Danielle West was born in Boston to dysfunctional parents. She has lived in some harsh environments
in America, Canada and London
, including cardboard boxes on the streets of Toronto. Singapore was supposed to be her last stop, where she planned to end her life
Thankfully, that didn't happen. Instead, she wrote a page-turner of a memoir titled Girls Can't Be in the Mafia
, where she detailed her heartbreaking — disturbing, even — childhood, her time in a mental institution and foster homes, her multiple escapes from her sociopathic father and alcoholic mother, her dominatrix stint, and her journey to become a pro-MMA
fighter in London.
In this episode of Buro.'s Brave Living
, Danielle opens up to our host Simone Heng about her tempestuous past, her relationship with her daughter, and the personal healing she had to do to be her very own knight in shining armour. Spoiler alert if you haven't read her book
. 5:42 Emotional abuse and threats
Danielle and her sisters suffered years of emotional abuse at home. Her mother would continuously threaten to send them to an orphanage if they misbehave. This terrified little Danielle, who was told tales of horror and torture in orphanages. Eventually, she became desensitised to the threats and discovered her strength.
11:24 Running away
Danielle was only six years old when she first ran away from home. Desperate to distance herself from her abusive parents, she ended up in multiple foster homes, juvie jail and, eventually, in a psychiatric hospital where she met the father of her daughter, who she had when she was just 16.
36:09 Homeless whilst pregnant in Canada
Danielle’s father found out about her pregnancy and wanted her to have an abortion. Taking advantage of her then-boyfriend’s Native American travelling privileges, she left for Canada to protect her baby. But with nothing in the bank, they were both homeless and lived off his North American state benefits.
42:36 Building a career
With the money she earned as a dominatrix, Danielle built a creative portfolio featuring local artists and photographers, which helped get her foot in the door of an advertising agency. Life started to look a little less tumultuous: Danielle got married, and she moved to London with her family. There, as she became overweight and feeling defenceless, Danielle decided to pursue MMA and later became one of the first MMA fighters in the UK.
52:30 Identity crisis
Danielle admits to having several of her identities died at once before she left for Singapore. Her role as a parent shifted when she gave all her savings to her daughter, who wanted to go back to the States for college. She was also newly divorced, and her MMA career was coming to an end as well. Inspired by the accomplishments of the mighty little red dot, she chose to move to Singapore with no money and no job guaranteed. At some point, depression got the better of her, and she nearly died from a suicide attempt. Following this, a new lease on life was formed, commencing her extensive healing journey.