Giovanna Drpic is the host and producer of the Emmy-nominated business show, Money & Main$treet on Verizon FiOS1 in the United States. Giovanna spoke to Nenad Bach from CROWN recently in New York about her life, career, how she came to the U.S. from Bolivia and about her Croatian origins…
I watched FiOS 1 News and a few times I came across the last name Drpic, a very beautiful young TV anchorwoman. Hmm I thought, is she Croatian or at least does she have some roots from the old country. So after another sleepless night, I picked up the phone and to my surprise in a single minute I had Giovanna on the other side of the line. Fresh and full of life, conversation just flew like it was so normal that I called and that she answered.
Press forward a few days and I am entering a huge building with corridors so long that I wouldn’t mind using the bicycle…where FiOS 1 News is being created and broadcast. An elegant woman with a confident walk approached me, dressed in a turquoise coat, colorful and full of life. She gave me a tour of the studios here in Rye Brook, New York. On the way through the studios Giovanna introduced me to all of the producers and staff (virtue of many great people that I met in my life), we walked together through the long corridors and this is our conversation.
You were born in the mountain range of Bolivia. City of Cochabamba. How fun is to even say Cochabamba. Do you have childhood memories from your Croatian-German community?
It is a lot of fun to say Cochabamba! It has zing and a lot of life to it, just like my Latina side. Unfortunately, I was too young to remember my Croatian grandfather before he died. But I know I get my strength and determination from him. He went back to school at the age of 50 to get his architecture degree. Despite having to learn new things with people half his age, he persevered and got his degree. My younger sister says I’m the most relentless person she knows. I believe this is thanks to my Croatian side.
You went to schools in the United States. What interested you as a young woman eager to learn about life?
My parents thought I would be a doctor. I thought I would be a doctor, as well. It’s because, when I was around 7 years old, I would take the encyclopedia, look at the medical overlays of the human anatomy and memorize all of the muscles and bones in the body. I would then recite them to anyone who would listen. As I got older, I didn’t enjoy science classes as much. I was much more curious about people, what they were thinking, doing and feeling. I wanted to know what was going on in the world. I became especially interested in biographies of successful people. To this day, I am still drawn to those kinds of books more than any other.
What is your motivation for so many charitable projects that you love so much?
I am the person I am today, thanks to the generosity and charity of so many amazing people at the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital in Houston. I came to the U.S. at the age of 2 on a humanitarian visa from Bolivia because I was born with dislocated hips. The Shriner’s Hospital provided me with hip surgery and medical care for free. My earliest memories are of spending night after night in a crib at the hospital and of having my family visit me there. I even remember being in the examination room where, one day, I was finally able to walk. My mom says I blew kisses to the doctors as I showed them my progress and walked to them. This is why I believe in volunteering my time and energy to so many organizations and children’s charities. It’s because I know what it means to receive a helping hand. No one is immune from possibly needing a hand up at one time or another in their life. Thanks to the Shriner’s Hospital, I can walk, run, exercise and play just like anybody else. I’m eternally grateful and this is my way of giving other people that extra help or encouragement that I was so graciously given.
Being so well received anchorwoman at the Fios 1 News here in the Hudson Valley, New York, tells us your typical day. How much preparation it takes. What are a daily challenges?
No two days are the same. That’s what keeps it fresh, interesting and exciting for me. When I anchor the news, my “workday” starts at 4am. But I have to get up at 2:30am to get ready. Once there, I am copy editing stories, fact-checking and going over the story options to decide, with my wonderful team, which should make the final rundown of the show. Then, we tape the stories, update and add new stories as the morning progresses. We also go live, if there is a big event happening or major news we need to get on the air right away. Sometimes, I have a public appearance afterwards. For example, the Saturday before doing this interview, I worked at 4am in Westchester, then drove straight to New Jersey to emcee “Get Fit Day for All Ages” at 1pm, before getting home at 5:30pm. That day, the biggest challenge was getting enough sleep because I had to be ready to go the next morning at 4am. Another challenge was maintaining my energy level to do a professional job on-air, as well as having enough energy left over to run around and join the kids in some of the exercises for the event.
When working on the business show, my workday can start at 10am or earlier. It depends on whether I am going to Long Island to report on a story or working at the station. If I am reporting on a story, I’ll do my research on the topic the day before the interview and discuss what the focus will be with the videographer right before we tape the interview. Depending on deadlines, I may start that day in Westchester logging interviews, writing stories or producing the next show. Sometimes, I do that work right after the interview. On days when we are taping a CEO Sitdown, I have to make sure I do plenty of preparation and research on the multiple topics we cover and the featured business leader. I want to make sure I ask the right questions and probe for answers that provide real value to our viewers, many of whom are millennials, entrepreneurs or aspiring small business owners. I am grateful I got my Master’s degree in economics because it provided a good foundation and solid preparation for being able to understand and tell business and political stories with depth.
Where did a true investigative journalism go? Are the new documentary films what used to be journalism?
True investigative journalism took a hit when journalism shifted from being viewed as a “public service” that was not as focused on ratings to being run as a “revenue stream” for corporations. Fortunately, there are some broadcast ownership groups that are still investing more resources into investigative journalism and in-depth pieces. Studies have shown that there is an appetite for longer-form pieces, but they just have to be interesting, offer valuable insight and be relevant to people’s lives and everyday concerns. That’s a “must” for consideration for my program, “Money & Main$treet”: the person we’re interviewing, or company we are profiling, must provide useful, new and most of all, practical information that viewers can apply to their lives or businesses.
I think documentary films can offer some value and, oftentimes, do a really good job of telling stories about people – stories that personify a struggle through the eyes and emotions of a main character. But I do not think documentaries replace journalism. People often forget that documentaries are not unbiased. They are intentionally designed to advance a specific point of view. Journalism, in its purest form, offers multiple points of view. It should reflect varying points of view and perspective to inform the viewer about competing interests. Journalism, when done well, gives people a more balanced view of the world and various issues that affect their lives.
Coming from an artistic family, how did art shape your life? Did you inherit some talent from your father and mother?
I have a deep love for the arts because I grew up surrounded by creativity. My father is a visionary architect and author of books on sketching & rendering [www.ivodrpic.com]. As a child, I would watch in amazement as he created unbelievable designs. They are dramatic and innovative. People would sometimes ask if his futuristic designs could actually be built or were functional. The answer is yes. His advanced schooling in architecture, coupled with his unlimited imagination, have allowed him to create original, forward-thinking designs – true works of art – that are architecturally correct and feasible. He always encouraged us to take chances and do things that were different – to focus on originality in a world where so many settle for mediocrity.
My mother is an award-winning sculptor and artist [www.consuelodrpic.com]. Her murals are full of color and life, just like she is. They often tell a story and reflect emotion and a deep connection to family and various bonds of love. Her works of art beautified the walls of our family’s house while we were growing up. Afterwards, when my sisters and I moved out of the house, her amazing paintings and sculptures dressed up the bare walls of our apartments with life and love. My parents are very resourceful. They would often go into the garage and take odds and ends – random pieces of wood, metal or fabric — and convert them into beautiful pieces of furniture or decorative arts for the home. They’re full of ideas!
My sisters inherited my parents’ ability to draw. Unfortunately, I did not. One look at the paper mache’ horse I made in the 6th grade and you would agree. It was so out-of-proportion, it has trouble standing. My parents kept this “work of art” as a family “heirloom”. Even to this day, my stick figures and drawings are out-of-proportion. But I still draw them in greeting cards. They make for a good laugh. My mom says it shows the fearless side of my personality. Whether anyone can tell what my drawing is supposed to be, it doesn’t matter. I am not afraid to express myself. My parents’ creativity did, however, manifest itself through my writing. That’s why I don’t feel bad about my lack of drawing skills. I express my creativity through my storytelling and writing. Creativity can take many forms. It’s just a matter of exploring the “art” form that speaks to you and cultivating it.
What do you remember the most or/appreciate the most from your parents?
I appreciate my dad instilling in me the confidence to do anything. He would always tell me, “Einstein was just like you and me”. So even if I wasn’t sure how to do something, I never believed I couldn’t somehow figure it out and succeed. He taught me to be fearless and to persist, no matter what. I believe so much of success is due to being relentless – not giving up, long after others have thrown in the towel. Case in point: I recently scored an exclusive interview with a woman involved in a sexting hoax that targeted her and a politician. It was an interview that all of the other TV stations in the New York market were pursuing. I worked on it tirelessly – and, technically, I’m not even a general assignment reporter. I remember a producer telling me she would’ve given up a long time ago. But I didn’t. And, after about 2 months of pursuing the interview, I got it. I had the exclusive. I believe that mindset of never giving up comes directly from my father.
I am most grateful for my mom’s unending positivity. She really is the most optimistic person I know. No matter how difficult a task or project — or bleak a situation may appear to be, she has a way of finding the beauty, the good or the blessing in it. It’s also combined with her natural confidence. She taught my sisters and I to be confident. I think it is so important for girls to not only hear this from their parents, but to see it exemplified, especially by their mothers. I credit my sunny, positive outlook on life and my confidence in my abilities to my dear mother.
What does tickle you? You have a special affinity towards animals. Why?
I definitely have a soft spot for animals, especially dogs. I am touched by their loving nature. They have this unconditional love for their owners that I find absolutely heartwarming. I think we, as humans, can learn a lot about how to treat each other from them. I also love how dogs and cats who are born with a deformity, or have some other disability, act as if there is nothing wrong with them. They approach life with the same enthusiasm and can-do attitude as the other animals. Again, we would be so much better off if we adapted to change and approached our own differences the way they do. It really upsets me to hear about or see any cruelty to animals. I don’t know where this special affinity for animals came from because I don’t own any pets. My hours are too erratic, but my sister has an adorable cat named Georgia Mae (also known as “LaG”) who warms our hearts with her antics.
If money wasn’t an issue, what would do?
If money weren’t an issue, I would still do some sort of work in journalism or, possibly, politics. I would also devote more time to my family, traveling, writing books, doing more speaking engagements and volunteering for various charities. These are the kinds of activities that enrich the mind, the soul and can be used to help and inspire others. Ultimately, I believe that that’s what we’re here for: to help others in our own special way.
Which kind of music do you listen? Which kind of books do you read? What was the last movie that moved you?
I listen to a wide variety of music. I can appreciate everything from Luciano Pavarotti to Linkin Park to Luis Miguel. Lately, I tend to listen to a lot of indie artists, ranging from Andrew Belle to The National to the Silversun Pickups. I love to read biographies. I am fascinated by the many different paths and, yet, common characteristics, that can lead to success, regardless of the field. The last movie that moved me was Whiplash. I thought it was masterfully shot and performed and really captured the extreme focus and, yet, fragile, mental state that can drive some people’s ambitions.
You have Croatian roots that you are very proud of. When will you visit Pučišće on the beautiful island of Brač, Croatia?
I am very proud of my Croatian roots. I think my background is rich in culture and history because of my Croatian heritage. I want to learn more. The best way is to visit and discover a place and its people for yourself. My sisters and I have been talking about taking a trip to Pučišće sometime later this year. I’m definitely open to any suggestions on hideaways, gems and other local treasures in Pučišće and the beautiful island of Brač.
A number of Network TV stations are paying attention to you. What is in your future?
My immediate future includes serving as co-host of the national, live red carpet broadcast for the Paley Center for Media event: A Tribute to Hispanic Achievements in Television. I am very excited about being able to highlight the ground-breaking achievements of Latinos, who represent the other part of my heritage. In the future, I hope to pursue more hosting/emceeing and public speaking opportunities. But I will always consider myself a journalist first and will jump at the chance to tell the stories of people in our community who need to be heard and who have an important message to share.