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By Marene Gustin
If you’ve been around Houston long enough, the name Dayna Steele reminds you of KLOL’s glory days of rock and roll. The Hall of Fame radio DJ spent decades on the air playing tunes and interviewing famous musicians; many of those rock-and-roll legends she still counts as friends today.
When Steele finally hung up her mic, she used the stories of her life and her legendary friends to write a series of motivational books and embark on a career as a nationally sought-after speaker.
Of course, if you are a parent in Clear Lake, you just may know her as the wife of former NASA pilot Charles Justiz, the mother of their two boys, and the stepmom to his oldest son.
In fact, she was pregnant with her son Dack (and yes, that’s a NASA-type acronym for “Dayna and Charlie’s Kid”) when she last sat for an interview with OutSmart 21 years ago. “The interviewer asked me what I would do if Dack turned out to be gay, and I said I would say, ‘That’s nice—have you done your homework yet?’” Which is pretty close to what she actually said when he did come out to her.
“We always had gay friends growing up,” she recalls. “Everyone was welcome in our house.”
Which is why she’s about to add yet another job description to her superwoman résumé. And if you follow her on Facebook or Twitter, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. “Yes, I’m considering a run for office. I’m talking to several different people about several different opportunities,” she says. One of those people Steele has been talking with is former Houston mayor Annise Parker—a pretty darn good mentor for a first-time candidate.
“I always tell people in business to be careful talking about politics, religion, or cats,” she says with a smile, “because you’ll always make someone mad. But there comes a time when you have to speak up for your children, your grandchildren, and the country.”
And that’s what she’s been doing, at private and public events and on social media. She admits that at this stage of her life it’s unlikely any federal or state policy changes will affect her personally, but they may have dire consequences for her son. And the one thing she wants in her future is to throw a big gay wedding for him one day in their back yard. “Is it just one thing that’s motivating me?” Steele asks. “No, it’s an avalanche.” The environment. Immigration policy. Women’s and LGBT rights. “Texas has the highest maternity death rate in the country, but we’re worried about bathrooms? Texas, we have to be better than this.”
She started by posting articles on politics and policy on social media, and encouraging women to participate and run for office. Then one day her husband turned to her and said, “You can do this.” And she thought, “How can I not do this?
“My husband is first-generation Cuban-American. He saw this happen in his family’s country.”
As for fake news and alternative facts, she recalls that even in her rock-and-roll radio days, you could never say anything that wasn’t vetted. The longtime activist protested her dad’s smoking habit—at age three—by making signs asking him to stop and hiding his cigarettes. On KLOL, she once urged listeners to help women who were going to Planned Parenthood when the Republican Party announced a protest. She kept it up, even though she received death threats on her caller line and had to have security for weeks.
But there’s one thing that sets her apart from the far left: she is very serious about uniting the public, and often asks Republicans and Trump supporters to state their views (without profanity or name-calling) on social media. She really wants to know their thoughts.
“A good friend of mine voted for Trump,” she says. “When I asked her why, she said
she was scared and tired of worrying about money.
“I’ve been mad about politics before, but now I’m scared, too. I’m terrified. And I think the people that voted for Trump are going to be very disappointed a year from now.”
But she’s trying to do something about that by opening dialogues, following state and federal legislative votes (she has apps on her phone for that), and encouraging others to speak up and be heard by their representatives.
Dayna Steele: rock-and-roll legend, successful businesswoman, author—and maybe soon, a voice for all in government.
Marene Gustin is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.