Brandi was one of those typical bright multi-talented Duke students who was pulled in many directions when it came time to settle into a profession. What is atypical is that she refused to choose!
Brandi graduated from Duke in 2006 with an English major and an African and African American Studies minor. She was very involved in performance-based organizations such as Hoof ‘n’ Horn and Dance Black.
She also taught ballet classes to pre-teens and led movement classes for children with disabilities at nearby Walltown Children’s Theatre. Her interest in community service motivated her to join Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. where she participated in mentoring and service projects.
After Duke, she started out as a reporter for Fortune Small Business Magazine and then moved to the broadcast side of the industry. She is currently working as a production assistant at Fox Business Network and writes for the network's small business website.
When she first felt the desire to dance again, she was three years out of college and had not taken a serious dance class since high school. She had always been convinced that dance could not co-exist with her academic pursuits, so she allowed it to fall to the wayside after college as she focused on establishing a career in journalism.
Brandi explains, “The idea of getting my technique and body back to performance level seemed far-fetched. I was scared I had waited too long to have a serious chance at performing on a professional level. I feared choreographers and companies wouldn’t take me seriously after I’d taken such a long break from dance. But I knew I couldn’t suppress the desire much longer. I dedicated all of my free time to taking advanced level dance classes and workshops. After months of training, I was lucky enough to connect with a modern dance company that was looking for an apprentice. Best of all, their rehearsals were in the evening, so I could work with the company without sacrificing my developing career in journalism.
The idea of achieving a professional goal that I thought was not possible—working as a dancer and a journalist—was invigorating. I started really believing the idea that you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to as long as you remain focused and disciplined.
Working with my artistic director and fellow dancers has helped me grow as an artist and person. While dancing nurtures my artistic side, it also helps me approach all aspects of life with a more open and creative mind. The process of learning, internalizing and performing movement has caused my mind to think artistically even outside of the studio. I have seen myself become more creative when approaching everything from reporting and writing to problem solving.”
Because of her success in the fields of dance and journalism, Virginia Johnson, artistic director of Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH), is someone Brandi greatly admires. Virginia was a founding member of DTH, a ballet company created in the late 1960’s to give more dancers of color the opportunity to perform ballet professionally. She then went on to help launch a publication for dancers called Pointe Magazine. Recently, she returned to DTH to help lead the artistic side of the company.
“Virginia initially became a role model for me because of her involvement in building a dance organization that broke down a color barrier in the ballet world. But, even when she stopped performing, she found ways to affect and educate developing dancers through her publication. As I think about ways to integrate my interests in dance and journalism, I look to her career for inspiration.”
Brandi adds, “The entrepreneurs I interview as a small business reporter also constantly inspire me. They are not afraid of risk or taking roads that are untraveled. The courage, faith and self-confidence an entrepreneur has to maintain to bring a business idea to life reminds me to never give up. Many of them believe there’s no such thing as failure. There are only lessons learned and times when you have to re-approach a problem. If you’re not afraid of failure, the things you can achieve are infinite.”
Brandi emphasizes to Duke first-year women that it’s OK if you have no idea what you want to do professionally. “Enroll in courses across as many disciplines as you can and pay close attention to the classes or topics that excite you. Exploring the resources that Duke has to offer will help you discover or further develop your true passions.”