Dana W. White is one of those women that you meet and right away want to be friends with. Its not because she’s very pretty and quite successful, but its her relaxed nature, she’s at ease, has nothing to prove and appears to be living her dream.
Every once in a while I like to interview women from far away who have ended up in Paris, those women we all envy, who found a way to live in their favorite city.
Dana seems to have made the big move in the near ideal way. Ever since she was in her mid 20’s, she she wanted to live in the city of light. After a successful career in politics working for John McCain and the Senate armed services committee, she had settled into her life in Washington, DC but never gave up the dream of living in Paris. She didn’t have a particular design in mind as to how she would get there, but she kept her mind open and let others in on her secret. She felt that saying it out loud or “speaking it” was the key to making this vision a reality.
One head hunter who had tried to recruit her unsuccessfully for another job, called her up and mentioned that the Renault-Nissan Alliance was looking for a speechwriter. But the kicker was that the job was in Paris. And yes, Dana’s not-very-good-French would do. Two years later, as the director of Policy and Strategic Communications at the Renault-Nissan Alliance, Dana’s beginning to feel just a little bit Parisian.
What she loves about living in Paris as opposed to DC is that, as she puts it, here she can be “pure Dana”. In Paris, she feels more able to be true to who she really is. Perhaps this is why she recently discovered a talent and interest in joining slam poetry contests. This seems to be common among expats, their newfound ability to take bigger chances, try things beyond their normal confines, to become the person they always wanted to be. This sense of freedom is what Paris can do for some people.
When I suggested that this is one of the perks about moving out of the country, she politely disagreed saying that living in Hong Kong didn’t inspire her to grow, that its Paris uniquely that seems to have an regenerative quality all of its own. I guess its because such a plethora of writers and poets and painters have lived in Paris, somehow by osmosis one feels that its only natural here to explore your more artistic side.
Coming to Paris as an expat at a very big French company obviously has its perks. Dana has an apartment that she absolutely loves in the 5th on Blvd. St. Michel. She has met a bevy of new friends, many of them French and many of them artistic types who live right in her own building.
Her favorite places in Paris? The Zadkine museum, which is housed in his former studio. When she craves an American style breakfast she heads over to Le Cercle. Her hang out café for people watching is Café Vavin in the 6th right near the Luxembourg gardens. For shopping she heads to the Bon Marché.
Dating French men? She says its refreshing to see men who are so eagerly “on the hunt for single women” as opposed to say American men who have grown too accustomed to being hunted and often play it too cool. What flummoxes her though is that men in their 30’s and 40’s do not appear to be interested in marriage, and without rings it can be hard to discern who is married and who is single when dating.
Her message to her nieces, cousins and to all of us is; if you have a dream of living in Paris start a Paris savings account at the bank and speak your wishes out loud to anyone and everyone you meet. Someone eventually will listen and might even help you get there!