middle of it all. I’ve had the privilege of working alongside 4 incredibly talented, strong and driven women. I’ve learned so much - about growing an organization, leadership, communication, collaboration, the in and outs of the Foster Care System and what it means to parent in such a broken system. I’ve learned about myself. My strengths, my weaknesses, my dreams, my fears, my potential. The growth was uncomfortable at times. I was doing something that I had never done before and I did things I wasn’t entirely comfortable doing, but I did it. We all did. Not surprisingly, the young moms we work with are the greatest teachers. Their strength and resilience amidst the tremendous adversity they face on a daily basis is sobering and inspiring. Being able to witness the transformation that can happen when women are given space to share their stories and be each other’s strength, has forever shaped my understanding of what is possible and how I want to affect change in the world.
How has becoming a parent given your career new direction?
Becoming a parent really gave me my direction and opened up my world in unimaginable ways. I come from a big family and birth has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I got to watch my first birth when I was 12. While I always found pregnancy and birth fascinating it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first child, having the support of an incredible husband, a doula and care-provider that I trusted, that my heart really opened to all those who had to go through this experience alone and without resources, much like a lot of my family members, including my own mother. Birth is a true beginning. I would never claim to have figured it all out; those who know me well know I certainly haven’t, but I am committed to helping to make it easier for other women because I truly believe the ways in which we care for ourselves and nourish ourselves before, during and after pregnancy have a lasting effect on the health and well being of our children.
If you had two extra hours in your day, how would you spend it?
Only two? My dream is to wake up before everyone in the house. I would use those couple of hours to meditate, read, journal and move my body.
I know you are a podcast officianado. What are you currently listening to?
Yeah, at the beginning of the year I decided to turn off NPR and start managing my input a little better ( I took a nice month off SM as well, which I recommend to everyone!). I’ve really been enjoying Tim Ferris’ podcast lately. Two of his recent interviews that I highly recommend are one with Gabor Mate and one with Jack Kornfield. There is a part in the Jack podcast where he talks about parenting with intention, that really shifted things for me. It’s a good one. As I am moving into the world of Functional Medicine by the way of Fertility and Prenatal Health and Wellness Coaching, I have been geeking out on more health-related podcasts as well. Revolutionary Health Radio, Found My Fitness, Real Food Mamas and Startup Pregnant are a few I’m loving right now.
What is your Balance of Choice….for instance, yoga, walking, meditation, cooking, project with your child, political activism, date with partner, massage. When do you fit it in?
I am still working on the balance, if there actually is such a thing. I had so many plans for how this balance was going to look this year. Some of it has panned out and some things, not so much. Just trying to surrender to that and being ok with what is. I am a big schvizter (in and out of the sauna :) and try to get to the Russian Baths at least once a week. It is definitely my happy place. Xander and I try and do it together. Sometimes we can manage a day-date mid-week and sometimes it ends up being a late night sweat session after the kids go to bed.
Do you think you have a responsibility to your children to make your opinions known, or be a an activist? How have you chosen to do that? Are there any issues that really get your attention? In your busy life, how have you manifested that activism?
Ok, so, I wrote many answers to this question then I read something on a friend’s Instagram post that perfectly put into words what I wanted to convey about how I want to teach my children to move through this world.
Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.
Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life. Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
Never take the first. Never take the last. Take only what you need.
Take only that which is given.
Never take more than half. Leave some for others. Harvest in a way that minimizes harm.
Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken. Share.
Give thanks for what we have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.
- Robin Wall Kimmer
I believe we have the responsibility to model for our children how we want the world to look. Compassion, kindness, generosity, equality, justice….these lessons all begin in the home. As a society I truly believe we can only be as strong as our smallest units. We go through different seasons. There have been times where I have been very vocal in my activism and times where I have been less vocal and more active. Right now I am trying to teach my kids the value of a good night’s sleep, a healthy meal and sharing space without injuring each other.
Danika, You and Rachel Pally have become connected through modeling, your organization and now through your children’s school. How has knowing Rachel affected your awareness of her brand? If you were to tell someone about her brand what would you say?
It has been such a delight getting to know Rachel more over the last few years. She is light, spirited, fun, intelligent, positive, grounded….she knows who she is. That’s the woman I have come to know and love and that is what her brand is to me and how I feel in her clothes. I’m not a person who loves putting outfits together. I definitely gravitate to brands who have solid one pieces. Nine times out of ten I am going to reach for the dress or the jumpsuit, that’s why Rachel Pally is a no-brainer for me. When I wear her pieces, I look like I’ve actually put a lot of effort in. I love that. I need that.
What's your favorite Rachel Pally piece?
My current fave is the Linen Button Front Jumpsuit. It’s the one piece that checks all the boxes.