When Shae Perry makes it big, we can say “we knew her when…” The recent graduate, known by many as ShaeFromTheLou – her entertainment moniker – established a love for media early in her collegiate career and credits her faculty and staff mentors for helping to cultivate her potential.
As she uses her entrepreneurial experiences to carve out her own path as a media mogul and community advocate, her impact and influence span across highway 70 between Kansas City and her St. Louis, Missouri, hometown. We sat down with Shae to find out how things are going for the recent Communications Studies graduate.
Name: Shae Perry
UMKC degree program: Communications Studies, emphasis in film and media
Graduation year: December 2019
Hometown: Saint Louis
"I learned that with a plan and execution, I could accomplish almost anything."
Tell us about your current position.
I'm currently a brand ambassador for Big Brothers Big Sisters KC. My role consists of connecting with leaders in our surrounding communities and finding ways to make beneficial collaborations. On weeknights and weekends, I'm an on-air radio personality on KPRS Hot 103 Jamz – FM station 103.3. My entertainment name is Deona HuSTLe. KPRS is the oldest, continually Black family-owned radio station in the United States. Both of my roles put me in more spaces to engage with the community. I’ve had the opportunity to do interviews and spread the word about our mission. It’s dual beneficial.
The competition is tough in entertainment. How’d you stand out and land the role at KPRS?
I had been consistently reaching out to KPRS for years trying to get my foot in the door. Every chance I got, I went to visit the station and make sure they knew my face. Angela Elam, one of my Communications Studies professors and the producer and host of New Letters On Air, encouraged me to attend a Missouri Broadcast Association Radio Camp where I received certification in radio marketing. I believe attending the camp to learn more about radio helped better equip me for my job at KPRS. After the growth experienced in Kansas City during college, I was determined to start my professional career here. St. Louis will always be home, though.
What brought you to UMKC?
A college recruiter visited my high school during my senior year. When I toured UMKC for orientation, I found out one of my group leaders was from my hometown, graduated from my high school and played basketball there under the same coach I did. Our similarities were a coincidence, but it helped me feel at home. Not to mention, my parents enjoyed the visit and my mother was really in love; so that was an easy “yes!”
What was your favorite thing about UMKC?
The UMKC campus was a perfect size for me to immerse myself in a variety of campus activities and in the classroom without feeling unheard. The student-to-faculty ratio was great for comprehending coursework and receiving extra help. The university also had various resources and groups to connect with, including the MSA Village, where I spent much of my time meeting peers and other leaders.
"The saying, 'it's not what you know, it’s who you know' rings true in my life, both in school and in my career."
Who was the most influential faculty or staff member at UMKC?
This is tough because there were so many, but there are two people I must mention who were influential in my younger years.
During new student orientation, I selected all the courses I’d take for my freshmen year, one of which was radio production. My advisor informed me that the professor typically only allowed upperclassmen and I’d probably be rejected. Luckily, Professor Angela Elam accepted my enrollment in the course and I really enjoyed learning about radio. Angela was also the advisor for K-Roo, the student radio station, and helped me get more involved to eventually become president my junior and senior years.
While I was learning radio, I took a couple of video production classes taught by Professor Kevin Mullin. I found a real love for creating and editing in that class and Kevin always went above and beyond in answering my many questions. Both Angela and Kevin were, and still are, great mentors to me and I appreciate them.
How did you choose your field of study?
I stayed open-minded throughout my four years. I took a variety of courses and hosted many campus events and parties. In 2017, I started my own videography and entertainment company, SFTL Entertainment. In 2018, Roo Athletics and the Office of Student Involvement asked me to emcee some of the men’s and women’s sports games. I had the opportunity in 2019 to write and direct my first short film and cast other UMKC students. Through all of this, I was still active as president of K-Roo. All of these activities helped me find my path in communications.
What’s the influence behind SFTL?
I started going by ShaeFromTheLou my senior year of high school. My school was very close to Ferguson, and when the unfortunate death of Michael Brown occurred, we halted classes for a few days due to protests. I and three other seniors banded together to help the Black-owned businesses in our community. When MSNBC wanted to do a story on us, I didn’t think my name on social media worked well. I wanted something catchy that still paid homage to my city, so ShaeFromTheLou. Any creative content I produce, I use SFTL. When I’m on the radio it’s Deona HuSTLe. Deona is my middle name and I believe the word hustle is one of the words that best describe me.
Wow! You have a lot going on. How do manage your time?
I haven’t had a break yet since I started working. I enjoy both of my jobs, so it doesn’t technically feel like work because it’s fun and I’m helping other people. However, I do want to make sure that I’m leveling up in both my business and personal lives, so I try to implement self-care and remind myself to take a day off if I’m stressed out.
What are the challenges of your field?
Communication, in general, is a broad field, there’s so much you can do in the industry. The most difficult part of that, for me, can be finding your niche. Even today I continue to find different things that interest me.
What are the benefits?
It’s such a fun field, especially for film and media, which is what my degree is in. I’ve had the opportunity to interview celebrities and get behind the scenes access at events; it’s definitely a timeless industry. The other benefit of communications is the ability to be creative, there’s nothing like seeing your vision come to life.
What did you learn about yourself while you were here?
I learned that I not only had an interest in being in front of the camera, I also had an interest in being behind it. I’ve organized community events and lead the student radio station and they both pushed me to become a better person. I learned that with a plan and execution, I could accomplish almost anything.
"The student-to-faculty ratio was great for comprehending coursework and receiving extra help."
How did UMKC help you reach your current position?
Connections and experience. The saying, “it's not what you know, it’s who you know” rings true in my life both in school and in my career. Many of the opportunities I’ve been given are due to faculty and staff members mentioning my name in important rooms. Carla Wilson was one of those staff members who always supported my aspiration by connecting me with other leaders and her positive reference went a long way. UMKC also gave me a lot of experience. Whenever I saw an opportunity, I took it. I hosted the Union Programming Board’s annual talent show, the K-Roo weekly radio show, organized campus events and more. I even had a chance to emcee KC Roos basketball games. All of those opportunities gave me a different perspective and most importantly experience.
What are your goals for the future?
My list of goals is lengthy, but I have a few key areas I want to focus on these next couple of years. I am interested in doing more public speaking engagements. I want to do public speaking to help young people know the work involved in achieving success. I'll be speaking at a workshop for teen girls in March about career planning.
I premiered my first short film last year titled “Court-side Reality,” and I enjoyed it so much that I want to write more YouTube series and films. I also enjoyed my time as the emcee for KC Roos basketball games and hope to emcee for more college or professional sports events. Finally, one of my long-term goals is to own a television and radio network and give others like myself a platform to be creative and be heard! I love bringing people together and all these goals help me do that in a creative way.
What is your advice for a student entering UMKC?
Stay open-minded and engage with your peers and faculty and staff members. Many of my connections came from being at events and networking. College is what you make it; be intentional about applying yourself and ask questions. Also, you won’t know you're skilled in something if you don’t at least try. I have tried things and failed, but I can at least say that I tried and learned how to do them correctly next time. Don’t shy away from opportunities because you are afraid to fail or afraid of what others will say. It’s all a part of learning yourself. Go for it, ask a lot of questions. It shows that you’re assertive.