Poise, positivity and perseverance drives her.
Story | Alexy Irving • Photo | Hayden Andrews
“Unpredictable, but one thing’s for sure, I’m changing,” is a line from the song “Changes” from singer and dancer Darra Cunningham or better known by her stage name, Darra Dee. Cunningham is a junior journalism major at Webster University on a mission to promote positivity through her journalism and music. Over time she has gathered fans who support her music decisions, evident from the thousands of views on her YouTube videos. She has also done voice-over jobs for St. Louis Television (STL TV).
Despite the publicity, Cunningham has not let the attention go to her head. She considers herself no different than most Webster students. She utilizes the gifts she has been given while also growing and changing for the better.
“The people that have followed my career are seeing a change in me. I’m currently seeing the world a lot differently by transitioning and getting wiser,” Cunningham says. “My whole direction of my music is about to change because everything is switching over. It will be more hip-hop/pop, but I’m making it more inspirational and positive at the same time.”
Cunningham had run-ins with fascinated music producers and other artists desiring her voice for a song, but she stays humble and creates her music the way she believes it should be done. To Cunningham, a good image is the most important thing a musician can have; therefore, she is devoted not just to her music but to her college education.
“When I got signed to Universal Records after graduating high school, unfortunately, I had to mainly focus on my music career. I was in dance and singing studio all the time to continue working towards becoming a stronger musician. So, I had to put my education to the side for a moment, but in 2009, I enrolled back into school.”
She believes every young person needs an education and decided to pursue one herself. She chose Webster.
“I had to tell myself that there are too many successful people in the music industry that have a college education and are still successful. They achieved a degree and a record deal at the same time. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t do just that, too.”
Cunningham can usually be found in the media lab of Webster’s Sverdrup Complex working on homework or editing videos for her job as a news host for STL TV.
“When offered the position to be the host for a program called ‘Takin’ it to the Streets’ at STL TV, I jumped on the chance to further develop my craft.”
On top of being on a news television show promoting St. Louis, Mo., events, she is at home encouraging a positive image.
“I have two younger sisters myself, and I wouldn’t want them to think everything that Rihanna does is right,” Cunningham says. “Everything isn’t about sexiness, I feel; so, I want them to see that you can be classy and look beautiful at the same time.”
From her dancing to her singing, Cunningham works hard to stay as confident and professional as possible. She walks down the hallways of Webster in business casual clothing and uses her YouTube for more than just promoting her songs: She shows how people can dress professionally while looking socially acceptable. Cunningham is also working as a makeup artist and focuses on a natural look with her everyday wear.
“When people see the pictures of the group I was in—or the pictures of me as a solo artist—you may see a picture of me in a crop top and all that stuff, but that was basically because I was young, and I thought it was okay because that’s all I ever saw. I’ve realized that if you want to be an encouraging role model, you have to set yourself apart from what’s going on.”
Teaching young people how to dress, act and present themselves is very important to Cunningham. Since day one, Cunningham has shared her love for music, performing and confidence with her peers and finds she is surrounded by the same positivity she exudes around others.
“My dream is to share my passion with the world.”