There are people who talk about making a difference and those who are making a difference. I put Shaun Robinson in the latter category. The weekend co-host of Access Hollywood has written her first book, Exactly As I Am: Celebrated Women Share Candid Advice with Today’s Girls on What it Takes to Believe in Yourself.
A slew of boldface names like Oprah, Vanessa Williams, Olympian Dara Torres, Queen Latifah, Nancy Pelosi, Celine Dion and Eva Mendes are among those to share their words with Shaun, whom I met through a mutual friend when she first arrived to Los Angeles and bonded with immediately. Last night I attended a reception for the book and had Shaun sign a copy for one of my two goddaughters, Jillian, who graduates from high school in June and heads to college in the fall.
I’m not around many teenagers these days but I do remember what it was like being in grade school, junior high and high school. Trying to fit in. Wanting to be popular with the boys and the girls. Wanting to excel in the classroom but not be perceived as a nerd. Wanting to be cool. Wanting to be liked. It’s a tall order, even for someone like me who topped out at 6-foot-1 as a 13-year-old. It was impossible to find pants long enough so I learned how to sew and made my own. But I couldn’t make the boys ask me to dance. I remember being at a school dance and being ignored. That’s probably why I can’t dance today. No one asked me back then. I was so thin that I couldn’t find boots to fit my toothpick legs, which my brother said looked like “sticks in a bucket” when I wore boots. I remember in the sixth grade I had a pair of white patent leather boots with elastic at the top. While they sound hideous now I loved them because the elastic hugged my little calves and made it look like my boots almost fit.
I somehow managed to get through and develop a healthy sense of self-esteem despite being taller than everyone else, reed thin and dark when a chocolate complexion was not en vogue. I credit my mother for never putting me down and believing in me. I remember telling her when I was in the fourth grade that I was going to be a journalist. She laughed and said I don’t even know how to spell journalist. “J-O-U-R-N-A-L-I-S-T,” I said. She never doubted me again. Not too long after I overheard her telling a friend that I wanted to be a journalist. “She’s too shy,” her friend replied. Well, I’ll show him, I thought to myself. And I did.
Today’s girls have more to overcome with the media and videos constantly showing unrealistic images and childhood obesity being more prevalent today. That’s why a book like Shaun’s is so necessary. Girls need to learn to love themselves exactly as they are.
I still find it hard to find boots to fit my thin legs. But rather than be embarrassed about my legs and hide them under pants, I take my boots to a repair shop and get them taken in. These days I consider my gams two of my best features.