Pulling up next to lifeguard tower 10 at Will Rogers State Beach in Santa Monica, I glance at the three 20-something girls spilling out of a black Audi a few parking spots down. I’m here to meet Dayna Devon — the former host of the show Extra! — but she has not arrived yet. I take a sip of my coffee, look out the car window and see one of the girls waiving at me. Slowly, I realize that the bouncy, lithe woman in slim, ripped jeans and a bare midriff is Dayna.
Since leaving Extra! more than six years ago, the hands-on mom to Emmi, 9 and Cole, 8, has clearly become a hardcore workout maven. But as I find out later, she has also undergone a more personal transformation. Sure, she’s good at masking her serious side: Dayna is over-the-top funny, loud, outspoken and not afraid to admit she’s had plastic surgery (after all, her husband is renowned surgeon Dr. Brent Moelleken). But she is also an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist who, after two decades on the air, suddenly found herself watching the Academy Awards from her couch instead of walking on the red carpet.
“The day after I left [the show], I woke up and didn’t know what to do with myself,” says Dayna. “After taking my kids to school, I decided to go out for a cup of coffee and caught myself driving to the set of Extra! I was so used to going there, it took a while before I realized I was heading the wrong way! And the first time the awards shows came around, I couldn’t even watch them I felt so left out. It was a weird sensation, and it took me a long time to get over it.”
Describing the change as going from “100 miles a minute to zero,” she struggled. Still, Dayna cherished having more time with her children and found a new outlet for her energy: a life-long “workout hater,” she started getting up at 4:15 am for a gruesome boot camp before making breakfast for her kids.
Now, after a year of hard work, she’s channeling her newfound love of fitness into a women’s line of activewear called Dayna Devon. In an honest and emotional interview — yes, we laughed and cried — Dayna opens up about her journey, showing she’s proof that being occasionally thrown into the unknown is not so bad after all. We might falter at first, but suddenly we’re launched into a new and exciting adventure. • Ulrica Wihlborg
Ulrica: It is a big change to go from having a fast-paced career to being a full-time mom. You lose a big part of the identity you’ve created as an adult — what you’ve poured all your skills and creative energy into for all those years.
Dayna: I always worried about not being with my kids when I was working, so in a way it freed me to be able to raise my kids the way I wanted to. It was something I had missed. But honestly, it was also very hard. I had grown up at Extra! I moved to Los Angeles for that job, I met my husband there and I had my babies while I was there. Suddenly, I was a full-time mom and of course, I was very lucky. But I have to be honest, and I know I’m not alone with this experience, it was hard.
Ulrica: It’s the old saying, the grass is always greener on the other side: As a working mom, you’re secretly jealous of the stay-at-home moms. And as a stay-at-home mom, you secretly covet the lives of the working moms.
Dayna: Yes, it’s true. And the truth is, it was hard being thrust into being only at home. My kids were in school, so there was a lot of downtime during the day. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but it was like going from 100 miles a minute to zero. When you’re working, you always have the finger on the pulse, someone always stops by your desk to say hello or you’re thrown into a breaking news story. I missed that part of my life. Being home with your kids, that’s what you crave when you’re working and here I had it. But it was life changing for me, and the adjustment period was tough.
Ulrica: I know it’s tough to admit that, because it feels like ‘Oh, get over yourself.’ But I get it, and I know a lot of moms feel the same way.
Dayna: It’s one of those things where there are tons of both pros and cons. At first, there were days when I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. And that’s when I started to really getting into working out. I knew I had to get out of the house and do something that required me not to be in my pajamas. And slowly, I became addicted to these workouts. In a weird way, fitness saved me because it gave me something that was mine. And of course, I was in my workout clothes all the time. I basically lived in them.
Ulrica: You were on television for over a decade, so you must’ve always worked out!
Dayna: Yes, but I always hated it. I always struggled with my weight as a teenager. Growing up, fitness wasn’t part of our family philosophy. So I had never really had a great relationship with it. It was something I just had to do to stay in shape for my job. But suddenly, I started loving it and in some ways it changed my life. I still remember the first time I got up at 4:15 am to do Barry’s Bootcamp. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done. I was planning where to throw up so no one would notice! I was so sore the next three days I could barely walk, and in three months I’d never seen anything like it. The results were so dramatic for me I was fluxed. And I got amazing endorphins that made me feel so great. I started craving it and I got hooked.
Ulrica: So out of this despair, something new was born: you launched your own fitness clothing line this month. That’s a big step from broadcast journalism! How did you get the idea?
Dayna: I would see the same thing in the gym every day and it was all about black leggings and black tanks with a few color variations. Since I basically lived in my workout clothes, I started going downtown to find cool vintage T-shirts that I’d cut up and alter. I would put faux leather on my leggins. I found a pair of snakeskin leggings that I lived in for a while. And all of a sudden, everyone started asking me where I bought my workout clothes. So finally, I thought, maybe there’s something here!
Ulrica: Is creating your own line of active wear as glamorous as it sounds?
Dayna: This is honestly probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life! When you tell people you’ve created a clothing line, they think it sounds glamorous. But I didn’t sign my name on an already existing line. Trust me, it has nothing to do with Valentino on his yacht! It’s a lot of grunt work. I’ve spent endless hours in factories and warehouses going through fabrics. I’ve stood in my garage and washed every piece twenty times and held it up to the original one. I’ve worn the pieces to class over and over again. I’ve literally bent over in the mirror and made sure they looked good from every angle. I’ve lived in these clothes to make sure everybody else can, too.
Ulrica: How have your kids reacted to your new career?
Dayna: When the printed pamphlets first came out, they were so in awe that I had “made” these clothes. Of course I had to tell them that I didn’t sew them myself! My son drew me a logo, he was so excited. I try to teach them what I’m learning as I go along. As a family we do a lot of fitness together, like playing tennis. And I try to share the lessons I learn about running a business with my kids. They had a lemonade stand this summer and I tried to teach them why they should reinvest some of their earnings and buy more lemons. So I’m using this experience to teach them little life lessons along the way.
Ulrica: How do you feel today?
Dayna: You know, I feel grateful. I look back at that time and I know it was part of a good journey. I feel a kaleidoscope of emotions every day. Most of the time, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing! And that’s scary, because it’s a big financial risk I’m taking doing it all by myself. I’ve never started a business before, so it’s terrifying. My husband knows I’m new at this, but he’s been so supportive and cool. This morning, I went to a gym to show my pieces and they were so nice and sweet. It really made me feel grateful. I feel humbled about this whole experience. It’s a new adventure, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me. •
Photographed exclusively for Sweden With Love by Elizabeth Messina @2015. Please follow Elizabeth’s journey in photography on Instagram @elizabethmessina. You can follow Sweden With Love editor-in-chief Ulrica Wihlborg on Twitter @ulricawihlborg, on Instagram @ulricawihlborg and on Facebook.
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