We recently connected with Dawn Mahealani Douglas and have shared our conversation below.
Alright, Dawn Mahealani thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. Earning a full time living from one’s creative career can be incredibly difficult. Have you been able to do so and if so, can you share some of the key parts of your journey and any important advice or lessons that might help creatives who haven’t been able to yet?
My lifelong journey in the performing arts started at a very young age. I was enrolled in my first dance class at 3-years-old and already competing in beauty pageants at that time. From then on, anything that involved movement, expression, and a stage caught my attention. I worked my way through the world of cheer, various genres of dance, modeling, and acting throughout high school and college, and I was making money for print and television work. Not thinking it was a viable, full-time career unless something extraordinary happened, I went on to obtain an undergraduate degree in marketing with a short stint in the corporate world and then a graduate degree in psychology leading to teaching undergraduate psychology classes for a few years.
I never gave up the performing arts that I enjoyed–dancing, modeling, and acting. I had talent agents and live entertainment companies that I worked for on the side of teaching. As more of that work picked up, I was able to teach less classes, moving to part-time status and eventually quitting altogether. I had started my own company to market myself, recognizing a need for Hawaiian and Polynesian themed entertainment along with other outdoor party themes such as mermaid parties for kids in the Atlanta area. There was no one who knew the culture and had the experience in entertainment that I did. I had also fallen in love with the dances on the first of many trips to Hawaii to study, so I figured it would be better to start my own company to be able to educate others and provide a more authentic experience for their Hawaiian themed events. I have been on a quest to learn more about my own Maori ancestry as well, and to find what and who calls me to do what I do.
In only a few months of having my own website and promoting my own business, the other party themes such as the mermaid that I started out with fell away as the dancing took over and at six months in, I was leaving teaching behind and running my Polynesian entertainment business full-time with the focus on dancing. As a Christian, I have always trusted God and the timing of my life. I believe that all the stops in my life’s journey were essential to achieving the success I have in business today. The love of performing was always present, the culture was always a part of me as I later found out, and I have certainly used the skills I learned in marketing and psychology in the everyday operations of my business.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
Like most creatives, I believe I was called to this work and further driven by passion. I always go back to a photo of myself at 7-years-old when I attended my first Polynesian show in Florida. For a while after, I would answer the question of what you want to be when you grow up with “hula dancer.” Who would have thought that a girl growing up in Kentucky and moving to Georgia in young adulthood would somehow find her way to Hawaii and become a hula dancer for a living? That is obviously when the seed was planted in early childhood though. I have always believed that a desire in you that doesn’t go away is a God-given desire and the way He can use you the most. My mentors have also said that my ancestors have been calling me and I have a mission to educate others while I am continually learning about myself. With 16 performers on my roster and most having Polynesian ancestry, I am proud that my company, Mahealani’s Polynesian Entertainment, offers educational and entertaining experiences for our clients based on the cultures of the indigenous peoples of Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, and New Zealand. The mission is even more important having been based in a part of the country that does not have significant exposure to these cultures.
What do you think is the goal or mission that drives your creative journey?
My mission has been the same from the beginning–to provide educational and entertaining experiences. It is one thing to be able to entertain audiences, but it is even more valuable when you can teach them something, especially about another culture. They will remember the good time they had, but they will also remember the impact you had. Hopefully, they will leave our shows knowing there are similar yet distinct cultures making up the Pacific Islands and that each of these peoples have important stories that deserve to be heard and shared.
For you, what’s the most rewarding aspect of being a creative?
The most rewarding aspect of being a creative is being able to live what you love every second of every day. The songs, dances, costumes, and shows are on my mind 24/7 whether I am performing, rehearsing, or planning. Even the mundane, business operations are exciting because they keep the mission moving forward. No two days are ever the same, and there is constant evolving and creating to offer even better experiences for ourselves and those we serve.
- Website: dawnmahealani.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/dawndouglas1
- Facebook: facebook.com/dawndouglastalent
- Twitter: twitter.com/dawndouglas10
- Youtube: youtube.com/dawndouglas