An interview with Dr. Shanessa Fenner by Aaron Robinson – editor
I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Shanessa Fenner, a woman of many talents and gifts. Dr. Fenner is a woman who loves to give back to her community and is constantly making a positive difference in individual’s lives on a daily basis. Here is what Dr. Fenner has to share with the readers.
Aaron Robinson: Tell us a little about the person we know as Dr. Shanessa Fenner.
Shanessa Fenner: Well, Aaron, I am first and foremost an elementary school principal, I’ve also been a middle school principal. I’m currently a writer of 15 publications. I’m also a songwriter. I’m an adjunct professor, TV show hosts, former radio personality, model, and actress. I also help to encourage others and help them as well on their journey to the next level.
Aaron: I met when you were a radio personality on a mainstream radio station. What inspired you to want to go into that direction of communication?
Shanessa: I’ve always had people who believed in me and wanted me to be a part of whatever was going on. I was working on either; it was my first master’s degree or my second master’s degree. I had a professor named Dr. Earl Hill and he asked me to stay after class one night and I said, “Okay, I will.” And he said, “Shanessa, I have a TV show on Community Channel 7 and I’m looking for a host of it and I’d like to know if you would be interested in it”, and I said, “let me think about it.” I thought about it. I told him, “I’d give it a try.” And for several years Aaron, I hosted his TV show.
One evening after I finished taping the show, the manager of the Community Channel walked in and she said “Shanessa, would you like your own show?” I said, “Hey, I would love it.” And then that is how I got started with having my own show.
And then as far as radio, I had Ray Thomas to call me one evening on my cell phone and he asked me to meet him. And he says, “Shanessa, I’m getting ready to be the program director of Kiss 107.7 FM and I was thinking you’d be a great radio personality. The show is going to be called The Taylor Morgan Show featuring Shanessa Fenner.” After Taylor got me trained, the next thing I know, hey, you’ve got Real Talk with Dr. Shanessa Fenner.
Aaron: Wow. So, let’s discuss your modeling and acting career. Can you tell us a little about those two endeavors?
Shanessa: Yes, Aaron. There’s a guy by the name of Bob Gaye. He has had two soap operas here in Fayetteville, North Carolina. So of course, he and I had that discussion about you know; Shanessa would you like to be a part of it? Of course, I’d love to be a part of it! I played a detective, as well as a judge on two of the soap operas that he produced.
As far as modeling, I’ve always loved to model and take pictures. I was the spokesmodel for Bee Mine Hair Products. I’ve got some people here in Fayette that have had boutiques, and they set me up to be the spokesmodel for the boutique. I have a great friend named Reggie Codrington. He’s a national jazz artist. Reggie reached out to me and asked me would I’d be on the cover of his CD.
A friend of mine wrote a book and it was about love. So, he asked would I do a picture with another guy and could we make a pose like we were in love. We did. That picture is on the front cover of his book. I’d like to do some voiceover work. It would be neat to be the voice of a cartoon character, you know, that strong black girl magic… superwoman kind of hero thing.
Aaron: You’re a writer for many publications and also is a songwriter. What influenced your writing ability? And can you talk about your songs and so forth that you have written over the years?
Shanessa: I’ve written two songs. I’ve always loved to write and express my emotions on paper. When I was a radio personality on Kiss 107.7 FM, there was a soul artist named Carl Marshall. Carl and I developed this wonderful friendship. We wrote “I trusted you” and “You never know who you’re going to love.” Calvin P, who is a radio personality and I recorded the dialogue and the prelude of Carl Marshall’s ‘Leave that man’s wife alone.’
But because of the things that I’ve done, it has led me to great networking connections with other people. That of course led me to these opportunities that I’ve always, always, taken advantage of. I mean, I love to try new things. That’s how you learn your talents, to see who you are and what you’re made of.
Now, as far as writing, I first started off writing poetry. I stopped writing poetry and I started moving to short stories and started writing for various publications. So, from there, that’s when I began reaching out to different publications. So, now I’m up to like 15 publications. I also write for your publication, Consciousness Magazine. I have met a lot of wonderful people, a lot of celebrities; I’ve met great people like you. I’ve developed and formed these friendships through the years. I’ve learned so much about people and made so many connections. For example, my favorite artist and my celebrity crush is Babyface. I got an opportunity to interview Babyface.
You and I have had this conversation; I’d love to interview Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey. I think that would be great as well. I’ve interviewed great people: Maya Angelou, Melissa Morgan, one of the Housewives of Atlanta. I interviewed Congressman John Lewis on my TV show.
Aaron: I want to shift gears just a little bit. Let’s talk about being a Black woman in America. There are so many views on this. We always had most of the views on being a Black man in America and what we’re going through. What’s your perspective of being a Black woman in America as far as you being a woman?
Shanessa: Well, being black in America is very difficult. I have to work twice as hard to have half of what others have. It is very hard. For a long time, Aaron, the Black woman to me was viewed as invisible. We do all these great things, and everybody tends to want to water it down or try to make you feel like you’re nothing when you know you have a great self-esteem, when you know that you’re doing great things, when you have a good spirit and a good character, a kind heart and a heart of gold to help others. I do think throughout the last couple of years, we are starting to get our shine a little bit more and we are starting to get a little bit more publicity. I still don’t think that we have been given the praises and all for all the things that we do. I always tell people; let’s say that I was another ethnicity; I would have been already promoted and sitting at the mountaintop for doing all the things that I did. I do know that by being a Black woman in America, we don’t get our props the way we should, we’re not celebrated and we’re not recognized the way that we should. That is too for a Black man.
Aaron: Absolutely! Let’s talk about giving back. What has been some of your contributions regarding giving back to the community? Would you like to talk about that?
Shanessa: Oh yeah, I give back to the community all the time. One thing, for example, my TV show, the people who I have on it, they’re in the community. We talk the different things that they’re doing and the different events. I also like to reach out to various organizations. At one point, I was very involved with the homeless. I would go out and write articles and interview, to make sure that everybody knew that there are various things that were being set up for the homeless and they could contribute and go out and assist as well. All the publications that I write for here in the community, I’m constantly highlighting someone. I’ve also hosted some of the events, and gone out to the events as well, and supported them. I do a lot of volunteering. Of course as a school principal, I’m always giving and doing for my babies. I have a girls group called Dr. Fenner’s Young Women of Distinction. We meet monthly and do activities such as vision boards, visiting colleges, researching different events and different things… learning how to do your hair, learning how to feel good about yourself. I have a Wells Fargo banker to come in and talk with them about checking and savings account, and I have someone to call in or come in and talk with them about hygiene and table etiquette. I teach my babies about humanitarian and philanthropy, and how you’re always supposed to give back to your community and be a part of it as well.
Also, the group comes together and we always come up with one organization that we want to collect some money and give gift to. One of the cafeteria workers in my cafeteria had breast cancer. So instead of us giving to the Breast Cancer Association, we said, “you know what, we’re going to give and start here at home.” So we collected money, bought her a beautiful basket of a lot of the things that she liked. We got it together and presented it to her.
Aaron: Wow, that’s great! I’m just learning so much about you. I know you have a special place in your heart when it comes to the youth. It is impressive that you are an elementary school principal.
Shanessa: I’ve also been a middle school principal as well.
Aaron: And adjunct professor. You’ve done everything. Can you talk about that a little bit as far as you being a mentor and your principal career?
Shanessa: I love being a mentor; especially with elementary babies. My main thing is, and I talk with my teachers about this too; I said, “We’ve got to make sure that they’re prepared for tomorrow’s economy…jobs that don’t even exist.” We’re constantly always trying to mentor and teach them the right way. I have someone to come in and teach the boys how to tie a tie, do little exercises and activities with them, talk about school, talk about discipline, talk about how to behave responsibly, as well as talk about being black in America.
When you are a young black male, these are things that you need to be aware of, and I love having those crucial conversations with them. It’s not something that’s uncomfortable to me. I love talking with them. “Hey, you’re a young black male in America, this is what you do if the police stop you and asks you questions, you don’t fumble; you don’t have your hands in your pocket. It’s “yes sir”, you look him in the eyes, you know.” We have to have those conversations, because if you don’t know better, you’re not going to do better. But I’m always mentoring them, telling them I want them to go to college; I want them to do great things.
So mentoring my babies, that’s something that I do every day, all day long, from the moment they walk in the school. I’m the one who stands up front, saying “Good morning, how are you?” Giving out those hugs, and saying, “Here’s your grab-and-go breakfast, go to the classroom, put your stuff up, turn in your homework folder, and let’s get started. You are going to be great!” And they know that. They’re three adjectives that I tell them that they are. You’re smart, talented, and able-bodied!
Aaron: That’s great!!! Let’s go back to what you mentioned earlier, networking, because you’re involved in so many endeavors. You have so many gifts and talents. Is there a step-by-step process that you went through to get to the point where you at today? How did you achieve so much of your lifetime and you’re still young?
Shanessa: As far as the step-by-step process, I had to first be focused. I just kept keeping myself immersed in everything. I’ve always been that kind of person that would sit home on the weekend and say, “you know, what else can I get involved in?” I think it’s something that’s intrinsic; you have to want it. You can’t sit here and think that it’s going to come to you; you have to go out and get it. If I want to write for a magazine, I contact their editor via email or sometimes pick up the phone and give them a call. When I want something, I go for it and I don’t stop until I get it.
So I think that a lot of it has to do with my personality and that intrinsic motivation that I have. But I do know that I’ve always had to stay focused, write everything out, go through the ups-and-downs and continue to persevere, and don’t let anything stop me. I don’t let any obstacles or challenges stand in my way.
Aaron: That’s great! And when you mentioned the obstacles or challenges, what about those individuals who face obstacles in their life as far as maybe being afraid, or just can’t get over the hump. Do you have any words of encouragement or empowerment for them?
Shanessa: Fear is something that’s very powerful. Fear would handicap you, also naysayers. It depends on what kind of personality you have because some people let naysayers and family members talk them out of things. I’ve had conversations with people that will tell me, I don’t want to go to college because no one else that I know has been to college and I don’t want people to not like me. I’ve had people tell me that they don’t want to be very successful because people are going to be jealous of them. I mean, people have told me all kinds of things. You’ve got to learn to put that fear aside and let what the naysayers and haters say go in one ear and out the other and go do your thing!
Another thing that I like to do also, Aaron, is I believe when you work in silence, people don’t know what to attack. You’ve got to have that mindset and be strong and not worry about what other people say. They don’t validate you, they don’t pay the bills. You know, when you eat your dinner or when they eat their dinner, it doesn’t make you go to the bathroom. So what they do shouldn’t affect you. So you just have to keep focus. Keep away from negative people too. I’ve also learned if you’re around somebody who’s very negative, that can weigh on you too and make you feel like you can’t get anything accomplished. So keep focused.
Aaron: Wow, that’s great information. And before we conclude the interview, Dr. Shanessa Fenner, would you like to add anything that we haven’t discussed or talked about?
Shanessa: The sky is the limit. If you’re listening to me, please go and be a great person. I do believe we were placed here on earth to do great things and I think and feel exactly that that’s what we need to do; be on earth to do great things. I feel like nobody should go to their grave and be like, ‘Man, I should have done this. Why didn’t I do this? I should have done that.’ Do what you want to do today! Don’t go to your grave regretting something that you didn’t do.
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Last modified: July 3, 2023