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Becoming Ginger Rogers: How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Woman, Better Partner, and Smarter CEO

Becoming Ginger Rogers: How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Woman, Better Partner, and Smarter CEO

by Patrice Tanaka
Becoming Ginger Rogers: How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Woman, Better Partner, and Smarter CEO

Becoming Ginger Rogers: How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Woman, Better Partner, and Smarter CEO

by Patrice Tanaka



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What brings you joy?

"To devote yourself to the creation and enjoyment of beauty, then, can be serious business—not always necessarily a means of escaping reality, but sometimes a means of holding on to the real when everything else is flaking away." ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

My femininity, creativity, and optimism had been flaking away, especially since 9/11. When I was dancing, I felt real and complete again. ~ Becoming Ginger Rogers, Chapter 4, "Samba Girl"

If you've spent most of your life pursuing your career, raising your family, and/or caring for loved ones who may be ill or infirmed, your own needs may have been neglected in the process.

Becoming Ginger Rogers is the story of one woman's inspiring and uplifting journey to reclaim her life during the dispiriting days of New York City in the aftermath of 9/11, the unraveling of a successful business she co-founded with a dozen colleagues, and the death of her beloved husband after a long illness. Patrice Tanaka shares her very personal story of how at age 50 she started ballroom dance lessons to satisfy a lifelong dream of dancing like Ginger Rogers and, in so doing, found her way to unimaginable joy.

Becoming Ginger Rogers is, in part, a memoir of a young Japanese-American girl born and raised in Hawaii who fulfilled her dream of career success in Manhattan; it's a voyeuristic glimpse into the world of competitive ballroom dancing; and it's a business book about the lessons learned from ballroom dancing that made Patrice a better partner and a smarter CEO.

In this book, you will learn:

• How to reclaim, re-energize and re-excite yourself about your own life
• How to "reschedule yourself" back into your own life as the first step toward reclaiming your life
• How lessons learned in ballroom dance such as the importance of being fully present—mind, body and spirit—have applications beyond the ballroom floor in helping you achieve greater success in your personal and professional life
• How learning to be a good follower can be a winning strategy for business
• How visualizing your dreams is the way to manifest them
• How living every moment of your life in a way that is fulfilling in and of itself, and not dependent on some future you may not have, is the best way to live and to be prepared to die even if you have little advance warning like the nearly 3,000 people who perished on 9/11

Becoming Ginger Rogers shows us how we can revitalize ourselves even after years of woeful neglect so that our most exciting and joy-filled days are ahead of us. Plus it pulls back the curtain on ballroom dancing in a fun, educational way. Be transported to the world of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Whirl of Manhattan
Chapter 2: The Arabian Prince
Chapter 3: "What Brings You Joy?"
Intermezzo: Foxtrot
Chapter 4: Samba Girl
Intermezzo: Samba
Chapter 5: The Ballroom World and the Real World
Intermezzo: Tango
Chapter 6: Practice Failing—in the Ballroom and in the Boardroom
Intermezzo: Rumba
Chapter 7: Partnering for Success—with or without Chocolate
Intermezzo: Mambo
Chapter 8: You Must Be Present to Win: Going with the Flow and Celebrating Successes along the Way Intermezzo: Viennese Waltz
Chapter 9: whatcanbe: Leading with Your Heart
Coda: Cha Cha

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781936661206
Publisher: BenBella Books, Inc.
Publication date: 09/06/2011
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: eBook
Pages: 288
File size: 525 KB

About the Author

Patrice Tanaka is co-chair, chief creative officer, and whatcanbe SM ambassador for CRT/tanaka, an entity she helped co-found in September 2005. Her agency has been recognized as the "Best Agency to Work for in America," "Most Admired Mid-Size PR Agency in the U.S.," and "#1 Most Creative PR Agency in America," among other accolades by various PR organizations and trade media. CRT/tanaka has also won more than 300 PR and marketing awards for client campaigns.

Patrice has been honored by many public relations, marketing, business, and civic organizations, including the Public Relations Society of America ("Paul M. Lund Award for Public Service"), The Holmes Group ("Creativity All-Star" Award), New York Women in Communications ("Matrix" Award), Association for Women in Communications ("Headliner" Award), Girl Scout Council of Greater New York ("Woman of Distinction" Award), Working Mother Magazine ("Mothering That Works" Award), and Asian Women in Business ("Entrepreneurial Leadership Award").

Born and raised in Hawaii, Patrice graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1974 and following that worked as an editor at Hawaii Press Newspapers in Honolulu and later served as PR Director of the Hotel Inter-Continental Maui in Wailea. In 1979, she fulfilled a life-long dream of moving to New York City. Patrice joined Jessica Dee Communications, a PR agency she helped to build, which was acquired by Chiat/Day Advertising in 1987. In 1990, she led a management buyback of a group of eleven colleagues to co-found PT&Co. and served as the PR agency's CEO & Chief Creative Officer. In 2005, Patrice and her co-founders sold PT&Co. to Richmond, Virginia-based Carter Ryley Thomas to form CRT/tanaka.

A widow since 2003, Patrice lives in Manhattan. She devotes much of her free time to serving on the boards of non-profit organizations dedicated to helping women and girls, including the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York, the Family Violence Prevention Fund, the American Friends of Phelophepa (the South African health care train), and Asian Women in Business. She also serves on the Past Presidents Council of New York Women in Communications and is a former trustee and member of the Women's Forum New York. Patrice is a competitive ballroom dancer and avid tennis player.

Read an Excerpt


The Whirl of Manhattan

"Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here we should dance." — Anonymous

The gleaming Dyson DC07 stood on a chair at the head of our conference table, the better to inspire us. This was no ordinary vacuum cleaner. The Dyson upright vacuum looked like a bulbous yellow rocket mounted in a shiny gray launch pad. Where a standard vacuum would have had a compartment for a bag, the Dyson had a clear plastic canister. Within that canister was a spinning funnel of yellow "cyclones" that whirled the dirt up into the head of the rocket. It put on quite a show — for an appliance.

The Dyson was already a hit in Europe but was unknown in the States, and our public relations firm, PT&Co., had been hired to introduce it to America. Winning the campaign was a huge boost to both our morale and our balance sheet in the limp year following 9/11. The six partners seated around the table were survivors — not of the attack, which had taken place just two miles from our office, but of the fallout that had sapped businesses in Manhattan ever since. The Dyson could dramatically change things for us.

Sir James Dyson, CEO and inventor of the Dyson DC07, was hiring an ad agency as well as our public relations firm. I always took it as a personal challenge to make our PR efforts at least as powerful as the ad campaign — ideally, more so. The mission of public relations is to attract attention to an organization, an individual, or a product by creating newsworthy stories, causes, or events. A great PR campaign can create tremendous free publicity without the use of paid advertisements. Whenever I pitched prospective clients I liked to tell them, "PR is the Hamburger Helper of the marketing mix. We can help stretch your marketing dollars at a fraction of the cost of advertising." With the Dyson campaign, we would have our work cut out for us. It was an impressive piece of household technology, to be sure, but it was still a vacuum cleaner. Even the humble microwave reminded people of food. A vacuum cleaner reminded them of dirt. And housework.

Ellen LaNicca, the head of our Home and Housewares practice, was in charge of the account, and we were gathered in the conference room to hear her plan for promoting the Dyson. She stood next to the vacuum, took a deep breath, and began.

"There is no Mr. Hoover," Ellen intoned. "There is no Mr. Eureka. There's a Mr. Oreck, but he's a grandpa. And then there is Sir James Dyson, a British inventor so cool that he looks like an actor playing an inventor. The James Bond of bagless technology. Creator of a vacuum cleaner that's as cool as he is, almost a piece of sculpture." She leaned forward, locking eyes with each of us as she delivered her pitch. We grinned back at her, enjoying the show. "This vacuum will forever change our expectations of what such a tool should look like and how it should perform," she continued. "It actually expels clean air."

"How do we introduce this extraordinary appliance?" she challenged us. "Who is our target audience?"

She answered her own question: "The fashion world. Design influencers. Early adopters and techno geeks." She paused.

"And where is the best place to do that?"

"Where?" prompted Frank de Falco.

"Fashion Week! Here in New York."

"Brilliant!" I agreed. "How?"

"That's why we're here today," said Ellen. "Let's figure out how to get high fashion and vacuum cleaners together. There's got to be a way."

The Dyson DC07 was aggressively stylish, almost intimidating. Perfect for fashionistas and design lovers. But the vacuums couldn't propel themselves down a runway — they'd have to be pushed by models. That would definitely be a fashion first. The idea was edgy, funny, and would make a terrific photo. Most important, launching the Dyson at Fashion Week, which was coming up in September, would instantly create excitement for the low-interest category of vacuum cleaners. If we pulled off a successful launch, we could end 2002 on a high note.

The spectacle that is New York Fashion Week takes place twice a year. Until 2010, when it moved to the Lincoln Center, it was held in a series of white tents set up in Bryant Park, off Fifth Avenue. This is where the world's top designers debut their spring and fall collections, and each show is strictly invitation-only. We wanted to place the Dyson with a designer who was young, innovative, and always attracting plenty of media attention. After much research, we settled on one of the renegades of the fashion world — actress/designer Tara Subkoff, and her label, Imitation of Christ. Subkoff was famous for her provocative runway shows — during her tenure at the label she staged events at an East Village funeral parlor and at Sotheby's auction house, among other odd locales. One season she had the models sit in the audience and made fashion editors walk the runway.

In September 2002 Subkoff was again shunning the white tents in favor of a more unique venue — an empty retail space she transformed into a series of vignettes. Each vignette showcased one of the pieces of clothing she was debuting, and each was a commentary on women at home. We couldn't have asked for a more perfect setting for our vacuum cleaner.

On the day of the event, Ellen went to the venue a couple of hours before showtime to check on our vignette. She'd been gone only twenty minutes when my phone rang, flashing her cell number.

"Hi, Ellen. Everything okay? Are the Dysons there?"

"Oh, they're here," she replied. "And the models are here. Three gorgeous, six-foot Russian amazons."


"You know what's not here? Their shirts. The models are topless."


"Imitation of Christ wants the models to be vacuuming in a fake living room, wearing nothing but stilettos and tiny cashmere hot pants."

The image was so bizarre that it took me a minute to absorb it.

"Does it look tawdry?"

"Not really tawdry, but maybe, um, provocative."

"Are they doing anything vulgar with the vacuums?"

Ellen laughed a little nervously. "No, of course not. Actually, I better start training them now. We don't have much time."

I got in a cab and raced to the site. The place was already packed with media, people from the nightclub scene, designers, and thirty or forty photographers. It was shoulder to shoulder, everyone pressing forward to see what Imitation of Christ was offering this year. I made my way to the staging area behind the vignettes and spied little five-foot-two Ellen attempting to teach the six-foot Russian models key message points about the Dyson DC07. They spoke no English.

"Watch me!" she finally pleaded. "This is how you turn it on. You have to step on it here." Ellen's head was exactly breast-high to the models, and as one of them bent to turn on the Dyson, her boobs slapped Ellen in the face. Poor Ellen turned deep red and blinked a few times, then continued her instructions: "Don't roll the vacuum over the cord. Say, 'Look at the cyclones.'"

"Look at the cyclones," the models gamely repeated, taking a few practice runs with the vacuums. Their long, glistening limbs and perfect round breasts were compelling, but so was the whirling cyclonic action of the Dysons. It was too late to call London and get this development okayed by Dyson's people. The show would have to go on. I backed out of the staging area and squeezed to the side of the vignette space, awaiting the models' entrance.

A few minutes later our nearly naked Russian beauties strutted out, pushing their Dyson vacuums. Cries of pleasure burst from the crowd, especially from the men, who were delighted to see breasts and an amazing new gadget. All around me I heard comments like, "I wish my girlfriend vacuumed that way!" "Do you need to be dressed like that to make the vacuum work?" and, "That's hot — both the hot pants and the vacuum."

Lots of people wanted to know, "What is that?" They were fascinated by the swirling dust inside the clear canister. When someone asked to try it out, Ellen went backstage, got a few more Dysons, and let people take turns vacuuming. She stayed there until the wee hours of the morning, then called London to prepare the Dyson team for whatever fallout might occur. "I told them it's not going to be vulgar but it is sexual," Ellen reported. "They're okay with it. For now."

By the next morning a photo of topless models pushing Dyson vacuums was the shot sent round the world. The New York Times ran a piece depicting the scene in a simple line drawing. Women's Wear Daily put the photo on the cover. As we had hoped, the fashion and design "influentials" who had attended the show started to talk about the Dyson, igniting a buzz. We got such great coverage from the event that we were able to get the vacuums included in the celebrity presenter gift baskets for the Emmy Awards, which took place during the same time frame as the launch. Those lavish gift baskets always attract a lot of media coverage. When the basket was featured on the Today show and Al Roker spotted the bright yellow-and-gray Dyson vacuum, he said, "Wow! I want one of those." We immediately sent him one, and he followed up with a handwritten note saying, "Thank you so much for my Dyson. I'm glad I now have a product that really does suck." This was a reference to the cyclonic technology of Dyson vacuums, which meant they would never lose suction over time — the reason that other vacuums become less effective the longer you use them.

Our campaign included much more than the initial launch. In fewer than eight months, we generated more than 525 print and broadcast stories on the Dyson DC07. The vacuum exceeded its U.S. sales forecast by 160 percent, and Time magazine named it 2002's "Best Invention." The Dyson catapulted from no market share to category leader in fewer than eighteen months. Sir James was pleased, and so were we.

* * *

At the time we introduced the Dyson to America, I had been in public relations for twenty-five years. I started out in Hawaii but had moved to New York in my twenties. Although I grew up in Honolulu, the daughter of second-generation Japanese Americans, I never felt at home in the tropics. While the other girls were giggling about cute local boys who spoke pidgin English, I was dreaming of life in Manhattan. That was where I belonged. I knew it from the age of nine.

As a grade schooler I lived in the make-believe world of black-and-white films of the 1930s and '40s, which played regularly on television. In that world, elegant men and women, dressed to the nines, danced until dawn at glittering nightclubs, and talked on white telephones in their art deco penthouse apartments. I longed to be one of those tall, slim, beautiful women.

It was the dancing in those movies that enthralled me more than anything. I adored scenes like the one in Top Hat where Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced to the song "Cheek to Cheek," he in tails and she in a white, feathered gown. Fred and Ginger flowed together effortlessly, their movements a perfectly synchronized expression of their longing for each other. Ginger was light and luminous — she floated in Fred's arms, and when he gently dipped her, the gown fanned out like lush, elegant plumage. I was awestruck by their poetry in motion.

In another of my favorite films, Flying Down to Rio, a flamboyant nightclub waiter tells Fred and Ginger that in Brazil, "the American foxtrot is considered too tame, too dull. Our people prefer the carioca!"

"You mean they prefer it in public?" asks a slightly scandalized Ginger.

"Si, señorita! Everybody in Rio!" The couple proceeds to tear up the dance floor with an improvised "carioca" performed with foreheads touching and feet flying. A mash-up of samba, foxtrot, rumba, and tap, the scene sparked in me a lifelong love of the samba. The setting of fabled Rio de Janeiro, with aerial shots of Sugarloaf Mountain and Corcovado Mountain, topped by the famous statue Christ the Redeemer, stoked my yearning for travel. I could hardly wait until I was old enough to flee Hawaii for the bright lights of New York and beyond.

To satisfy my wanderlust, I worked while in high school so that I could pay for summer vacations to Japan and Western Samoa. In college I spent three months hitchhiking across Europe, and after earning a degree in English and journalism, I took a job writing for a tourism newspaper in Hawaii.

While I was writing for the paper, the Inter-Continental Hotel in Maui offered me a position as its public relations director. As soon as I grasped what it meant, I knew it was the right fit for me. In public relations you didn't just report on the news, you dreamed up ways to generate stories about your clients. You created new and improved realities for them — such as positioning them as market leaders, visionaries, innovators, or leaders in social responsibility.

Compared to now, the pace of PR was leisurely. I used snail mail to distribute press releases and photos to the media, and I banged out copy on an IBM Correcting Selectric II, at that time a state-of-the-art typewriter because it used a correction ribbon to erase typos — far superior to painting over your mistakes with white-out! Before the digital age, assembling a press kit involved lots of time-consuming, hands-on work. I shot my own photos of the visiting celebrity guests who stayed at our world-class resort, and then I sent the film out to be developed, selected photos from contact sheets, had stills printed, and finally mailed them with identifying captions to the media. If the deadline was tight, I'd send a messenger.

Twenty-five years later, in 2002, I was living in Manhattan and had my own PR agency. We were just getting started on a wild digital ride that was breathtaking, unstoppable, and had no end in sight. Computers had accelerated the speed and flexibility with which we could produce multimedia news releases embedded with website links, digital images, graphics, video and audio clips, any type of collateral we might need, and all the other tools of a public relations campaign.

But it was the Internet that totally revolutionized the industry. Stories that were once local now had the potential to instantly become global. Anyone with an Internet connection could easily search for obscure news and information on every topic. It soon became clear that this would be both a boon and a curse to people and organizations in need of public relations — a curse because the misstatements and misdeeds of anyone, from the CEO to a line employee, could be captured and communicated for all the world to see. For PR agencies, both the good and the bad press meant more work.

We had made our name at PT&Co. and earned more than 180 industry awards, by creating innovative brand PR and cause-related marketing campaigns designed to burnish our clients' reputation while making a difference on health and social issues such as domestic violence, breast cancer, literacy, and hunger relief. Our credo was, "Great work, great workplace, great communities that work." The Internet promised us limitless ways to pursue those goals.

In 2002 the possibilities of the Internet and social networking were just beginning to emerge. MySpace and Second Life made their debut in 2003, followed by Facebook and Flickr in 2004. YouTube wouldn't be launched until 2005, and Twitter in 2006, but we could email images, text, and links to videos the moment we produced them. Our goal with the Dyson account had been to get that stunning vacuum cleaner in front of millions of eyeballs alongside Fashion Week's hottest couture designs. We succeeded in large part because of the Internet's instant global reach.

The Dyson's triumphant rollout at Fashion Week lifted our spirits, especially since it provided a distraction from the relentless one-year anniversary stories about 9/11. Across the country things seemed pretty much back to normal. Not in New York. The Twin Towers had been visible from some of our office windows, and the empty sky where they once stood was a daily reminder of the catastrophe and its aftermath. I know I wasn't the only person who trained myself to avoid those windows.

When the attacks happened, millions of people around the world experienced it together. Everyone remembers switching on the television, seeing the smoking towers, and not comprehending what they were looking at because it couldn't be real. It was like the first sickening moments after a car crash. In New York that dreadful feeling ballooned, swallowed everything, and didn't go away. We all knew someone who had died or lost a loved one. Nothing fell back into place.


Excerpted from "Becoming Ginger Rogers"
by .
Copyright © 2011 Patrice Tanaka.
Excerpted by permission of BenBella Books, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1. The Whirl of Manhattan,
2. The Arabian Prince,
3. "What Brings You Joy?",
4. Samba Girl,
5. The Ballroom World and the Real World,
6. Practice Failing — with or without Chocolate,
7. Partnering for Success in the Ballroom and in the Boardroom,
8. You Must Be Present to Win: Going with the Flow and Celebrating Success along the Way,
INTERMEZZO: The Viennese Waltz,
9. whatcanbe: Leading with Your Heart,
CODA: Cha Cha,

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