Shantele Austin, “Do not apologize for being you, embrace who you are. There is nothing to be ashamed about.”

Ethnic Background: African

Current Status: Psychology Student-Master’s Level

Past Occupations:
Administrative Assistant, Personal Assistant, Resident Assistant, Boarding Advisor

Swimming, cliff diving, dancing, writing poetry, drawing, painting, hiking, canoeing, travelling

Favourite Food?
Anything Italian…Literally Anything

Favourite Quote:
Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. – Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

Favourite Songs:
You Rock My World – Michael Jackson, Leave the Door Open-Bruno Mars, Anderson Paak & Silk Sonic, Erphaan Alves- Overdue, Freetown Collective-Feel the Love

Favourite Celeb and Public Figure?
My musical icon is definitely Michael Jackson. However, I try to live my life drawing inspiration from the life of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

What are you really good at?
Creative Writing, Poetry, Painting

Pet Peeve:
Spoilers – Can you all please just let me enjoy this movie/TV show and figure it out along the way? BRUH!

Favourite Movie and T.V. Show?
Movie: Joker
TV Show: The Fresh Prince of Belair

Favourite Book?
The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen.

Your most embarrassing moment?
My most embarrassing moment was one time when I fell into a maxi. I was entering a maxi and tripped over my foot while walking up the steps. Anyways, I fell facedown walking up the steps in the maxi.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Doubles, Fudge Brownies and Belgian Waffles

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Definitely a Carib girl or a mermaid lol…whichever came first. I used to dance in front of the TV singing “Go T&T, show them what you’ve got,” during all of our local games. I knew the entire dance.

Where would you most like to be right now?
Bermuda has always been a place of healing and restoration for me. Given the restrictions and the stressors brought on by the pandemic, if I could be there right now it would be a dream come true.

Your Dream Job?
Child and Youth Psychologist with my own private practice. I also want to do work with young girls in marginalized communities.

What is one thing people may be surprised to find out about you?
I genuinely believe in the existence of mermaids.

How would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as someone who was able to positively impact and have a transformative effect on the lives of the young people whom I encounter.

One word that describes you: Colourful

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Never apologize for being yourself. In a society where we are constantly faced with people and lifestyles to compare ourselves to, we can sometimes reject our uniqueness or believe we are flawed in some way. However, it is important to be distinct and to never apologize for our quirks.

What’s the worst and best thing about being female?
Best thing: We have the ability to create life. Worst thing: The fear that we are unsafe in our society and that we have to constantly look over our shoulders. Another issue is the constant scrutiny that we face based on our body types, the way we dress and our future goals and aspirations.

“Don’t let anyone…”
define your experience, write your story or determine your progress.

What motivates you?
My mother has always been my greatest source of inspiration and support. Everything I know about youth activism, I have learned from her. I was raised in an environment where it was constantly reiterated that every person deserves an opportunity to prosper. She did not just talk the talk, she walked the talk. Whether this meant opening her home, buying school books, paying for lessons, prayer support, offering advice, teaching people how to read and investing in extracurricular activities my mother made it her duty. She believed in the cause. My passion for young people was engendered based on the model which was set for me. Her example drives and motivates me every day and guides me towards what I consider my life’s purpose.

How would you describe yourself?
I consider myself a free-spirited individual with a passion for creative arts and creative expression. I am passionate about funky/trendy hairstyles and colours and find it difficult to maintain one particular colour or hairstyle for long periods. Surprisingly, I have managed to sport a blonde low cut for over a year, a personal record. Thus, the nickname @baldbae-tele was born.

There is little I love more than the ocean, it is a safe haven for me. The ocean is a place that allows me to feel both freedom and rejuvenation. In moments when I feel discouraged or troubled, I take a drive up to 100 steps beach to unwind, climb rocks and feel the crashing of the waves. This is my therapy.

What do you love about being a Trini Girl?

My island is as colourful as I am, so I always feel safe and at home in this local paradise. I love that there is the opportunity for me to learn about and benefit from many different cultural backgrounds. While I am an Afro-Trini and proud to be, I have the good fortune of being born into a multiethnic family. My grandmother’s grandfather came to Trinidad from China. My grandmother’s mother on the other hand had Afro-Venezuelan roots. My grandmother’s husband, (my grandfather) had Portuguese roots with his father hailing from Portugal and his mother hailing from Madeira. This means that my mother is a definite callaloo. The situation became even more interesting when she married my father, a proud Jamaican man who she met at U.W.I. St. Augustine.

My family has always been proud of and has preserved our history through albums and artefacts. I have the honour of benefitting from this beautiful island melting pot. My favourite thing about Trinidad and Tobago and the thing that makes me most proud is our local cuisine. (If you have not gathered by now, I really love to eat) We have managed to create the most delightful delicacies based on an amalgamation of cultures. I do not believe that there is anywhere else in this world that has truly been able to marry culture the way we have.

“See how we moving, watch how we grooving
See how we step in style.
One lovely nation, under a groove
The Ganges come meet the Nile.” – David Rudder

What advice would you give a younger girl?

You are beautiful. Please do not compare yourself to the models you see on Instagram pages or on television. Looks can be deceiving and so many of these people despite their perceived beauty are not even content within themselves. Develop a love and appreciation for yourself which goes beyond physical appearance. This will mean that even if something changes you can still appreciate and be grateful for the beauty that is within and is distinctly you. You are not a failure, you may not want to be where you are as yet, but there are things that are crucial which you need to learn during the journey which will help you to thrive when you reach your destination. Do not compare your journey to that of others. Instead take a lesson from my mother who says, “Run in your lane!” Let these words resonate with you, “When a thoroughbred horse runs in the Kentucky Derby, they’re worth millions of dollars, but there’s a $15 piece of equipment placed on them to keep them concentrated on their lane and the finish line.” – Pastor Mike Todd. Do not apologize for being you, embrace who you are. There is nothing to be ashamed about. Live your best life, give all that you have and optimize your potential.

End of Q&A

Instagram: @baldbae_tele

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Christin Coeppicus, “Whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do when you really want something and work towards it you can accomplish it.”

Amanda Persad, “We only get one chance at life, and we don’t know how long we’ll be here… make the most of it.”