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#SheIsDope: Shantae J. Edwards

This blog post was written by Catherine Buccello who is also a contributor to the BYOB Society Blog as well as Felix Vargas.

I received the pleasure to Chit Chat with the Busy Body Shantae J about how she is moving her industry forward while helping the next up generation.

Shantae J. Edwards is a family oriented, sneaker-loving, New York City-based, Chicago native who is dedicated to personal and professional development. She has been helping people attain these goals, both personally and professionally, through 11 years of work in youth education, marketing, and business consulting.

She is the founder of two companies, SJ Strategies & Consulting, LLC and IAMDOPE, Inc. Shantae J.’s May 2016 TEDx Talk, “You Are Enough,” explains exactly how she has been able to spread her message of embracing your own humanity and the humanity of others in order to improve yourself on an individual and on a community basis.



Catherine: What is your title?

Shantae: Self-Entrepreneur, founder of IAMDOPE, Inc (“I Am Dreaming Of Possibilities Everyday)

Catherine: What does your work consist of?

Shantae: Public speaking, Facilitation and Workshops. They are based around shifting the narrative,standing in one’s truth owning who you are by building your brand.It ’s about getting people from the “I want too” – the desire,  to the “I will”- the action.

Catherine: You just hosted a Career/Passion Panel last week. Let’s discuss that topic a bit. What do you deem as your Career?

Shantae: I am an Inspirational Speaker 24/7. That is my calling and my purpose. I also have learned that in balancing my purpose driven career I need to secure coins until I am doing this full time. With that said, I am a Communications Director for an elected official. I am also a Professor at Kingsborough Community College for Speech Communications: Intro to Public Speaking.

I also do consultant work which is apart of my other business as well as program development for nonprofits, schools, educators, primarily focused on young people and the youth. These are all coin related for my career. Whoa that was a mouth full. Ultimately my career is centered around communications, being a messenger, a storyteller. Long term I will rock out full time as a Speaker and Trainer.

Catherine: What would you define as your passion?

Shantae: My Career focus has hints of what I am passionate about. What I am passionate about are people owning their stories. My podcast (The DOPE Mindset Podcast) which you can find on Soundcloud, allows me to share words of wisdom and speak to all demographics ( young, old, etc) and just connecting to people period.

Catherine: When did you make the shift from being a 9-5er to a Self Entrepreneur?

Shantae: 2016 was the last year of having a “structured” full-time position. I was going on 8 years of being Career Focused, Insurance, Benefits, etc. I did the “You are Enough” Tedx Talk in that year where my focus was igniting and inspiring people as well supporting people to live their best life. So in order to lead by example, I had to do the same thing, so now I can say I am a self-entrepreneur.

Who Run The World? (Cuts me off) Women (Snaps) (Chuckles)

Catherine: Who Do You Primarily Work with?

Shantae: I work primarily with young people. I do that work because I remember being a young person and not feeling like I belonged or I had a voice. My purpose is to support young people to step into their power at an early part of their lives to support their positive impact on the world.


Catherine: What is your approach to getting your message to resonate with the youth?

Shantae: It’s a universal approach.  I have had 11 years of youth development, I have worked with young people in different capacities, in different brackets from youth – college. I connect with young people. Aside from my professional background, I have personal experience. I am 32 and a big sister, the 1st of 7 children. I watched my mom command respect from us growing up. I have been able to learn from my siblings and adapted from the authoritative and consistent behavior from my mother.

What I have been able to learn from working with young people in different capacities are that people are fragile and everyone is human. I grew up feeling that I had to be perfect or wait for permission to not be perfect. My approach is a partnership. I am not your superior, I do not know more than you, how can we work together ?

*Boom Cat Cat, Drop it like its hot, get low*

Catherine: Code-Switching has become a New Hot Topic, Do you ever Code-Switch? What are your thoughts?

Shantae:  Code-Switching is not a new topic, it’s just people talk about it in certain settings more than other settings. Shantae J. Edwards was dressing for professional and looking a certain way. Shantae J. as a Certified Rap Director with College Summit, Inc and then as a Dream Director for The Future Project was energized and got to show up as she has exposed herself to be. It is more so a fine line of knowing who’s in the room and who the players are. Basically “staying ready so you don’t have to get ready.”

For young people code-switching is perceived negatively. It is now a tool you have to use. Nah bro, You just got to know who is in the room. Have the proper conversations and dress accordingly. Don’t take away from who you are, consider and approach the environment alliance in the room.

Catherine:  So it is just more so about adapting to the room?

Shantae: More so about adapting to the temperature of the room and knowing yourself? Is this a space where it’s loud? Ight Cool, Let me speak up. We overthink ourselves too much. Especially in corporate settings and abiding by company policies, because we don’t want to come across as “being too much”. I have a left tattoo sleeve  on my arm that I got in 2015. . However, in certain rooms I wear a blazer to cover it, so the attention is on the conversation and not on my tattoos. We can talk about it if one sneaks out and is visible, cool, but that is not the purpose of why I am here. There is something to be said about talking a certain way which is what people automatically think of when referring to code-switching. It is true, sometimes you switch the way you pronounce your words, just as I hope one would when speaking to their elders over speaking to their friends, it’s all about the setting.

Catherine: Since the focus here has been young people, let’s touch on another topic geared towards the youth. With the power of Social Media, Owning your truth and oversharing there is a fine line between oversharing and opening up. What are your thoughts? Should there be elements of holding some things back or should we/they be open and vocal?

Shantae: Interesting Question. I would say 2 things: Awareness and Consideration. It is not about you all the time. Yes, you should always stand in your truth and understand there is a time and place for everything. Responsibility comes with awareness. You can’t force yourself onto people and overshare your identity onto others. Choose where to share it. Awareness, Consideration and Choice. We have a responsibility to be ourselves and take consideration of others around us. Also choose wisely on the channels you are choosing to share certain information with.

I am a woman loving women since 2002, but I grew up in Chicago and my mom was very private. Taught at a young age “Don’t talk about ourselves because people will talk about you”. I had a responsibility to express who I was but a responsibility to consider my mother’s feelings. Remember humans are fragile and we have to consider their overall feelings. It’s the happy medium of not holding back while not overstepping. Providing room to let the other person breathe and while you are making it about you, you are allowing others to receive.

A lot of focus from my work is around wellness and mental health. So the Awareness and Responsibility around the fact that others do not have to accept it, but I(you) am better because I am able to have this moment of Open Dialogue


Catherine: What would you say is your message that you are trying to convey?

Shantae: My purpose is to support young people to step into their power at an early part of their lives to support their positive impact on the world. My work is driven around sustainability. Ensuring that young people feel inspired and empowered to be themselves early on allows for them to create the narrative they want and exist in any space whole. I’m providing them with the tools to do that.

Imagine a world where grownups were inspired and given permission to create their narrative at a younger age, the world would experience the power of community and awareness that comes later on in life for grownups. I’m creating this world now by holding young people accountable to their power to make a positive impact by leaving this world better than they found it.

Catherine: What gave you and continues to give you the courage to be DOPE?  

Shantae: It was March 2013, my mom had a tumor under her right armpit, battling breast cancer and over the course of 19 years she was battling an array of different illnesses. I was living in DC at the time and my mom had to go under and she didn’t have anyone there to support her. I tried to get to Chicago and my flight was delayed 5x. I was calling my siblings and they all had other things to do during that time. So I reached out to my mentor, Ms. Marlynne Nishimura, and she went to the hospital at 6am to be there with her. I just remained calm every time my flights were getting canceled and was able to catch a flight bringing me into Chicago at 3am. My mentor still accompanied me to the hospital and the nurse informed me that it was a miracle that my mom was alive. Pause. I had to take a moment.

In June of 2013 I asked my mom to come visit me in DC. Now my mom has only traveled by Bus or Train, “I’m not getting on nobody plane”. I was working as a Dream Director though, making other peoples dreams come true and my mom never flew but agreed to come in October. October came and went and my mom got cold feet. The week before Thanksgiving, mom was ready to come and said yes. I picked my mom up from the airport with flowers and as a thriving young professional in DC I took my mom to the White House (Obama was in Office), Mom took pictures with Obama Cut Out and in front of the White House, it was beautiful. After a day of running around, I was rubbing my mom’s feet on the couch and asked what is on her bucket list. She said this trip alone, she turned a dream into reality. A week and a half later she texted me saying “love you”, I responded back “I love you too”. Five hours later my mom passed away, this was Saturday, December 7th 2013.

There is something about losing a parent that shifts your world. The courage I get to push through is my mom. She was such a phenomenal woman and she was so lowkey with it! She had 7 children, never been wed, proposed too numerous times. But it was 2013 when she said she was just going to live her life and she showed up and never stopped showing up no matter what was going on. She had 7 kids, and each one of us will say she was our best friend. Four hundred people showed up in a snowstorm for her home going. She never judged, she only loved. She was quick to get upset but quick to forgive and forget.

I want when you see me, you see her. It’s poetic to leave the world better than you found it. Leave the world so fucking dope yo and fuck shit up! You get to choose what people will say about you, I choose the narrative for myself.

Catherine: Full three sixty mantra

Shantae: You know something Cat. Young people are my target because they will be the ones responsible for taking care of me and I selfishly have to make sure they are equipped with the proper tools of wellness and ownership that I’m able to sleep peacefully at night…#teachthebabies. We owe it to our ancestors/elders. I owe it to my mama, my Queen, Marlene Edwards.

I also believe my universal approach works in all spaces because when I show up I tap into the inner child that once felt voiceless and is now inspired to be their true self…whomever that is for them.

I give humans permission to be because my presence says “I See You and You Matter.”