Sheila Fortson’s favorite rule to break growing up as a West Philly kid was the “bedtime rule.” She was to be sleep at 8PM, but as late as midnight, you’d find her with the volume turned low on the TV, defying her loving parents, watching cooking shows, shopping channels, and nightly news replays from earlier in the day. She knew from a very young age that being a host and reporter was a dream she wanted to fulfill, and she did everything in the vein of a faux radio or TV program. She’d give the play by play of everything around the house, including her mom’s cooking: “And now, you can see the rice going into the boiling water. This is sure to be a treat for the entire family!” Of course, her Mama loved her, but this was all day every day for her! (Laughs).
Although Sheila was sure about her passion, as a young college student she was timid when it came to the execution. She’d heard some things along her journey that placed doubt in her mind about her abilities. She wasn’t the brave chocolate child she used to be. So she made it her business to hide in the control room of the campus TV station at Temple University, trying to convince herself she’d be better “behind the scenes”. But something pulled her out of that room. A force she can’t explain paired with great mentors like Former Fox 29 anchor Tracey Matisak and great people, like her college friend turned professional colleague Shay Walker. And the moment she wrapped up her first live segment, feeling her own power and confidence, there was no turning back. The West Philly kid was back, and she had skills! Today she enjoys being told she can’t do something, because it’s exciting and downright fun to prove the non-believers wrong. Sheila’s the first African American ever on air at the station where she works as a TV host & reporter in the Lehigh Valley region of PA (check out her work: www.youtube.com/user/SheilaFortson), and along with Shay, host of THE premiere radio show for women, “The Ladies Room with Sheila & Shay”.
If you know the words to the following song, please sing along! …”In West Philadelphia, born and raised!”….* Just kidding. Shay Walker is a “nicety” (nice, yet feisty if necessary) Philly girl, and the baby of a blended family, almost like the Brady Bunch. She’s blessed to have come from a two-parent household which, she feels, made her the well-rounded, level-headed person she is. She’s a fun-loving person who loves learning and doing new things. She grew up with lots of love (in fact “Love” is her legal middle name) from her parents and her siblings, all of whom are at least 15 years older than her. She’s always had a very vivid imagination and was a creative kid. She loved reading and writing short stories, poetry and even songs. She went to an engineering and science high school and actually wanted to study science and medicine to become a pediatrician! Her father encouraged her to study journalism in college because he really enjoyed reading her writings. It wasn’t until she visited Temple University with her parents that she decided to switch paths and pursue journalism and broadcast communications.
It was there at the school of communication that she discovered her interest in television and radio and decided to pursue a career in media. In one of her news production classes at Temple, she met Sheila Fortson and they became friends. The rest is Ladies Room history! Here they are today at the beginning of what’s going to be a great journey of success and she’s so blessed to have a part in building this empire. In her young career, she’s had the privilege of working with dynamic, inspiring women as a college student through her internships at Radio ONE, Inc. and TV ONE, LLC., and even as a media professional at her former job at NBC10 News. These women have shown her that it’s important to support one another especially in a field like the media. What’s more, they showed her that women can help one another without feeling threatened by each other’s success. It’s all about lifting as they climb. They’ve done that for her, and she will continue to do that for others!
We interviewed Sheila and Shay for the Positive Sisters edition of www.shalenadiva.com and here are their responses on life and their exciting, empowering radio show “The ladies Room with Sheila and Shay.”
Please list a quote or motto you live by and state why.
Inside The Ladies Room our motto is: Do Better. Be Better. Live Better. It’s all about empowering women to live the best life possible through their actions. When we say “Do Better”, we mean c’mon, sis. Quit doing those things that you know are no good for your mind, body and spirit. You hear us say “Be Better”, and we’re encouraging positive relationships between women. We mean this across all races, faiths, and socioeconomic levels. You hear lots of women talk about this utopia of sisterhood they’d love to see, but making that a reality requires action. Kill the gossip, the judgmental behavior, and the backstabbing. And when we say “Live Better”, we’re sewing all these things together. When you do better, you undoubtedly become better, and in essence, you can live better.
Describe your platform: what issues are you passionate about and why? Who is your target audience?
We’re targeting all women, young and old. Depending on a given show topic, our fan base can be a girl as young as 13, to a woman as old as 85, and that’s what we love most about this program. We’re most passionate about being what we call “everyone’s sister-friend” and educating our listeners (male and female) as well as entertaining them. Now, we’ll have fun doing a show about cheating men who got busted, but we give you the reality of that as well when we hit you with a show about sexual health issues. There are two sides to just about anything. We also are believers in the power of sisterhood. Our highest rated show to date was a 2 part series called “The State of Sisterhood”, where we laid it all out, the good and the bad, the drama between women, and the love as well. This was a show our female fan base requested, which shows us women do want to bond better, but they don’t always know how. “The State of Sisterhood” helped with that.
What motivated you to help this group of people? Do any of your own life experiences play a role?
We’ve been friends since college, and began this journey by giving back to each other, in personal and professional relations. That connection between the two of us, the fact that we both mentor young girls, as well as the many women who shaped us are the main reasons we were motivated to extend this act of giving to others and making some new sister-friends! Also, the media depictions we sometimes saw of black female relationships in particular literally began to grate on our nerves. That’s when it hit us that we ARE the media, and it was time for a change. Today’s woman of color is financially focused, raising the next generation of leaders, heading corporations, and holding down the household. She’s well educated, and is serving as the pillar of the family structure. These things can’t be denied, and inside “The Ladies Room with Sheila and Shay”, we highlight the women behind it all.
How do you serve your target market? Do you have a website, radio show, television show, business, organization, etc?
We have our radio show, “The Ladies Room with Sheila & Shay”, we also partner with nonprofit groups, perform community service as a team, and we’re also launching our very own teen group, The Leading Ladies Sister Circle. Our website, www.GirlfriendsRadio.com, is launching next month.
Motivational work is not one size fits all. How did you develop your unique way of serving? What makes your work different?
We wouldn’t really say we developed this way of motivating others. It’s something that’s ingrained in the sisterhood connection. We do this all the time as women. Talking with your girls is a unique form of therapy. However, what we’ve done that’s different is we’ve extended it, and more importantly, we made it a priority that the issues that affect us and matter to us are addressed by us. It’s no secret that men are holding it down when it comes to radio, with women largely serving as their fan base. Surely we should own some sector of that space, and bring forth a perspective that’s ours. And what’s most interesting is that we have a huge male fan base! So it’s almost as if they’ve been waiting for their chance to speak, and our show provides a platform for them to call in and talk about relationships, secrets, you name it.
Did you have any initial fears or concerns that you had to overcome when pursuing your passion?
There’s never been a fear for us when it comes to this show because we believe in it, and we knew others would once they found out about it. But whenever you disseminate information in this fashion, you wonder “is anyone out there even listening?” That was our biggest concern initially. But the numbers would come in, and each week, they’d gradually increase, then substantially increase, to the point where we couldn’t believe we were reaching so many people, so fast on the radio and online. Each week our online stream includes a whopping number of unique listeners. That means their new inside “The Ladies Room”. It proves that like a good deal on a pair of fabulous shoes, our sister-friends are spreading the word about this show.
How can people reach you to learn more about what you do? Are you or your business on Facebook? Twitter? Linked In? Please list.
Facebook Fan page: The Ladies Room with Sheila & Shay
Facebook Profile (Friend) page: Sheila Plus Shay
What brings you the most joy from your work? Any struggles?
We love seeing the fruits of what we’ve planted, and knowing that this show really means something to so many. This program serves as a haven for our sister-friends where they can let themselves be free, and say the things you might overhear at the beauty salon, or even inside the actual ladies room! We keep it positive, and always real, and it means the world to us that our listeners appreciate that and also expect it. The biggest struggle for us is that we hate having just 60 minutes to do this, because we love it so much!
Any advice you’d like to offer to anyone interested in your line of work?
Radio and TV is a saturated industry for sure, but don’t ever let anyone tell you what you dream can’t be accomplished. Offer to work for free and don’t ever utter the words “no” or “I can’t”. Instead, try “I’m willing to try” or simply, “will you show me how?” We both worked as interns in the media industry for several radio and TV stations big and small, and our famous words were “How can I learn to do this?” Remember the power of support, and surround yourself with people who will keep you grounded and who believe in you. And when you do get the opportunity, use your voice for good. Spread positivity in everything that you do. And save the big head for your imagination. At every level, this is an industry for the tenacious, yet humble. Having a bad attitude garners you a bad reputation and it won’t get you very far.
Show information: “The Ladies Room with Sheila & Shay” airs Tuesday at 10PM, EST, on WIFI1460AM radio in NJ, and online at WIFIAM1460.com.
If you’re looking to be empowered, educated, and entertained, this is the place to be. Sheila and Shay are all about uplifting one another inside The Ladies Room, and they speak from experience. So many wonderful women helped guide them, and they even help one another. So when they say this is Girlfriend’s Radio, they mean that to the core. Join them for one amazing, heartwarming, fun and exciting ride!
© 2013, Shalena D.I.V.A. – Author| Speaker| Life And Business Coach. All rights reserved.