Inspired by growing up frolicking in the fields of North Judson, Indiana – a magical place she describes as her local Narnia - Mandy Haack has a clear-sighted philosophy about work and life, especially for someone who is relatively new to her career. Fear is the tragedy of passion, she said, and age ain’t nothing but a number.
Haack is one of the most percipient members of the core editorial team at GreatNews.Life. She feels everything in the room - a consummate empath - and while it’s a quality that propels her to be a prolific contributing editor, it’s also one that challenges her the most. That tends to be typical of many creatives.
Haack’s creative tendencies were discovered early in life, when she was a 3-year-old toddler sitting in the bathtub, singing her fool heart out.
“My grandma heard me singing in there and said to my mom, ‘That’s not normal,’” Haack said. “By age 5 or 6 I was singing in musicals, in dance class, and by middle school I was taking weekly voice and piano lessons. I didn’t realize how music was going to be such a big part of my life back then.”
Haack spent her childhood and teen years performing, her path clearly defined and supported by her parents. She went to a small Lutheran elementary school and remembers being the youngest person in the church choir and participating in high school productions when she was still a child.
“My parents have been a focal part of my life and success. Think dance mom. Except my mom was a cooler ‘dance mom,’ for my singing,” she said.
Once Haack hit high school, she found wings, with typical coming-of-age teenage experiences. Hers, though, were deeply rooted in music.
“I started getting piercings. Listening to music I had never heard before. Those experimental times were a huge part of who I am today. I was fearless. And today, I’m always living what I feel life needs to be. Not a lot of people do that – live in the moment. I like to experience life raw,” Haack said.
One summer, Haack attended Interlochen Arts Academy summer camp in Michigan for theater. She attended intensive workshops and met teens from all over the world. That formulated her and her family’s decision that this is where she’d complete her senior year of high school.
“That place is magic. It makes you feel like and believe for the rest of your life that you can achieve any dream you set your mind to,” Haack said.
She studied all aspects of theater at Interlochen – musical theater, dance, singing, acting – and thought she’d pursue a career as a musical theater actor.
“In college I was sitting in class and one of my teachers told us up front, ‘If you don’t want to audition for the rest of your life, get out of this room. You’re in the wrong seat.’ It was an awakening moment,” Haack said.
“The culture of musical theater can be toxic. I once heard that comparison is the thief of joy. I wasn’t myself--I was always comparing myself to everything I wasn't. I wanted to be like this person, or that person. So, I listened to Nirvana for months, wore only black… and decided I was going to be a musical business major.”
Haack entered Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., and surprised herself by becoming a choir nerd.
“When you’re a music major, you have to take choir. I wasn’t a fan in high school. But my sophomore year in college, I was chosen to be in the top tier choir. Slowly but surely my choir director Dr. Brad Holmes saw something in me and became a strong mentor throughout my collegiate experience,” Haack said.
She also took creative writing classes, continued to write and create her own music, and enjoyed the business side of the music industry.
“I was doing tons of recording studio work, my assignments were writing songs, creating vocal parts, creating events for musicians. I was getting to put my words and feelings into content – something that other people would listen to. That was very liberating.”
It’s easy to see the parallels here to a journalism career.
Haack wrote music with a rock band, carried soprano 1 in choir, and studied classical music in voice lessons. Before graduation, she created her own internship teaching middle school children how to write music, and by the end of it, they wrote their own school anthem.
Then she graduated.
“I went right into waitressing. It was a wake up call that I was meant to do and be more,” Haack said.
On a whim, channeling the enjoyment she had from her creative writing classes, she applied for a new media journalism position at GreatNews.Life.
“I was so excited that this opportunity knocked on my door. It was the sweetest part of my summer. But I will say - I never knew that I could do this. It threw me for a loop,” Haack said. “When I started I was die hard committed to learning the craft, and took every single reporting assignment they gave me, no matter what,” Haack said.
“This job makes me feel confident. When you create something and people appreciate it– you realize you’re worthy. I feel like a lot of people aren’t ready for this line of work, but really – nobody is. You get into it, you get slapped in the face hella hard, and it’s just a constant propeller to be better.”
Haack is well-known for her positive energy in and out of the office. When she covers an event as a reporter, she’s the one everyone is happy to see. Even those who hate the camera will pose for Haack, making her an integral part of why GreatNews.Life is able to bring the news to our audiences 365 days a year.
Haack particularly enjoys adding her trendy flair to stories for local realty or home improvement companies. She looks at what is trending, and helps add that element to her pieces, making the content relevant and entertaining for readers. She also enjoys bringing out the good in content that might otherwise have a solemn side, siting the positive stories she’s written about organizations such as Porter County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). The stories, she said, have brought her personal perspective and given her an opportunity to help make a difference in her community.
In a way, you could say that Haack is on the right track, baby, and was born this way.
But don’t take our word for it.
One of her most notable contributions was the video highlight reel from the City of Hammond’s funky 2019 219 Day Celebration.
And this year, Haack stunned more than 300 people at All About the Girls Part 5 with a surprise performance of Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way.”
“This is what I raised to do – be myself in front of people. And have no fear,” Haack said.