Wednesday, November 20, 2019

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS | SHAUN ROBINSON

‘We have made great strides … but there is still a long way to go’

Shaun Robinson

Shaun Robinson is a ubiquitous presence in Tinseltown. Whether you see her as the longtime co-host of “Access Hollywood” or as mogul Kris Kensington on BET’s “Games People Play,” the Spelman-educated, Emmy-winning television personality is a Hollywood insider’s insider.

Now an executive producer (alongside Bishop T.D. Jakes) on the forthcoming “Seven Deadly Sins,” Robinson spoke to Las Vegas Black Image about her career and having secured a place on both sides of the red carpet.

What has been the biggest professional challenge you encountered when you first started your Hollywood TV interviewing career?

The biggest professional challenge I faced when I first got my national job was navigating day-to-day around a very powerful anchor who didn’t feel a black woman should have this huge position in Hollywood. This was pre-#MeToo. The harassment that I endured from him on so many levels would never be allowed today.

When you interviewed the most renowned celebrities, how did you choose the questions you decided to ask them?

The producers came up with the majority of questions that were asked during junkets, red carpet events and set visits. Of course, I would add my own. It was a collaborative effort.

Shaun Robinson

What celebrity or notable was your most impactful interview that you still reflect on today and why?

My favorite person to interview is probably Will Smith. He is funny, super-smart, and very thoughtful in his interviews. He was always a pleasure to have a conversation with. He can make you feel like you are the only one in the room. Very professional. That, I think, has contributed to his success.

What did you learn about Oprah Winfrey that the public might not be aware of?

The Big O that we don’t already know? Oprah has really been an  open book throughout her career. That is a big, massive part of her appeal.

How did your HBCU education at Spelman College prepare you for the career you have?

Spelman College taught me the power of sisterhood and when you empower a girl, she can change the world. Our Spelman Hymn — which includes the line “undaunted by the fight” — became a mantra for me throughout my professional career.

Do you think that racial disparities in media are getting better or worse?

In the news business, I am seeing more and more people of color getting opportunities that were not available years ago. There is still much work to be done.

What turned out to be the biggest game-changer in your career?

Not giving up. Not listening to naysayers who said I could not accomplish a goal because of where I came from or the color of my skin. That was the game-changer for me.

Do you prefer working in front of the camera or behind the camera in film and television?

Both. I get to stretch different muscles with my work in front of and behind the camera. I have spent my entire career in front of the camera — and now, I get to create programming as well. It’s the best of both worlds.

How is it producing with Bishop T. D. Jakes on the Lifetime movie series, “Seven Deadly Sins?”

I’m very excited about this movie project with Bishop Jakes! He is such a powerhouse and has produced so many films. Stepping into this role as executive producer has been quite a learning experience for me. We are looking forward to bringing these movies to the audience.

What would be your advice to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps in the television interviewing and producing world of Hollywood?

The tool that many people wanting to get into the business today is the Internet. I encourage up-and-coming journalists and hosts to start a channel on You-Tube — show some of your work there and use that as your resume reel.

What’s your next “Big Thing?”

In addition to all of the other projects I am working on, my foundation is doing a documentary about implicit bias towards African-American girls. I’m hoping this will be a conversation-changer when it comes to our girls.

What motivated you to start your nonprofit, “S.H.A.U.N. Foundation for Girls?” And what are some of the positive impacts that have taken place to make life better for your girls of color in your organization?”

My family always told me that, “If God gives you a platform, use it to give back.” I have long been in the girls’ empowerment space, and I felt I could make a difference in the lives of girls around the country with my foundation. And we are doing just that.

In your book “Exactly As I Am,” to what do you attribute the low self-esteem felt by some young black girls?

I think low self-esteem in black girls results from implicit bias against them. Our society holds stereotypes about black girls that manifest in ways that affect girls every day. Recent studies have found that adults view black girls as less innocent, less in need of protection than white girls. They also see them as more adult-like and hyper sexual. It’s very sad.

What would you like to tell sisters about staying healthy and “best health breast practices?”

I would tell them that self-care is the most important care. We are so busy nurturing others that we forget about the fact that we need to take care of ourselves first. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

What do you think television and cable viewers want to see?

I think people, in general, want to see people who look like them — who reflect some of the experiences they have gone through. We have made great strides in diversity, but there is still a long way to go.

Shaun Robinson with Tina Knowles

Shaun Robinson with Chris Tucker

Shaun Robinson with Samuel L. Jackson

Shaun Robinson with Shaquille O’Neal

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