History Channel reality-television star Danielle Colby, rose to prominence when “American Pickers” became the cable network’s most-watched series debut at that time with more than three million viewers. It premiered in January 2010 and has since become one of the leading antique appraisals and history trivia shows in the US. Danielle helped the main stars, Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe as they went around the US picking-up valuable pieces of antiques and collectibles. After a decade, fans were shocked when rumors surfaced that she left the show in 2021.
- 1 Danielle’s early life and family
- 2 Her life before “American Pickers”
- 3 As a reality-TV star in “American Pickers”
- 4 How did “American Pickers” start?
- 5 Facts, Rumors, and Controversies about Danielle and “American Pickers”
- 6 Where is Danielle now, and did she also quit “American Pickers?”
Danielle’s early life and family
Danielle Colby was born on 3 December 1975, in Davenport, Iowa, USA. She and her two sisters were raised in a Jehovah’s Witness traditional household, and because of her parents’ religion, other children avoided her and she became an outcast. However, Danielle’s said that she had the most interesting set of parents, quite contradictory in some ways – they were active protesters from the hippie era, and were focused on fighting ‘the system’ all their lives. Her mother’s favorite mantra was ‘I sacrificed my dream of becoming a Playboy bunny to have all of you’, and was a rebel at the age of 14.
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She hitchhiked her way to New York, and had a blast hanging around with the Hell’s Angels. Her father, on the other hand, was the artistic one in the family and was described as someone protective, loving, kind, and loyal. Danielle further said, ‘My father was always trying to find his center, and was quite hard on himself.’
She shared some of the most memorable childhood adventures in an interview in “The Sailor Jerry” podcast, one of them was when her family lived in the mountains. One day, his father decided to uproot his family, drove up to the mountains, and stayed there for a while.
There’s no information about her educational background.
Her life before “American Pickers”
Before Danielle was into collecting vintage clothing and various antique items, she was into burlesque dancing, which started when her family lived in Chicago for a while.
There was a time when she was also partly raised by drag queens, and performed her first striptease show in a gay club for fun during a drag night. After she gave birth to her son, Miles, she developed a more voluptuous figure, and when she became more comfortable with her own skin, she agreed to pose nude for an art class. After watching her first Burlesque show, which featured Margaret Cho and Cecelia Helene Walker, she felt empowered by it, was inspired to learn how to do it, and so attended classes given by Michelle L’Amour.
As Danny Diesel in Burlesque Dancing and Roller Derby
She used the stage name Danny Diesel to pay tribute to her godfather, Willie White. He was one of her father’s closest friends and the one who gave her that name when she was about five years old. She said that Willie probably thought of that name since her father used to drive a diesel truck, while her godfather was a redneck diesel mechanic. Willie was also a hunter so there had always been a diverse offering on his dining table. Danielle had so many good memories about him that she considered him as her secondary father figure.
She thought that it was funny that she learned about diversity from a redneck from West Virginia, and regretted that she wasn’t able to spend more time with him before he passed away. It wasn’t the first time she used that alias, as when she played for a roller derby team for five years, she registered as Danny Diesel. Willie was so flattered that she continuously used the nickname he gave her.
As a professional Burlesque Dancer
After being trained as a professional Burlesque dancer in Chicago, she moved back to Iowa, where she opened a burlesque dance class for beginners. After developing artistic and highly-skilled dancers, Danielle launched a professional dance troupe called Burlesque Le Moustache, which has been performing for many years since 2009, in several cities around the US. Some of their hit shows were “Cabaret le’Freak,” “Burlesque le’ Moustache Goes to the Movies,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” and “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.”
As a Vintage Collector
If she wasn’t on stage dancing, she was neck-deep in scavenging vintage clothing and accessories, particularly retro stage costumes. She amassed a diverse collection over the years, but her most treasured items were Lillie Langtry’s original costume that she used in “Follies Bergere in Paris” in the 1890’s, sequined bras used by the First Lady of Burlesque April March, the famed Banana Skirt owned by Josephine Baker, and the red stockings used by Blaze Starr. Danielle’s been a passionate collector, and would go to flea markets or any estate sales just to see if there was a valuable item to collect or resell.
As a reality-TV star in “American Pickers”
One of the “American Pickers” main stars, Mike Wolfe, contacted Danielle and made an offer she couldn’t refuse. They had been friends for more than a decade and when he needed someone to add a woman’s touch in the TV series he just created, she was his best pick.
He wanted someone who did the same thing as him, and not just some pretty face manning the base of operations, which was his store called Antique Archaeology. Frank Fritz, Mike’s co-host, also agreed that Danielle was the best person for the job.
Danielle met Mike on a yard sale as they were both gunning for the same vintage lamp – Mike who ended up with the item. Since they shared a common interest, it was easy for them to develop a friendship. They regarded each other as family and had each other’s back whatever situation they might be in. The TV crew from History Channel initially didn’t want to film Danielle during the first episode, since they still didn’t have a contract with her, however, Mike was adamant, and kept her on the set. The TV crew didn’t have any choice, so they used their iPhones to film her. They sent the footage to the History Channel executives, and they approved of it, so the next thing Danielle knew, she was signing a contract.
How did “American Pickers” start?
The TV series “American Pickers,” was the brainchild of Mike Wolfe, an avid antique picker, hunter, collector, and reseller. He was already hustling at the age of five by selling an old bicycle for $5, and he continued in the same vein until he was old enough to establish an antique store. Mike liked to think outside the box, and so had the foresight to use videos documenting his life as an antique picker. He asked the help of a new small company, Crazy Eyes Productions, to edit them before uploading onto his website. Someone from a local PBS channel learned about them, and hooked up with him. While Mike was glad that he’d attracted someone’s interest, he had to say no to whatever the man was offering, as they didn’t share the same vision. The PBS guy became annoyed with him, even bragging about his 25 years of TV experience, so Mike had to physically throw him out of the house for the guy to understand that he wasn’t interested.
Mike had to go through many rejections as he tried pitching his idea to all the major TV networks, cable channels, and even satellite stations; he persevered until History Channel said ‘yes’, actually the first time the cable network had approved of a concept without asking for a pilot episode. When they saw the footage of Mike and Frank talking about their adventure of going around barns, History Channel knew immediately that it was what they were looking for, to serve as a partner series to their hit show, “Pawn Stars.” Danielle wasn’t even included in the original pitch, but when fans of the show learned about the “American Pickers” backstory, they said they couldn’t imagine the show without her in it. Mike’s effort paid off as the ratings were high – it was reported that between their show and “Pawn Stars,” History Channel raked in around 12 million viewers on Monday nights at that time.
Facts, Rumors, and Controversies about Danielle and “American Pickers”
All top reality-TV series were involved in some rumors or controversies, and “American Pickers” wasn’t spared from it.
Whether true or contrived, they served as a marketing tool to make them relevant. TV executives didn’t mind, as long as the rumors weren’t that offensive, as they knew from experience that all controversies die a natural death after a while.
She was sexually molested at a young age
There was a time when Danielle posted on her Facebook account about the bad experiences that she’d had, including being sexually molested as a kid, and being in abusive relationships when she became an adult. These revelations were part of her explanation as to what inspired her to become a burlesque dancer.
Allegations of being scripted and fake
“American Pickers” has its share of accusations of being staged, most especially since it had been on TV for quite a long time. One of the allegations was that the TV producers were the ones who picked the antiques, and not Mike or Frank, that the production staff would call ahead of time to haggle with the owners before the cast and crew arrived at the location. Some people forgot that Danielle was the one who gathered leads by cold-calling people, so Mike and Frank wouldn’t waste too much time on the road.
Mike said everything was 100% legit, and they actually received many emails from fans all over the US, inviting them to visit their barnyards. Naturally, to film without any problem, the production crew needed to talk with the owners ahead of time. Danielle assured the fans of its authenticity – ‘There are rumors as to whether the business is real or if it’s just for TV. It is real, we actually do work there, we do depend on it for our livelihood.’
Picking tactics that were blatant rip-offs
Some people didn’t like the way Mike and Frank haggled with the antique owners, and accused them of ripping them off. The problem with some of the viewers was that they forgot that it was what the business was all about, and they wouldn’t be called experts in the field if they didn’t know how to do business efficiently. Besides, the pickers wouldn’t really know the exact value of the item until it was appraised, but only have an idea of how much it was worth. Most of the former owners were relieved to get the items off their hands, without even leaving their homes or worrying about shipping fees.
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Frank was fired from the TV show
When it was announced that Frank wouldn’t be back for the latest season of the “American Pickers,” people speculated as to the reason behind it. Several issues came out when Frank was interviewed by the tabloid press. He said he never left the show, but had to take some time off as he had some health problems, and needed surgery as he’d hurt his back. Conversely, he then speculated as to why he was fired from the series, saying that Mike probably wanted his brother Robbie to replace him. Frank revealed that they haven’t been talking for a couple of years now, since Mike never bothered to reach out to him.
On the other hand, Mike posted something about Frank’s departure from the show, by pointing out how the three of them handled all the challenges over the years.
He didn’t address any controversial issues raised by Frank, but chose to say positive things about their experience, and said, ‘I will miss Frank, just like all of you, and I pray for the very best and all good things for him on the next part of his journey.’
Danielle made a lengthy statement on her Instagram account, saying that she wished things turned out differently, but they must all be held accountable for the consequences of their actions. She didn’t mince words when she directly mentioned Frank, saying ‘Frank caused so much pain for himself that it has been hard to watch. I truly hope Frank receives all the help he needs to become well after years of being unwell.’ Danielle might be pertaining to Frank’s alcohol problems, although her former co-star said he was sober for almost ten months at the time he revealed his problems. No one really knew about Frank’s current health situation, as they all preferred not to give out details.
Where is Danielle now, and did she also quit “American Pickers?”
There was much speculation regarding all the controversies revealed by the cast of “American Pickers” in August 2021.
People thought at first that it was canceled because History Channel just kept airing re-runs. Some believed that Danielle also said goodbye to Mike and the reality-TV show. It started when the fans learned that she uprooted her family along with her partner, Jeremy, and moved to Puerto Rico for good. One of her missions in life was to help rebuild the island in her own little way, including spending her spare time with orphanages and animal shelters there. No one could really blame the fans for making this assumption, as it would be hard to film when she’s living on an island more than 3,000 kilometers away from Iowa.
Fans even became concerned when she changed her profile name to her Facebook account, and removed the title of the show from it. There were those who claimed that she changed her handle on her Instagram account, but it seemed that it was still the same. If she did quit the show, there was no reason for her not to give an official explanation, unless she was preparing for a spin-off series, as she mentioned that she was open to the idea of having one.
When Mike was interviewed in early 2021, he talked about his plans for spin-off series, and some were hoping that one of them would feature Danielle.
During the 22nd season of “American Pickers,” which aired its last episode on 6 September 2021, Danielle was very much into the picture, and still one of the major players in the TV show. In August 2021, she uploaded a photo with Mike on her Instagram, and said that she was back again on the road with her best friend and big brother. It gave hope to the loyal fans of the show that it might be an indication they were filming again for the next season of the show. However, if she truly left the show, fans could still see her through the Patreon membership platform, on which she’s opened an account and uploaded original content, but saying that most of her content was for those 18 years old and above. Make of that what you will!