BABE #299: SHANNON HEMMINGS - Actor, Model, Content Creator
Shannon discovered her passion for performing at a young age and now lives out that passion as an actress, content creator and model. She spends her days in Atlanta hustling between auditions and creating content, having recently discovered her niche in voiceover acting. In an industry full of rejection, uncertainty and oftentimes conformity, Shannon encourages us to own our individuality, find the silver lining and remain optimistic through the tough days.
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Current city: Atlanta, Georgia
Alma mater: University of West Florida
Degree: B.A., Communication Arts
Very first job: Peer counselor
Hustle(s): Actor, Model & Content Creator
Babe you admire and why?
There are so many women I look up to! My mother is definitely my number one. Not only is she the strongest person I know, but she somehow manages to spread love and light through every single hardship. She’s an angel on Earth! My grandmothers are incredibly strong, smart, intelligent and wondrous women who I’ve also looked up to my whole life. I’m also a little crazy about my voiceover coach and mentor, Deborah Richards, because she helped to change my entire life. The first time I spoke to her on the phone about auditing a class, [she said], “You’ve got some pretty pipes.” No one had ever told me that before, but someone believing in me before even seeing me meant so much.
How do you spend your free time?
I love film festivals! I put up over 110 posters for the Atlanta Film Festival just to earn an all-access pass, and it was so worth it. Watching movies in a cinema is definitely one of my favorite pastimes. I also thoroughly enjoy a good game night, as well as eating food. I make time to travel because I genuinely believe there’s no better way to learn and grow than to explore a place and culture outside of your own. I’ve been to Jamaica, Trinidad, Mexico, Canada, Barbados, Turkey, Scotland, Greece, Japan, the United Kingdom, Spain, The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Morocco and Poland.
Favorite fictional female character?
Nancy Drew comes to mind, because I was obsessed with Nancy Drew books as a kid. Her curiosity, her spunk, her independence, her drive, even her sense of humor—who knew someone fictional would have a weirdly strong effect on who I am today? She also had a very clear sense of purpose, which I admired greatly.
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
I just realized the beauty of coffee. No wonder people become addicted; it really does help when it comes to productivity. However, I am probably the biggest wino you will ever meet. I love me some wine.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Ackee and saltfish, Jamaica’s national dish. I love it.
What’s something you want to learn or master?
French! I want to be fluent in French more than anything, and eventually Spanish as well. I have so much respect for people who speak more than one language.
Tell us about your hustle.
Right now, I am an actress; voiceover is what pays the bills, but I audition for everything from TV to film, and anything in-between. I model, I YouTube, and recently I’ve become a livestream host on the app BIGO LIVE.
What does your typical workday look like?
Most days include: waking up and saying a prayer, auditioning for six to eight voiceover jobs, auditioning for one or two “other” acting jobs, livestreaming for one to two hours and recording or editing a video for my YouTube channel. I have to be force-fed most days by my roomie. I really do forget to eat.
Have you always had a passion for performing?
Always and forever—yes. I’ve recently come to the strong conviction that we are the way we are because of family, and I think every single strand of who I am is because of genetics. My parents are both entrepreneurs; three out of four grandparents are retired teachers. Two of my great-grands loved performing, though they never pursued it as a profession. I remember my grandmother’s exterminator being over one day while I was imitating the different characters on the TV screen and trying to entertain my younger siblings. He said: “You’re really good! You should pursue performing!” He was my first fan. I took any drama class I could in middle school and got accepted into my high school’s drama magnet program after being denied once. I minored in theatre in college, performing in a few plays and shows while in attendance. Moving to Atlanta, I did short films here and there, and plays until I signed with my first agency. I booked a couple different commercials, TV shows (such as “Disappeared” and “Nashville”), and then I discovered the beautiful world of voiceover. Thanks to voiceover, I was finally able to quit my day job.
What are some pieces of wisdom you wish your younger self would have received?
You are enough. Have some fun. I think when you first start auditioning, you take it all too seriously. You’re trying so hard to book a job that you end up never booking. Once you realize there is only one you and that you should just let go, be yourself and have fun, auditioning becomes a lot less daunting and you start to book more. Jump into a class; they’re best way to network and grow. Then, it would be to start self-submitting and growing that resume until you find an agent. Don’t just sit there and wait until you think you’re good enough. Audition for short films—paid or unpaid—and audition for plays. [...] Figure out all the ways in which you can tell a story and do it! Don’t put yourself in a box. I know so many beautiful and ridiculously talented actresses who think there is just one way to success: auditioning. No. We need to stop waiting for someone to think we’re good enough, to own that we are indeed good enough and to use those gifts in some way, shape or form. Create your own content.
Tell us about your YouTube channel and social media presence. How did you get your start?
Honestly—coming in third place as a contestant on “Wheel of Fortune.” I was so mad! I had practiced so hard, and it had been my one of my childhood dreams to not just be on the show, but to win. I remember being disappointed after the show and my mom had a real talk with me. She was telling me she was happy I lost, because it was situations like that which showed I needed to build character and do some more growing, because I should have been thrilled. She also told me I was talented, and that I had a gift—but I was relying too much on others. “It’s great that you’re auditioning,” she said, “but you shouldn’t wait for the opportunity to fulfill your purpose. You need to create your own content.” It was her who put that fire under my butt. My purpose when it comes to social media and YouTube has certainly evolved. I want to shine light and spread love. I do believe that our world is a dark place, and if I can make one person smile, laugh or have hope, then I’m doing something right. I hope to inspire people to go out and fulfill their purpose and know that life is so worth living. Now I have some presence, I also hope to dig deeper and take on more responsibility. As artists, entertaining is one thing—but to use our artistic power to bring awareness to things that are truly matter is a whole different (and extremely important) ball game. My next challenge is to be more courageous and take even more risks in effecting change.
What’s been your biggest career milestone?
There was one day last month I booked four jobs in less than 24 hours, and that was crazy-special to me, because 2019 is the first year I have begun since adulthood with no day job, completely relying on acting. The fact that I only booked one job towards the end of January was honestly petrifying. I felt like a total fool, and thought I had quit my day job too soon. When I booked four jobs in one day, it was almost as if God was saying: Told ya I had your back. This is what you’re supposed to be doing. It ain’t gonna be easy, but this is your purpose. That single day really gave me the confidence and peace I needed, which is why it will always be a milestone on my journey.
How has being a woman—and a woman of color—affected your professional experience?
Funnily enough, it has made me obsessed with voiceover that much more. I’m not your stereotypical woman of color. I never have been, and that has affected my on-camera journey. I do believe most roles (e.g. “black girl number one”) are looking for a specific type of woman of color who fits into society and the entertainment world’s boxes. It can be frustrating, because here I am: taking acting classes that tell me to embrace my essence and who I am. But who I am doesn’t fit into what society thinks I should be. That’s the beautiful thing about voiceiverm though—what I look like literally doesn’t matter. I’m not auditioning for roles that are looking for black girl number one or street girl number two, I’m auditioning for roles that want a voice that is youthful, or spunky, or millennial, or the girl next door, or converational. Voiceover has completely taken me out of that box, and the color of my skin doesn’t matter—just my voice and the way I tell a story. Incredibly refreshing, I tell ya! We need to create more roles for women of color and minorities that are outside of the box and don’t give in to the stereotypes. Not all black girls are “ghetto” or speak a certain way. Let’s stop casting based on the shade of one's skin and instead on talent, personality, essence, and how someone tells a story. I wish casting directors were truly colorblind.
What’s the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
Well, I just got done living with a male roommate, and for every one audition I had, he had three or four. I do think its a male-heavy industry, but I definitely think it’s evolving. We’ve got more female producers and directors taking a stand and creating more opportunities for their fellow women, and it’s truly amazing to witness.
Are you involved with any other side projects?
For about three years I’ve been involved with the volunteer program Everybody Wins! Power Lunch reading program. Volunteers can read to a kid and help them learn to read and expand their vocabulary during their lunch time. I’ve been reading to the same little guy for almost three years, and we’ve become best friends. When you see someone go from being as quiet as a mouse to speaking their mind, wanting to pick out book after book and telling you about what they want to do with their future. It’s really something so insanely special.
What does your approach to work-life balance look like?
I’ve finally started reading for pleasure again, and journaling has always been a big thing in my life. Taking the time to breathe and reflect on life has helped me to try and find that balance. It’s also super-important to surround myself with the right people. I’m so grateful to have friends in my life who remind me to try and have some fun outside of work.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
I’m gonna drop a quote from a book I’ve been reading called “The Way of the Warrior: An Ancient Path to Inner Peace” — “If you have taken ownership of your life, you have come to know your own power. You don’t stagger through life with a sense of powerlessness. You know who you are and that you are ultimately responsible for the future you create and the choices you make.“ Take ownership of your life.
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