From television star to burlesque performer to champion of all things lost and found, Danielle Colby is no one-trick pony. Alongside co-hosts Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, the Iowa native appears on the History Channel’s trash-to-treasures hit, American Pickers. But there’s more to this outspoken celeb than meets the weekly viewer’s eye.
Colby will hit North Texas this Saturday, February 1, at the Fashion & Flea at Grapevine Convention Center. There, she’ll greet fans and hunt for finds – with an eye out for things both beautiful and outrageous. In the meantime, we picked Colby’s brain on the modern vintage boom, her on-stage alter ego, and more. As she explains, the common thread through it all is hope.
DFW Style Daily: We’re very excited for your visit to Dallas! What immediately comes to mind when you think of a trip to our fair city?
Danielle Colby: “I think of the Dallas television show that I used to watch with my grandmother Evelyn, propped up in the center of her floor in front of her fancy 12-inch TV set.”
You’ll be visiting to participate in the Fashion & Flea in Grapevine. How did you become involved in the event?
“It was a no-brainer. It’s like returning home, every time I get to go to a vintage market. It’s also great to draw attention to the industry that made us famous, and give some recognition back to those folks who are out there every day salvaging history right by our side.”
Speaking of salvage and history, with 300,000+ “likes” on your Facebook page, you’ve amassed a large following among American Pickers fans. What do you think appeals to viewers so much about the show?
“I think American Pickers gives the gift of hope, because of the nature of the business. We started from literally nothing. We built a business on finding items that others didn’t care about or want any longer. We found homes for these items, salvaged history, and in the process made a business. See what I mean by hope?
“People are capable of great things if they can look for the value in what lies in front of them. Life is funny like that. We see exactly what we want to see: value, junk, love, hate, hope, disaster, etc. It’s all perspective, and that’s something we all have in spades on the American Pickers crew!”
Care to share a favorite story from the set?
“There are so many stories to be shared – some traumatic, some exhilarating. We have gone through multiple deaths, births, accomplishments, and heartaches together.
“I think my favorite story is about traveling with [American Pickers host] Mike Wolfe through South Dakota on our way to the city of Sturgis. I was going through the end of a heartbreaking relationship, and there were a lot of tears involved. We were riding his Harley through the Black Hills. It started raining really hard, and I just balled my eyes out while I was ‘riding bitch’ on his bike. I though he wouldn’t notice, since it was raining so hard.
“We stopped at a gas station, and he just hugged me, kissed my cheek, and said, ‘You have no idea who you are, do you? That guy doesn’t even deserve your attention in any way. You are surrounded by love and friendship! Now get your pride back, and wipe away those tears, and remember who the hell you are.’
“Somehow, that put it all into perspective, and we raged the rest of that trip! I met some great people and moved on with my life. Mike is like the brother I never had, and we’ve been dear friends for over 14 years.”
In addition to your work with Antique Archaeology, featured on American Pickers, you are a popular burlesque performer. Tell us about your on-stage alter ego, Dannie Diesel.
“Well, I am most popular among those who do not really know much about burlesque, to be quite honest. I think that, due to the popularity of American Pickers, there are many people just now learning about this art form through my websites and work. I am the gateway to a world so much more beautiful than they can imagine; my job is simply to educate folks about it while educating myself.
“The learning is never complete, but I am an unnaturally driven soul with a huge point to prove to myself. When I’m on stage, I’m not only in a dialogue with my audience, but with myself as well. Burlesque is therapy for me. It is the best forum for me to embrace the world and myself, flaws and all, to see the beauty in it all and call out the bullshit in the world and myself at the same time.
“You know how, when your best friend calls you out on your bullshit, while making you laugh to the point of tears? That’s burlesque to me. As Dannie Diesel, I’m not sure which character I play – the best friend calling her friend out, or the one being called out by her best friend. Perhaps a little of both.”
Moving on to this weekend’s big event, what particular items will you – or your alter ego – be on the lookout for at the Fashion & Flea?
“I want the outrageous! I want what everyone else looks at and laughs at. I want drama, elegance, and beauty, at the same time. Basically I want it all. And the beautiful thing is that, at the Fashion and Flea, I can afford it all.”
What do you believe sparked the current boom in interest in vintage and vintage-inspired clothing and accessories?
“Antiques Roadshow had a huge hand in it, and economic stresses made vintage hip. I think that’s where it all started. Some girl looked at her grandmother’s hand-me-down, and actually looked for the beauty in the silhouette, the lines, and the textiles, but more importantly, the story. She wore a hand-me-down dress to the prom, while all the other girls wore expensive new crystal-encrusted gowns.
“That girl built her own world, saw the beauty in the history of that dress, and built an empire on that concept. I know, because I was that girl. Again, it’s about hope – hope for feeling beautiful, even though you’re broke. But, I just may be a hopeless romantic.”
Finally, do you have any additional projects or performances in the works for coming months?
“I am proud to announce that October 25 will be the second annual Iowa Burlesque Festival in Davenport, Iowa at The Adler Theatre. Our headliners will include my burlesque instructor, the “Reigning Queen of Burlesque,” LouLou D’Vil! You can purchase tickets at IowaBurlesqueFestival.com.”
American Pickers cast image, credit Amy Richmond. Inset image in red corset, credit Joshua Black Wilkins. Additional images, courtesy of Danielle Colby.