Shanell McCoy (Photo Credit: Clarke Sanders)

Youthprise is a youth-centered philanthropic organization in Minnesota that prides itself on placing the next generation on a path to success and prosperity by advocating for policy and systems change. It’s their mission to reduce racial disparities which can significantly impact their opportunity. The organization, founded in 2010 by The McKnight Foundation, has built a winning workforce that is poised to succeed.

Here, Youthprise’s podcast producer Shanell McCoy discusses leadership, meeting her maternal family members in the Philippines and her ideal mentor.

As a woman of color, what do you consider your superpower to be?
As a woman of color, I would consider my superpower to be my ability to code switch. I think all people of color can agree that code-switching is a survival tactic that determines how far you go in this world. We have to know how to play the game in order to win it and then to ultimately change the game altogether.

What key skills or qualities make you unique?
My faith makes me unique. I approach my work with a high level of peace knowing that whatever does not work in my favor now will ultimately lead to a more rewarding outcome later. I consider all setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow. I value the process because I have faith in the outcome.

What thoughtful or encouraging piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell my younger self that it’s okay that you’re unsure about what you want to do in your life. You don’t have to have it all figured out. There’s no clear-cut path to success. Keep exploring opportunities. Keep an open mind. I would also tell my younger self to stay humble. You don’t know everything.

Why is it important for women of color to lead or work in leadership roles and decision-making capacities?
As women of color, we are the representation we want to see. Often times, we find ourselves in spaces where we are the only people of color in the room. That’s a lot of responsibility. However, when we are in leadership roles we are able to influence decisions made at the top. This means we are in positions to hire and work with more women of color. We’re able to elevate our voices, leading the way for the women coming after us to do the same.

If you could thank any Black woman history maker for her contributions to society, who would it be and why?
I’m young so forgive me. I’m also an artist. Therefore, I would thank Erykah Badu for her contributions to society. I’m here for any Black woman that is unapologetic and authentic in all areas of her life. I believe that as Black women we go through our phases of personal acceptance. The world tells us that we are not beautiful, that we’re loud and angry. At first, we try to conform to how we think the world wants us to behave. Then, as we realize our power and we discover ourselves beyond beauty on a spiritual level, we stop caring. It is the most beautiful transition. It is the ultimate liberation when we are able to love ourselves and just be Black and weird and creative without a care. Erykah Badu is the personification of that for me.

Why is it important for seasoned and experienced Black women to reach back and help younger women of color?
As a younger woman, I have been blessed with some amazing mentors on my journey since high school. I don’t know where I would be without them. They’ve guided me through business, finances, college, and my career. Most importantly, they’ve guided my mental health. My mentors have talked me out of depression and toxic moments in my life. This has been key to my success. As Black women, we need each other. There’s so much trauma surrounding Black women in our own communities and in the workplace. If we don’t take care of each other, then who will?

How do you feel about the hashtag #CollaborationOverCompetition? What qualities or values do you deem indispensable in your business partners or collaborators?
I love the hashtag #CollaborationOverCompetition. I believe strongly that what is for you is for you. Competition is only valuable when you are competing against yourself. In my business partners, I enjoy working with people that share the same belief. I value working with people that are more passionate about the work than what they can gain from it. As a result, the quality of the work is more impactful and authentic relationships are built along the way.

What are your thoughts on taking risks? Making mistakes?
I believe in taking risks. The only way to grow is to step out of your comfort zone and try something different. The worst thing that could happen is that you learn something you didn’t know.

What are three success habits you implement into your daily routine to maintain your success, sanity, peace of mind, etc.?
The three success habits I implement into my daily routine are prayer, exercise, and drinking water. Prayer sets the tone for my day. I give anything I’m worried about to God and pray throughout the day as things arise. That is how I maintain my peace. I try to exercise daily. Working out helps me to discipline not only my body but my mind. If I can successfully complete a workout without giving up, I know I can conquer anything. Drinking water is purifying. It keeps me from making bad food choices throughout the day. I prioritize my personal health knowing that it impacts every other area of my life.

As a successful woman in entertainment, what is your greatest or proudest achievement?
In the last year, I’ve produced a podcast series, a blogging website and an album. I love creating things. These were great accomplishments. However, I’ve found that I feel most rewarded when I’m able to gather people with my art and create moments that inspire others and spark collaboration. One of my proudest moments was after a performance when a woman who had gone through an abusive relationship told me how I inspired her with my music.

Who is your biggest inspiration? Why?
My biggest inspiration is my family. I am Black and Filipino. Last year, I went to the Philippines with my mom. I met the Filipino side of my family for the first time. For years, my mom had been sending money from America to the Philippines to support her family. In the states, we can be so selfish. We’re buried in debt and work hard to better our own lives without thinking about who is impacted. After my trip to the Philippines, I was reminded that my success is not just about me. My success impacts my family, my community, and my future children. Ultimately, seeing my family and community prosper is what inspires me.

If you could have any person in the world become your mentor, who would you choose and why?
If anyone in the world could be my mentor, I would choose Jesus. That sounds corny, but we’re all human. There are so many people I’d like to learn specific things from. There’s no one person for me. I’m interested in learning from everyone.

Tell us about your personal endeavor, Black Honey Collective. 
I am the executive director of Black Honey Collective, which is an online publication for Millennial women of color to share relationship experiences.

Yvette Caslin

I'm a writer, image architect & significance marketer. Love photojournalism, creative expression & originality.