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Claudia DiMartino is a successful business woman turned actress and playwright. She took a risk and left corporate America.  She now shares her life's journey which helped her realize - it's never too late to go after your dreams.


As a kid growing up in an Italian-American family, food was such a major part of our lives.

Every day, my mother, my aunt and my grandmother created amazing meals in their tiny kitchens. They got such a sense of satisfaction when the family would chow down and just enjoy all their hard work.

My grandmother would sit back with that look of satisfaction as she watched us eat heartily, especially her four grandchildren.

She would always say, “GUSTO”.

My little niece, Brenna, certainly continues the family heritage of eating with GUSTO.

Gusto is an Italian word which has been incorporated into our American vocabulary.

It means enthusiastic and vigorous enjoyment or appreciation.

As children do, I think Brenna enthusiastically and vigorously shows her enjoyment.


Putting one’s heart and soul into something is what I’m calling deep down gusto.

This week I got to experience the absolute joy of watching deep down gusto in others.

I was watching TV; and a commercial came on for World of Dance. I wasn’t aware that it was on last season; and this is Season 2. The stakes are high, as dancers from around the world are competing for the $1 million prize.

Since I love dance, I decided to tune into the show on Tuesday evening. I’m so glad I did.

Out of all the dancers and teams that competed in the first qualifying round, two were stand outs for me. Why?

They moved me.

The first is dancer, Jaxon Willard, who moved me to tears.

He poured his heart and soul out in his own choreographed dance routine. He told his story. He was powerful. He was vulnerable. His deep-down gusto came through.

Jennifer Lopez is one of the judges; and she said it best. “He made a bunch of us cry…You had an amazing emotional connection…To allow that vulnerability to be seen that was so beautiful and it captivated this whole audience right now. I hope you never lose that.”

The second is Karen y Ricardo. My mouth was on the floor.

As they came through the tunnel onto the stage, Derek Hough, another judge, said, “They ain’t messin’ around.”

This couple did the most explosive Salsa routine I’ve ever seen.

In the pre-dance package, Ricardo said, “We’re going to leave everything on the dance floor.” Boy, did they ever!

In Jennifer Lopez’ critique, she said, “That’s what you call setting the stage on fire…The intensity – the stuff between where you are really digging in and feeling it and it’s coming from inside your soul and it’s what you love and you can’t do anything else.”



There’s a saying – Do what you love; and you’ll never work a day in your life.

When you do what you love, it’s not work. It’s pure, unadulterated joy!

It’s that digging in and feeling it. It’s that life coming from deep inside your soul. It’s what you love; and you can’t imagine doing anything else. It takes courage to…

Looking back, I count everything I’ve done in my life as a blessing and the stepping stones to what sets my soul on fire.

I was fortunate enough to get a higher education achieving an M.B.A. which enabled me to get into marketing in the beauty industry. I climbed the corporate ladder and made a great living.

Having the personality that I do, I threw myself into my career choice; and I was good at it. didn’t set my soul on fire. I put everything I had into my career; but, it was work!

I looked to outside interests to give me joy. I traveled to exotic lands.

I got seriously addicted to ballroom and Latin dancing.

After 22 years, my life-changing event was fearing I was having a heart attack which got me rushed to the hospital from work. Thankfully, it was just a panic attack; but it got me to realize I wasn’t doing what I loved.

The sad thing was, I didn’t even know what I loved.

However, I wised up. For me, that was leaving the corporate world behind.


During this time of transition, I put my trust in God to lead me. With each step I took, I started to listen to that still small voice within me.

Little by little, I rediscovered my childhood dream that lay dormant within me. My dream of acting rose to the surface.

I finally felt alive. What joy!

What I have come to learn in living with gusto and doing what I love, it can be exhausting to live continually in that high-pitched place.

I’ve learned it’s important to keep balance in pursuing one’s dreams and the fire within one’s soul.

While pursuing my heart’s desire, one of the greatest days is when my mentor came into my life.

He came to my show, It’s Only Lipstick, on the second night. We knew each other from a previous project; but now our connection became one of mentor and student.

He has taught me how to balance myself in pursuit of my dream and let go of the things I can’t control.

He believes in me; and with a heart to see me fulfill all that’s possible for me, he has never let up on getting me to stretch myself and discover new things that I didn’t even know were in me.

We are now partnered on another project; and I am eternally grateful for his mentorship, friendship, honesty and integrity.

I believe it’s important to have a mentor that you can trust in a relationship that’s open and truthful. Someone who will be able to understand you yet be the firebrand that keeps your dream alive.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from him is to embrace who I am and not be apologetic for my uniqueness.

I guess I can, also, take this lesson from my little niece, Brenna.

Live life with gusto. And, remember…it’s never too late to go after your dreams!

Claudia DiMartino

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