Deanna Harris is a multimedia journalist, producer and founder of “chattin w/ d,” a show that seeks to empower youth by highlighting the journeys of successful artists and entrepreneurs. Guests on her show have included fashion designer Dapper Dan, activist and journalist Felipe Luciano and soca artist Mr. Killa; Deanna has also produced a number of mini-documentaries focused on cultural events in Grenada. We talked to Deanna about the inspiration for chattin w/ d, authenticity as an interviewer, and having a production team of family members.

Hi Deanna! chattin w/ d is an incredibly cool platform and you’ve produced some amazing segments. How did the channel begin?
I was born into a family that had been in the production business for over 30 years, so I was exposed to a high level of creativity and knowledge from a young age. My grandfather Ralph Mercado spearheaded the Latin industry and managed artists like Marc Anthony, Celia Cruz, La India, Tito Puente and more.

I was so inspired by my grandfather’s accomplishments and challenged myself to carry on his legacy. It wasn’t until I was in Belize for my undergraduate internship that I had an epiphany about how to do this. I realized how big social media was becoming, how futures were being written by the youth online. Growing up surrounded by successful entrepreneurs helped me realize there were two things I wanted in life: to give back to my community and inspire the next generation to come.

I created chattin w/ d to give people a platform to discuss their trials, tribulations, and any advice they have for youth in particular careers. My first interview was with salsa singer Tito Nieves and from there, it’s grown into a wonderful channel with support globally. It’s been so fulfilling! The topics I cover are lifestyle, culture, current events, entertainment, and advice for young people.

In your interviews, do you feel a certain level of responsibility for showing people authentically? How do you engage with that dynamic?
I’ve always felt passionate about communicating with people but I’ve learned that it takes a special place and time to be able to really connect with someone. As an interviewer, I try my hardest to be authentic – I want my guests to be authentic and vulnerable about their experiences as well, to share whatever they feel comfortable sharing. Some channels want to focus on who’s dating who but we don’t discuss gossip. We highlight the trials and tribulations of what it takes to become successful. People tend to forget that celebrities are people too; they’re human beings who have followed their passions and dreams to rise to where they are now. It’s not easy, but it’s worthwhile.

In addition to the interview series, you’ve directed and produced several mini-documentaries about Grenada, including Spicemas and The Spice Island. What has that been like?
During my first visit to Grenada in April 2021, I was always recording; I became known as the girl with the GoPro! The mini-docs were so fun to produce. I reached out and connected with people whose work I loved and asked if they’d be open to doing an interview, to talking about the island. At the moment, I’m always focused on getting the footage we need and asking specific questions. During post-production, we do a ton of research and editing.

For my second visit back in August 2022, we collaborated with Tastemade for two segments. “Eating off the Land” was with Joachim Jammel, a popular vegan chef on the island. It was a dope experience, we went to I.T.A.L. farm in Grenada’s countryside and Chef Joachim led us through a farm-to-table experience. For “What I Wear in: Grenada’s Spicemas Carnival,” we played with the band Vibemas, documented our experience on the road, and highlighted cultural celebrations. When I’m in different communities, I listen to the people and highlight the beauty of their culture. Filming in Grenada has been a wonderful journey and I greatly appreciate the support from the community.

What’s it like to have your production team made up of family members? Do you feel like you’re constantly learning from each other?
Constantly learning but also butting heads with each other – it is family! Because my family has been in production for so long, they know the business from top to bottom. I’m grateful for their guidance and support to go on this journey. So many wonderful opportunities for our family have come from creating chattin w/ d; my sister does hair and makeup for the interviews, and now works full-time running her own hair business “Did by Dee.” My brother DARRiS helps on set with camerawork and videography – he’s an artist and music producer in New York. My father Eddie is the genius behind the lens and helps bring the vision to life, and my mother Debbie handles talent coordination. That’s something I try to highlight on the channel – things coming full circle from my grandfather and building generational wealth.

One of chattin w/ d’s goals is to provide guidance to young people. Do you have any advice for content creators from marginalized backgrounds?
One of my favorite quotes is to step out of your comfort zone and “create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe.” Oprah said that and I stand by it. I step out of my comfort zone everyday to try something new. I make it a lifestyle which allows me to be my most authentic self and builds my self-confidence. Confidence is key. By doing this, I’ve been able to connect and collaborate with people from all over the world – being outside of your comfort zone is where growth is going to happen. Go out there and make your dreams happen! I admire women like Beyonce, Oprah and Michelle Obama for being powerful figures in media who unapologetically take up space and pour back into their communities.

What’s next for chattin w/ d?
We’re in the process of rebranding. I’m working on finding guests for interviews, expanding the team, and creating opportunities to uplift and inspire younger generations. My goal has always been to make chattin w/ d international so that’s the future – connecting with communities and producing segments around the world. I really want to keep focusing on inspiring young people. Life is very short – I want to help others find their purpose.