Originally posted Tuesday, June 18, 2019 by RODNEY HOemail@example.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Paige Davis, best known as the chipper host of TLC’s groundbreaking series “Trading Spaces,” is also a Broadway performer and ambassador for the Orbit Arts Academy in Sandy Springs.
She came into Atlanta last week to promote the Orbit annual fundraiser called “Broadway Unplugged,” featuring kid performers from the camp and actual Broadway performers flown in from New York including Tony Award winning actresses Alice Ripley (“Next to Normal”) and Lena Hall (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”).
“It’s so special,” Davis said. “They do an incredible camp that culminates in this gala fundraising performances. We’re talking about top-notch Broadway folks where these kids can learn so much. It will blow your mind!”
She said as a Broadway performer, working with the students helps reinvigorate “our own sense of passion and why we got into this business in the first place.”
Davis herself has impressive theater credentials including performing on Broadway as Roxie Hart in “Chicago” and Babette in “Beauty and the Beast,” where she met her current husband Patrick Page. She also played the lead in the national touring show of “Sweet Charity.” Most recently, she was sang and danced as Mame Davis in “MAME” at North Shore Music Theatre in Massachusetts.
Her theater roots go back to listening to her mom’s “West Side Story” album obsessively at age 13 and performing all the numbers for her stuffed animals: “I knew I had to be on Broadway!” And she attended a performing arts high school in Louisville where she got a lead in “West Side Story,” of course.
Davis said she's not the best singer or dancer but she succeeded in theater with huge dollops of passion and fortitude. "I never let no stop me," she said. "I just had the balls to be honest."
She was so focused on theater in the early 2000s, she had no TV credentials and it took a lot of effort for her just to get an audition for "Trading Spaces." "I always say I have blood under my fingernails clawing my way into that audition!" she said.
Ultimately, TLC broke the mold with “Trading Spaces” in the early days of reality TV.
“We launched the DIY mentality,” Davis said. “We placed tools in homeowners’ hands. We’ve seen Bob Vila do documentary style teaching but this was very different. We showed that interior design does not have to be for the wealthy and the elite. You can take pride and put effort into your home. It’s not a snooty thing and you don’t need to spend a lot of money.”
Ironically, Davis said she has “zero DIY blood.”
“It’s really unfair,” she said. “My mom used to re-do our homes but I was so young. I didn’t really do it.”
But she does help homeowners during “Trading Spaces,” to be part of their support system. “It helps me be a much better host,” she said. “Why pretend something if you can do it for real?”
She and her husband have lovely New York apartment but she had no hand in it directly. Oprah Winfrey, during the height of “Trading Spaces” frenzy 15 years ago, had Nate Berkus refurbish her place as a surprise on Winfrey’s talk show.
“We haven’t changed it since then,” Davis said. “It’s now worn and torn. My dog has eaten holes into every pillow. If you take pictures, you can’t really tell. Just don’t look too closely!”
“Trading Spaces” recently finished its second season in revived form after a long hiatus. But Davis isn’t sure if it will be back. She left the show the first time around because they were shooting 75 episodes a year. This time is far more manageable: 12 episodes a year. She is open for more seasons but is just awaiting word from TLC.
IF YOU GO
7 p.m., Saturday, June 22
Conant Performing Arts Center
4484 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta
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