Veteran broadcast journalist Shaun Robinson
Photographer credit Quain Photography Mike Quain
This article is part of an ongoing series The Secrets of Successful Women. Articles focus on providing valuable career advice targeted to women professionals in particular but certainly valuable for all.
To say Shaun Robinson is an accomplished trailblazer is an understatement. In the impossible-to-penetrate world of entertainment and broadcast journalism, success is merely a pipe-dream for many, but Shaun Robinson beat the odds to establish herself as an accomplished veteran. She is celebrated by generations of viewers – whether as a staple on the red carpet conducting celebrity interviews, hosting Access Hollywood for 16 years or hosting Tell All specials for some of TLC’s most celebrated shows including “90 Day Fiancé”. More recently, Shaun has leveraged her success to diversify and expand her reach into areas that fully complement her range of philanthropic and professional interests including founding the S.H.A.U.N. Foundation for Girls, and expanding her acting chops by joining the cast of BET’s “Games People Play”. More recently she’s transitioned to the role of executive producer (alongside Bishop T.D. Jakes and Senior Vice President of TDJ Enterprises, Derrick Williams) with the launch of an upcoming Lifetime Network series Seven Deadly Sins based on Victoria Christopher Murray’s anthology. Shaun’s list of credentials and achievements is awe-inspiring without a doubt and her generosity is equally compelling. In the midst of a hectic work schedule, she graciously carved out time to share her secrets to success.
Career Advice – Big Ideas
1. Don’t be afraid to reclaim your power
Early in Shaun’s career she, unfortunately, experienced the first of several “me too” incidents when she had to fend off unwelcome physical advances from a station owner during her early days in her hometown Detroit. After rebuffing his advances, she was abruptly removed from the popular talk show that she’d created (Strictly Speaking) and demoted to street reporting. She recounts, “There was no recourse for me – no HR department you could report to.” While that type of traumatic experience could have easily derailed her dreams and more fundamentally eroded her sense of self, she instead decided to reclaim her power. Robinson explains, “One day I just left for lunch and never came back.” Working in an industry known for scarce opportunity, she willingly stepped into the unknown. Indeed, she took the brave step of honoring her personal values and boundaries knowing that she had the grit, determination and skill to start over and succeed.
2. Don’t listen to detractors…instead persevere
Once Shaun left the Detroit station where she’d been unceremoniously demoted after rebuffing the owner’s advances, she found a new job in Flint, MI as an anchor/reporter. She reflects, “I wanted to bring more positive stories about black communities in the area because the media focus was usually centered around crime. It always seemed to be a battle.” After only 2.5 months at the station, the news director told Shaun that “things weren’t working out” and she had two weeks to find another job. Disappointed but not defeated, she pressed on and continued to look for broadcast journalism work. While browsing a broadcast industry magazine, she saw a classified ad for a medical reporter at a television station in Milwaukee. She sent the station a resume tape, and they flew her out for an interview. She reflects, “While I had no medical background, they wanted someone who could connect with the audience and deliver complicated and often confusing health information in a clear and interesting way.” Needless to say, she got the job and spent the next 3.5 years of her career as an on-air medical correspondent with that station. Reflecting back, she acknowledges that a key to her success having received so many rejections was the determination to not listen to her detractors.
“I’ve always had detractors – people in my ear telling me that what I wanted to achieve was out-of-reach. They told me I’d NEVER land a job with a national television show. Some people are well-meaning because they don’t want you to be disappointed. Whatever the motivation, I’ve learned to drown out the noise, stay centered and persevere! Sometimes it’s a game of who’s the last one standing. You’ve got to just keep trying!”
3. Be willing to move if necessary
It’s easy to get comfortable in a city, but being flexible – willing to move around (particularly during the early career stages) – can make a huge difference. In many industries certain opportunities and experiences are only available to those who are willing to uproot and pursue them, and the broadcasting/media and entertainment space is no different. Shaun clearly prioritized opportunity over comfort in her pursuit of building a credible bio that would help her land her dream job – national entertainment television show correspondent. When she saw an opportunity, location didn’t matter. She knew she would make the best of it, and that job would become just one thread in the tapestry of her soon to be illustrious career.
4. Be prepared
Determined to pursue her dream as a correspondent for a national entertainment program, she submitted an audition tape to Access Hollywood and was flown out for an interview. In 1999 before the ubiquity of cable television and 24 hour news, there were very few national entertainment television programs, and the competition for anchor roles was beyond steep particularly for black females who were glaringly underrepresented. Shaun didn’t just get the job. She became one of the longest running entertainment show anchors in network television history having anchored Access Hollywood from 1999-2015. For a whopping 16 years she not only served as an on-air personality covering breaking news, interviewing celebrities, and building a relationship with viewers across the country, she became a staple on the red carpet for Hollywood’s most prestigious events including The Oscars, The Golden Globes, The Grammys and other renowned awards shows. Reflecting back on her experience, she credits much of her success and longevity in a brutally competitive industry to her relentless focus on being prepared.
“Having an academic background in journalism paired with solid “in the trenches” broadcast journalism experience was invaluable. During breaking news situations like the deaths of JFK Jr. and Michael Jackson, I wasn’t just a talking head. I actually used my journalism skills…It takes skill to ask questions of one celebrity on the red carpet while a producer is telling you in your ear who is coming up next on the red carpet. There is no substitute for preparation and hard work.”
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – JANUARY 11: TV personality Shaun Robinson attends the 72nd Annual Golden Globe … [+]
5. Make time to give back
After leaving Access Hollywood Shaun says her top priority was establishing the S.H.A.U.N Foundation for Girls. Serving on the advisory board of the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up adolescent girl campaign and previously serving on the national board of Girls, Inc., – the national girls empowerment organization – Shaun’s been dedicated to empowering girls and women for decades. The S.H.A.U.N. Foundation for Girls nurtures and supports under-served and underrepresented girls and young women in the areas of:
Shaun clearly believes that giving back, mentoring and helping others is a key ingredient for long term success, not just for her but for the broader community.
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – NOVEMBER 19: Shaun Robinson attends the 2014 Girls Inc. Los Angeles Celebration … [+]
Career Advice – Practical Tips
1. Prioritize self care
As a correspondent on a national network entertainment show, Shaun often endured a grueling schedule of personal and professional commitments. She learned early that self care is priority #1. She shares, “You have to find time to refuel. Find time to get centered, eat right, and exercise.” Her regimen includes starting the day with a healthy breakfast. Some of her preferred breakfast options include….
· Oatmeal with blueberries
· Power quinoa
· Avocado toast with a mixture of avocado, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, garlic salt and pepper on vegan bread
· Kale smoothie
· Chicken apple sausage (a couple times a week)
Shaun’s Kale Smoothie Ingredients
2. Develop a healthy rhythm to your day
After leaving Access Hollywood, Shaun, not only, worked on building her foundation, but also immersed herself in multiple television projects. “At the end of the day, I had accomplished a lot, but still felt like I was missing something important. I started thinking about what would get me back to my center and more fulfilled.” Shaun says she now tries to check four boxes every day:
1. Sharpen the saw (take a class, read a book, etc.)
2. Enhance my health (take an exercise class, monitor eating, etc.)
3. Help someone else (mentor a girl, attend an event for her foundation, etc.)
4. Pure enjoyment (meet a friend for lunch, watch a guilty pleasure show, etc.)
She insists that she doesn’t beat herself up if she misses a category on a particular day, but the intentional design helps keep her in balance overall.
3. Use timers to keep yourself on track throughout the day
Virtually everyone struggles with time management, and Shaun is no different. But Shaun has a great technique for keeping herself on track. Throughout the day she sets a timer to alarm 10 minutes before she needs to leave for her next appointment. In fact, as we started our interview, she warned me that she was setting a timer for ten minutes before she needed to leave to help keep herself on track for her next commitment. It’s such a simple but powerful technique and given the fact that virtually all phones these days have timers, it’s such an easy practice to implement. So instead of being habitually late to meetings, appointments, etc., start setting timers to give yourself a 10 minute warning.
Emmy award winning journalist, author, actor, producer, and philanthropist Shaun Robinson long ago silenced her detractors. By any measure, she’s not just succeeded but slayed in the cut throat world of media and entertainment. True to form, she shows no signs of slowing down and instead insists that her most impressive accomplishments are yet to come.
Stay tuned for a follow up article to learn about how Shaun dared to leave her dream job and reinvent herself!
Professionalism Matters, Inc.