There is always a driving force behind every noteworthy reality show. On American Pickers, that force is none other than vintage clothing picker Danielle Colby. But despite her indispensable talent, her role on the show may soon be at its end. She was forced to make a decision affecting not only her life, but the lives of everyone around her.
When American Pickers debuted in 2010, audiences were delighted to discover how some seemingly mundane objects could have a secret and surprising value. While stars Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz are on the road, their store Antique Archaeology is run by the direct and no-nonsense manager, Danielle Colby.
A fan favorite, Danielle is responsible for finding leads and determining which ones warrant an in-person inspection, in addition to her responsibilities running the shop. Although not the main focus in the show, Danielle has arguably one of the most stand-out stories. In fact, her hard-work, combined with off-screen events, may cause her to split from the show.
Colby has a remarkable talent of being able to talk to people and locate unique valuables. She is one of her show’s primary forces in locating places for Mike and Frank to explore. Because of her ability to find antique treasure inside of piles of rust, Mike bestowed Colby with the title of “Queen of Rust,” a nickname that stuck fast.
Fans have often commented on how Colby is able to strike both a good personal and professional relationship with Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz. Although there have been rough patches between the three, they have usually been resolved. But can this peace really be expected to last forever?
Fortunately for viewers, it will take a lot for this bond to rust over. Mike and Danielle have known each other since 2000, when both of them went to a garage sale and were interested in the same item. Their friendship flourished once the two realized their shared hobby and passion.
Before American Pickers was ever conceptualized, Mike would bring Danielle items that he had found that would need repair. Danielle, who worked in a small pickers shop at the time, was more than happy to help out her new friend, and when Mike came up with the idea for a show he knew exactly who to ask. But the two were plagued with problems from the start.
Problems were already beginning to bubble up to the surface from the first day on set. Even though Danielle had already been helping Mike out at his shop, the production crew wasn’t sure she was the right fit for the show. In fact, the first day she showed up on set they refused to even film her!
Mike knew he had to step in and fix the problem before it blew up out of his control. After he spoke with the producers of American Pickers at the History Channel they agreed to have Danielle on the show. While Mike and Frank had their own interests of what items should be brought on the show, Danielle was starting to have second thoughts.
Even though American Pickers generally just features the two male hosts, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, finding treasures in other people’s trash heaps, Danielle is a picker herself. Unlike the guys, who are more interested in cars, bikes, and motorcycles, Danielle has made it clear that she prefers retro clothing, cowboy boots, and vintage dresses.
While she considers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz to be the “ultimate professional pickers,” Danielle’s passion for picking long predates her time on American Pickers. But a bigger problem outside of the show was brewing, and it would force Colby to shift her attention elsewhere.
Sometimes fame and notoriety have a dark side. The joys of fortune can create a series of adverse effects on a relationship, which unfortunately would become the case for Danielle and her first husband, Kevin. The pair were divorced just two years after the show’s premiere.
Even though her marriage didn’t work out, it did allow for Danielle to welcome into her life two children, a boy and a girl, who she constantly dotes over, and who can be seen all over her social media accounts. No doubt, her children would be a major factor when making her big career decision. Hopefully, her new path would be able to grant them a better upbringing than she had.
Just a short drive from Chicago, Danielle Colby was born and raised in the Midwestern town of Davenport, Iowa. Growing up, her parents were devout Jehovah’s Witnesses, but with the Chicago metropolis so close by, Colby was able to get away every now and again and experience the artistic and alternative vibe of the city.
Though Danielle doesn’t talk about her family so much, her posts on social media show how much she cares about them. It seems as though she is not the type to let others get in the way of her doing what she wants. Coupled with her newfound singleness, that attitude was already causing problems when rumors began about her and Mike.
When asked about her relationship in Yuppie Punk magazine, Colby remarked simply that Mike had been “a really dear friend of mine for almost ten years [since 2000] — and he has helped me on all of my projects for about ten years — so I knew without a doubt, if he was a part of [American Pickers], not only would it be successful, but it would be kick**s too.”
After Mike asked Danielle to join the show, she knew that she couldn’t resist being a part of Mike’s project, and immediately jumped at the opportunity. While working with a close friend is no doubt plenty of fun, Colby is not one to simply sit silently. She had her own opinions of how the show should look.
When asked how she might improve the show if given the opportunity, Colby was quick to answer. A part of her answer revolved around her longtime friend Mike, and how Mike really makes an effort to get to know the people whom he is picking from. She felt that the show wasn’t showing enough of this process.
Things didn’t start off so hot with the show runners, and saying that the show didn’t quite portray her long time friend at his best, is rather indicative of some of the problems brewing with the production team. But when Mike and Frank themselves ignored an idea from Danielle could have served to be the final straw.
Danielle had hinted in the past that she would like to be out on the road with the guys doing some picking. After all, before starring on the show, she had garnered plenty of experience as a picker herself. The most blatant case for this was made in season 12 episode 6.
In the episode, Danielle sat both Mike and Frank down and began explaining to them the problems they were having. Too many good leads were being thrown away because it was just the two of them doing live follow-ups. Rather than take her seriously, the guys made jokes and complained that Danielle’s graphs were too confusing. How much longer could Danielle handle being overlooked?
If there’s one word that can be used to describe Danielle, it’s confident. She displays that self-assured attitude on the show, and likely wasn’t too thrilled with the boys’ reaction to her suggestion of changing roles and allowing her to become a picker. She expressed how she views herself through an interview with the Miami New Times.
When Danielle Colby was asked who the coolest person on the show was, she began by comparing her two coworkers. After a moment though, she realized what the real answer was: “Screw it — I’m the coolest one. But I love them both.” While that may have just been said for the cameras, Danielle was beginning to have thoughts about her future on the show.
Danielle doesn’t seem to be the kind of person who enjoys sitting back and letting things just happen around her without her say. In fact, the American Pickers star is often looking for how to do things better, constantly giving ideas to Mike and Frank, and often expressing her frustrations on the show when change doesn’t come.
Beyond being a reality show star, she has her own personal projects she’s working on and isn’t afraid to go at it alone. So when there came talk of Danielle leaving American Pickers for her own series, she wasn’t so resistant to the idea.
In an interview for the Miami New Times, a key question arose: talk of a spin-off show starring Danielle Colby. To everyone’s surprise, she didn’t completely rule out the option of it happening. In the interview she remarked, “I have a contract, and I’ll of course honor that contract. I guess that’s a sugar-coated way of saying I’d love a spin-off.”
It seems that even though Danielle is a smart and motivated individual, she is also loyal to her friends, specifically Mike. While it doesn’t appear Danielle will be getting her own spin-off just yet, she does have multiple passions that definitely pulled her attention away from American Pickers.
As a young woman living with her family in Chicago, Danielle was a big fan of comedian Margaret Cho. One night at the show, Cho brought on a burlesque dancer who went by the name “Satan’s Angel.” According to Danielle, it was one of the most inspiring things she had ever seen.
While it would be years before burlesque would appear to have the potential of becoming a career option for her, it inspired Danielle to take to the stage and become a lifelong passion. In fact, burlesque is so important to her that many of her interviews feature her just talking about that. Yet burlesque isn’t the only thing pulling her out of the show’s orbit.
Before becoming a professional picker, Danielle chose to follow a much more intense passion: roller derby. An aggressive sport, it involves two teams who designate a single person as their “jammer,” who scores points by lapping members of the opposite team while the other team tries to stop her, often quite aggressively.
Danielle loved the idea of a group of strong women in a women’s-only sport. She took it upon herself to gather together a group of friends who called themselves the Big Mouth Mickies. Sadly, three years in, a shoulder injury took her off the rink. But even if roller derby was no longer an option, she spied another opportunity.
Danielle decided to take the experience she had earned by working on American Pickers to the next level. In 2013, she opened up her own shop, 4 Miles 2 Memphis. There she sold one of her own picking passions, retro clothing. The business quickly gained popularity.
Even her friend and co-star Mike Wolfe would regularly stop by the shop. In an interview with Fox News, he remarked: “I would go in there because she was such an inspiration to me. She’s one of those persons that if she has an idea and she has a passion for it, she’s going to follow through with it.” To the outside world, it seemed like things were going great. All that would come to a halt with one a sudden Facebook post.
In late October 2013, Danielle made an unfortunate announcement on Facebook that her store, 4 Miles 2 Memphis, was going to be shutting its doors for good. Even though she had recently merged her business with a friend’s, it seemed it was too late to save it.
First roller derby hadn’t worked out. Now her second passion, picking, seemed like it wasn’t going to take her career forward either. But where many people might have sunk under the weight of failure, Danielle kept pushing ahead. She now had an opportunity to take stock of her life, and decide if there was another passion that she could turn into profit.
A genuine animal lover, Danielle is active in numerous charities and benefits for animals, especially for dogs. Danielle adopted her own four-legged friend, Vida, from a Chicago shelter in 2013, around the same time she first opened 4 Miles 2 Memphis. Not content to just adopt, Danielle is also active in the organization PAWS, which helps animals in need find homes.
She also advocates for the fair treatment of pitbulls, a breed she insists are misunderstood due to bad representation in entertainment. Danielle’s love of animals is apparent on her social media accounts, as she’s often seen posing with animals and advocating for their adoption. But animals aren’t the only thing keeping Danielle occupied.
Having a popular stage presence in burlesque, as well as a long career on a popular show, has made Danielle a recognizable public figure. This means that Danielle is expected to sacrifice some of her spare time and attend meet-and-greet events. For some, this responsibility coupled with the feeling of being constantly recognized is exhausting.
But not for Danielle, who regularly attends events that give her opportunities to meet with her fans and socialize. Many of her adoring fans are often some of the show’s male viewers, who gravitate towards Danielle’s strong and self-assured personality. In spite of her limited free time, Danielle decided to donate some of it to yet another organization she cares about, for people who are seriously in need.
For Danielle, life is not reduced to being defined by fame, fashion, and dance. She’s also actively involved in an organization known as Batey Girls. Part of the Batey Rehab Project, Batey Girls aims at providing economic opportunities for girls and women in the Dominican Republic who have suffered abuse.
The project has several methods of raising money for these women and girls, though one in particular speaks to Danielle. Many of the survivors make jewelry out of local resources, and Danielle is always happy to purchase them, often bringing them to the US to resell them. But back home, one passion from the past refused to go away, beckoning her to keep at it.
Going by the stage name Dannie Diesel, Danielle often performs on stage as a burlesque dancer. While some people consider burlesque a dance style that’s intentionally rather seductive, for Danielle it is something far more rewarding. In an interview with Metro Times, the burlesque dancer says that for her, being racy is the last thing that’s on her mind when she’s on stage.
To hear it from the lady herself, “What’s on my mind is my core balance, my ability to breathe within a moment. It takes a lot to just stand and have a moment of pause. You’re barring a huge part of yourself…” But could she implement this sense of balance and maintain her burlesque career alongside her work on the show?
Seven years before working on American Pickers, Danielle had been a passionate burlesque dancer. Now, even after forging through the trials of a failed business, Danielle decided she was going to share her love for burlesque with the world. In 2014, she opened Dannie Diesel’s Bump n’ Grind Academy, where she advocates for and encourages young people interested in exploring the art of burlesque.
For Danielle though, the academy isn’t just about dance. “A lot of us, as women, hold ourselves back and apologize for our awesome moments — ‘Oh, that’s nothing!’ — but we need to embrace them and have more awesome moments.” But now came the difficult part. As much of Danielle’s income came from American Pickers, would the show be willing to be a part of this dual-career balance?
Turns out, the show was more than willing to work with Danielle if it meant keeping her front and center. Danielle would work two weeks on American Pickers and then two weeks in her own burlesque business. What’s more, the show even hired her an assistant to help around the shop.
The most support came from Mike. When asked about his coworker’s beloved pastime on Fox News, he said, “You know, Danielle and I’ve known each other for 25 years, and she’s always been this creative force. So when I see her doing something that she loves, it’s really her best moments, because she’s a very, very passionate person.” Even though it looked as though Danielle was there to stay, there was one final task she had to execute.
As a burlesque dancer, Danielle looks up to many women who have come before her and have had the privilege of shaking things up on stage. So Danielle, when given the opportunity, decided to become executive producer for a documentary about a personal role model and one of her favorite burlesque dancers ever: a woman who goes by the name of Tempest Storm.
With a history involving legendary musicians and even a president, Tempest Storm’s life made for a compelling documentary, landing it a rating of 7.2 out of 10 on IMDb. Danielle was practically gushing about how she couldn’t wait to finally perform with her hero in Vegas. But for this multi-talented woman, telling stories doesn’t have to happen out loud.
For Danielle Colby, a tattoo is not something to be had on a whim. Even though she has over 30 ink marks covering her entire body, each one represents something special to her and is symbolic of an event that has happened to her throughout the course of her life.
When asked by reporters about what a tattoo means to her, Danielle remarked that her tattoos “are about death and love and people I’ve lost.” But they’re also about life too: for example, the images on her hands were drawn for her by her children. As such, they are a potential reminder to keep holding on and moving forward, no matter what life throws at you.
Sources: Looper, Fox News, Metro Times