Dana Freedman was born in Los Angeles circa 1965. Her father was in the travel industry and her mother was a dancer. As a teenager, Walden rode show hunters competitively. She earned a degree in communications from the University of Southern California.
Following her graduation, Walden worked for the public relations firm Bender, Goldman & Helper as Larry Goldman's assistant. She spent five years there, rising to the role of vice president. She then managed marketing and communications for talk show host Arsenio Hall. She worked on campaigns for The Arsenio Hall Show and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Media executive Lucie Salhany recruited Walden to work in public relations for 20th Century Fox Television in 1992. Following a "Jerry Maguire moment" during a presentation at a Fox corporate retreat in the mid-1990s, Walden was made a programming executive.
- Flint, Joe (October 2, 2011). "Dana Walden is obsessed with TV". Los Angeles Times.
- Rose, Lacey (December 5, 2012). "20th TV's Dana Walden On Her Career-Changing 'Jerry Maguire' Moment". The Hollywood Reporter.
- Littleton, Cynthia (July 14, 2014). "Dana Walden, Gary Newman Take Over Fox Broadcasting in Restructuring". Variety.
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