Interview: Shanoah Washington, 2011 HALO Award Winner
Shanoah on the orange carpet
Can you tell me how Sista2Sista got started?
It started with an 11 year-old girl. She had moved from foster home to foster home, and nobody could control her. She was doing crazy things and acting out. She was going through so much. She was in my poetry class, and seeing the things that she went through and knowing what I went through... we had a similar story in certain aspects. That's how Sista2Sista got started. I was just thinking "You know what, let me start a mentoring program." There are tons of other girls out there who have the same stories and need someone to talk to, someone to let them know "It's OK that this happened to you, but you don't have to suffer as a victim from it all the time."
From there, did you recruit other volunteers to help?
I talked to my mom and my grandma and Miss Juanita Suber. They liked the idea, and they were just like "Yeah, yeah, let's do this." So Miss Juanita formed the board for Sista2Sista. We're housed right now in the Royal Theater Boys & Girls Club Performing Arts Academy. There were already students there, and we gave an open invitation.
Shanoah with Leon Thomas and Avan Jogia of Victorious
My proudest moment, as of right now, is the TeenNick HALO Awards! But, besides the TeenNick HALO Awards, my proudest moment was our culmination ceremony where the girls who went through the etiquette program received one credit for a social science in high school. Even if they weren't in high school, they still received it, so it goes on their transcript for when they get there. All of my babies graduated with their credits!
What advice would you give someone who has never volunteered or been involved in their community?
If you have never volunteered, you are not fulfilling your purpose in life. I feel like everyone is here to leave their mark on this world and make it better than it was before they were born into it.
What would you say to people who think it takes up a lot of time, or that it's boring?
When you normally ask someone, "Will you come and volunteer for my mentoring program?" they're like "No, that's gonna take up so much of my time!" But if you think about it like this... If everyone in the entire world donates one hour of their time, that goes from one hour to like 7 BILLION hours worth of volunteering and impacting a child's life to make them a better person. For each hour you spend with another person, helping them and making them feel better than they felt before you came into their life, your cool points go up higher.
I totally agree. What's your biggest dream for Sista2Sista in the future?
My biggest dream is that through our career and entrepreneurial development program, all of my young ladies can have their own businesses that can potentially help other people, and that by the time they're 30, they'll all be able to retire!
How did the whole experience go with Nick Cannon?
He surprised me at The Poetry Spot. They kept telling me "Do you think you can just do one poem at let someone else go?" and I was like "No, because I'm the feature, which means I have to do my five poems, and then other people can go." Then he came back and was like "How about four, how about three?" So finally it was my turn to go, and they cut me while I was doing poetry! And I'm like "NO THEY DID NOT!" And so then they were like "The next poet coming to the mic is Nick Cannon!" and so I'm like, "Aww, man, that's really cool, someone has the same name as Nick Cannon!" And then he walks through the audience really slow and he gets to the front, and he's like "You guuuuyyyys!" and we're just like "It's Nick Cannon, this isn't real." [Watch the show to find out what happens next!]
And how did you meet Jessica Biel?
They flew me to Miami to get an emergency passport, and then they flew me to Canada to meet my match, and they were like "You're going to meet this girl who's just like you!" and I was like "Oh, maybe it's Emily-Anne! I'm gonna meet Emily-Anne, we're gonna get mani-pedis, we'll talk about girl stuff and have tea and do stuff like that." So I get to this very nice hotel, and they had a red carpet outside... [Watch the show to find out what happens next!]
Prior to meeting Jessica Biel, I just thought she was like every other celebrity, but she's not. She's very down to earth. She didn't even want to be called Jessica -- she wanted to be called Jessie. I chilled with her mom, "Mama Biel," who's a spiritual healer, and her assistant, Lauren, who is really awesome.
Those are all my questions. Is there anything else you want to talk about?
My little sister, Shanyjah Williams! Her birthday is on the same day that we're filming the HALO Awards, and she's turning five, but we won't be back until Monday.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SHANYJAH!!
Watch Shanoah helping and leading others on the 2011 TeenNick HALO Awards, premiering Nov. 6th at 8pm on Nick@Nite.