“The real problem with striving for physical perfection is there is no such thing.”
Shaunii Rawls, Savannah-native, Savannah State University grad, and Miss Black Georgia USA, has got a lot to say on the subject of perfection. The multimedia producer, fashion model and pageant queen (not to mention Savannah magazine repeat feature star) may be the mouth piece of an age-old tradition, but what she’s got to say is thoroughly modern. “Pageant queens are far more than just ‘pretty faces,'” Shaunii presses. “We use our platforms to be a voice for people who are not able to self-advocate.”
Her latest project, “The Stigma Behind My Beauty-mark,” is a campaign calling women to acknowledge their physical diversity as their greatest asset. With a video she recently launched, where Shaunii opens up about getting bullied in school for her lip to toe skin discoloration and and details her commitment to a deeper conversation, she hopes to extend past corporeal boundaries and invite inclusion for all. “[Pageant queens] motivate our communities to overcome adversity,” she continues. “We are a force that break stereotypes daily.”
Here, Shaunii lets us in on what words get her through the day, work that inspires her, and why Savannah will always be home. Cover photo, from our July/August 2015 issue, by Cedric Smith.
Words to live by:
I am, I will, and I can.
What moment changed your life?
The moment my little sister was diagnosed with avascular necrosis due to Sickle Cell Anemia. I learned that my sister would not have the ability to walk or play like the other kids, in 1st grade.
What’s the best decision you’ve ever made?
To step out on faith. I applied for the title of Miss Black Georgia USA. I was chosen, out of 38 girls, to represent the state of Georgia. Through this platform I am able to be an advocate for health and education, change the lives of young girls and women, and represent the coastal empire.
The most exciting thing you’re working on:
I launched a campaign called “The Stigma Behind My Beauty-Mark” to empower young girls and women to share their stories of overcoming obstacles. I am using my platform as Miss Black Georgia USA to partner with local beauty experts, to choose 6 winners. The lucky ladies will attend a pamper party, hosted by me, where the ladies will receive a free makeover worth $400.
Who is your favorite female character and why?
Moesha Mitchell (Brandy Norwood), of the American sitcom Moesha. Her character inspired me to become a journalist/storyteller.
A Song That Reminds You of Home
The music of legendary jazz saxophonist, Kenny Alexander, is the soundtrack of my childhood. It’s my uncle’s music. As a little girl, I could hear my uncle practice from sun up to sun down. I don’t think he knew that I would stop and listen outside his window.
Most rewarding part of your job?
Giving a voice to the voiceless. I create, portray and represent the stories of the unknown and the ignored.
A piece of art that inspires you:
Why did you decide to go multimedia journalism?
My purpose in life is storytelling. I’ve always been fascinated by the power of creating and sharing a story; through video, photos, or words. One story, can link an entire community together.
Savannah is home. I want to prove that anything is possible, in your own backyard. You don’t have to move to a bigger city to start. Start, learn, connect and execute as much as you can, with what your city has to offer.
What would you spend your last $20 on?
I would pay it forward, to someone in need. What you give, always comes back to you.
Favorite party song:
For more about Shaunii and “The Stigma Behind My Beauty-Mark,” visit to shauniirawls.com.