That's What She Said

Episode 69: Visiting with Danielle Martorana of Bloomington, IL and her story, “I Am.”

Woman in blue jacket holding a microphone on stage

Danielle Martorana That's What She Said

                                    SSPP ep. 69 DANIELLE MARTORANA 

Danielle recounts her story "I Am' from her performance onstage in Bloomington-Normal in the fall of 2022 and shares her deep connection with the empowering work that Kerry and Jenette bring to life on the She Said Stage. 

ANNOUNCER 00:00 Raising women's voices. One story at a time.
Welcome to The She Said Project Podcast.

[Music: The She Said Project Podcast Theme]

JENETTE JURCZYK  00:27  Kerry Rossow
KERRY ROSSOW  00:28  Jenette Jurczyk.
JENETTE  00:29  I am woman,
KERRY  00:30 Hear me [sings] roar!
JENETTE  00:31 Thank you for picking up on that cue. [laughing] I'm very excited about today's episode of The She Said Project Podcast. Do you want to know why?
KERRY  00:38  Tell me!
JENETTE  00:39  The woman who is our guest... well, it's a funny story because when we had That's What She Said in Bloomington Normal in 2021, it was our first show coming back out of the pandemic. And we did it was a beautiful show. It was outdoors at an amphitheater.
KERRY  00:53  It was gorgeous.
JENETTE  00:54  It was gorgeous. And we were sold out, we were sold out. And the day of the show, this woman hunted me down on Facebook and begged me for a ticket to the show. I'm not kidding you. And we made it work. She got a ticket. She even had a date -- she showed up to the show. It was a beautiful night with a beautiful cast. But then the stalking did not end there, you know, typically in She Said we are the ones doing the stalking to find the awesome women in the show. But this one, the roles were reversed and Danielle Martorana was so inspired by the show and The She Said Project, she found us and she wanted to connect for so many reasons. But when you say the phrase I Am Woman, this woman really owns that phrase, and I'm going to have her share why. So let's welcome Danielle on to The She Said Project Podcast.
KERRY  01:38  Hey, girl, hey!
DANIELLE MARTORANA 01:39  Yeah. Oh, my gosh, Jenette, that was really sweet. Oh,
KERRY  01:45  is that accurate? Is it so?
DANIELLE  01:46   Yeah. After I went to the show, I was like, Okay, I have to learn everything possible about this. Because you feel a connection in the room, very big time with all the people who are watching the show you connect with the stories. And I'm like, I don't want to ever not be a part of this. So I wanted to learn about it. And I wanted to see how maybe I could partner whatever. At that time. I just wanted to write about my experience.
JENETTE  02:11
Oh, that's right. That's right. She reached out mostly because she wanted to give a review or
DANIELLE  02:15  blog, like, share how much I loved it.
JENETTE  02:18  And we met for coffee.

DANIELLE  02:19  Yeah.
JENETTE  02:19
And then she's been building this woman centric marketing networking group in Bloomington Normal. And there were just so many wonderful alignments that we were like, well, we can work together. And it started with Danielle co hosting the 2022 show in that she was taking ownership of the after party. I Am Woman hosted our after party in the next year. But we quickly realized, you know, for her to really understand what That's What She Said is all about well, you're gonna have to stand on that stage and feel it for yourself. So she joined the 2022 cast.
DANIELLE  02:50  When you asked me that day, I had no idea that that was even in the realm of possibility. You absolutely shocked me and I'm like, Well, okay, yeah, I think and but you don't I mean, like it's such a high honor to be on the She Said stage that when she asked me that day, of course inside, I was so excited. But you also kind of feel like I don't know, can I like do this, you know, and I can't speak enough to how you Jenette helped me feel comfortable and that it was my time to do something like this and to step into that and own what I'm doing. And it has spoken through my life in a very big way. A huge way being onstage. Yeah, we might cry today. Honestly, like, I am not kidding.
KERRY  03:32  We might just be crying. Yeah, here come some tissues I'm passing them over
JENETTE  03:36  Pass that box of tissues.
DANIELLE  03:37  This truly has been a gift for me.
JENETTE  03:39  Yes, we look for awesome women, we ask women to be in the show and be part of this journey. But the universe sends women my way there is no other way to explain it our paths cross. We spend quality time together because of something completely unrelated or related. And to sit across from you and hear your story of why you built I Am Woman and why you love That's What She Said like it was alarms sounding that this is your story. This is your journey and other women need to hear that. And your story started when you were very young. I've listened again to bring it all back and to very quickly from a young age go from knowing who you were to the unknowing and having to figure it out all over again.
DANIELLE  04:26  Yeah,
JENETTE  04:26  and do you, I think there's women everywhere that can relate to stuff like that.
KERRY  04:30  As Jenette knows I'm not like a universe-is-taking-care-of-things kind of gal and then it keeps happening and Jenette's like "Seriously? Are you seriously in the face of this you're not going to...?" and you are sort of that person that like I'm like oh, it's just it's just a coincidence. It just happens. But you truly embody everything that we would hope She Said is whether you are doing something with the She Said hat on or you're just doing stuff in your personal life every single time I'm like that girl, she's everything that we would want a speaker to be everything that we would want a sponsor to be? Anybody who's on the She Said sisterhood team. So I'm constantly over here like it's just a coincidence and Jenette's like, "But look at her. Look at her!!" [laughing]
JENETTE  05:13  I mean, we do we, we build a sisterhood in every community where we launch a new show. And there's some that stick around and get to play with us again and again and represent the brand in different ways because we're growing and we need ambass-SISTERS! And Danielle has become a fierce, fierce ambassister for That's What She Said. So let's share with our audience your performance because I really want to dig into it a little bit, but I don't want to give too much away. Right. So let's just play it. Let's just listen and remember, and here's the tissues, Danielle, pass that over. Okay, so Danielle appeared on stage Bloomington Normal 2022 with a beautiful group of women and a beautiful night. And here's her story:  "I Am."

DANIELLE  05:55  I have recently discovered that I feel like I've truly am meeting myself for the very first time. Growing up, I did things that I enjoyed. I played sports had friends, and I loved music and singing. I love singing so much that I sing all the time. I would record my original songs on that recorder, you know, with the two microphones on the side. Some of my best songs were about loving my family, Jesus and the Easter Bunny. Not sure why about the Easter Bunny, but I love the holidays. My Grammy was so proud of me that when her friends would stop by for coffee, she would play my songs over and over again. And my poor cousin would stay home from school sick and hang out with my Grammy. And he would have to listen to her songs, my songs over and over again. He still talks about the trauma to this day. And I am so sorry, Jordan, wherever you're sitting so sorry, I love you. 

Like many girls, I had a weird face. The boys on the playground made fun of my big frizzy hair, my large nose, and the very dark mustache that I had at 10 years old. Because that's normal. That's completely normal. Throughout my life, I have defined myself by what I have done, what role I was fulfilling what people have said to me or about me. I allowed every experience to erase a part of me until I had no idea who I actually was anymore. This was the start of the unknowing and unloving of who I am. It all came tumbling down on me when I was 19. And after that I was barely Danielle Martorana. My new name was shame, guilt, and grief. A few years later, I became a mom, a wife, a mom of two, an ex wife, and a single mom. I walked through life consuming myself with only what I needed to do, or who I needed to be to fulfill those roles as a way to distract myself from the pain that I was carrying. As a result, I was slowly losing myself a little bit more every day. I either did not feel like I was doing enough to be the mother that my children deserved. Or I was trying to fix everything. Whether it was in my control or not. I put so much value on being my ex husband's wife that any shred of Danielle Martorana that I had left was gone. She was completely gone. Instead, I had events from the age of 19 to 32 replaying over and over in my head. I was picking myself apart, looking at every situation, trying to figure out what I could have done differently. How could I have been better? I was depression. I was anxiety. I was an eating disorder. I was a mother who could not fix the problem at hand for her children. And I was fear. Through all the stripping of my identity and sense of self. There has been one constant Music 

Music pulled me out of panic attacks. Music soothes my children i To sleep. Music gave me peace. Music provided fond memories dancing in the kitchen with my babies and singing with my sisters in the car. These special moments gave me hope for life. Music has been instrumental in my life. My mom would always be singing beautifully. But if Earth Wind and Fire was playing on a Saturday morning and that mom was in her underwear, dancing and cleaning, we had chores to do that day that was happening. My daddy loves music, but blues hits his soul. And because of that, it hits mine too. He would play music from Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Bill Withers, Susan Tedeschi, very loudly, always loud, very increased volume. But the list of amazing artists that we grew up listening to goes on and on. Music can remind us of a specific memory. It can bring you right back to a place in time, and you can feel it all again. We would visit our family in Rockford. And there was always music playing, always dancing, amazing food being made. We are Italian, it's unnatural, and so much love. There are songs that launched me right back to that place again, and I'm reliving it. Music can provide lessons. There was a specific period of time and my family that there was a lot going on and my parents were juggling so much. One night my dad was grilling as he always does, and my mom was seasoning everything. We had a lot of really upbeat music playing. And then all of a sudden, the song changed. And I could hear my parents wedding song, Eric Clapton. Wonderful tonight, I looked around the corner into the kitchen, and I saw my parents slow dancing together, singing and looking into each other's eyes. In that moment, my parents needed that. And as a little girl, I didn't realize I needed it to. Because of that song, and what it did to unite my parents. I learned what I want my love was someone to feel like and what it should be. I learned that if it's anything else, I don't want it.
12:22 I am a choir girl from Normal West. I felt a thrill being handed new sheet music and practicing for our next performance. I loved how all of the harmonies came together so perfectly to create such a beautiful sound. Music can bring life changing revelations. One night, I was feeling defeated and the song next on the playlist was to build a home. I've heard this song so many times. But on this night, it sounded different. It inspired me to write I felt so lost and out of touch with what was real about my life. and what wasn't. I knew if I didn't ground myself and remind myself the basics of who I am, that I was a half a step away from a complete mental breakdown. I started typing and I titled it I know who I am. Even though at that time I didn't have a single clue I didn't know at all. I continue to type the words we're flying from my fingertips on the keyboard and onto the screen and as that was happening, I started to become me again. Starting with the very basics of the basics I typed I am a daughter. I am the oldest sister. A granddaughter, niece, god daughter, cousin friend. I am a mother. I am more precious than rubies. I celebrate Christmas way too soon. I love unplanned adventures. I am a shoulder to cry on and a hand reaching out. I am strong. I am not what they say rumors can no longer hurt me. I deserve to be chosen. I am my own kind of beautiful. I pray for those who have hurt me My prayers are never a waste of time. I will never feel inferior walking into any room because that is beneath me. I love the laughter gets me every time. I love the laughter of my children when mommy is being goofy. I love the hope that the sunset and sunrise represents I am enough. I have overcome. I am my own home. And I know who I am. I am woman
 15:45  I know without a doubt that the person most responsible for bringing music into my life will always be my choir teacher from normal West, Mrs. Williams. So I would like to take a moment to thank her because without her love and support, I would likely not be able to do what I'm about to do. I have not really sang in front of anyone since my duet at the baccalaureate ceremony 2008.
16:19 But music has saved me music. Yes. Music has guided me through the trials since that last performance. On my hardest days, I would sing on the top of my lungs in my basement of my house, with tears streaming down my face while my babies were sleeping. Those private and solo performances were not perfect or in key, like the choir performances I loved so much. But they saved me. They were beautiful. And they were perfect. Right now, after everything that I have experienced, I have learned that it's just important to saying it's important that I never stopped singing My life depends on it. I've gone so long, hiding my voice only singing for my babies and for me to hear.
17:26  So today I am going to sing and I'm going to sing loud. I'm going to live loud. I'm going to live free, and unapologetically loving every bit of me, because I finally know who I am! 


DANIELLE  17:56 Actually, I don't know why gonna cry. I'm so happy to be here.
JENETTE  17:59  Oh, this is fun. Yeah, being on the podcast is just it's just another chapter in the she said experience, right. And I wish we could say that every single woman who's touched our stage gets to come in here. We do as many as we can. But I don't think it'll ever be possible to have every single one.
KERRY  18:13  I think it's a condensed version of like, what our lives are like, it's that old thing you know, you might not be Mister Right. But you're mister right now. But that's probably an inappropriate analogy.
DANIELLE   18:26 But I loved it.
KERRY  18:27  You know, there are people in our lives that they're not in our lives forever, right. But they serve that purpose for what we need
DANIELLE  18:34  For a season
KERRY  18:35  For a season. And then there are people who are like, Oh, this is just the first season. And that's how I feel about you. You weren't there just for a season you came in. And it was like, Oh, this is just her first season.
DANIELLE  18:46   Well, I'm so grateful to hear that. And to be a part of that.
KERRY  18:49  I think that about all of our speakers. I think of them now that we've had so many shows, I think of sort of the collective view. And so people who like I might have enjoyed in the second season. I hadn't had a lived experience that really connected to what they were saying yet. And then, you know, a year later, five years later, I would have a shared experience. And it's so great to be able to go back and go oh my gosh, now I get it
JENETTE  19:16  right back in right back in. You're like it's amazing now, yeah. Oh, I get it now. And there's such a respect and admiration when I run into anyone, any woman who's been on as she said, stage in town at the grocery store. There's this joy and love a hug moment and they don't have to be in our lives every single day. But there's just that remember, we it's like, Okay, I'm gonna call it because one of our speakers Susan Saunders called it it's like this week of summer camp that you will never forget. Yeah, can never recreate it, but the memories, oh! those memories. And so you just you have that connection from that season in time. And so
DANIELLE  19:52  I can't agree more
JENETTE  19:53  listening to your story. Does it take you right back to that night?
DANIELLE  19:58  Yes.
JENETTE  19:59  Is that a good thing? [laughter]
DANIELLE  20:00  Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the biggest things I've told people is I was so scared before I got on stage shaking like my knees were shaking. But when I went up to actually tell my sister actually been sitting on stage, watching my sisters and crying with them, and being so proud of them, because you know, what it took for them to do that you were with them the whole journey, helping them write their story. And it's such an impactful experience to be on that side of it. But then, when you go up in the microphone, and the yellow stand is in front of you, you see everybody in the audience, and you're not scared anymore. I was nervous, but I didn't feel scared. I knew that if I messed up, somebody in the crowd was going to be screaming for me or cheering you on. And I'm pretty sure I heard my uncle scream, that's my niece, like in the back at one point, and someone screamed, I love you. And it just, it's such a wonderful experience. And it's not just the love you get from your sisters, not from just the crew. But everyone immerses themselves in the experience when they buy a ticket, and it's so powerful,
KERRY  21:07  you'll never look out and see a more encouraging and supportive crowd. They are there to cheer you on.
JENETTE  21:14  I said this to the cast that we hosted for rehearsal last night, I said no one buys a ticket to show up and watch you fail every person invest in their time and money to be there to live that shared experience to cheer you on and to celebrate you for exactly who you already are. That's the whole mission right there.
KERRY  21:32  You lived it, the director of the St. Louis show, one of the things that I love that when she comes out, she says everybody in this booklet, which is you know, it's representing all of the sponsors, everybody, you know, in this audience, everybody here supports women. And so that's the beautiful thing. If you are a sponsor, anywhere of our shows, if you buy a ticket, if your sister, your niece, whoever is in it, what an awesome thing, from front to back, everybody is here to support a woman,
DANIELLE  21:59  it's a great reminder of that, that there's more out there supporting you than you think.
JENETTE  22:03  So what was the beginning of your journey to create I am woman and to create more safe spaces for women to be seen and heard in your community.
DANIELLE  22:11  I originally started doing consulting when I first thought, Okay, I'm gonna have my own business. And I grew to have partnerships with women and saw that female entrepreneurs were experiencing different things, different trials as they were trying to make their dream happen, then COVID hit and not only in business, but in life I saw needs and how important it was for us to all support each other. Then I started pinpointing on different ways that I could incorporate business for women. And then also give back to a nonprofit to make sure women had the things that they needed.
JENETTE  22:42  So what does that look like in your community? 
DANIELLE  22:45  A good example of that would be just the hustle happy hour event, because it encompasses that it can be either hosted in a woman's business, or I'm hosting it in my storefront, downtown Bloomington, the goal of hustle happy hour is so that women can look someone in the eye in a loving space and say I am again with confidence.
JENETTE  23:03  When I listen to you what's going through my mind is That's What She Said is a one night event that has a cycle and a season in each community showcasing these women for this season. But what we do in a show or a night or a season is what you live and breathe in your community throughout the rest of the year. So you're creating a continuous stream of events and opportunities. And That's What She Said has its absolute place. Because it's designed to be this one very powerful, intimate experience. But it's one day, it's not a year round thing that you are creating that for Bloomington Normal year round.
DANIELLE  23:36  Thank you. But I have to say, it does probably seem like the focus is on one night for That's What She Said. But I feel like I'm the living example of how it carries through people's lives even further than that. And even someone who may not have been working behind the scenes with you guys or on the stage or even in the audience. I think if you go that night, or if you even see a blog post, or if you even watch someone's story on YouTube, they will be motivated and feel hope for their life because they're going to resonate in some way with that story. And I think it just carries through so much further than the one night. So I know you know that. But I want to make sure to say it because it's really important. You guys impact so many lives for so much more time then that
JENETTE  24:16  the show is the entry point for the platform. Right? The platform is the telling of the stories, the sharing of the stories, the hearing of the stories, and there's the live show. There's the podcast, there's the YouTube channel, there's opportunity for these stories to be heard by more and more women's to create those connections. Yes, it's great if you can be in the room, but if you can't, the connections are still there. Exactly. You know, I love that.
DANIELLE  24:37  Yeah, the women who go the show together or and they haven't seen each other in a while or I've had people run into me that I didn't know went to the show and they said that they you know heard my story and it just as another reminder of Yeah, keep going Danielle and I've said this before. Even with my business. There have been so many situations that have reminded me to keep going the day of an event I act She was like, we don't have enough tickets sold for this. I don't know if I should still do it. But then she called and said, Listen, I'm in a really bad place in my life. I saw this ad come up on my Facebook page, what is I am woman what is I'm woman holiday experience. And I told her about it. And I said, if you have to come alone, that's okay. I'm your new best friend. You can't get rid of me after you come. And I'm not kidding. Two minutes prior to her calling me I was bawling my eyes out very worried. How am I get all this done kind of thing. But it's something that pulled me in and reminded me of the purpose of everything
JENETTE  25:33 if you can impact one person that's worth it. One woman. By putting all these moving parts together, then you're answering your mission, exactly. Living on purpose. 
DANIELLE  25:44  And the fact that she showed up that night by herself, and then was surrounded by a group of women that just held on to her and encouraged her when she took her real estate tests. A week later, both of our organizations have a common goal because that is going on like rampid crazy between all the she said sisters and people who support it. I'm getting encouragement from everyone. And it is what keeps me going.
JENETTE  26:06  And that's the secret underbelly, the beautiful underbelly of That's What She Said because we can show the public side and the story is the the connections that the women do create, and the support, the support. It's been such an honor to witness women calling on each other for help and referrals and marketing and ticket sales and consulting. So many so many. I couldn't name them all if I tried.
KERRY 26:30  Yep, those are my favorite moments, the behind the scenes of someone performing someone's wedding, as She Said, Sister, or someone starts a business and everybody's like, I'll be your first customer. I'll spread the word I'll... you know, those are the things it impacts people's lives. You might not be able to change the whole world, but you might change someone's world. Oh, yeah. And you think of all the people in our own lives, it was a blip of a moment that somebody said a kind thing, those little moments, that's what really matters. What was the reaction that you got from your loved ones and your family? Were they all like, yep, saw that comment? That's where I would have guessed, what was the feedback. 
DANIELLE  27:04   So no one in my family knew that I sing at the end. Other than my dad, I kept that a secret. And because I couldn't hide it from him, because he was asking me all these questions. But I made sure that my mom didn't know. And none of my my uncle and my cousin, they didn't know either, or neither my sister. So that was huge. So when they were surprised with that, I guess people were sitting around my family and they were going nuts in the back of the back, the kids knew because we would practice together. But I think they were just very proud of me. And it felt so good. Because it was a huge fear that I was facing. It was me coming out. And for me saying I am again during our rehearsals, that was a huge thing that my she said sisters, you know, we talked about this a little bit last night, the rehearsal for this year's cast. I wasn't changing things for my story. But it was we want you to show your true emotion in this moment. Because of the impact that it actually is of you truly finally owning your I am I am enough. I am my own kind of beautiful and say it with your chest basically. And sing it. Exactly.
JENETTE  28:12  Sing it and own that you brought this up last night. And I loved this memory because you were at one point, more concerned about, oh, I want the audience to feel this. And I want to have this experience and we had to pause and go that's not your job. You need to say your words with such conviction that you know, they're visceral and the audience will take that away. It's not your job to create their experience. Now you had to focus on you. We had to
DANIELLE  28:41  Yes, and that's something that I did have to pivot for a long time I hadn't been focusing on me who I am I completely forgotten. I was in a place where I was completely rebuilding myself.
KERRY   You’re still thinking about someone else’s…

DANIELLE  Yeah, and even then..
JENETTE  28:56  even then…
DANIELLE  28:56   I was doing that, and Jenette was like, “Hold up sister like, let's stop,” you know, and that just took it was a wake up call. And then I was up all night writing my story. And that was just writing it, you know, and reading it over and over and just fine tuning everything that was a huge, huge, huge believing it. Yeah, yeah. And what helped me believe it even more was the support from Jeanette and my sisters when I could see their faces, you know, loving me while I'm while I'm saying these words out loud. And then our last rehearsal, I think it was it was either the last rehearsal or the second to last. We stayed after just Jeanette and I and Kevin. We were in the Hotel Conference Center area and she would make me scream that I am affirmation. So I would like like I said, so it was my chest and all I could think there for a little bit was like I really hope the hotel staff does not think crazy is going on down here. Yeah. But that was such a crazy one. Wonderful, life changing thing for me because I had been so quiet for so long. I forgotten who I was. And I had someone saying stand in your power in this moment, and screaming because there is nobody judging you right now. There's no one else here. It is you owning your words and who you are. And I just sit well, I just can't say enough about that. That has honestly, I made it funny. But I'm getting emotional. That has changed my life in a very big way. And I'm very grateful.
JENETTE  30:31 So, tissues? Where are the tissues? 

DANIELLE  I have them, you want some? 

JENETTE   Yes. Well, Danielle, having you as part of the Bloomington cast was dynamic, absolutely dynamic, watching you build your brand, creating more opportunities for women to connect. I mean, it just, it's all the warm and fuzzies because that's what we live for. That's what we get to create. So we're sharing the stories and you're creating the spaces. Does that work? Does that sound right? Yeah, yeah, I like it. Yeah. Speaking of safe spaces, you know, we love bringing them back on the podcast so that we can revisit and check in and remember the excitement of your words and the journey that you took us on and so now more women will get to hear your story and relate to it as far as you know who they want to be and take ownership of those. I am affirmations.
KERRY  31:17  Yes, I’m nodding so hard my head's gonna fall off, right?
JENETTE  31:18  I am Woman Well, thank you Danielle for joining us. It's lovely to be in person in the Illinois Public Media studios are awesome partners on The She Said Project Podcast thanks for joining us
KERRY  31:32  Over and out 


[Music: The She Said Project Podcast Theme]

ANNOUNCER 31:36 Thank you for listening to The She Said Project Podcast in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in the podcast for the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That’s What She Said, LLC. For more information on our live shows go to [url=][/url]
This podcast was made possible with support from Carle and Health Alliance and presented by Sterling Wealth Management, empowering women to live their best lives.

Danielle recounts her story "I Am" from her performance onstage in Bloomington-Normal in the fall of 2022 and shares her deep connection with the empowering work that Kerry and Jenette bring to life on the She Said Stage.

The She Said Project Podcast is recorded in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in this podcast are the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That's What She Said, LLC. Learn more at