Donna Jackson, aka Mama-Donna, is thankful to have gotten out alive. Yes, Donna allowed things to happen to her that she never dreamed before going on the show, Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls. The show was a survival reality show that ran in 2013. Nicknamed Mama-Donna on the show, she is a gorgeous, 53-year-old model who braved the wilds of New Zealand with her daughter, Canden for weeks without makeup!
Of course, not having makeup was the least of her worries as the focus was survival. But, not packing makeup for the adventure didn’t stop her from using what she had on hand in order to not “feel like an animal.” As referred to in an NBC article, she created her own “wilderness makeup” out of elderberries and soil. She shared her “lipstick” and “eye shadow” with other female team members on the show which reminded each of them that even in a dense forest or freezing water of rapids, they were all still “themselves.” Putting on a bit of “makeup” every day felt normal.
Normal is not a word that I would use to describe Donna Jackson. Extraordinary, exotic or fascinating – yes! From the days of Farrah-Fawcett-hair in her teens to the primitive challenges of a reality TV show, Donna believes her whole life has been orchestrated to prepare her to survive. And survive she has!
This scanned image does NOT do her justice! So sorry for the poor quality.
Follow her story in the interview below:
CoziNest: Share how you began your modeling career.
It all began when I was 17 and my hair stylist asked me to be part of a hair show. French braids were just coming in and she braided my hair all around my head and added my photos to the show. Before that I had been dancing for Jeffie Jean Dance Studios out of Baton Rouge, LA. I learned as a dancer how to “sell it” in front of a camera.
CoziNest: Tell us about your love of fashion.
In high school, I had a lot of hair. I was tall, thin and had no boobs. I wasn’t a wild child, but I wanted a way to ‘show out.’ I had no tattoos, I didn’t do drugs. My deal was experimenting with clothes. I walked into school one day with really kinky hair that I had plaited the night before, a long skirt and a flowing shawl that I draped over one shoulder. Everyone noticed. I fell in love with fashion from that day on.
CoziNest: What has been some of the most fun or rewarding days you remember about modeling?
I have modeled for Gayfers, Parisian and worked for Ralph Lauren in Palm Beach. I’ve taught modeling to young girls, showing them how to use the muscles on their face to create a gorgeous smile with their eyes. Tyra Banks calls them “smeyes,” but I was teaching it long before she coined the phrase.
CoziNest: What do you wear around the house?
My husband’s whitey tighties! They are so comfortable. There’s no creepy crawly and my husband, Steve, has gotten used to it. I love wearing his button down shirts over them – which he loves, but he had to adjust to me wearing his underwear. If I have to go out, I’ll throw on some leggings and flip flops.
CoziNest: Speaking of your husband, tell me about your family.
My husband, Steve Jackson, played for the Oakland Raiders; he was number 42. My son, Grey just finished one of the most successful football seasons in Fairhope High’s history as quarterback and my daughter Canden Jackson has a very successful career as an entrepreneur in Los Angeles. She has been a tv hostess, has her own YouTube channel and has been on the cover of Access magazine here in Mobile. Grey will be playing quarterback for the University of West Florida in the Fall. I will be an empty-nester as of August 18th.
CoziNest: Describe a challenge you’ve been through that has made you a stronger woman.
Within the last year, my husband developed glaucoma as a result of diabetes and has lost part of his sight. He is currently going through the application process for disability, but in the meantime has lost his job, we’ve sold our home, our land and and I’ve had to take on more responsibilities. I allowed myself about a week to go through the waaa-waaaa-waaa stage and then cried for about a minute as I realized my husband couldn’t drive me out on a date anymore. We’ve struggled through depression due to our losses, but all in all, I hope we’ve reached the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m selling real estate again, we’ve adopted a new normal, feel a certain renewal in our relationship and even want to renew our wedding vows at some point. We hold hands and dance and he has found many ways to “give back” to me for all I do for him. He wants to triple-give in ways that say thank-you. He has a new appreciation for me and would love to share with other men how to value their wives. I think we are both stronger now. He has a surgery scheduled next month that we are hopeful will improve his sight.
CoziNest: Since the focus here on Fashion Friday’s is all about women over the age of 45, who has been the greatest influence in molding you into the woman you are now and what advice do you have for us in how to age gracefully?
Most ladies would answer that there mother was their greatest influence, but I would have to add that it truly does take a village to raise a child. I lived about 7 1/2 hours away from my mom when I was young and I learned to depend on other women to grow and get acquainted with myself. I learned that friends are vital.
Aging gracefully starts with our internal grace. How do you think about life? How important are your friends and family? And then, I would say that keeping your teeth white and healthy will inevitably warm the hearts of those around you. There is nothing more beautiful than a smile.
CoziNest: The mission statement of my blog now reads, “The wisdom of age is being disregarded for the allure of youth. Women over 45 have the ability to change that if we bring awareness to the misconception that our value has diminished with age.” How do you think we can redirect this kind of thinking?
First, I think that we accept that people come in and out of our lives for a reason. If we are vulnerable and become really close to one another as friends during that season, we can learn and grow as human beings. I think our vulnerability is what changes us. Take Diane Keaton for instance; she is completely aware of her strengths and has an “I don’t care what you think” attitude when it comes to her weaknesses. She wears glasses – not contacts, and has always used her wardrobe to cover her neck. Does everyone else wear turtlenecks and scarves? No! But in her vulnerability, she is comfortable in who she is.
CoziNest: How have your experiences prepared you for helping other women find their true beauty?
During the show, Get Out Alive, I learned that I have to give myself the freedom to take chances – even at the age of 51. I accepted the challenge of embarrassment. I felt fear and there were tears. I experienced exhilaration and a sense of accomplishment. I finished what I started. Facing the wilderness in that show helped prepare me for the darkness of our recent tunnel. I hope I’ve learned to be honest without being guarded.
If you ask your husband how you look in a dress, he’s no fool! He knows better than to answer truthfully. As women, we just can’t be all fluff with our best friends. I’m an only-girl. I have no sisters and therefore, I want the women I meet to be my sisters. With my partnership with CoziNest, I hope to do just that. Be a sister to the sister-less. Boldness is one virtue I’d use to help them realize their beauty. Like a sister, I will tell you if that dress makes your butt look big. And hope that we all get out alive.
Stay tuned next week as you just might hear Donna say, “Southern fashion can be summed up in three words. Gaudy, excessive and