Dana Richards | 10-year Breast Cancer Survivor, Fashion Designer, Philanthropist & Butterfly
We had the good fortune of connecting with Dana Richards and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dana, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I have never been one to dip my toes casually into the water. Looking back on it, I think I always had the tendency to act first, think later, and just go for it… laughing my head off and diving in headfirst. My Mom started calling me “Dana the Brave” when I was a little girl… I was fearless, a competitive gymnast, always climbing up trees, breaking every bone imaginable. I was independent, impulsive, and headstrong from the start, but I’ve come to realize that my passion for life and oftentimes unrelenting drive have served me well on this wild roller coaster ride of life, and maybe I’m fortunate that they helped me prepare for what I’ve gone through. Those early years defined my spirit, informing every choice I’ve made and helped me with every crossroad I’ve faced. I believe intrinsically we all have these crucial moments in life that come along, oftentimes when we least expect them – and that life is about recognizing those pivotal moments, taking a hold of them, and letting them guide you, wherever they may lead. That is the beautiful thing about the adventure of life… It’s about not being afraid to take chances. It’s about being fearless in your pursuits, because in reality, failing is succeeding…. when I failed, I had to learn how to get right back up and keep going… the failure becomes the success if you let it, and then you learn from it, and then you do it all over again. Fall down, pull yourself up, and begin again. These light bulb moments, however scary, can change the trajectory of your entire life and lead you to exactly where you were meant to be … at least that’s what happened for me, I have never turned back or second-guessed any of these moments. They are what drive me and what has shaped me and give me the strength to try to be my best every single day. My senior of college I took an internship on the west coast at NBC Studios in Burbank..it was 3,000 miles away from my little college town. People at Virginia Tech were like; “Why are you leaving? And why do you want to go all the way to Los Angeles?”… And my thought was always, “It’s now or never. What’s stopping me?” I had never been anywhere west of the Mississippi, and I remember that exact moment when I stepped off the plane at LAX, I knew without a doubt that I was exactly where I belonged… and that I would be back. So a week after college graduation, I packed my car and headed west… and I never turned back, which led me to an exhilarating 15-year television career..I made some of my closest friends and embraced every moment of it . I loved the frenetic fast-paced environment of working in TV.. I lived for the adrenaline ride of going a hundred and ten miles an hour every single day on set. Unfortunately those grueling production hours eventually took their toll on my body. I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was just 35 years old, and that completely changed the course of my life. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever been through, but led me to where am I now. My diagnosis, my surgeries, and my treatment (the chemo & radiation.. and the side effects and infertility)… they were traumatic and harrowing and heartbreaking to say the least- it’s not something I would wish to relive.. but then again this is just part of my story. The metamorphosis, the resurrection, the rising, the becoming Butterfly, & the understanding of the power of good – and that my destined mission on this planet is to serve – keep me going every single day …It has given me greater purpose in life… as a 10-year breast cancer survivor, and now as an advocate for breast cancer patients, I started a fashion line launching ‘Malibu Dana’ active wear in 2017 (& swimwear in 2019)- with my only goal to be to give back to breast cancer patients. My path now, is to serve. I am always in awe of everyone I meet who has been touched by [breast] cancer… most of all the survivors. We all seem to share this same ineffable survival trait, and desire to help others. For those of us lucky enough to fight cancer and beat it- service becomes a part of our DNA. It is and was a damnably painful path, but if I hadn’t battled and beat breast cancer- than I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today. I’m able to help all those patients now… this journey hasn’t always been easy, but it has fortuitously guided me on to this path of philanthropy, and it has allowed me to serve and to live Butterfly Strong.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
In 2017, I launched my Malibu Dana active-wear line (& swimwear) to help breast cancer patients by donating a portion of proceeds from every purchase to various charities I work closely with. I work with each of them in a different capacity, whether as a volunteer, ambassador, committee member, advisory board member, or sitting on the board of directors. As a cancer survivor, I am deeply committed to helping other breast cancer patients through treatment, and I am a committed advocate for early detection. I continue to work with ‘The Breast Cancer Fundraiser’… We send WeCare Packages and gifts of love to breast cancer patients in need to let them know they are not alone. I also work with ‘Walk With Sally’ who offers mentoring services to families and children of those impacted by cancer. And the ‘Dr Susan Love Foundation for Breast Cancer Research’… Dr Love believes we can eradicate breast cancer once and for all. And the Share+Give Initiative and United Against Cancer Calendar, a platform for survivors and advocates to show the world we are united in our goal to beat cancer through global awareness and by raising funds for cancer patients worldwide. I am blessed to work with amazing organizations that support such worthy causes…ones that have given me a greater purpose. Every morning I wake up grateful to be alive and know exactly why I’m here on this beautiful planet. It is now ten years since my diagnosis, and as I reflect on my experience, I am able to recognize the demons I faced and how they have given me the power to start ‘Malibu Dana’. It’s created a ripple effect- between my team of committed volunteers, the stores that get behind me at every event, my friends who support me at every pop up and every fundraiser – I feel this beautiful butterfly effect behind me at every turn. They say that a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa can cause a hurricane in Florida. The Butterfly effect is real…I feel it in every fiber of my being. The Butterfly Strong collection came from wanting to help breast cancer patients know they aren’t alone… everyone has a story, and everyone has endured hardship. In essence- everyone is a butterfly. Ultimately it comes down to what you do with that transformation… it’s about showing strength & perseverance in the face of adversity, advocating for what you believe in, and spreading joy wherever you can. Together we can generate powerful forces of change- and make this world a better place. That is the meaning behind the words Butterfly Strong… it’s the Malibu Dana philosophy… caring about something greater than yourself, being part of something bigger than all of us, and serving this beautiful planet and all its humanity every single day.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Well my heart is torn between the serenity of beautiful Malibu and the idyllic beach town of Hermosa Beach. My husband and I lived in Malibu for 14 years before our home was tragically lost in the 2018 Woolsey Fire. Nobu Malibu was our “go-to” spot… we knew every waiter, manager, bartender, hostess by first name.. they loved us and we loved them.. they felt like, and actually became, our extended family. It felt like home. But now we reside in Hermosa Beach, where we live walking distance to the Pier (and to every restaurant and shop there), and we’re just one block from the beach. We’re also fortunate enough to have Soho Yoga right across the street and it’s my happy place, my home away from home. The yoga community here is my new family, my community, and in a way; my church. My perfect day would entail: going to yoga in the morning, followed by a walk on The Strand from pier to pier, then a scenic drive up the beautiful coastline- ending out on the water, with a late lazy lunch at Nobu Malibu. Soaking in that most magical view overlooking the mesmerizing Pacific where we’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, holidays together with friends, family, and each other… I can’t think of a more blissfully perfect day than that.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My parents. They always told me I could be anything I wanted… and from them I learned courage, grit, tenacity, and bravery- all by following their examples. My team of oncology doctors. I owe them the greatest debt of gratitude because they saved my life. Dr Susan Love selected my team of doctors ten years ago, and last year I finally got to thank her when we were connected serendipitously through my Malibu Dana Love collection. To my devoted husband. Getting diagnosed just two years after we were married nearly broke my spirit. He was my rock during breast cancer, and he asked me to renew our vows when I was at my lowest…when I was sick, bald, and beaten down. He stood by me during the heartbreak of infertility due to cancer treatment. He has stood by me on my road to recovery not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally as well. He lets me flutter- and helps give me the strength and unwavering support I need to keep going and to live my true purpose. I am also so grateful to all of my amazing friends and volunteers at my events, fundraisers, pop-ups, & fashion shows. And to my fashion collaborators and the stores that carry ‘Malibu Dana’… they believe in my mission and are just as dedicated to helping breast cancer patients as I am. And lastly to The Breast Cancer Fundraiser, a non-profit I work hand-in-hand with to help preserve the dignity of breast cancer patients. They helped me find my voice in this world, and gave me wings to fly. Thank you to everyone for giving me the opportunity to flutter fiercely. I am incredibly grateful for every breath. There is nothing more beautiful than being alive and able to help others. What is your life’s passion? Find it. Grasp it and hold on tight.
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dana-richards-5702434/ or Dana Leiken Richards
Other: https://www.thebreastcancerfundraiser.org/ https://www.walkwithsally.org/ https://drsusanloveresearch.org/ http://unitedvscancer.com
Dennis J Ramos, Kelton Mattingly, Jeremy Lyverse, Jenn Harrington, Christos Richards