You might remember Danni Starr as the intense 26-year-old bride-to-be on WE tv’s Bridezillas: Danni & Marlon, which aired in August 2011, when the radio personality was getting married to her now ex-husband, Marlon Starr. Morning radio listeners in Washington, D.C. will recognize her as co-host to QuickSilva on Radio One’s The Fam in The Morning, which airs on WKYS 93.9FM.
There is a difference between the youthful, outspoken, somewhat-outlandish woman you met on reality TV six years ago and the woman we hear on the radio today, dropping pearls of wisdom in between celebrity gossip sound bites. She is still bubbly, bright and warm, but she is wiser. Now a mother of two young daughters, who is bouncing back from a divorce and devastating job loss, Starr sharing her journey to inspire others. Her new book, Empathy and Eyebrows: A Survivalist’s Stories on Reviving Your Spirit after Soul-Crushing Sh*tstorms is a manual for women used to having-it-all, but like all of us, who have to cope when life gets tough.
“I would like [this] book to really allow people to realize in your broken moments, it sucks,” said Starr. “When you go through some stuff, and tragedy hits you, and you’re rock bottom and you’re at your lowest moments, it is really hard to see the other side. But what I’ve learned through going through all this craziness is the other side is really beautiful.”
While talking to Starr (and her perfectly shaped eyebrows) at a cozy coffee shop in D.C. she appears confident and happy. She’s this woman today because of the difficult situations she was able to overcome. The Minnesota-born talent grew up in a home with an alcoholic father and a rocky relationship with her mother. Ultimately, Starr healed her relationship with both parents through individual therapy she received on follow-up reality show, Marriage Boot Camp: Bridezillas, which aired in May 2013 after the romance in her relationship started to fizzle.
“Marriage Boot Camp was life-changing to me,” Starr told ESSENCE. “It gave me permission to forgive my dad and myself and get a divorce.”
Notably, she and her then-husband took the tools they learned during the taping of the show to try to make their marriage work, welcomed their second daughter to the family and remained married a year after the show aired. While they give it their best, ultimately the couple decided that their marriage was over. For Starr, having the tools to succeed and still failing was enough for the two parents to officially call it quits.
“We had another baby before I got a divorce, and I honestly wanted my marriage to work,” she added. “We had a handbook to succeed, and we’re still messing up like this? We’re not succeeding? I did Marriage Boot Camp because I really wanted it to work. Even though my marriage ended, it was 100 percent worth it.”
Because Marriage Boot Camp also focused on personal counseling, Starr – who has struggled with anxiety and depression before – was able to take away lessons that empowered her to reconcile painful chapters in her past. Without Marriage Boot Camp – or a bad marriage to get her there – she might not have been on today’s path of resilience in adversity.
To beautifully accompany the #BlackGirlMagic movement we see on our social feeds today, the book showcases a woman who is accomplished, but adds a reality check: that even our role models endure life’s tough struggles. Now in her 30s, working at her dream job and dating a new man, Starr is proving that her bounce back game is strong. And her honest testimony in this book is written in a voice for millennial women who are experiencing a catharsis in their personal and professional lives and letting them know that they will fail and times will get harder, but when that happens, they can focus their energy on the light on the other side.
“I was in such a horrible space for so long, I thought it was never going to end,” says Starr. “Divorced. Lost my job. Horrible things. Now I’m on the other side, and I’m like ‘Oh my God, now I know why I went through this’ In our worst moments, and when we feel super broken, those are the moments we really need to appreciate, because we get to rebuild ourselves into the people we really want to be. I felt really lost and really broken for a really long time, and once I saw the beauty in my brokenness, I was able to put those pieces back together. If you can push through those moments, man the other side is going to be so much better.”