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Shaniece and Shanae Cole: The Culture Personified

Photo Credit Shaniece and Shanae Cole

It is Saturday morning, you’ve slept in long enough to feel rested but you’re up early enough to eat your cereal, do your chores and plop down on the couch for more necessary rest. Your legs are crossed, your chin is up, smile wide and eyes sparkling as you point the remote at the TV screen. Power on. Images flash, your pupils scan the busy screen chasing and capturing every frame for your memory bank. Theme music dances into your ears, beating on your drum, sending a higher vibration through your body. You are smacked in the soul with contagious joy. Euphoria! Your belly cries laughter, your body loosens and relaxes; you feel safe. You then tune out the burning world around you and tune into the show, The Justice Twins played by Shaniece and Shanae Cole, bringing you a 30 minute to 1 hour escape right in your home.

Photo Credit Shaniece and Shanae Cole

The scenario described is their dream fulfilled. It is the alignment of what they love to do with their purpose: entertaining and bringing you light. Their “why” rooted in the swim upstream in a river of tears from disappointment, doubt, challenging times and joyous cries of success. They served as each other’s life jackets as they waded in the waters of destiny; each with their own strengths, learning their own lessons, at their own pace. Over time, they discovered their true power within, sourced by God; the power to radiate light in ways ever so infectious. As they learned to build their boat to stay afloat, they inspired other ordinary people like them; they too can gain strength and knowledge from the swim. Without shortcuts and with various shortcomings, they trusted the process and evolved into superheroes of the culture we never knew we needed.

With their beautiful origin story, it makes us feel alive. We feel joy when we see them feel joy. We feel excitement when they overcome defeat. In a world that constantly numbs us, they have the power to make us feel something. They are the culture personified; they remind us of the reasons we should embrace and celebrate our past, present and future as individuals and as a community.

Their alter egos, Superwoman and Wonder Woman are reflective of their strength, beauty and wit. Either draped in the costumes of Superwoman and Wonder Woman or dressed like their favorite 90’s Hip Hop and R&B artist, creativity and nostalgia seeps from their presence. But they are much more than dope outfits. They are much more than their capes.

Photo Credit: Shanae Cole

Shaniece, currently a producer at Access Hollywood, knows the power of her talent lies in the joy she fills her audience with. With intention to ensure our [Black community] voices are heard, she identifies when representation is missing from the room and fills the gap by amplifying our culture, stories and people through her pitches and segments. With much of Hollywood’s behind the scenes crew being predominantly white, she is our representation on the other side of the screen.

Shaniece: I’m always pitching Black people, Black content, old school, anyone from the decades that I love, I want them to get back on the map and just highlighting the culture. People think they know what our culture is but the only ones that really know it is us. We’re the ones that are going to do it right.

Overcoming the doubt of other’s dreams deferred, she stepped into her role initially going against the grain by pitching “Black” content although it was suggested she should not. The result of her faithful leap? Success and authentic examples of representation on screen and it does not stop there. Shaniece always leaves the door open for others to seek opportunities through her networks. I know this because she has done the same for me. Her consistency is not only in her creative content but also in her personality. Whether she was working with Steve Harvey, on Netflix’s Family Reunion or hosting a show on Nickelodeon, she has remained the same, humble and grateful for where she is today.

Shaniece: Remaining true to yourself is important. A lot of people get to a certain stage of their lives and in the industry and they change. Thankfully Shanae and I stayed rooted into what we were really passionate about and what we love which is the foundation: Hip Hop, superheroes, the 80s and 90s.

Shaniece, or Superwoman, is a renaissance woman and a movement on her own. Her sister, Shanae, describes Shaniece’s work ethic as inspirational and relentless. She admires Shaniece’s tunnel vision, a superpower that can break down barriers and see her through to the light of continued success.

Photo Credit: Andrew Donovan

Blessed with superhuman strength, beauty and inner warrior energy, Shanae is the true embodiment of Wonder Woman. Her strengths glisten through her effortless smile even when times are hard. Although I’m not here to romanticize a Black woman’s strength, her ability to overcome adversity is a part of her story and a testimony of what the other side of hard times can look like. Her beauty spills over from inside out; her aura a divine illuminating light. Being in her presence boosts your energy and warms your soul like the sun on a summer day. Her inner warrior exudes a purposeful fight for the liberation of her mind, body and soul from things or people that attempt to box her in and steal her peace. A star in her own light, she is still humble enough to serve others dedicating her Sundays to lead children’s ministry for her church.

She allows herself to experience humbling moments without being defeated by them. Her secret? She leans in on her faith and trusts God. From where we are, we see the shine of a star and the glory of a woman so powerful; through her transparency, we can connect to her experience and see ourselves in her as she elevates.

Dedicated to justice and equality, she learned sometimes you must be an advocate for yourself first. When you refuse to tolerate certain treatment, you teach those that may have wronged you, how to treat others that come behind you. Shanae learned this kind of advocacy can come with a cost but at least it was not her peace. While working in post-production for Hollywood’s notable awards ceremonies, did the work of more than one role but was only being paid for one. When she asked for more money, they declined but still expected her to take on the work of a higher paying position. She also declined.

Shanae: As hard as it was for me to say no, I was happy about it because I didn’t want to be used and abused. In the moment I said no and stood up for myself, I was happy about it. What happened after that, I was struggling for four months because they ended up not bringing me back for any award show. It’s about the difficulties of being a woman in this industry, it’s already male dominated. I’m a woman, I’m going to stand up for myself and if I struggle for a few months after, I’m willing to do that.

Four months of stillness, a result of standing up to an industry ruled by patriarchy. When she needed to be still, she became closer with God and the next opportunity eventually came her way. When she started to work at HGTV’s My Dream Lottery Home, she knew she was purposed to be there as a light in a toxic work environment. This was another reminder of her purpose to be a light in an industry that can be dark. However, the pull on her eventually wore her down and out. Standing up for herself, always being compared to her twin sister whose path appeared to be clear and moving around to different jobs became draining. She needed the light she was giving everyone else. By the beginning of 2020, Shanae was feeling the weight of the environment and carrying it with her like a kryptonite she couldn’t shake. Spending nights crying and sleeping in her car, skipping meals and feeling small, she prayed for guidance to ease her pain. Feeling on edge, she listened to the response of her prayer, motivating her to stick around for a few more days and she was blessed with the pause of the world at the onset of Covid-19.

Shanae: I wasn’t really myself. I realized wow, I’m really in this box and I had to remind myself what God says I am. The other thing is, I can’t say that I’m Wonder Woman and not embody that character. I am Wonder Woman and who I am in Christ, I am unstoppable. Even for me, this pandemic was a blessing because right before it hit I was at my tipping point.

Working from home she found peace and her voice again. The twins were able to reconnect and collaborate on more content during the lockdown. As they were caught up in the ebb and flow of life, they did not have enough time to consistently create content prior to the quarantine. Seeing the brighter side of a challenging situation, they needed the pause to get back to themselves and the things they were passionate about.

After spending much of their time dedicating their gifts to the visions of others, they were motivated to spend more time on their own projects and enjoyed taking creative control over the things they created. It also provided them the time to reflect on their journey. Crying in an elevator after leaving an audition where they were told “nobody knows who you are” seems like a distant memory that has been stained in their work ethic. Broken promises and stolen ideas equipped them with discernment and strategy moving forward. Most importantly, Shanice and Shanae agree their trials and tribulations taught them to stick to doing what makes them happy and gives them peace. If it doesn’t align with their values, it’s a no. If it disrupts their peace, it’s a no. Navigating an industry that makes everyone you come in contact with, your competition, it is important to know who you are, what your path is and at the core of it all, your why.

Shanae celebrates her sister’s wins with so much love and excitement even when she’s in a season of stillness. A lesson to us all: we can still clap for the wins of others as we wait on our blessing. People’s comparison of the two, dismisses the fact they may be almost identical in physicality and interest but different in purpose.

Shanae: Even looking at everything I went through, I faced adversity and it help me [become] everything I am today. Then I was like I’m going to be purposeful in everything I do moving forward. You have one twin whose path was very clear, and another twin that was all over the place, but I have testimony. My role is to be a light until God assigns me something else.

Their energy enters the room before they do and fills it up. Not in a way that suffocates but in a way that uplifts you as if their joy stole the weight of gravity from you and suspended you for a moment in their smile and authenticity. They physically mirror each other, a Sister, Sister kind of vibe, in the sense that they are twins but also a true reflection of the culture and everything we should celebrate of it. They aim to bring us the nostalgic feeling of the happiest moments of our pasts as it also helped them get through challenging times. They pay homage to the groundbreaking authenticity of the legends of Hip Hop and R&B, wearing their stories in their threads ensuring they are never erased.

What makes them special is their ability to be a powerful force together and on their own. Their paths collide and sometimes run identical, but they have learned to embrace their own light and life journeying at different paces. Dressed in talent that spans from dance, production, acting, fashion, and directing, they are fly and versatile. They are strong and supportive, exemplary and exceptional and did I mention excellent? They are Shaniece and Shanae Cole, twins with star power with hearts of gold, working in an industry that needs them more than it realizes.

Follow their journey by following them on Instagram Shanae Cole (@itswondawoman) , Shaniece Cole (@supawomnsupafly)

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