By Ashley South
Dana Davenport — lawyer, mom, philanthropist, social butterfly, television host. We met with her in her home office. The scene was slightly chaotic: kids running around, Dana preparing dinner, friends stopping by to drop off promised things. Without missing a beat, Dana managed to handle everything around her and responded eloquently to our questions. We were quick to learn about her ability to handle anything and everything!
Growing up as an outspoken and witty child, Dana always knew she wanted to be an attorney and to help people. She tells us with a laugh, “My 5th grade assessment prophesy said I would be a lawyer because of my ‘stance as a defender of justice.’” Because of her view on the world, Dana found herself in several different friend groups. Within these different groups, she developed her voice and connected people around her with their shared ideas.
As a graduate of Spelman College and University of Chicago Law School, Dana fulfilled the grade school prediction. She is Senior Legal Counsel at the consulting firm Accenture. She is also a co-founder of a college student mentoring nonprofit, an active member of the Naperville community, and host of the TV show “Dana Being Dana.” This being our goals issue, Main & Luxe reached out to Dana to share her insight and wisdom with us!
Dana Being Dana
Dana Being Dana (DBD) came about as a fluke after a guest appearance on a friend’s podcast. After the segment, the producer exclaimed how lively and engaging she was on the show and suggested she start a show of her own.
Dana scoffed and went home. That conversation lingered in the back of her brain for a few months. She told us that she couldn’t shake the seed that was planted, and she decided to give it a go. “I asked the producer what I should name the show. He told me it was just me being me and said, ‘Dana Being Dana’!” Her podcast launched in August 2017. The monthly show was picked up by NCTV17 and reformatted for TV in May 2019.
DBD focuses on human connections and things all people have in common, regardless of gender, race, religion, age. Dana believes that we have more that connects us than divide us. With each show, she aims to facilitate the discussion so that people realize how those commonalities bring people together. Dana has covered pediatric cancer, race, infertility, music, divorce, and love. The show is very engaging, and both viewers and guests are struck by her sincerity, humor, and knack at making genuine connections.
The Homecoming Challenge
2017 was also the year Dana and her co-founder, Chris Evans a graduate of Morehouse College, started an alumni giving and mentoring campaign called The Homecoming Challenge. The challenge: whenever an alum returns to his or her alma mater, that alum should drop in on the students in their freshman dorm and surprise them with words of encouragement, a business card, and a donation. The visits are meant to facilitate and encourage organic connections. Homecoming is the perfect occasion to bring throngs of alumni back to their alma maters.
The Challenge has been successfully deployed at Historically Black colleges and universities and is being incubated at Indiana University to eventually bring to the Big 10 schools. Dana’s goal is to expand to every school. The organization has helped to address food insecurity on campuses, provide an outlet for discussion, and show an example of who that student can become after graduation. Dana remarks, “There are many programs to get kids to college, but The Homecoming Challenge is meant to encourage kids to stay in school through the guidance of someone who has literally been in their dorm room.”
If all of what we have already listed wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Dana finds time to curate Woman Crush Wednesdays (WCW) on her social media. Her goal is to model behavior of supporting other strong powerful and accomplished women. “Celebrating other amazing women, lifts us all up. Posts, likes, and shares are free, so why not?” Why not, indeed.
In 2020, Mayor Chirico personally asked Dana to serve as a liquor commissioner. (We did not even know there was such a thing!) There are nine community members who advise the Naperville City Council on matters with respect with liquor licenses. If it is straightforward, a liquor license is issued. If there is a concern, the commission is consulted.
Dana is also a former auxiliary board member of the DuPage Children’s Museum. She joined the board to make friends and meet people (see our Give Back Section on page 22 for more information). Service helped her to network and make friends and didn’t feel like service to her.
She also regularly hosts events around town to bring people together informally. She hosts monthly watch parties on the nights Dana Being Dana premiers and makeup tutorials at the MAC makeup store downtown. All of this serves to bring people together around something they have in common (an interest in the show or makeup) and sparks new connections and conversations.
If you have a seed planted in your brain that you cannot shake, Dana advises: Be comfortable with failure. Do you. Try it out. Why not? “I started a podcast with no media training and no experience. I had no expectations but was prepared to try it out and see what happened.” (See The Library section on page 20 to learn how you can start producing your own content at the 95th Street Branch.) “We all have self-doubt. Cast that away. Be honest with yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Solicit and embrace honest feedback. Live your brand.”
Dana Davenport not only talks the talk, but she also walks the walk.
Dana Being Dana
The Homecoming Challenge