Karen Floyd: What number child are you?
Danielle Rollins: I was the oldest. I had a younger brother that committed suicide. He was 21, and I was 25.
Q: What a tragic event at such an impressionable age.
A: Yes, it was just a grown-up moment. It was a world of shock. It was almost harder, I think, for me to watch my parents go through that. It is an unnatural order of the progression of life. To have a parent lose a child is, by definition, walking through hell on earth. Now that I’m a parent, I can’t imagine what they went through.
Q: At 21, what was the cause?
A: Who knows? I don’t know that I have ever met a normal 21-year-old boy, and I have one that is turning 21 this year. There are a lot of hormones and trying to sort through life. I think that it is easy to get lost at that age, in addition to having impulsive actions. That is one of the things I have always tried to work on with my own kids: thinking through consequences. I think that’s a hallmark of an ADD, ADHD kid too. Seemed like a good idea at that moment.
Q: I have never read about your brother before.
A: I do not publicize it, but I’m very open about what happened. I believe it is important to show life’s difficulties. People sometimes have an impression, when they see pictures, especially of a book, that everything’s perfect. I think it is important not to give a false impression of yourself to other people. It makes it easier all the way around. I want to express myself as the whole person that I am.
Q: Were you in college, or did it happen after college?
A: It was after college. I had just moved to Richmond, Virginia and had moved in with my now ex-husband. In hindsight, a lot of the stumbling blocks were laid around at that point in time. I was at a vulnerable stage of my life. I had picked up and moved across the country to move in with someone. I started a new job that was very stressful. I was living in a city without any family or friends, and I didn’t have a proper support system. It was a different environment than I was used to. Living with someone was a new experience. The job was incredibly demanding. I went from working as a radio sales promotion director to basically working in sales and tasked with creating “nontraditional revenue streams.” I would work with companies like Nabisco, or a corporation of that size, and handle their entire media buy and put on a promotion. It was right at the time when the Internet was starting. Everybody was searching for new revenue streams. It was demanding because the position was new for me, and I had never sold anything before. I found that it was a natural fit, and I did well, but it required a lot of hours.
Q: You were raised in Texas, lived on the West Coast, Virginia, North Carolina and now, Atlanta,Georgia. Do you have a preference?
A: Well, I love it here. I think Atlanta will probably always be home. I still like going back to Dallas and seeing friends, but I can’t imagine myself moving back there. But never say never.
Q: Does fear motivate you?
A: No, I don’t think I have a natural response to fear. I have fallen flat on my face enough. I have learned that you can only go as far as the floor. At some point, you can bounce back up. So, fear is not my motivation. When something doesn’t feel right, I usually lean into it and try to find out what is making me not want to do something. I then push myself around the barrier. I know, quite honestly, it sounds strange, but it’s beauty that motivates me. Everybody should have access to style and to beautiful surroundings. Beauty makes a difference in our life. I think that I really have discovered something I took for granted in myself. I always thought that everybody could create beautiful things. I have learned creating beauty is much more of a gift than I ever knew. I like to break down scale, color, pattern and texture in a way that other people can understand. Hopefully, they will take the risk themselves to try something to make their own lives at least look better, even if they’re not functioning better; I think there are metaphors for that. If everything looks okay, then you can fake it till you make it.
Q: When did your love for aesthetics and creating beauty come about?
A: I don’t remember it ever not being about aesthetics and beauty. From a very young age, I had a grandmother that really doted on me. I remember her taking me to Neiman’s to buy a tea set and coming home and my mother saying, “Oh, my God, mother, this is not what you’re supposed to give a four-year-old.” It was this beautiful Wedgwood set. I took such great care of it and kept it wrapped up. Everybody in the world had to have tea parties. I made whole Barbie villages.
Q: Was that your grandmother’s influence?
A: Probably. She died when I was much younger. I was only in fifth grade when she passed away, but she had a flare and a sense of style. She was a female entrepreneur, long before her time. I spent a lot of time with her. It was an era when women wore slacks and carried the purse. I just always thought she was so glamorous, which is how everybody should think of their grandmother I guess.
Q: Most people separate their work from their home. This interview is in your lovely Georgian residence which accommodates your various business ventures: clothing line, interior decorating and style blog, and creative space. So, how do you turn off work?
A: I am good about taking little segments of the day to do that. I think I juggle a lot of balls very successfully. I’m so used to being in a three-ring circus and juggling in all three rings. Multitasking comes naturally to me. I had an office for a while, and it was just too difficult to try to maintain the office and the commute. I enjoyed picking my kids up from school, and at the time, I was renovating this house. It just got to be too much, and I couldn’t manage other people. I also travel so much with work. So, I decided to move my office home to see if it helped my creative output. It did. Now, I think maybe we’re a little ridiculous, but I have a good team. We’ve had this discussion over and over because I’ve been looking at a retail front office space. I keep finding the space, and then we’ll go through the whole process of securing a loan. I get to the point where I think, “Even if I had all the money in the world, and I had a magic wand, I don’t know that that makes sense for me, or if it helps my customers.” I am not taking that on right now. We’ve got some people everywhere, even in the basement. My daughter walked through my hall last night and said, “Boy, I’m not sure you can put one more desk in here,” because we literally have two in the office. We have two in the hallway, two in the library, two downstairs. She said, “Well, you know, you could take over Emerson’s room since he’s at school.”
Q: To which you responded, “two more?”
A: Yes. Well, the kids are cute. They are proud of me. It’s nice for them to see a woman do this, especially given my divorce and how messy it was. I should have probably been broken at some point, but it didn’t work out that way, and I think it’s good for them to see that. When things get tough, you don’t have to succumb. You can keep pushing ahead of your dreams and make those things happen. Just for me to keep evolving is important. The interior design business is going well, and I am working on another book. But now, I think I’ll throw in the Capsule Clothing collection at the same time with the new editorial pieces. We have had some growing pains. It’s good for me, from a business side and from a management side, to pull back and focus on the things that we can do well and do those, not try to be everything to everybody.
Q: ELYSIAN chooses inspirational women to interview as Women of Distinction. Like you, each has experienced setbacks and tragedy. What was your turning point?
A: I went through such a traumatic relationship during my marriage. It took quite a lot of therapy for me to realize that I was being abused to the level that I was. I knew things weren’t right. Like a lot of abused women, you make excuses for the behavior. I think you always believe that it’s something somebody didn’t mean, especially for an empathetic person. You assign character traits to people sometimes that they don’t have. For me to get through that, and internalize it and accept it, and to give myself permission to admit that I did the best I could, with the skill sets I had at the time, was key. The decision to leave, knowing that it was going to be difficult, and do it anyway, was hard. I remember as the first book was coming out thinking, “I will never fly privately again,” and that was fine. I would never use the divorce as something that became my limitation. I wanted to take this and use it, so that it becomes my freedom. I remembered walking through the terminal at LaGuardia thinking, “Oh, my God, I get to do this.” I pretty much vowed that I would never complain about a plane being late or cancelled. When air travel is not going the right way, I think, “Okay, you made this promise. This is what you wanted. Buck up and do it.” I feel incredibly grateful, incredibly blessed. I feel like I have a whole opportunity to do something that I didn’t know I could do. And now look at us six years later. Some days I look back and think, “Oh, my God, is this all I’ve accomplished in six years?” Other days I think,
“Oh, my God, look what I’ve accomplished in six years.”
Q: Interior design, the clothing line, writing or authoring. What do you like the best?
A: It depends on the day. I really start thinking sometimes I have one of those multiple personality disorders or something because some days I like the writing. Some days I love the creativity of the clothing. Some days I like the interiors. It depends on what I feel like I’m good at in that moment. It would be like choosing a favorite child. Right now, I’m having the most fun with the clothing because it’s new and because I love the learning process. For at least three weeks, I have gone to bed thinking my head feels like the end of a thermometer that is going to come off. Figuring out the best processes for work orders and purchase orders and putting systems in place; I like that part of the business as much as I like the creative. I know. It’s strange. I really love numbers. I spent the last week working on a proforma because I am trying to get a loan and possibly, go for debt investing. That has been fascinating for me to learn. I am also enjoying seeing success on the hanger and on a piece of paper. I find the writing cathartic and soothing. It is a very quiet exercise.
Q: What brings you joy?
A: Work. I like having a creative outlet. I get such a sense of joy and satisfaction and happiness. With the interiors and the clothing, watching other people put something on or walk into a room that’s theirs… that little spark of joy in their eyes. I like being able to transfer that a little bit and make people sometimes enjoy their outfit or their lives just a little bit more. It’s really a part of my heart that needs to share with people.
Q: Was there a single event that changed your life?
A: Oh gosh, filing for divorce and sticking with it. When I look back, everything in my life was just divided straight down the middle because at that point, I had been with my ex-husband for half of my life. I was turning 44 and realized that I had been with him since I was 22. Prior to those 22 years, I was with my parents. I had to make this decision of whether to go through the next half of my life like this.
Q: What life lesson can you share that you might give your children or godchild?
A: Have an internal compass and know the way that you should be treated. Never allow anyone to treat you any differently. Realizing you are not treated well is about that person, not about your worth. When your worth is not appreciated, it’s time to cut and run. Never settle for anybody putting you in a place that’s not where you should be. You have self-worth. You deserve to have opportunities, and you deserve to be treated a certain way. I want both girls to be strong, and I want my boys to respect women and see them as someone worthy of an equal relationship and partnership.