INTERVIEW: Dana Paolucci

Interview by Brynn Wallner, photos by Cobey Arner 
August 2022 
        Dana Paolucci is one of my closest, dearest friends. We met at Colgate University where we both attended college, a whirlwind of debauchery tucked away into the idyllic, rolling hills of central New York state. Dana was always bailing me out of whatever trouble I got myself into – she’s the type of friend you’d call if you got thrown into jail. Her sharp sense of responsibility is softened by a kind, humorous spirit; and she is deeply thoughtful and passionate about everything she deems worthy of her time. This is clearly exemplified in the stature she currently holds at the best PR firm in the world. As a Vice President at Edelman, dedicated to the Dove account, she channels lived experience into the brand’s long-time mission towards inclusivity and body positivity. In a highly discriminatory world, obsessed with body image and the reality that is “skinny privilege,” Dana has managed to work her way to the top, injecting her life and work with meaningful perspective and honesty. So, when she started wearing an Apple Watch a couple years ago, I had to know why. Previously, I’d scoffed at the Apple Watch, reducing it to the choice accessory for dorks and tech bros. But if Dana chose it, there had to be a deeper story…

Brynn Wallner: Okay let’s just get into it. Why did you initially buy the Apple Watch?

Dana Paolucci: My dad bought it for me. I was getting very into my wellness journey, going on really long walks – this was in the thick of the pandemic, around September/October 2020. I was walking miles and miles and had no way of counting my steps, and in passing, I mentioned to my dad that I was thinking about getting a step tracker device. So he wound up getting me a refurb 3rd generation Apple Watch from, like, Walmart. But it really does the trick. It has lived on my wrist ever since. It has been with me for thousands of miles of walking. Vanessa Carlton… ‘Cus you know I’d walk a thousand miles…

BW: So what prompted the wellness journey that would necessitate a watch like this?

DP: I was just sitting alone in my apartment in September 2020, just looking around thinking, I really need to start prioritizing myself. The pandemic provided time for a sort of perfectly controlled experiment that couldn’t be disrupted by going to events and dinners and everything we like to do in New York City. I was able to dedicate that time to myself, to being well, to eating well and working out. But it was really about the walking for me. I’ve lost 100 pounds with the help of this Apple Watch. I really credit it for being my little North Star.

BW: How does it even help you achieve something like that?

DP: It counts my steps and tells me the distance that I’m walking. It tells me my heart rate and syncs up to the app on my phone where I can calculate caloric input and output. If I ride on my Peloton – yeah, I got a Peloton – I won’t use their app, I’ll just use the Apple Watch. It’s also really great because if you’re hustling, walking around the city without setting it as an “outdoor walk”, it will alert you that you’re exercising and let you track that.

BW: So it’s like a suprise workout.

DP: Exactly. I can also see texts and emails and pick up calls very quickly. Its purpose is for efficiency and optimization. I’m very much of the opinion that an Apple Watch should not be a replacement for any other watch. It is not trying to be a Rolex or a Patek Philippe. It’s a utilitarian item. I’m a purist when it comes to my Apple Watch. We have the black strap, the black base, the world globe Kanye background…

BW: What do you mean?

DP: You know Kanye’s Twitter icon? The generic globe? Every time I look at my watch and see this globe, I think of Kanye West – which is, like, 4,000 times a day. This watch is my favorite thing, but I’m  not going to wear it to my friend’s wedding. There’s a time and a place. I’m not using this for fashion. I’m using this for wellness, utility and to enhance my life.

BW: Can you listen to music on it?

DP: I don’t, but you can. I do control my music on it, though. When I’m walking long distances, I can put my phone in my fanny pack and I don’t have to touch it.

BW: What do you like to listen to?

DP: Well, I use my walks as a time of music discovery. But when I just want to day dream, I’ve curated a playlist called “Hot Boys on the West Side Highway.” It’s a very particular piano-house vibe, which matches that of the West Side Highway boys, who are very hot. They’re doing the most. They’re shirtless, they’re in high socks. I just like to have that music playing as I watch them run. It’s their soundtrack, not mine.

BW: I love that. Your imagination is really activated on your walks.

DP: My life is very scheduled, and I feel like the walks are my only time when I’m not committed to something else. I have a minute to think, to listen to music, to call someone I haven’t spoken with in a while. It’s nice not to have distractions.

BW: I feel like one of the biggest criticisms against the Apple Watch is that it is distracting and that it keeps you too connected.

DP: Well, because it allows me the ability to preview my texts and emails, I can be more discerning when it comes to opening up my phone and reading them fully. I can check if something really deserves my attention before I get lost in the black hole that is my phone and start scrolling.

BW: It probably even reduces your screen time.

DP: It does! It helps me prevent spending so much time with my other devices.

BW: So what do you wear with your Apple Watch?

DP: If I’m going on my West Side Highway walks, my attire is very specific. I wear my DIIV hat because DIIV rules. I’ve recently leaned into the “East Village girlie” look… I do wear my Hokas. I do wear my bike shorts. Plus, a little touch of something extra, in the words of Elle Woods... My Susan Alexandra micro-bag for my AirPods, perhaps. But if I’m not working out, the watch goes nicely with jeans and a t-shirt or sneakers and a dress.

BW: When you see others wearing the watch do you give them a little nod, like Larry David’s “Prius Wave”?

DP: I should start. I don’t think there’s much of an Apple Watch community.

BW: I feel like there’s a stereotype of Apple Watches being for tech bros.

DP: I’m out here shattering stereotypes.

BW: When I think about you, I think of someone with great style, someone who’s really up on the culture. I used to think the Apple Watch was the antithesis of cool, but somehow you pull it off.

DP: You need to lean into its function. I’m not trying to make this watch anything other than what it’s intended to be used for. There’s no embellishment, no accoutrement. It’s just a part of me.

BW: And you wear it everyday?

DP: Yes, for my walks.

BW: Okay, how much do you actually walk?

DP: I try to walk a marathon’s worth of miles every weekend.

BW: How much is that?

DP: 26.3 miles.

BW: And you achieve that?

DP: Most of the time. She [my watch] keeps me honest. As you can probably tell, we mostly walk along the West Side Highway, but sometimes we go to the Brooklyn Bridge and come back. She takes me all over.

BW: Is your dad thrilled that you're getting so much use out of it?

DP: I should tell him. I don't think he knows. I do wear it around him, but…

BW: You’ll need to send him this article. So moving on… I know you also have your mother’s Timex. Why don’t you tell me about that?

DP: My mom recently gave me her Timex, which isn't an expensive watch, but it holds a lot of sentimental value because I’m very inspired by her. She was a finance executive in the ‘80s, when it wasn’t common for women to hold roles like that. She even went by “Pat” on paper – her name was Patricia, but to those attending a meeting, they’d expect a man named Pat Dunn. But in would walk my mom, wearing a suit and a red manicure. She had other watches, but she loved this Timex with the white dial, gold case and a black leather strap. She gave it to me recently, and I wear it when I don’t wear my Apple Watch. It’s very meaningful to me. I really care about my job, and I’m very motivated by my mom and how hard she worked. My time will come for me to buy myself a luxury watch.

BW: Do you have your eye on anything?

DP: Well, you know I’m into the Cartier Santos, but I’d also consider a Rolex or anything you might advise me on… I trust your opinion abundantly.

BW: Thank you. It’s too bad we can’t get you the Cartier Crash.

DP: Yeah, I purposefully left that out [laughs].

BW: Do you have any words of advice for someone considering an Apple Watch? Your story is very inspiring.

DP: Yes, it’s so worth the investment. And you don’t have to choose one or the other… you don’t have to say, oh, I have the Apple Watch, so I can’t get the nice watch that I wanted. It serves its purpose, and if you’re considering it for wellness and fitness, it is amazing. I know there are other things on the market right now, but this really nails the basics, and it is enough. It has completely revolutionized my life.

BW: How do you feel having achieved such a personal goal?

DP: I am really proud of myself. I’m not giving all the credit to my watch. I did this all on my own. I’ve never been healthier in my whole life. I’ve never prioritized myself more in my whole life. I’ve always put my family, my friends, and my job first. I really was dead last, and it feels good to be on the other side of something that I never thought I’d see. Three decades of not being able to figure out this aspect of my life – which is losing weight and just prioritizing health. It feels meaningful that I’m able to crack that. I know the pandemic was challenging for a lot of people in so many ways – for myself, included – but I don’t think I would have done this without the time and the space. We were all moving so fast, and it really took sitting alone in my four wall studio, having that intake moment where I was like, you can do this. There’s more to go. It’s a lifelong process. But it feels rewarding to see the growth and that other people can see it too. It’s not just about the physical transformation… Everyone has mentioned how happy I seem and how my energy has changed. I really feel that. I’m attracting better people and better things. So, thank you for asking.

BW: Do you have any parting words of wisdom for someone going through something similar? Or for anyone just looking to switch up their life in a positive way?

DP: Someone gave me advice when I was going into college that I did not follow until now, which is this: It’s okay to be a little selfish. Selfishness doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can just mean prioritizing yourself. In that regard, we can all afford to be a little selfish – well, maybe not all of us [laughs]. But for anyone really questioning their self worth, anyone who feels there are too many obstacles between them and what they want… don’t be afraid to be a little selfish, to take that risk.