2 – Drew Shade: Authentic, Successful, and Black AF

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00:00 Drew:
There's no way to get around being inauthentic. It shows in all your materials. It shows in your captions, it shows in everything that you present. And so once people start to feel that, they start to detach.
00:15 Tony:
Hello, it's Tony Howell. And I want to welcome you to my podcast. This is our opportunity to have conversations with changemakers — seeking ways that we, as artists, can use our special gifts to change this world.
Today, we're talking to Drew Shade. Drew shade is an award-winning journalist and changemaker for our Black Future Month. As the founder and editor in chief of Broadway Black, he leads an organization that fosters and inspires artistic diversity and excellence in theater. Helping to lead the way in building a more diverse and knowledgeable audience in the theater world: dedicated to highlighting the achievements and successes of Black Theater Artists, on and off the Broadway stage.
Broadway Black has been excelled by the likes of Ben Vereen, Jennifer Hudson, Misty Copeland, and many, many more. An actor and artist himself, he was awarded the mountaintop award by Actors’ Equity Association and Bold NYC for being a trailblazer. But he feels his greatest achievement has been using his own experience and knowledge of the industry to create a community, celebrating his own. He lives the light of the Broadway Black slogan and shows what can happen when the theater goes dark.
Drew Shade, how are you?
01:36 Drew:
What's going on? I'm well, I can't complain. How are you?
01:40 Tony:
I am doing so well, thank you so much for being here.
01:43 Drew:
Thank you for having me. That was such a beautiful introduction. I don't even know, do I live up to all of that? That was amazing.
01:50 Tony:
Of course you do. So fun fact for our listener. We are both from Indiana and we both went to Ball State University.
01:58 Drew:
Yes we did. Let me just say I've been a fan of yours for a very long time. I mean, all the way back to a Cabaret, where you were the Emcee. Just getting that introduction from you, which was like a stellar performance. I'm just amazed. I'm so happy to be here.
02:14 Tony:
Thank you, Drew. So I want to rewind like Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, no way, way back, many centuries ago.
02:23 Drew:
Oh God. I'm scared.
02:24 Tony:
Let's go to Fort Wayne, Indiana. Tell me about your childhood and when you first discovered theater.
02:31 Drew:
Oh, wow. I was about eight years old. My mother put me into acting classes at the Fort Wayne Youth Theater. Harvey Cox was the director there and he just saw this spark in me and my mother was looking for activities that I could enjoy after school and things that I could just use my time wisely with. And she saw that I had an interest in music and singing and acting. And so she enrolled me into these classes at the Fort Wayne Youth Theater. That happened and then I also did classes, acting class at First Presbyterian Church. I don't remember if it was through the church or not, but it was held at First Presbyterian church.
And I remember that we did a production of, oh, what is the name of that show? It was about a king and he was a ruler over the land. And I was very upset because I wasn't able to play the king. So I talked my way into being the king's sidekick and the king would go around and he would talk to the people of the village and he would tell them that they were cut from whatever. I can't remember the name of this show, but all I did was I walked around, next to the king with my crown and my cape on like I was a king, too. And all I did was just put my hand up to my neck and said [screeching sound], like they were cut. And that was my whole line. That was my whole stick because I talked my way into being a part of the King's role.
So that was my first remembrance of being in a theatrical show. But then I went on to do so many different things with the Fort Wayne Youth Theater. I took voice lessons there and I just became enamored with the art form. And it's been a whirlwind ever since.
04:14 Tony:
What is it about theater that's so special to you now as an adult?
04:19 Drew:
It's the variety of stories that you get to see. The things that sort of change you and transform you. The messages. There's not one way to do theater. There are so many different ways to convey and so many ways to get your message out there and so many different messages to receive. My mind has been opened up to a variety of different backgrounds and cultures and just life in general. I think it's the way to travel without really traveling.
04:55 Tony:
So tell me, go back to Ball State University. Let's go to Muncie, Indiana.
05:03 Drew:
Funcy Muncie.
05:04 Tony:
Funcy Muncie. What did the university give to you in your training there, in our training there?
05:12 Drew:
The university really gave me the basis and the foundation to be able to do character development, to understand what it means to build a show from the ground up, to really understand what it means to work in this industry, as a performer, as a director, as a writer. So many different avenues were opened up to me because of Ball State. Also, Ball State gave me the Broadway Black platform. Being the one male, one black male in the musical theater department for my year was sort of an eye opening experience for me.
It was difficult for me to find material that I could relate to that brought me joy for my juries and for just local classes and things of that nature. So I was looking for material that, I mean, I was looking through all sorts of CD booklets before the internet became popular. I was looking through all sorts of CD books and the library trying to find material that really fed my soul and it was difficult for me. And so that's the reason why I started Broadway Black, because there was not one area where I could find all this information. So Ball State really was the catalyst for me developing what it is that I do today and also helped me develop the foundation that I needed in order to maintain a healthy career.
06:34 Tony:
So let's talk about Broadway Black for a second. I was reading your catalyst story about seeing Kinky Boots in Chicago. Can you retell that story here?
06:43 Drew:
Oh, yes, definitely. I had just lost my job. I ended up leaving Ball State. I never graduated. I was going through a lot emotionally and mentally, and didn't really know what that was. And so years later through therapy and things, I discovered that I was in a deep depression and that I was dealing with anxiety and performance anxiety as well, because I was going into the beginning of a new phase. I ended up leaving my senior year and I went back home and I was working as a, funny enough, a college admissions assistant for a few years. And then I just didn't want to do that anymore. And so I ended up bartending at a restaurant that I love, Baker Street, which the person that gave me my first job when I was 16, was the owner of this restaurant.
So I was able to connect with him and work at this place. So I ended up working there for about a year and a half, but I lost my job for a crazy reason, looking back on it because me and my boss are still really great friends. It was just destined to happen that way. So I lost my job and I had tickets for the out of town trial of Kinky Boots. I didn't really have any money, but I went to Chicago anyway, because I had already bought these tickets. I basically spent the last that I had to go shopping and just treat myself. And I was thinking that I don't know what I'm about to do, but I'm about to figure it out. And so I just put caution to the wind and just said fuck it, I'm going to go and do it.
I went to Chicago and I saw Kinky Boots, and I was just so in love with the show and with Billy Porter and just the message that it had of acceptance. And this is before I was really out of the closet at the time. I was still in the closet. So it was just a big thing for me and Billy Porter has always been someone that I've looked up to and loved and appreciated his talent and respected and admired. And so like theater people do, we waited at the stage door for the people to come out. And Billy Porter came out. And when I tell you, me and my three friends, we pretty much screamed.
We were only a handful of black people in the audience at this theater. We were waiting at the stage door and Billy Porter came out and he said, I knew y'all was out here, because I could hear y'all in the audience. I knew my folks was here because I could hear y'all all the way in the balcony. And that's where we were because we were screaming and yelling.
09:24 Tony:
You were at church.
09:25 Drew:
We were in its like full force. He said he knew that we were out there and he was like, yeah, I knew y'all was out here, so I had to come and greet y'all. He said, but first of all, where is your coat? Because it was nice during the day. And it got a little cold at night and he was like, where are your coats? He was like, now I'm mother and y'all need to have y'alls coats on. You need to be bundled up. And so we just began to talk and he just greeted us like he knew us for years and we walked with him and I just started telling him about this vision that I had for this company called Broadway Black and what I wanted to do and how I felt like I needed to be in New York. And he just looked at me plainly and said, if you feel like you need to be in New York, then you need to get there and you need to do it immediately.
And literally that was the inspiration for me, that I went back home after not having a job and figuring out how I'm going to start over. And I said, you know what, he's right, if I'm going to start over, I'm not going to do it here. I might as well do it in New York City. So I sold my furniture. I sold my car. I sold everything that I had. And within two weeks I had picked up and I had moved to New York. And that was the beginning of something really special. Little would I know that a couple of months down the road and me starting this company and me getting into the scene of New York City, I would sneak into like opening night events and just show up and try to figure out how I can get in. And I would just do that. And finesse my way and just smile and talk and look cute. And finesse my way into opening night events.
And I ended up at the opening night event of Kinky Boots on Broadway. And I sat down at a table and I didn't know where I was sitting, but I was just trying to blend in. I sit down at the table, I had a little drink and I was just observing the scene and taking pictures and sitting at this table with another young lady. And she looked over at me. She said, hi, who are you? And I said, oh, well, I'm Drew Shade. I'm not really anybody. I'm a journalist. I run this platform called Broadway Black. She said, I know Broadway Black. I read Broadway Black. I said, oh, you do, I'm thinking that she is lying. She said, yes, of course I read Broadway Black. My brother is Broadway Black. I said, oh, who's your brother. She said, Billy Porter.
11:29 Tony:
Family table.
11:30 Tony:
Right. I said, oh my God, I'm sitting at Billy Porter's table. I ended up meeting her, and her name was M&M, Mary Martha is her name. Me and her became just really, really good Judies, we just became really good friends that night. And I ended up walking out with her carrying flowers, pushing her mother in a wheelchair and talking with Billy Porter all over again. It was a full circle moment. I had been in the city maybe two months at that point. It was just like, I was destined to be here.
So that's been about six years ago now. So much has happened since then, but I'm forever grateful for that experience and the life that Billy Porter continues to put into the world and the light that he continuously shines on me and the encouragement that he gives me. And it's just unreal. It's so real, to be honest.
12:18 Tony:
I want to rewind for a second. For the listener who is not in New York or the newcomer to the industry who wants to move to LA or to New York, but it's maybe a little bit nervous. What advice would you give them?
12:32 Drew:
The main thing I would say is have a plan, but know that your plan is never going to be perfect enough. There's never going to be the right time. You're never going to have the right amount of money. There's never going to be the right opportunity. You have to give yourself the right opportunity. There's nobody else that's going to give it to you. There's nobody else that's going to make it happen, but you. Once you've decided that's what you want to do, don't let anybody else talk you out of it. It's your time. So make a plan, know that the plan may go to shit. It may totally change once you land in the city.
I literally did not have a place to live. I had bought a one way ticket. I had about $2,000 in my pocket. This is 2012. Hurricane Sandy had just happened. I didn't know where I was going to find a job. And I just basically tweeted out and said, “Hey, I'm moving to New York City, if anybody has a room to rent, let me know.” Somebody replied to my tweet. And by the time I landed, I saw it and they came and picked me up from the airport. And I was able to stay in a room in Yonkers, which is not too far outside the city, but just a little bit of a journey. And I was able to find a place to live all within hours of landing in the city.
And then the next day I found a job bartending because a place was just starting over because of Hurricane Sandy. They were looking for employees, they were reworking their menu. They were rebuilding the restaurant. And so it just sort of worked out where everything had lined up because I had the intention. I set the intention that this is what I wanted to do. And the universe responded to me. So I would just say, go for it, just do it and be flexible to what the plan is.
14:17 Tony:
So this is 2012, Broadway Black is in existence, but you move to New York and start to make your way in this city. What's your advice about building a brand or a business?
14:29 Drew:
My advice is to be okay with making mistakes. You're learning. I studied musical theater. I never studied journalism. I never studied anything as far as building websites. That was just something that I had an inkling of how to do. And I sort of just went with it. Never knew anything about incorporating or being an LLC or doing taxes or being a full-fledged business. That just wasn't my wheelhouse, but I had to learn it in order to get to what it is that I wanted to do. So you're going to have to go through those rough terrains in order to get to the mountain top. And so what I would say is just make sure that you are diligent in your research and go with the flow.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes, that's how you learn. I would think that would be the biggest reason that I have succeeded and what is success as well. But I feel as though that I have succeeded because I've set out and done what it is that I wanted to do. And, I'm continuously learning. Every day, six years later, I'm still learning on how to maintain and how to be consistent and how to be disciplined. And those are big factors in being a business. You have to be disciplined, have to be consistent and you have to be knowledgeable. And so just make sure that you're doing all those things.
15:59 Tony:
I want to rewind and ask you, what do you think success is?
16:04 Drew:
Success is being happy with what you're doing, with what you place your hands on. Success is yes being happy, but also being able to find a way to monetize your gift. What your best at. I know that a lot of people say, the money is not the most important thing. Well bitch, I got bills to pay. I got things to do. And I got life that I want to live. And I can't live life off of experience, as great as it is. Success is being able to find a way to do what you love and monetize it, and I've been able to do that. And so I feel as though I'm successful, even if I may be scraping some days, my bills are paid, I can still eat. I can still live life and experience life and not have to worry.
And that wasn't always the case. There were some months and some days where I was literally going to events just to eat. I was going to events just to figure out, oh, well, maybe somebody might let me sleep on their couch tonight. I'm sharp to the nines. Dressed to the very 10 and I didn't have a place to live. I didn't have food to eat. And that's a real experience and not everybody has to go through that in order to get to where they want to be, but that was an experience for me.
And so in order for me to feel as though I've been successful, I just wanted to eat. I just wanted to pay my bills. And so that's success for me and I enjoy doing what I love. I'm not sacrificing my soul for a coin either. I'm not sacrificing my morals and my values just to get paid. I'm doing what I love. I'm being adamant about where I stand and my morals and values. And I'm also able to make a coin, that's success.
18:07 Tony:
Well, BroadwayBlack.com is very cute. So congratulations.
18:13 Drew:
Thank you.
18:15 Tony:
And it's interesting. I'll just reflect back in my own business journey in building a brand. There's often a duality to what people see, like what you're saying, showing up dressed to the nines and the tens. And this is also the world of social media versus sometimes reality. Do you want to speak on that?
18:32 Tony:
Yeah, social media this day and age has sort of given us more insight into how the mirror can be flipped, and how you can present one thing and on the other side of it, it's totally not the same. But back in 2012, people didn't really understand that. That's just now coming of age where people understand, oh, everything that you see is not what's really going on. And that's just part of the business I've learned. At first, I used to be really bitter about it. Y'all, don't get it. Y'all don't understand. I've worked so hard and I'm doing this and I'm doing that, but nobody cares. Nobody really cares about that. Everybody's going through their own struggles. And people want to live in a fantasy life. They want to live in a fantasy world.
And sometimes you have to provide that for them. Sometimes that's maybe your position to provide a fantasy for someone else and maybe they don't want their bubble burst because they need that escape. You're providing an escape for people. And so in order for you to be able to be successful in presenting that image and that fantasy, sometimes you have to do the hard stuff, which is be an image, be a brand, and sort of push your real life to the back. And not necessarily saying that what you're presenting is not your real life, but just being particular about what you present.
But now we're getting to a day and age too, where people sort of like to see behind the scenes and you just have to be selective on what that means and how that can best serve your brand. It's a difficult line to walk. It's a very fine line to walk, without coming across as brooding or coming across as fake or not genuine and you just have to learn. And that's a part of making the mistakes part. Sometimes I let people in too deep into my real life. Sometimes you have to push them back. And so it's just learning what the balance is for you and what's healthy for you. It's not always healthy to let everybody into your mental space.
20:42 Tony:
So in a healthy way, Drew Shade, the CEO, can you give us a little behind the scenes peek of what your day to day is like?
20:50 Drew:
That's ever-changing. Right now I'm in a show at the National Black Theater called the First Deep Breath. I'm in rehearsals. Throughout the days, pretty much, 10:30 to 6 o'clock. I'm in rehearsals, but I get up early in the morning around 7:00 AM to sort of look at what's happening in the news. See if there is anything I missed overnight. Any content that I can create that will help me throughout the day that I can set my day up for success. And so keep the traffic rolling into the website and keep the traffic happening on our social channels while I'm in rehearsal. So I do that. I'll be in rehearsal all day on breaks. Everybody will tell you now that — that Drew is always working.
Every 10 minute break I'm at my computer. I'm typing a new article. Every lunch break, I'm not going to eat, I'm typing in something else. I'm answering emails. I'm trying to send out invoices. I am getting money bitch. I'm getting money, that's every single day. And after rehearsal, I usually like try to decompress for a minute or I'll go and see a show. I'll have tickets for a show and I have to go do that, or I have to go to a press event and I'll also work at MTC. I work at Manhatten Theater Club. So I'll go down to the offices and work for a little bit. And then I come home and I set my night up. I set my social calendar for the next day and I go to sleep around maybe midnight to 1 o'clock. Last night, it was 3:00 AM. And I'm right back up at 7.
So it changes, once I'm out of rehearsal it might change. But that's just more press events, more things to do, more lunch meetings, more advertising meetings and marketing meetings. So it changes from day to day, but it's always a propel forward. So that's pretty much what my day is like.
22:39 Tony:
What fuels your fire, your hustle, your drive?
22:43 Drew:
What fuels me is my audience. I can't tell you how many people message me or email me about something that they've seen on Broadway Black or something that I said in a social or something that I said on a podcast or a guest that we had on a podcast or people just thanking me for the platform in general, or telling me that they decided to study musical theater because they saw it was possible through Broadway Black. They didn't think that there would ever be an avenue for them. People telling me that they went into lighting design because I made it known that that was a valuable career. Just the audience, literally every day there is somebody that almost brings me to tears about what the platform has done to inspire them.
And that's all I could ever ask for, because that's exactly what I wanted. That was me 2005 to 2009 at Ball State University. That was me looking for a light. Looking for someone that looks like me, that was working in the industry that didn't feel so distant, that didn't feel like, oh, that's unattainable. I'll never be a Brian Stokes Mitchell, I'll never be a Norm Lewis. I'll never be Audra McDonald. And that was my mind frame then and I think that's because I didn't have the tangible access to it. Creating Broadway Black, that tangible access now seems real for so many people, for kids all over the country.
So that's what keeps me going, because now I'm sitting down to dinner with Brian Stokes Mitchell, and his wife. Something that blows my mind. Brian Stokes Mitchell tells me to call him Stokes. That sort of thing was just like a full-circle moment where these people know my face, they know my name, I'm a part of this industry. And success is right there. It's tangible. I can do the same exact thing he's done because he's made a way for me. And just realizing those things connect. And that it's all tangible.
24:57 Tony:
In my five years of business, I've seen a desire. I joke that everyone wants to be rich and famous, but what makes one person want to be wealthy and another person want recognition. And then I think ultimately we're all after love and safety. You put love and safety together, that's connection. So we're connected right now. But if you multiply that, that to me is the way that I define community, it's connection scaled. How do you define community?
25:28 Drew:
Community is, you're definitely right, the connection there. Community is also the uplifting of one another. Community is the ability to, like Issa Ray says, networking across. A lot of times we think of people as higher or lower than us, and we try to network up and everybody's on the same playing field, if you really think about it. And that's community building together, building the foundation and the house together, and community is just a free spirit of love in and out, like you said, connection, I think you defined it beautifully. I don't think I can add any more to that because that's really what it is. And sometimes it's difficult to see who's in your community. But all you have to do is outreach your hand and somebody's there usually to grab it and not say usually, all the time somebody's there to grab it. And you have to realize that your community may look different in your mind, but once you start to really look at who the community is, it may not be who you expect, but it's always the right person that you need.
26:43 Tony:
Before we get into warm fuzzies and darker places. What I'd love to ask about from a business sense, for someone who wants to create a similar platform or community to Broadway Black. Can you talk about some of the keys to success? I heard you mention metrics. I think representation also matters, but what has been crucial to the growth of your community?
27:08 Drew:
What's been crucial is being authentic to who I am. A lot of people have said to me, well, why won't you highlight Latino Americans, or why don't you highlight Asian Americans or other people of color? I don't know those communities. I know Black people because I'm a Black person and not saying that I could not do that. But my focus is the highlighting of Black people, because that's the culture and the experience that I know and me being authentic to that and using my platform and my socials in a way that allowed me to showcase that authenticity of being a Black man in the musical theater world. And in the theater world in general has allowed people to attach to that. They gravitate towards that because it is authentic because I use my own experience to build everything that I have.
Every look, every post, every article is built around my experience and what brings me joy, what I feel as though allows me to smile. What makes my heart full, what gets me excited. Everything that I type in and do literally excites me. I cannot wait to press publish and I cannot wait to send. If I'm excited about it, then I know my audience will be excited about it. And so that's the biggest thing that I can say, is that you have to be excited about what you're doing. Once it becomes too daunting, once it becomes a chore, then it's no longer going to feel authentic. It's no longer going to be what you want it to be.
And people are going to read into that. They're going to see it. There's no way to get around being inauthentic. It shows in all your materials. It shows in your captions, it shows in everything that you present. And so once people start to feel that they start to detach. So the biggest thing I can say is just be authentic, be true to who you are, and that's the only way to build, and you'll discover as you go.
29:09 Tony:
Beautiful. Let's talk about marginalized communities. First with sexuality. So we're both gay men. What was your journey to coming out and self acceptance?
29:23 Drew:
Homophobia is rampant in the Black community. And just the idea, because I'm also a preacher's kid. Growing up Christian and growing up COGIC at that, which is Church of God in Christ. There wasn't a lot of room or any room at all for being gay. And so that was very difficult, which is why I didn't come out until I was 25, even though I had full-fledged experiences and relationships before then. I didn't really feel comfortable in my skin and in myself to be able to share that with anyone. Being a Black gay man is a double thing there, where you have to deal with the microaggressions of being Black and then also the microaggressions of being gay. And sometimes those aggressions are macro as well.
My journey to self acceptance was really surrounding myself with people that saw the light in me, regardless of whether I was Black or whether I was gay. They saw the light in me, they lifted me up and showed me that I was valuable. They affirmed me in places where I did not think that I would ever be affirmed. They strengthened me in places where I thought that the muscles were always going to be weak. I've always been an outspoken, boisterous type of person.
30:49 Tony:
A voice.
30:51 Drew:
I've always been a voice. I've learned too that that voice came from certain insecurities of not being able to be myself and so able to fine-tune those things, because I surrounded myself with people that just loved on me regardless of what happened.
It's also about being able to advocate for yourself and stand firm in what you believe and what you know to be true, regardless of what anybody else says. That's one thing that I can say that really helped me on my journey in being a Black gay man, is that I found the values that affirmed me, that made me believe in who I was. I didn't let anybody deter me from that.
There may have been moments where I was shaken a little bit because battling what you've always known and what you've grown up to know, and what you've been taught is difficult to unlearn over the years. And I had to learn that God loves me anyhow, and not even just that anyhow, but he made me in his image and he made me this way and God loves me, period. Being gay and even being Black is not a sin of sorts. It's not a death wish. Being these things doesn't take away from my character. They don't devalue me. For so long, I felt as though I was devalued in certain spaces because of these things.
I was looked upon as a pariah or maybe even fetishized in some spaces. And that's where I thought that my value would come from, where I could only be one thing. My journey has been a discovery process and I'm living life for discovery. That's something else that we learned at Ball State. What are the stakes? Where is the discovery at? You have to continuously discover throughout your life, and if you don't, you're not living. So I just want to live. Black and gay and all.
33:16 Tony:
I love it. What are the best changes that you've seen in your lifetime in terms of these marginalized communities?
33:25 Drew:
Just the exposure. When I started Broadway Black, there was literally nothing of the sort, there was no Blavity. There may have been Black voices, but just the exposure in sorts of, like Out magazine has been out for a long time, but just seeing Black people in Out magazine and other minorities in Out magazine or Advocate or the publications that were white centered. Even for a time Playbill wasn't really doing or centering Black people or other minorities. Now that's almost a must, if we don't see it now, we're calling it out.
So just the active voices from the minority communities and the exposure is really great to see. I get excited about it all the time. For us to be celebrating each other in the theater spaces is amazing. And beyond, it's all over. There's so much happening. I think the biggest thing is that people have a sense of freedom of speech to where they now feel that they're being heard, with Twitter and Facebook and these social channels that can sometimes be a detriment to our psyche. But they also can be uplifting to our spirits. And that's a beautiful thing. That's a beautiful change that I've seen. So I really thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to the voices that come in the years to come.
34:54 Tony:
I want to zoom in on social media and what you just said, what are some practical ways that you balance not being triggered negatively by posts, and then creating a more positive experience for yourself through these media platforms?
35:07 Drew:
That's very hard. I say this often, and I know in a way it's true and in a way it's not, I don't like people.
35:25 Tony:
Say it louder.
35:26 Drew:
I don't like people. I don't want to know your innermost thoughts all the time. I want to like you. I want to be able to like you. Social media makes it hard sometimes for you just to like people, because you get to see all their views, all their political leanings and all sorts of different things. So I want to be able to like people, but it's difficult at times because of social channels. I've always been a person where I would change and even in college I would change my phone number every couple of months because I didn't like being accessed. I don't like people to access me. I hate DMs. I hate message requests. I hate emails. I hate all of that, but why do I have a company that's built on all that?
So what I have to do is I just have to set intentional times and spaces where I do not look at them. Set times from myself. Going to the gym in the mornings. I haven't been able to do that in the past couple of weeks because of rehearsal and so many other things happening. But going to the gym allows me just to disconnect from my phone, play some music and just be away. Going on vacation, setting intentional times where for days on end, I do not look at my phone or go on social media. Those sorts of things.
It's difficult because I have to scroll all the time just to find new content and to figure out what's happening in the community. Learning how to affirm myself. Starting my day with affirmations, with I am beautiful. I am talented. I am successful. I am valued. I am a star. Just making sure that I affirm myself in the mornings and get my day started in a grounded way. And sometimes redoing that, doing that throughout the day and setting reminders on my phone to where I get a notification, saying, hey, it's time to pray. Just thank God right now. Thank God for where you are. Thank God for the life that you have because there was a time where you were praying for this life that you have currently.
So just making sure that I set intentions to reaffirm myself and to be thankful and grateful for what God has for me, because what other people have is for them. It's totally for them and that's beautiful for them and you can celebrate them and be happy for them. But the moment that you start questioning and saying, well, where is mine God? Why not me? That's where you've lost it. And you have to recenter yourself and say, hey I have everything that is for me. And I'm going to get everything that is for me.
It's coming, it's in the pipeline. And just remembering those things. I have to just take breaks throughout the day and reaffirm myself, which is why I'm doing a show right now to fuel myself as an artist because I'm an actor first. I'm an actor, singer, performer first. I cannot live without doing that. That's why I entered this industry to begin with. I sacrificed myself for the greater good of the community. And now I've had to learn how to balance that so that I can give the community, my overflow, that I'm not being drained and being sucked dry to where I have nothing to give myself. I have to give the community my overflow. So, yeah, that's why I'm doing this show now and figuring it out as I go. I'm still struggling with that. That's an ever going, an ongoing battle.
38:47 Tony:
That's beautiful. So what is ahead for Drew Shade? What are all of the things that you're working on?
38:53 Drew:
There are some really nice things in the works. I'm excited to be recording an EP, some music that'll be coming out probably this summer. I do that next month. I go to Birmingham, Alabama to record an album or EP, I should say. I'm doing a show right now at the National Black Theater. I'm auditioning more. I never thought I'd be at Equity. So now I'm an Equity member. I never thought that would happen simply because I wasn't willing to be a token Black person on a Mamma Mia! tour and travel the country. I wasn't willing to subject myself to a predominantly white space in order to get that card or to get those points to do it.
The only shows that I've ever done in New York have been Black casts and with Black theaters. I'm not saying that I won't ever work with other theater companies, I just have to make sure it's a safe space for me, for my mental and my psyches, especially considering what it is that I do. I surround myself in Blackness on a consistent basis.
But I also have to work with the powers that be, which are predominantly white, Caucasian people.
So just finding that balance. If I'm going to be in an artistic space, I have to feel safe. I have to be able to feel safe, to be free, to be open, and really explore. And that's what I'm doing art for. So doing the show here at the National Black Theater, have some music coming up. I also am working on some things, some special things like a conference for Broadway Black, that'll be in 2020. So there's a lot of things in the pipeline getting ready for the Tony's right now, because that's about to drain my whole entire life come May. It's popping, it's happening just one day at a time.
40:41 Tony:
I want to rewind and highlight an area for listeners that are not people of color, when you walk into these rehearsal rooms or audition rooms and theaters and jobs, what can we as allies: what can we do to help create a safer space, a more welcoming, inviting space?
41:01 Drew:
See me: as a person, as a human being. See my color. There's no need to be colorblind because that's who I am. I'm a Black man. People are who they are and they bring all of that experience with them. Don't pigeonhole me into what you think that experience is because you haven't lived it. See me for who I am, and also treat me as you're equal. Treat me as though you would like to be treated, simple as that to be an ally. I would say if you see something, say something, a lot of times in spaces where you're the minority you don't really have the voice to be able to speak.
You don't really have the privilege of being able to speak up and advocate for yourself. And it's only when someone else that is not the minority does that are you able to really be seen sometimes. So if you see something, say something. Be a voice for other people of minorities, and believe us. Believe us when we tell you our experiences. Don't try to negate or undervalue what it is that we experience. Just listen and see us.
42:31 Tony:
We know that I called you earlier this month and said, hey, I'm doing this theme called Black Future Month during Black History Month. It makes me a little nervous that people are going to say that I'm claiming the Black experience. But that being said, I'd like to ask you what would be your long-term vision for Black future?
42:55 Drew:
My long-term vision is equality: financial equality, opportunity equality. I want to be able to be free. Black people are still not free in this country. We still have to perform and be on edge and be observant of our surroundings, of the spaces that we're in. We still have to conform. I want to be Black as fuck all the time. Free to be that and not be judged and not be critiqued by it. I just want to be Black as fuck and free.
43:38 Tony:
I love it. Be Black as fuck. So for people who want to connect with you more Drew, what are all the different ways to connect with you?
43:48 Drew:
I just told you I don't like people.
43:51 Tony:
Well, you're going to get hit with the DMs, the emails, the comments.
43:57 Drew:
You can connect with us on Broadway Black. All of our social channels are @BroadwayBlack on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. You can connect with me personally @DrewShade on Instagram, on Facebook, on Twitter. I'm that Broadway Nigga. So you can find me there and email me if you have something that you definitely want to say or something that you need to contact me for, you can do that at [email protected]
44:28 Tony:
Beautiful. Thank you so much for being here.
44:30 Drew:
Thank you for having me Tony. It's been a pleasure. I appreciate you so much.
44:40 Tony:
Thank you so much for listening and thank you to Drew for being my guest. I would absolutely love it if you would screenshot this episode and tag Drew Shade, letting him know how much this conversation meant to you, even though he says he doesn't like it, you know, he does. If you haven't already, make sure that you subscribe so that you don't miss an episode and please consider sharing this episode or show with a friend.
Remember that our theme this month is #BlackFutureMonth. And I think representation is so important, especially from allies. So please be sure to participate, share a post, highlight a trailblazer, or a hero from the past. Tag me to make sure that I see it and we'll be featuring the best of on our social channels and in our March show. As always I welcome your thoughts, your questions, comments, and feedback.
Whether you send me an email, comment on something, or leave a review. I want to hear from you. I do want you to know that this podcast is only a quarter of the content that we put out every single week, and we do have some awesome LIVE events coming up next week, specifically regarding building a website, and some future events down the line. So make sure you hop on over to TonyHowell.me. And if you join our FREE artist community, you'll never miss out on any of these announcements.
So thank you so much for listening and I cannot wait to connect with you very soon.

Award-winning journalist and industry trailblazer, Drew Shade shares how to do what you love and monetize it! Hear the behind-the-scenes story of how seeing Billy Porter in Kinky Boots was the catalyst for coming out, moving to NYC, and creating the organization of Broadway Black.

Discover the importance of training, planning, flexibility, failure, and self-care—how to personally define success, present/handle your authentic self on the daily, grow a community, and create a world of equality.

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