Florida has so many treasures … many of them quirky and unique to the Sunshine State. The sunsets, smell of orange blossoms, the quiet swaying of pine trees, an afternoon rainstorm, a pink roseate spoonbill in flight or a slice of kitsch via an old, yet still thriving nostalgic roadside attraction, “Authentic” Florida is everywhere we turn.
The stillness of a kayak ride through a Florida mangrove tunnel, a swim in the world’s deepest freshwater spring, a swamp walk through the Big Cypress, horse riding on a real cracker cattle ranch, scalloping on the Nature Coast, diving for lobster in the Florida Keys, or hiking through the towering pine flatwoods of Ocala National Forest, the list goes on and on and on.
Besides discovering what makes Florida so special, there are some of us who love to live “Florida” in all we do. Our kitchen bustles with delightful dishes of Florida Roasted Shrimp Salad, a Tomato-Mozzarella Tart, fresh Key Lime Pie, stone crab and clams and everything in between. We also shun the big chains and look for great mom and pop establishments to eat, stay and shop at. We relish our time in the garden growing and creating a yard that looks and feels like Florida. We enjoy curling up with inviting Florida books written by local writers or audio versions when we hit the road to explore our great state. We love art and artists who remind us of the state’s beauty and fun elements. Since exercising is something we know we must do, we prefer doing it outdoors – walking, hiking, biking, paddleboarding, kayaking or practicing yoga on the beach, lakeside or with flamingos with our view. Add to that a deep appreciation for ALL things Florida and VOILA … You have our vision of Authentic Florida.
Authentic Florida, for us, is a way of being, a way of life, and a source of inspiration. It’s our home, maybe it’s yours, too, or it’s one of your favorite places to visit. Consider this your personal invitation to join us as we continue our journey together.
Melanie Lentz-Janney joined Authentic Florida Media in September 2017 as the website’s Managing Partner. On January 1, 2018, Melanie took ownership of Authentic Florida Media, LLC. overseeing all of Authentic Florida’s operations including content creation, website promotion and partner/media relations.
It is with deep appreciation and respect she would like to acknowledge the founder and former owner, Robin Draper. If Robin ever decides she would like to join Team Authentic Florida, she knows the door is always open for her.
Melanie has lived in Florida for over 40 years. She grew up in Maitland, spent her first two years of college in Miami, and has lived in the Orlando area since 1990 (College Park, Fern Park and since 2012, Winter Park). Although she was born in New York City, she considers herself an Authentic Floridian. Her family moved to Orlando shortly after Disney opened. She fondly remembers riding in the back of her family’s station wagon and going on various adventures throughout the state. Her family owned a condo at New Smyrna Beach, so many weekends and summers were spent clamming, crabbing, fishing and sunbathing. She also enjoyed playing tennis and waterskiing. As a teen, she landed a job in the entertainment division of Disney and has great memories of performing in shows, parades and signing autographs.
She has over 25 years of experience as a Public Relations and marketing professional, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and in the past 10 years as a social media marketing strategist and content creator. She has always loved writing and photography, so blogging was a natural fit for her. In fact, she was one of the pioneers of monetizing her blogging efforts when she needed to fund her documentary project. People paid a fee and she took them on a behind-the-scenes journey on the art of filmmaking.
Melanie is the founder of her own firm, Doverwood Communications, Inc., where she has worked with a wide range of clients including several top entertainment empires, a few Florida and New York film festivals, a plethora of tropical resorts/hotels, an environmentally intelligent town in Central Florida, and a new product launch for a local transportation agency.
Melanie followed a lifelong dream when she served as the Visionary/Executive Producer/Producer of An Affair of the Heart, an award-winning feature documentary film about the healing power of music as seen through the lives of pop icon Rick Springfield and his most devoted fans.
Additionally, Melanie was the first Executive Director of Women in Film & TV – Florida (WIFT-FL) and has been on the Board of Directors since 2005. She was appointed President of WIFT-FL in 2015, where she spearheaded the opening of four new Florida branches (Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville & Daytona Beach) in addition to overseeing the headquarters in Orlando. She is a Lifetime member and holds a dual membership with the New York branch. She is also a member of Film Florida, Enzian Film Society, the Sundance Institute, Leu Gardens, the Orange County Historical Society, and the Florida Outdoor Writer’s Association.
In addition to her board business experience, Melanie has a passion for Florida kitsch. Melanie’s eye for spotting Florida’s unique treasures from alligator farms to roadside stands is second nature to her. In fact, Melanie’s mom owned a shop on Park Avenue in Winter Park throughout the 1980’s that was dedicated to kitsch.
As CXO, Melanie will be handling the day-to-day activities and plans to focus on expanding the Authentic Florida brand.
Melanie works diligently at finding a healthy balance in her life. In addition to work, she enjoys yoga, walking her golden retrievers, traveling with her husband and teen son around Florida (and beyond), cheering on the Tampa Bay Bucs, and discovering Florida treasures.
Robin Draper is a Florida native. She grew up on a barrier island off of Florida’s West Coast – playing in the Gulf of Mexico and building sandcastles in the powdery white sand. Mangroves became her playground, pine trees and sea grapes were her shady getaway. She fell in love with nature and relished starry nights and afternoon hikes.
Family trips took her all over her home state – to Central Florida’s crystal clear springs, to the hills and rivers of the Panhandle, to wide endless ribbons of Atlantic beaches, to coral reefs in the Florida Keys, through the saw grass and cypress of the Everglades, and to mom-and-pop motels in small towns near the many roadside tourist attractions.
All of these places and experiences made an indelible mark on her soul, creating a passion and love for Florida. After college she spent two years in the Peace Corps on a remote island in Micronesia. Then she married and moved to California and pursued a professional career as a fundraising executive. She was away for twenty years. But something deeply rooted in her soul longed for the magical moments of her youth. Visions of Florida crept into her dreams.
She visited “home” when she could and knew that someday she would return forever to the people and places she loved and would recapture the absolute bliss of her Florida life. Robin finally returned to Florida. In 2011 she created Authentic Florida as an avenue to her past, and as a path to discovering new treasures. Authentic Florida is her heartfelt creation and homage to the land she loves.
She describes Authentic Florida as “simple and delightful pleasures for Florida living” and has shared her journeys through a blog and articles on the website, in an e-newsletter and by connecting through social media.
Draper has been recognized with awards from Gotta Get Blogging, the statewide Florida Bloggers Conference, for “Best Travel Blog” and “Best Food Blog” plus the overall “Blog of the Year” presented during the forum’s Sunshine Awards. Draper also received the Best of Conference Award for outstanding work from the Florida Outdoor Writers Association.
Robin personally experiences every adventure she recommends. She also cooks every recipe listed on Authentic Florida, detailing a step-by-step approach. Her Authentic Florida columns, articles and blogs are regularly featured in Florida Today (USA Today), Edible Orlando, Edible Sarasota, Harbor Style Magazine, Sarasota Magazine and Visit Sarasota’s website. Draper is a featured speaker throughout the state at tourism events highlighting Florida travel and living.
Robin is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), Board Member, Florida Outdoor Writers Association (FOWA), Florida Bloggers Conference and is a Master Gardener.