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Say it Shay!

POSTED: August 04, 2011, 12:00 am

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Shay Star could easily be trapped in the clichéd world of hip-hop. In an industry where young women who appear in music videos are habitually typecast as dimwits and causally dismissed by male viewers whose only interest is sexual fantasy, being attractive can be more of a liability than an asset. Rather than be a stereotype, Shay Star is challenging conventional wisdom and working to build a business empire that empowers young women while also using hip-hop as a conduit to uplift her generation. Starting next week, she will be sharing her thoughts with NorthStar News readers as a contributing columnist focused on the hip-hop generation.

Several weeks ago Shay met NorthStar News Executive Editor Walter Fields at the International Society for Science and Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Philadelphia, and began to express her concern over conditions in the Black community. “For some time now I have been considering ways to incorporate the voices of younger African-Americans on our website,” noted Fields, “and listening to Shay I was impressed by her thoughtfulness and the passion she expressed when speaking about the many issues that are undermining Black progress. When I thought about our discussion the next day, it was easy for me to conclude that we should find a way to provide a platform for her to share her perspective.”

Shay Star was born in Oklahoma City but grew up in Dover Delaware where she began to express herself musically at an early age in her church. Coming from a musically inclined family, Shay claims that music is her therapy, calling it “medicine to my soul.” While pursuing a behavioral science degree in college, Shay began to test the waters in the music industry. Like many of her generation, Shay was attracted to hip-hop and started to collaborate with artists and producers as she worked to refine her craft. Her first mix tape was a truly entrepreneurial effort, as she sold 4,000 copies out of the trunk of her car while traveling up and down the east coast. Her inaugural effort garnered acclaim and was nominated for “Best Independent R&B Album of the Year” at the Southern Entertainment Awards in 2011.

Shay has also pursued work as a model and actor, and has appeared in music videos and promotions for other artists. Her focus now though is on building an entertainment company and working against the negative perception of hip-hop held by the public. “The stuff you see on television is not real,” reflected Shay. “It’s what is going on behind the scenes that matters. I once aspired to be like Trey Songz, but now I want to be like the man who put Trey Songz on.” By focusing heavily on young women, Shay is stepping out in a male dominated industry and attempting to alter the dynamics of business relationships.

It was Shay’s determination and outlook that impressed Fields. “Look, if we don’t make room for young people at the table, our community is doomed,” said NorthStar’s Executive Editor. “I am looking for more young voices to add to the mix, and I am especially interested in having young Black men share their perspective. What Shay brings is a point of view that my generation can’t articulate and doesn’t really understand. Given what our community is up against, we need to engage everyone and we have consistently dismissed the opinions of young adults.” For her part Shay simply hopes people will learn to get past the superficial and find ways to engage each other honestly. The young artist and budding entrepreneur said, “My hope is that people will have an open mind and start to look at things differently. The basic needs have to be met, everyone has to eat and have shelter. However, people have to back off their differences and learn to co-exist.”

Shay Star’s column on NorthStar will be titled “Say it Shay!” and will appear periodically. It is the first in what will be a long-term commitment on the part of NorthStarNews.com to engage young voices on issues of concern to the African-American community. Shay Star is on the Internet at www.shaystar.com.

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