Shanese AKA “DramaKueen” is a lover of the arts and is also a big believer in philanthropy and community outreach, such as bringing awareness of those who suffer with Celiac Disease. Right before the pandemic Shanese volunteered to go to jail and was featured on season 6 of the hit docu-series 60 Days In on the A&E/Lifetime network. Shanese pursued this opportunity because she wanted to see how the jail system coped with people that dealt with medical issues that consist of food allergies & intolerances such as Celiac Disease. What is Celiac Disease? A chronic immune disorder triggered by gluten ingestion.
The 60 Days In Season 6 aired on January 2020 and was recently picked up by Netflix November 1, 2021 and is currently available for streaming.
About the show: 60 Days In is a docuseries that is aired on the A&E network. The series follows real civilians as they are sent into prison undercover as inmates and all in the name of rooting out police corruption and crime.
What inspired your start into Philanthropy and Community Outreach? Any program or person in particular that sparked your interest?
Growing up this was instilled in me at a very young age by my both of my parents. I always loved people and helping people, so it came naturally for me. I would tag along with my mom at various Community events. I think my favorite is an organization I still am a part of back home called BFTAA which stands for Black Family Technology Awareness Association. As an educator I felt it was important to work with this organization and be a part of the solution of helping our youth. BFTAA is an organization that aims to close the digital divide among African American youth and families.
I have worked as a volunteer, a judge at the Youth Technology fair and Lead Judge for the Youth Technology fair. I was even presented with the 2013 STEM Leader award for my outreach efforts in the Kansas City area. I also had a lot of struggles growing up with bullying and low self-confidence amongst other issues; so, it has always been important for me to help others who may have those same struggles. That is one of the reasons I left Corporate America and took over a $30K pay cut. I wanted to do my part in helping the community. So many people complain about problems and issues but aren’t willing to roll up their sleeves and put the work in to make a change. I am from the Show Me State of Missouri, so I can show people things more than I can tell them. It is important to lead by example, so I try to do just that.
Tell us about Celiac Disease and your dedication to bringing awareness to the disease?
I was misdiagnosed my entire life being told I had IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and Anemia. Finally, after a year of bloodwork and various painful test, my gynecologist diagnosed me with Celiac Disease in 2009. At that point I had lost over 90 pounds, my hair had started to fall out in big clumps and I was always sick and never knew why. It has been a life changing disease for me, as it is more than just dietary changes; it is a lifestyle change. Plus, when you are misdiagnosed your entire life, your body has lifelong damage that can never be undone. For instance, 13 years ago I stopped having my menstrual cycle; which later caused me to become infertile. My body is constantly deficient of vital nutrients and vitamins. It is not a walk in the park. Several years later, people are more aware about Celiac Disease and Gluten, which makes it easier to navigate the world. However, in 2023 there are still people and restaurants that are still very ignorant about Celiac disease and its effects on the body.
After losing my hair, weight and my ability to have children I started doing more research and wanted to help others who were newly diagnosed. In 2016 I launched my Midwest Gluten Free Diva YouTube channel where I travelled across the Midwest and ate at different Gluten Free restaurants and gave my opinion. Here is one of the first videos I created on that channel: https://youtu.be/8xpYvpa9cnY I am naturally an inquisitive person, so I was able to dive headfirst into finding out things about my newly diagnosed disease. I joined several social media groups and would speak to people every time I went into a Dedicated Gluten Free restaurant. I realized everyone does not have access to the same information, groups or people so it was important to me to become a beacon of information for others that suffered like me. Although this disease has been life changing for me, I believe God makes no mistakes and that he gave me this disease so I can help others and bring awareness. I strive to do that…when I leave this earth, I want to leave my legacy and I want people to remember the contributions that I made for my community.
You are also recognized for your time on the hit docu series 60 days in, can you share a little about your experience on the show?
Several years before unknowingly applying for the show, I was a fan of the show. I watched several seasons during my 2-week Christmas vacation one year. I was hooked from the start. I thought the people volunteering were a special kind of crazy to volunteer for such an experiment, but I became a part of the experiment and made history by doing so. I definitely understood the assignment. Unlike some participants, I did not willingly apply for this show. I saw a casting notice and it asked if you like to help people and are not afraid to speak your thoughts and feelings. I felt like I fit the bill so I applied. I also I applied for 2 other major network shows at the same time, but I knew what shows those were. I got a call from several shows the year I participated in 60 Days In, but after saying no several times and God helping me realize that only I could do this job, I decided to risk everything and volunteer for the riskiest show of them all.
Once I started talking to the casting department, I did a lot of research about Celiac and jail and realized this was my calling. I fought it. I did not decide to volunteer without a fight. However, when something is ordained by God and is your calling, he clears the path for you to do what is needed to fulfill your duties. It was one of the most difficult and selfless things I have ever in my life done.
Although the show didn’t highlight Celiac Disease the way I would have liked them to; it opened the doors for change and conversations that are still being made and had 4 years after I volunteered. My goal was to bring awareness and make sure that any inmates that go into any Jail or Prison have the protections that the ADA provides for Celiac patients who are incarcerated. Etowah County Detention Center made changes to their jails based on my recommendations and I am sure other jails have as well. My time on 60 Days In shed a light on a problem that effects millions of people. I wanted to bring awareness to not only Celiac Disease, but other food allergies and sensitivities that can cause other issues if ignored. Due to not being provided a “real” gluten free diet, I got sick in front of the entire world and had to leave a few days early due to my health. My feet were severely swollen and I had heart palpitations; which later I was told my thyroid levels were nearly 7 times higher after leaving jail and being forced to eat foods that my body could not tolerate. Again, I use this as an opportunity to Educate, Inspire and Empower others who are having struggles every single day. If I can accomplish what I have living with multiple Autoimmune Diseases, so can you.
How did your time impact who you are now as a leader and entrepreneur?
I thought being an educator taught me some valuable life lessons; that was until I went to jail. Working with At Risk Youth has taught me not to ask what is wrong with people, but to try and find the root cause to why people are the way they are. Who hurt them? Who betrayed them? Why they are the way that they are. I have always been an Empathetic person, which I recently learned is called an Empath. Being in jail really tugged at that part of me. I wanted to see why the Recidivism rate is so high. What motivates these offenders? Where I usually run away from criminally minded people, while incarcerated I was drawn to them because I wanted to know more. If I truly want to help alleviate this problem, I had to get to the root cause of the issue. One of the things that I learned is, a lot of the women enjoy coming back to jail for the structure. I spoke to them about creating their own structure. I think this experience has helped me as a leader, because once people learn that I as a Black Woman with Celiac Volunteered to go to jail, I now command their attention and respect. When I talk, people listen and are captivated.
My father came to visit me this past Father’s Day and we ate dinner with family. God rest her soul, I remember talking to one of the older family members about my time in jail and she was memorized at my stories. I had her undivided attention. She passed away about a month ago and I remember seeing her smile and hearing her laugh while I shared my stories. Some people talk a good game, but have nothing to back up what they are saying.
I made the ultimate sacrifice, so people know I am authentic and I really have a vested interest in helping others. As an entrepreneur, my time in jail actually helped me start another business and it made me start back to writing. While in jail coloring and writing kept me sane, because of that I have started my own Journal, Planner and Coloring book line on Amazon. (https://www.amazon.com/author/shaneseshields) I know how therapeutic writing and coloring were for me, so I have spent a couple years working to create these items for everyone, but especially African American men, women and children. I did a lot of creating writing while locked up, which now has afforded me the opportunity to Ghostwrite for several clients.
I have also started my own production company where I write, direct, produce and sometimes star in my own movies. I wrote a spec script for a series that is loosely based off my time incarcerated called Recidivism. I started my company Klazzy Kre8tions on March 3, 2009. I have always considered myself a fearless business owner and leader. However, now after volunteering to spend 60 Days in jail, I really have no fears. I will try anything once and am not afraid to fail. Since exiting jail, I have started multiple businesses including, a dog walking business, website evaluation company, ghost writing, production company, journal business and I am working on my website now for a new business I am launching in 2023. People let fear stop them from going after and achieving their goals. I volunteered to spend 60 Days in Jail. There is nothing that I can’t do if I put my time, effort and money into it.
What is next for Shanese, what can your supporters expect from you?
My production company started fundraising activities a couple of months ago and we have a few more planned for 2023. We need money to get more of our projects off the ground, so this is top priority. You can always donate at our website listed below. In February 2023 I will be launching a new division of Klazzy Kre8tions called, Klazzy Kre8tions Greek Designs and more. This shop will feature one-of-a-kind designs for the Divine Nine, other Greek Organizations and unique designs for Urban Wear. I am having a ball with this business, because I am doing the designing from start to finish on a lot of my products. We already have over 150 items uploaded to our site. I am designing the fabric and putting the pieces together like a puzzle. This guarantees that I will have designs no one else in the world has, because I created everything from the pattern to the layout of the items. Our website will be live in the next week and we will be doing a soft launch with several promo codes over the next 45-60 Days. We will make announcements on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/dramakueen16/)
Production Company: https://www.klazzykre8tionsproductioncompany.com
Amazon Books: https://www.amazon.com/author/shaneseshields
Klazzy Kre8tions: https://klazzy-kre8tions.myshopify.com/
What is your definition of a Pretty Woman Who Hustles?
Someone who is more than just easy on the eyes. My definition of a Pretty Woman Who Hustles is: A woman who thinks outside of the box. Is not afraid to step out on faith, even if that means she must fall on her face. A Pretty Woman Who Hustles believes in achieving multiple streams of income. A Pretty Woman Who Hustles is not afraid to learn new things and is always thinking about making her next move her best move. A Pretty Woman Who Hustles makes progress towards her goals and not excuses. A Pretty Woman who Hustles….is me.