BEING DIFFERENT IS OKAY
Danilo Acquisto, 23, is most popularly known as a presenter on the SABC2 TV-show Hectic Nine-9. One of his life mottos is, ‘surround yourself with people that are different and challenge you. They teach you things about yourself that you never knew.’ We went to talk to Danilo about what challenges he faced growing up and being in the spotlight.
Danilo original from Johannesburg, comes from a privileged background. His family is conservative and successful which gave Danilo an excellent start in life. A winning recipe some may say, but for Danilo, ‘childhood was rough.’
‘I was always the weird one; I felt I did not fit in and I could not be myself. Every time I tried, people would say there was something wrong with me. I felt like a failure to society.’ Danilo struggled to focus in school and was put on medication (Ritalin) at young age. ‘In grade 8, I was severely depressed and Ritalin was the cause’. Family and school were concerned that Danilo might not pass the year and for that reason Danilo was brought back to the neurologist. After more tests it was discovered, ‘I had “hyper-intelligence” which meant that my brain has the potential to process information much quicker than other people. I think fast, speak fast and I am always thinking ahead which often confuses people around me. My condition could not be cured but I could only learn to manage it.
Danilo completed matric with five distinctions and with the assistance of medication to assist him to concentrate. However, he decided that in university he didn’t want to rely on drugs. ‘I felt inadequate thinking that I could only achieve things through medication. I studied law at UCT and the degree required high amounts of concentration for big deadlines and this caused a lot of anxiety for me. I had to be strict with myself, take things in small pieces and tell myself that I could do it. My desire to be independent kept me focused.’ Danilo’s perseverance saw him excel academically once again, but although he enjoyed law he wasn’t fully satisfied. In his free time, Danilo worked at UCT radio station and became the ‘drive home show’ host. For Danilo media was never in his sights but he was always curious about new opportunities. With this opportunity, he said ‘I finally found a career that allowed me to be myself.’
The change in career didn’t come without its own new set of challenges, ‘insecurity is underestimated in the media world, there were many times that I doubted myself and the choices I had made. My energetic nature and forthcoming attitude offended many people, as I have always been someone who would tell it how it is. I was often labeled as arrogant.’ This stigma caused Danilo to have serious doubts about himself. ‘About a year ago I went through a deep depression, I cried a lot and questioned myself everyday, this was perhaps the darkest time in my career. I reflected a lot and asked myself if I was a bad person. I decided I needed to channel my energy into work, adapt and learn a new way of communicating. I finally realized that to be different was okay and I could adapt.’
When asked about his plans for the future Danilo said, ‘I will continue my career in media and I will start few enterprises’, laughing he continued, ‘my brain works too fast for me to just dedicate myself to one thing. I will also build my own brand in the social arena.’ Danilo’s passion for social justice has always been a big part of his life. An active member of his church, a mentor and a volunteer with numerous charities, ‘my charity work has ensured that my feet are firmly on the ground. I am passionate about affecting change right now, why wait?’.
Danilo is a Salesian Life Choices board member.