From the Editor: How About These Challenges for Ms. Adventure?

The intriguing life of Stephanie Davis

BY April 19, 2016

We call Stephanie Davis our Ms. Adventure and send her off every month on lighthearted challenges to body and soul. But in truth, the life she’s lived, the hurdles she’s leaped take adventure to a deeper place with their very dramatic ups and downs.

Can you believe that this talented and popular writer, this creative actress/director never made it past eighth grade in school and once relied on food stamps and selling beads on Fort Myers Beach for sustenance? And, on the upside, can you believe that she became the first female radio station program director in Southwest Florida and on one occasion got to hang with acting legend Meryl Streep?

Stephanie takes ownership of the debacle of those early school years in Fort Myers Beach. “I was truant,” she says, and that’s no exaggeration. “I’d go to the two classes I loved—language arts and composition—and then I’d get on the city bus and take off. I’d go to the library and look up plays or just walk around and enjoy looking at the historic buildings downtown. Then I’d go back to school to take the bus home.” Beyond not liking science and math, Stephanie just couldn’t find a comfort zone with the others at school.

By ninth grade, Stephanie had pushed school officials to their limit and she was told to leave. She spent the next two years at the Eckerd Wilderness Camp in Brooksville, Florida. “It was,” she says, “for girls who didn’t fit in. We lived in tents and had no radio or TV.”

She married at 19 (“a boy I grew up with from Fort Myers Beach”) and spent four years at Fort Walton Beach, where he was in the Air Force. “I got involved in the theater there—mostly acting,” Stephanie says, “and I met people like me.”

But then she was back in Southwest Florida with an 18-month-old son, Nicholas, and a need to make a living. Her marriage hadn’t worked out (“Wonderful guy, great dad,” she says). Building a career didn’t come easily. There were odd jobs … waitressing, selling beads on Fort Myers Beach and others. At one point, food stamps became necessary. But the creative juices prevailed. In the radio business, Stephanie worked her way up to writing commercials and doing voiceovers and eventually became a program director.

The radio career lasted for 15 years, but all along her passion for the theater couldn’t be ignored. She bonded with husband-and-wife theater producers Bob Cacioppo and Carrie Lund and performed in The Boys Next Door at their Pirate Playhouse on Sanibel. Bob and Carrie started the Florida Repertory Theatre in downtown Fort Myers, and Stephanie quit the radio business to join them as an associate director. That meant acting, writing press releases and whatever else was needed to push the mission along. She also moved downtown and fell in love with her neighborhood (and with golf and country club general manager Todd Blanton, to whom she’s been married for 10 years).

Stephanie has never left the theater world—and over the years has worked in various capacities with Theatre Conspiracy, The Laboratory Theater and Broadway Palm. But once downtown, she found fresh creative expression by writing a column inspired by Tara Solomon over in Miami Beach, who was doing a Queen of the Night column for The Miami Herald. For a weekly newspaper, Route 41, Stephanie became the Downtown Diva, seemingly everywhere dropping names, sharing gossip and shooting photos for this regular gig. Her work always had that sweet humor of hers, the jokes often at her own expense.

As her notoriety grew, she was recruited by The News-Press to do this for its much larger audience. The Downtown Diva became as much a force in Fort Myers as the celebrities she covered. It was during that time she met Meryl Streep. Stephanie was co-emceeing an Arts for ACT benefit auction and Meryl was the celebrity auctioneer. “She was so amazing,” Stephanie says. “She showed an interest in me as a person and was fascinated to learn that I was an actress, too.”

Stephanie’s 15-year run as the Downtown Diva ended in 2013. She’s now writing “The Diva Diaries” for astute editor Cindy Pierce at Florida Weekly (“on anything I want”) and sallying forth every month for us as Ms. Adventure. At 51, she’s become quite the good fit for reaching our funny bones and hearts—even if it wasn’t so easy getting there.


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