Written by: Annsleigh D. Thornton
The road to success for aspiring entertainers is often marked by uncertainty, lack of support, and possibly the fear of failure. But for strong willed persons with an encouraging team to cheer them on, the possibilities are endless.
Donielle T. Hansley, better known as Lil Dee Dee, is one bright individual. He embodies the tenacity to succeed, as well as the support system to fuel his creative journey. Filled with personality and artistic flare, Lil Dee Dee has accomplished feats far beyond his years. At just 12 years old this emerging star is featured in national television shows highlighting both his acting and dancing skills. He proudly showcases his acting abilities in the Tyler Perry produced show If Loving You Is Wrong and plays a pivotal role in CW’s upcoming drama Containment. As Lil Dee Dee works to develop his character in Perry’s hit drama, viewers are invited into the world of Frank, the son to a struggling mother with the wits of a teenager. During our interview with Lil Dee Dee he detailed his ability to master the character and how easy it was for him to “relate” to Frank. He made mention of moments in which Tyler Perry would rearrange the script just for him because of the authenticity he brought to the character. When asked how he worked towards nailing Franklin’s personality, Dee Dee simply responded, “I just be myself”.
Donielle’s confidence is undeniable, a personality trait that would later prepare him for his role as Thomas in Containment. He admits this role is much different than the Perry created character Frank: “Thomas is a bit deeper…” insinuating he worked a bit harder to capture the complexity within Thomas versus the relatability of Frank. We were shocked by Dee Dee’s knack for reading, reciting, and remembering his lines at such a young age. “I just practice and practice until I get it right. I read them over and over until I remember them. I just stay confident and know that I can do it.”
With such a bright future as an actor, we asked Dee Dee if he preferred to act or perform as a Hip Hop dancer. “They’re both equal to me,” says Dee Dee, “I love them both.” His love for each craft is evident, and is marked by his numerous accomplishments. Not only has Lil Dee Dee landed accredited acting roles, he has starred in several television series as a professional street dancer. While performing with the popular dance team Jungle Boogie Crew, Dee Dee hit the stage of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew and Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance. We asked Dee Dee about his experiences while traveling with the popularized dance team, “I dance with them all the time. They’re like family.” While the youngest of the bunch, we were sure the bright lights and big cameras would spark some fear into the 12 year old star, but Dee Dee assures us that he lives for the spotlight, “First impressions matter. They wanted to see if I could really dance.”
And oh can Dee Dee dance – so much so that his YouTube channel has garnered thousands of fans, and serves as an inspiration for ambitious entertainers. “People watch my videos when they’re down, and the videos make them feel better” says Dee Dee as he talks about his influence within the community. “I do think I am a leader… people look up to me. Kids tell me I’m an inspiration.”
As Dee Dee continues to inspire those around him, he is backed by the support of his mother, father, and three siblings. His roots are embedded in entertainment. His dad – an R&B singer, who’s travelled the world pursuing his music career, and devoted momager, ensure the success of their kids.
When asked to list his idols Dee Dee quickly answers, “My mom and my dad”, pairing them alongside super star icons such as Chris Brown and Michael Jackson. “My mom and my dad were always dancing… this made me and my siblings want to dance too.” Performing since the age of 4, Dee Dee has relentlessly pursued his passions for years. He is immune to pressure, managing the responsibilities of completing homework while filming new projects and tackling new gigs. While pushing his appearance in an original television series, Dancin’ the Dream, Dee Dee is always on the go, and occasionally spotted in public places. He’s been bombarded in movie theatres by excited fans, rushed into private rooms to avoid the crowd, but understands the importance of humility. When asked what advice he would give those wanting to pursue a career in entertainment he simply responds, “Stay humble, stay focused, keep pushing.”
Donielle T. Hansley is an intelligent pre-teen with wisdom beyond his years. He is the light of the future, pursuing his passions for those who may never receive the chance to do the same. His ability to thrive in pressured environments is remarkable, and he will surely attain the dreams he’s imagined. He is equipped and prepared for success, and an entertainment force to be reckoned with.