I feel the same way about my career. That's why I called my last album Persona, with multiple versions of myself on the cover and a blend of different musical styles in each song. It was my way of saying, "You can't define me." And there are so many more things I want to try before I die.
People ask me how I managed to reinvent myself so many times over the years. They see all the things I do, and they assume they are second, third, and fourth acts. But the fact is, all the things you see me doing -- my rapping, singing, and acting, the talk show, my brand building -- were things I always had in me. I just didn't have the opportunity to show them all at once.
Reinventing yourself isn't becoming a different person. It's bringing out all the things you have inside of you in another way. I knew I wanted to be more than just a hip-hop artist. I thought maybe I'd rap and have my own management business on the side. But you never know where life is going to take you. There are so many roads, and sometimes they lead you to places you'd never imagine. The thing about fol- lowing your passion and living in the moment is that you're able to see more openings than most people and have the courage to jump through those doors.
I was lucky. I grew up in a home where my parents were always encouraging me to try my best and just go for it. Didn't matter what it was or whether I was brilliant at it, as long as I gave it my all. That made me unafraid to fail. I had the courage to try different things purely out of a curiosity or a passion, and as long as I applied myself and gave it 100 percent, Mom and Dad were always proud. I might have come home cut from a team or upset that I'd stumbled at something, but they'd dry my tears and say, "Did you try your best?" And if I said, "Yeah, I did try my best," they'd say, "Well then, good for you! Be proud of yourself!" And I was.
My dad, Lancelot Owens, was determined that I would never cower in a corner. If I wanted to try something, he told me to just go out and do it, no excuses. When we were growing up, my father treated my brother, Winki, and me as equals. If Dad and Winki were playing football, I was playing football. If Winki was going to a dojo to take a martial arts course, I was gonna learn a few defensive moves, too. Why not? Because I was a girl? Didn't matter. Dad wanted to build up the competitor in me. He was a cop and a Vietnam veteran, and he wanted both of his kids to develop a certain strength of character.
He wanted me to have the confidence to be able to stand up for myself in the mean streets of Newark. He used to say to me, "Dana, just because you're a girl, don't ever let anybody tell you that you can't. I know you can!" For a black man of his generation, that was pretty progressive. My dad's always been about equal opportunity. And like equality, opportunity isn't limited to gender or race or anything else. You make your own opportunities.