ROCHESTER, NY -- Every year, RCTV/WXIR presents Community Producer Awards for excellence in radio and television programming. This year we've chosen to recognize Lashawndra Ashford with a Community Producer Award for her work as creator and host of "Shameless Talk" on WXIR.
"Shameless Shawny" says the goal of the show is to create a safe space where people can speak openly about their life experiences, including ones that society sometimes stigmatizes.
When we spoke with her this week, she offered her own background as an example of why it's important to "speak and live shamelessly."
You can read a transcript of that interview below. And to find out who our other 2021 Community Producer Award winners are, be sure to tune in to the RCTV/WXIR Annual Meeting!
WXIR: Tell us a little about "Shameless Talk." What's it all about?
SHAWNY: The focus of "Shameless Talk" is to speak freely, to be you. Sometimes in society, we're placed in a box where it's like we're ashamed to be our authentic selves, to speak our truth. So the focus of Shameless Talk is for people to really be able to step out of the box and reach their high potential.
WXIR: What inspired you to develop a show like this?
SHAWNY: I was actually a teenage parent. And in my culture, we're taughtnotto date, that boys are a distraction, and hownotto become a statistic. But after we "become a statistic," how are we taught to overcome barriers? We're not.
I've dedicated myself to doing everything society said I'd never do--I did get my high school diploma, I went to college and got an associate's degree, then I went back and got my Bachelor's in social work. My boyfriend at the time, we got married. Both of us have successful businesses.
So my story is very unique. And that's why I continue to try to inspire others, to create a space for shameless talk. Because I wouldn't be here right now if I allowed society to place certain labels on me and determine what I can and cannot do.
WXIR: Talk about how you create that space through the interviews you do on your show. And is there a particular moment you can tell us about where you felt like you were especially successful in that?
SHAWNY: In any interview, I like my listeners to hear the background story of the person before they became who they are today. Oftentimes there's a shameless conversation about the struggles and adversity they went through.
One interview was with an entrepreneur who wrote a book about mourning, based on her experience of losing her mother while incarcerated. And as she was telling her story, on air, she cried. And I was left speechless, because that had never happened on the show before. So I had to go to break, and she was able to process and to collect herself. But she told me that had never happened to her before, even though she'd told the story a million times. So that was reassurance that, you know, "Shawny, you need to continue doing this," to share these stories, so that we can free ourselves and others.
WXIR: What's the most challenging part of doing the radio show?
SHAWNY: The most challenging part for me is the personal balance. I'm an educator. I'm a coordinator of an after-school program. I'm a wife, I'm a mother. I wear so many different hats. And when I get off of work on Thursdays I go straight to the radio show. And the listeners are not concerned about what kind of day I had [laughs]. They're listening because they want to be uplifted and empowered, they're ready to receive a message. Not too many people would continue listening if I sounded boring or dried out, so I need to focus my energy and keep connected.
WXIR: So what keeps you coming back to do the show week after week?
SHAWNY: It's the impact--receiving those messages, those DMs from listeners on Facebook or Instagram, about which words and stories impacted them and how.
I also really enjoy the networking. Learning about new people, learning about past experiences. There are so many growth opportunities both personally and professionally.
But really it's the impact, the opportunity to reach people. That's what keeps me coming back.
SHAMELESS TALK is hosted by Lashawndra "Shameless Shawny" Ashford, with co-host Albert Jones. The show airs Thursdays from 7 to 8pm on WXIR 100.9 FM and is available as a podcast. You can also follow Shawny on Instagram @I_am_Shameless_Shawny.