Drena De Niro is an actress, former model, DJ, fashion consultant, and filmmaker from America. She is the adopted daughter of Hollywood legend Robert De Niro. Having grown up attuned to a Bohemian lifestyle, she developed a multicultural worldview that helped her pursue a career in arts. After she was done with her education, she started working as a model and later become the musical supervisor for Giorgio Armani. In 1996, De Niro made her acting debut in the comedy-drama ‘Grace of My Heart’ and followed that up by playing her first female protagonist role in the 1999 black comedy ‘On the Run’. Since then, she has carved out a place of her own in the entertainment industry, independent from the vast shadow that her father’s impressive body of work cast. A character actor who is equally adept on stage and screen, she turned director with the short documentary ‘Girls & Dolls’ in 2001.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on September 3, 1967, in New York City, New York, Drena De Niro is the daughter of actress Diahnne Abbott and a man to whom Abbott had been married previously. In 1976, Abbott married Robert De Niro, who legally adopted Drena as his daughter. She has since stated that she never knew her biological father and has declined to reveal his identity.
She has a brother named Raphael who was born in 1976, along with three half-brothers, Aaron, Elliot, and Julian, and a half-sister, Helen from De Niro’s later relationships.
Named after the East European river Drina that flows between the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia, she spent her formative years between New York, Los Angeles, and Italy, and that transient upbringing nurtured her aesthetic and artistic sensibilities. She took acting lessons from Larry Moss, author of ‘Intent to Live’, and Susan Batson of The Black Nexxus Acting Studio.
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Following her graduation, Drena De Niro began her career in the fashion industry as a model which eventually led to her becoming a fashion consultant for Hollywood celebrities. Hailing from a highly creative family, her own artistic side found its first outlet in music. She had a prominent career as a disk jockey. Famous designer Giorgio Armani hired her as the musical supervisor for his fashion shows.
With a role in the film ‘Grace of My Heart’ released in 1996, she followed her parents’ footsteps into acting. She worked with her father several times. The 1997 release ‘Wag the Dog’ was the first film they starred in together. They continued their collaboration in memorable movies, such as ‘Great Expectations’ (1998), ‘Showtime’ (2002), ‘City by the Sea’ (2002), ‘New Year’s Eve’ (2011), ‘The Intern’ (2015), ‘Joy’ (2015), and ‘Hands of Stone’ (2016).
In Bruno de Almeida’s ‘On the Run’, she was cast alongside Michael Imperioli and John Ventimiglia. Portraying the character Rita, this was her first outing as a female lead. She played Caroline in the romantic-comedy ‘At First Sight’ in 1999 and provided the voice for the RBTV Lackey in the 2000 animated comedy ‘The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle’.
Drena De Niro continued to appear in small yet significant roles in films throughout the 2000s. She also served as a producer for the 2009 Indian family-drama ‘Karma, Confessions and Holi’. She is set to appear in the drama ‘Cabaret Maxime’ and comedy ‘Furlough’.
She debuted on the small screen in 1998 with the made-for-television crime-drama ‘Witness to the Mob’. She also lent her voice to the computer-animated pilot ‘The Groovenians’ (2002) and made guest appearances in police procedural drama ‘NYC 22’ (2012) and musical-comedy ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ (2017).
Drena De Niro has done considerable stage work as well. She portrayed Eugenie in a Theatrelab production of ‘The Nola Trilogy’, Mimi in ‘Mimi’s Tattoo Parlor’ at New Yorican Theatre, and the lead role in ‘She’s of a Certain Age’, a Beckett Theatre production.
Drena De Niro collaborated with Imperioli and Ventimiglia for the 2007 Portuguese drama ‘The Lovebirds,’ in which she played Stella Clark. The critically-acclaimed film also starred Joaquim de Almeida, Rogério Samora, and Nick Sandow.
Awards & Achievements
Drena De Niro’s directorial debut came about in 2001 with PBS’ short documentary ‘Girls and Dolls’, for which she received the Best Directorial Debut for Documentary Award at the 2001 New York Independent Film and Video Festival.
Drena De Niro gave birth to her son Leandro Anthony DeNiro Rodriguez in 2004. The family of two currently lives in a West Village penthouse in New York City.
An active member of the community, she became a spokesperson for the Kageno Orphan Sponsorship Program in 2006.
In August 2011, her former fiancé Austin Young accused her of assaulting him in New York City. The incident allegedly occurred when Young was out to walk his dog and was confronted by De Niro who rushed over and started to punch him. According to an eye-witness account, Young’s dog got loose and he chased after it with De Niro chasing him down the street, hitting him and ripping his shirt. Young told the reporters that they had been briefly engaged but De Niro broke it off as her father did not approve of the relationship.
Drena De Niro is trained in Thai boxing.