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Parks And Recreation's Donna Meagle: Background Facts About The Character That Big Fans Know

Retta as Donna, holding a copy of Twilight
(Image credit: NBC)

I know what you think as soon as you see the face above: Treat Yo Self.

But, there’s so much more to Parks and Recreation’s Donna Meagle than her annual self-care day! While the mantra does lead to some of the very best Parks and Rec episodes, even Retta, the actress who portrayed Donna, is completely over Treat Yo Self.

This complex and sophisticated woman is probably one of the most interesting people in Pawnee. Here are some of the best gems we learned about Donna’s unusual life outside of work.

Donna's family on Parks and Recreation

(Image credit: NBC)

Her Family Loves Drama

We learn a little bit about the Meagles when Donna brings the gang to her family’s lake house for Jerry’s sweet sixteen. Donna describes her family as “a cold people,” and mentions some rules of the house that are strictly enforced — including no children, no pets, no dirty shoes, and Meagles only on the second floor.

We also find out that only three Meagles can be on an international flight together at the same time, and that the last four Meagle family Pictionary tournaments ended at the hospital.

Donna is also estranged from her brother, Lavondrius, which is why he’s not invited to her wedding. However, as Donna’s maid of honor, April decides the wedding needs just a little bit of drama to suit Donna’s personality, and invites Lavondrius (played by guest star Quest Love) to spice up the evening.

Aziz Ansari and Retta as Tom and Donna on Parks and Recreation

(Image credit: NBC)

She’s A Secret Realtor

Donna is no stranger to the side hustle, and is involved in many business ventures outside of the Parks Department.

We learn that Donna actually owns her own real estate firm, Regal Meagle Realty, when she offers to help Ron sell his cabin. Unfortunately, she makes less than a dollar in commission after Ron sells the cabin to April for $8 plus the loose contents of her purse.

Retta and Keegan-Michael Key as Donna and Joe on Parks and Recreation

(Image credit: NBC)

She Loves Seattle

She likes the rain, and the fish markets. That’s why she bought a condo in Seattle that no one knows about. 

She also appreciates Seattle for its real estate market:

I think it’s all that coffee and legal marijuana has people wanting to buy houses quickly and irrationally.

When Donna decides to settle down with her husband Joe, the pair even buys a permanent home in Seattle.

A photo of Retta and Ginuwine

(Image credit: NBC)

Her Cousin Is Ginuwine

We know Donna’s family has a lot of big personalities, but one of them is none other than '90s R&B singer, Ginuwine

The singer performed his famous song “Pony” in honor of Li’l Sebastian for the Unity Concert in Season 6, and appeared again for Donna and Joe’s wedding in the final season.

Retta as Donna Meagle, posing with a photo of a Husky

(Image credit: NBC)

Her Spirit Dog Is A Cat

During a game of picking out everyone’s spirit dogs, April gets into hot water with Donna when she suggests that Donna is like a poodle, since she’s pretty and likes makeup.

April vows to learn everything about Donna in order to make a more meaningful choice — including that she likes to play her oboe in the jacuzzi and that her favorite book is Downton Abbey. We also learn she’s a huge fan of Sugar Ray, but only after Mark McGrath left the band.

April ultimately cracks the code: Donna isn’t a dog at all. She’s a cat! She’s temperamental, unpredictable, and only opens up to people after they prove themselves.

Billy Eichner and Retta as Craig and Donna on Parks and Recreation

(Image credit: NBC)

She Loves Scandal

Donna’s favorite show for live tweeting is Scandal. For fashion, it’s also Scandal. Actually, for binge watching, it’s Scandal, too.

When Donna meets her Eagleton counterpart, Craig (played by Billy On The Street host Billy Eichner), the two bond over their mutual love of Scandal.

Retta as Donna Meagle, pictured next to her Mercedes Benz

(Image credit: NBC)

She LOVES Her Mercedes

One of the best running jokes in Parks and Recreation is that Donna is obsessed with her Mercedes Benz. Everyone at the Parks Department knows, which is why Jerry is confidently able to answer the question “Where is your favorite place to smush your boo” during Tom’s game of Know Ya Boo.

When the gang goes on a hunting trip in Season 2, Ron is shot in the head—but Donna isn’t upset until she sees that one of the rounds went through the Benz. When a rep from Mercedes shows up to help, Donna knows him by name and sprints to him.

That’s why when Donna ultimately sacrifices her car in the name of friendship, we know just how meaningful of a gesture it really is. During Leslie’s run for city council, the gang rents a fleet of vans to transport voters to the polls, but the disgruntled owner of the vans wants to back out of their contract thanks to a bribe from Leslie’s opponent. After he lightly rear ends Donna’s car, she doesn’t hesitate to smash the Mercedes into his truck. You DON’T mess with her friends.

Retta singing on Parks and Recreation

(Image credit: NBC)

She Came In Ninth In Italy’s Got Talent

By the end of Parks and Rec, we know that Donna has led a very fulfilled life and has achieved some pretty spectacular things. 

For example, she shares that she came in ninth place in Italy’s Got Talent. That’s no surprise, since Donna has sung in her signature operatic style several times throughout the series, most memorably at Ben and Leslie’s wedding.

In addition to competing on the singing competition, Donna reveals in the finale that she also originated the doorknocker earring trend and served on a NASCAR pit crew.

Retta as Donna, seated next to Paul Schneider as Mark Brendanawicz

(Image credit: NBC)

She Wants Lower Taxes

Donna only supports politicians who share her views on taxation. She even admits that back in the '80s she donated to David Duke after receiving a phone call stating he would lower taxes.

While it’s mostly a joke, Donna even tells Leslie that she won’t vote for her for city council unless she promises to lower taxes, as well.

Keegan-Michael Key and Retta as Joe and Donna on Parks and Recreation

(Image credit: NBC)

She Has Very High Standards

Donna is a woman who knows her worth, and won’t settle for a man who doesn’t meet her very, very high standards.

When the Parks Department meets the Indianapolis Colts, she turns down a linebacker who tries to talk to her, saying, “Skilled positions only.”

We also learn in a Galentine’s Day episode that Donna has had two annulments: one for fun, and one as a part of a long con.

When we’re introduced to Joe (Donna’s future husband, played by Key and Peele star  Keegan-Michael Key), Donna says Joe is her version of “Tammy,” referencing Ron’s addiction to his ex-wife and the crazed lunatic he becomes when they cross paths. In reality, Joe is a very selfless and kind elementary school teacher, and Donna doesn’t like him because she feels bored in secure, drama-free relationships.

Ron offers words of wisdom to Donna after meeting Joe, saying:

Live your life how you want, but don’t confuse drama with happiness.

Thanks to Ron, Donna gives Joe another chance, and the two make one of the cutest couples in Parks and Rec history.

To catch more tidbits about the rich life of Donna Meagle, binge Parks and Recreation, one of the many shows on Peacock. Episodes of all seven seasons are included with Peacock subscriptions.

Emily Marek
Emily Marek

She/her. Lover of female-led comedies, Saturday Night Live, and THAT scene in Fleabag. Will probably get up halfway through the movie to add more butter to the popcorn.