After working as a co-anchor at Access Hollywood for 16 years, (from 1999 until June 2015), Shaun Robinson, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, decided to devote her life to philanthropy. In June, she officially launched the S.H.A.U.N Foundation, which focuses on (S)tem, (H)ealth, (A)rts, (U)nity and (N)eighborhoods. The foundation aims to empower young girls and women by providing resources to small, grassroot organizations that share the same mission.

In addition to being a philanthropist, Robinson holds the following roles under her belt: producer, author and television personality. Throughout her journalism career, she received a number of awards, including the prestigious Gracie Award for her work on BET Takes Hollywood, where she profiled the history of African Americans and the Oscars. Columbia University also honored her with the Outstanding Coverage of Race & Ethnicity Award.

As if being on the small screen wasn’t enough, she made appearances in blockbuster films Bruce Almighty, Dr. Dolittle 2, America’s Sweethearts and others. Now that she’s focused on philanthropy full time we can only imagine how busy the tv veteran is. Thankfully, we were able to catch up with her to discuss how she came to realize her purpose, the work the S.H.A.U.N Foundation is doing for young girls, and why she decided to leave T.V.

C.O.: After being the face of Access Hollywood for many years, you’ve transitioned into the world of philanthropy with full force. What pushed you to make that decision?

My parents always taught me that, if God gives you a platform, you have to use it to help others. It was so interesting, after I left Access Hollywood and started my foundation, so many of my friends said to me, “Shaun, you finally did it! You have been talking about this for so long!” I actually didn’t realize how many years I have actually been thinking about. I just never had the time before.

C.O.: Why did you start the S.H.A.U.N Foundation for Girls?

I truly just want to help. I see so many young girls struggling and all they need is a boost, some encouragement, someone who shows an interest in them. And, I realized there were so many organizations out there that are doing great work in the lives girls and young women. I want to be a resource for them.

C.O.: What are some of the achievements your foundation has made since its inception?

When we launched [in June 2017], we were off and running! The first initiative we did was in my hometown of Detroit. We gave a grant to an amazing organization called, Alternatives for Girls which helps rescue girls and young women from sex trafficking. We held a panel discussion, sponsored by the Ford Motor Company Fund, on “The Empowered Girl: How NOT to be a Victim of Human Trafficking.” It was attended by over 200 young girls and women and they heard from women who are on the forefront of fighting Human Trafficking in Michigan.

We gave our second grant to Techbridge Girls. They are out of Oakland, CA, and have chapters around the country. They go into underserved school districts and introduce girls to STEM education. We gave the third grant to Girl Up – under the United Nations Foundation. They have these rock star girl ambassadors who travel overseas to places like Ethiopia, Guatemala, Malawi, and advocate on behalf of girls – whether it’s access to education, speaking out against genital mutilation or child marriage.

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Image Credit: @msshaunrobinson

C.O.: You were recently honored by Girls Inc. in New York City. What was that moment like for you?

That moment was incredible. It was an honor to be there, along with Secretary Hillary Clinton and accept my award. It was such an emotional day because everything had come full circle – I served on their national board for three terms, helped raise a lot of money for them and then was honored by the organization. It was amazing.

C.O.: What are some of the social causes that you are most passionate about and why?

I am most passionate about anything that affects our girls. Girls lag behind boys in so many areas and what we are trying to do is level the playing field. Help them have the resources that they need to really make a change in their lives and help them succeed.

C.O.: What do you think is your life’s purpose? How did you manage to discover it?

I am actually discovering my life’s purpose now. It is such rewarding work to really make a change in a girl’s life.

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Image Credit: @msshaunrobinson

C.O.: Who are some of the women that have influenced you to be the woman you are today?

I must say that, as many stars as I have been around during my life, the women who influenced me the most have been my mother and grandmothers. They always instilled in me of a sense of social responsibility and kindness.

C.O.: What are key skills and talents you developed as a broadcast journalist that have become most useful in your philanthropic work?

I think one of the most useful tools for a journalist is LISTENING. Often we are so busy wanting to get out what we want to say, that we don’t listen. You can learn much more by listening than talking.

C.O.: How do you keep yourself inspired and motivated?

I think I have always been an optimist. Sure, I get down at times and have pity parties but, then I remember to be thankful for every blessing that I have and I instantly feel better.

C.O.: Are there any books on leadership or women empowerment that you’d like to recommend? If so, why?

Well, you can always read, “Exactly As I Am: Celebrated Women Share Candid Advice with Today’s Girls on what it takes to Believe in Yourself” by Shaun Robinson.

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Image Credit: Shaun Robinson

C.O: What is one thing you’ve been surprised to learn about philanthropy as an industry?

One of the things that has surprised me [is] when I meet someone for the first time. I could say that I have interviewed the biggest stars in Hollywood and that I have started a foundation, but [people] are ALWAYS more interested in the foundation.

C.O.: What is one mantra that you live by?
“Have LOW Maintenance Friends.”

C.O.: If someone wanted to volunteer at S.H.A.U.N Foundation, what’s the best way for them to get involved?

My heart is so warmed when people say they want to volunteer. Because we support nonprofits that work directly with girls, the best way to help us in our mission is to support our cause: shaunfoundationforgirls.org/donate.