• Donnese Monique

In The Beginning (#J2FA50)

Updated: Apr 11

3/25/21 - 43 Days from today I will be 50 years old! I'm still trying to wrap my head around that. My Journey to Fit and 50 is well underway. I lost 1.8lbs this week for a total of 31.8lbs since December 1, 2020. It's finally starting to warm up outside, so I decided to incorporate some activity back into my life. I started walking again this week both outside and on my treadmill! I'm looking to lose 18.2 more lbs in 43 days, but if I can lose at least 8.2lbs I will be satisfied.


I'm going to take you back to the beginning. Back when my weight wasn't an issue. I mean shoot, I never even had to think about my weight. I was always active growing up! I was introduced to acting and musical theater at the ripe age of four (4), as one of the youngest members of the Children’s Urban-Arts Ensemble (CUE).

I was a member of CUE until the age of seventeen (17). We performed all over the DMV – Kennedy Center, National Theater, Public Playhouse, Crampton Auditorium & Ira Aldridge Theatre at Howard University to name a few. We took several trips to NYC to see Broadway shows, participate in NYC parades and to go on a few auditions here and there. Several choreographers were brought in to choreograph our productions and this was when I discovered I had a talent and desire to dance. So at the age of seven (7), I started taking dance classes, as well, at Lynne’s Dance Workshop.

I took Jazz, Modern, Hip Hop, Tap, Ballet and African Dance. I was in a dance class or a rehearsal 3 - 5 days a week. Performing was my life and dance was my passion. I was the youngest member of the Lynne’s Dance Workshop Dance Company and we performed and competed throughout the DMV, as well at Malls, Churches, competitions and various other events. Starting at the age of thirteen (13), every summer I participated in Mayor Marion Barry’s DC Summer Youth Program (DCSYP). Of course I was in the musical theater/arts program and rehearsed ALL DAY Monday - Friday, preparing for a culminating performance at the end of the summer.

I was so excited to get paid to do something I LOVED! I met some of the most amazing artists and choreographers during this time of my life. Most of the artists went to Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Washington, DC and for many years, many people thought I did as well. I always said, “Nope, I go to regular school, lol." I was a cheerleader and the President of the Modern Dance Company at High Point High School in Beltsville, MD. I received a scholarship to Towson State University (TSU then, now Towson University (TU)) for Dance. I was a member of the TSU Dance Company and during my freshman year, we established an international dance exchange with the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) Conservatory, we traveled to Russia for Spring Break and believe it or not, my FIRST time on a plane was to Russia. Boy oh boy, that reminds me! The Friday before leaving for Russia, I drove home from Towson and went straight to get my hair done, so my laundry bag and my garment bag with ALL of my costumes & shoes for our performance in Russia, were on the backseat. When I left the salon and got to my car, I saw that someone broke the passenger rear window and stole EVERYTHING from the backseat. It was only by the grace of God that I made it home safely because I was FRANTIC and crying the entire drive home. To this day I thank God that he lead me to remove my Passport from my garment bag THAT MORNING, otherwise I would NOT have been able to go on this amazing trip. Unfortunately one of the Company members was injured, but she was still able to travel with us. She offered her costumes to me, so that I could perform. I'm so thankful to her and that I was able to actually fit her costumes. Now where was I...Oh yeah, I auditioned and earned spots in several summer dance programs, including a spot in the Summer Intensive at Alvin Ailey. One of my dance professors nominated me for an award that I actually won and I had to travel to Las Vegas to receive the award. I was selected to be featured in one of Towson’s first television commercials during my junior year at Towson.

I graduated from TSU in 1992 Magna Cum Laude with a BFA in Dance Performance. Back then, I could eat whatever I wanted to because I would always burn it off. My metabolism was actually working properly and I never had to diet (I’m almost sure it stopped working in my forties, but we’ll talk about that later). Dance was and still is my passion. I LOVE to dance!! Whether on stage, at a party or dance club, I’m going to get on the dance floor. If I’m not on the dance floor it’s usually 1 of 2 reasons – #1 SOMETHING on my body is hurt/hurting. Or #2 I didn’t want to sweat my hair out (i.e. 15 years of natural hair struggles. More on this later too, lol).


I always thought that after I graduated from college, I would be off to NYC to perform Off-Broadway; with the ultimate goal of landing a gig performing On Broadway. I never wanted to join a dance company though because I didn’t want to be pigeon holed into just one genre. I enjoyed acting and singing, as well. Musical Theater was always a way for me to use and share all of my talents & gifts. But either fear or self-sabotage set in and instead, in the summer of 1992, right after I graduated college, I took a temporary job at Cellular One – the telecommunications company formed to offer Cellular service in the Baltimore/DC area in 1983. For the Millennials or Gen Z-ers reading, this was way before Smart Phones were commonplace. Umm, did I just say “commonplace”, smh? I guess I am about to be 50, lol! But umm, I started seeing those biweekly checks rollin’ in and my focus changed. I was offered a full-time job at Cell-One in February 1993, so I decided to delay my dream of performing on Broadway and I accepted the job. In the three (3) years I worked at Cell-One, I still performed part-time. I was a member of The 92 Q-teez.

We were dancers who performed at several events for the Baltimore Radio Station 92-Q (FM 92.3). I would go on auditions and perform around town dancing, acting or singing, whenever I could. I even traveled to Phoenix, Arizona to be an extra in the movie Waiting to Exhale. (My sister, Angela Bassett & Me)

I achieved a level of success at Cell-One and received awards and promotions. I even became the youngest Supervisor at the company. I seemed to have a promising career ahead of me at Cell-One. But then in 1995 a friend of mine was killed in a car accident. This event put things into perspective for me - Tomorrow was NOT promised. It was then that I decided to take a leave of absence from Cellular One and pursue a professional entertainment career.


Check back next Thursday as the Journey continues and learn about my life as a Full-time performer!















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