Shaun Ross– Model, Activist, Pop Star

Shaun Ross | In episode 89 of Light Culture Podcast, Paper Magazine founder David Hershkovits talks with model and musician, Shaun Ross on the occasion of his new album “Shift.”

Shaun Ross has a great story to tell. Born black, gay and albino, he defied the odds and became a super model. Featured in Vogue, GQ and Paper, he walked the runway for Givenchy and Alexander McQueen and appeared in videos with Beyonce, Lana Del Ray and Katy Perry. Today he’s focused on a music career and his recently released album Shift show he’s got what it takes. We talk about the inequities of the fashion world, making a difference with music, fitting in, his love of voguing and his dream audience for a life performance.

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Q&A

David Hershkovits (00:00):

Shaun Ross is a model turned activist, turned future soul pioneer. But what may look like a smooth transition from wannabe model to pop stardom was far bumpier than it seems. Born with a congenital disorder, albinism, Shaun suffered discrimination and was bullied as a kid until he realized he could take what people saw as a negative and turn it into a positive.

David Hershkovits (00:27):

Spotted on YouTube by a modeling agency at 16, he began his unlikely rise to fashion stardom. Walking the runway for designers like Givenchy and Alexander McQueen. Appearing in magazines like Vogue, GQ, and Paper. And making cameos in videos with Beyonce, Lana Del Ray, and Katy Perry. So he’s more or less ubiquitous, and likely to be even more so as he steps out as a recording artist who’s here to do more than merely entertain you with a catchy tune. His album, Shift, drops this spring. Welcome, Shaun Ross.

Shaun Ross (01:06):

Thank you for having me.

David Hershkovits (01:08):

Yeah. So looking forward to talking with you. So you titled your album Shift, which I guess we can possibly surmise has something to do with shifting from modeling to music. So let’s start with modeling. Having been around the fashion world myself for many years and having observed models, I’ve always felt that, like in most success stories, there’s always that ineffable something that elevates a person into the super category. You know, it’s not necessarily looks alone, since everyone’s got it or they wouldn’t be modeling in the first place. So, what is your superpower? What is it that takes someone from just another, another model, walking the runway into stardom in the way that you achieved it?

Shaun Ross (02:00):

Well… I will just put it out there, that’s actually not why I, named my album Shift actually. But, uh, we’ll get into that-

David Hershkovits (02:11):

Don’t ruin my story, okay? (laughs)

Shaun Ross (02:14):

That’s not why, but I mean, yeah.

David Hershkovits (02:15):

It sounds good though, right? So you can tell me why, why did you name it Shift then?

Shaun Ross (02:19):

Honestly, I just felt like it was a shift that needed to happen in the world to be very honest with you. Like, I felt that we were in a place where everything was just going a little bit too fast. Like when it comes to, social media. Social media is always pushing out things all the time to the point where we’re never able to actually process things. Even before the pandemic even happened,  I just said it to myself, I was like, something’s going to happen. ’cause I just felt pressure, almost like a pimple, almost. It just felt a little uncomfortable.

Shaun Ross (03:02):

I felt people were just existing and not, actually, opening their eyes. And I told myself that the world needed something, it needed change. It needed to shift somewhere. And I came up with that title way before the pandemic even came. That’s why I named it Shift.

Shaun Ross (03:34):

But to answer your question, what do I feel a person has to have? In order to have that type of superpower, or whatever the case may be, it’s definitely resilience. You most definitely need to be a resilient individual. You need to know where it is that you want to go in life. Not your final destination, but you need to know how you want to be treated, how you want your work to be conveyed or how you just want your spirit to live throughout the world. I think that’s a massive part.

David Hershkovits (04:10):

It seems like you’ve done a lot of thinking about things that are, almost in the philosophical category. Or existential questions about, what is life and what is the meaning of life? Is that something that evolved with you naturally given all of the struggles that you’ve had, that you’ve had to think in those terms, in a way that maybe some other people who had a smoother ride would never get to?

Shaun Ross (04:45):

Well, not really. See, I did have my times growing up as a kid, but at the same time, I think everyone did. Kids are cruel. Kids don’t know any better. They know what they’re taught at home, or they know what they’re not taught. And so for me, that’s just evident. But as of lately, as of the past few years, it’s just paying attention.

But even if you weren’t directly picked on, just being around that energy inside of a school with young kids, all trying to figure it out, is an extremely hard thing. When it comes to the way that I think, and the way how I convey myself today, and this thing that I guess, people would find to be very ethereal, philosophical. I’ve always been like that, but as of lately, I just pay attention more.

Shaun Ross (06:35):

I’m getting older, getting wiser. I’m about to turn 30. So, you know, I look at things exceptionally different. It’s all about purpose; it goes back to the entire album title. We live in a world where a lot of people are living without purpose, they’re just, living. Purpose isn’t meant to be something extremely, like, oh my God. But like, you actually need to know, at least yourself. And I… You’d be very surprised. I mean, I know you wouldn’t be surprised. I’m pretty sure you know this. A lot of people just exist without doing the work on finding out who they are as an individual. Some people don’t find out who they are until 50 years old.

David Hershkovits (07:19):

Or never. So how did you find out-

Shaun Ross (07:21):

Or never.

David Hershkovits (07:21):

Was there something that… Yeah. Was there something that precipitated it, or was it just a slow evolution? Did the fashion world help you recognize this?

Shaun Ross (07:33):

This kind of ties into the question you were asking earlier. So, because of my difference, you’re forced to figure out who you are faster than other kids, because you’re not allowed to stay in the shadow when you want to. You have to always arrive all the time. The thing about it is the cool thing… The gift and the curse about looking physically different is that you are arriving, whether you want it or not.

Shaun Ross (08:12):

Anywhere you go, you’re arriving, like it’s a grand thing, whether you want it or not. Sometimes you arrive and,, you have the entire world, and everyone’s making fun of you when you’re super young, and then you arrive and everyone’s looking at you because they’re stunned by what they see. But you’re always arriving, when you are a person that has a physical difference. That’s just in general. So is that something that you want to own? Is it something that you want to help, make you the person you are. Do you want it to defeat you, or do you want to, run with it and let it be your glory?

 

David Hershkovits (08:50):

Right, which I think is what, what you decided or worked out that way.

Shaun Ross (08:54):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

David Hershkovits (08:56):

Yeah. And you’re also, you know, kind of a triple outsider in a way, if you want to, look at it in terms of the mass culture, right? Born to a African-American black family, Being albino and then also being gay.

Shaun Ross (09:15):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

David Hershkovits (09:15):

So you had, multiple-

Shaun Ross (09:17):

Three taboos.

David Hershkovits (09:20):

(laughs) Yeah. The trip, the trifecta of taboos.

Shaun Ross (09:22):

Right.

David Hershkovits (09:23):

Were they all, one thing for you, or was each one something that you came to consciousness, separately?

Shaun Ross (09:32):

They all were something different. Separately, they all were different. They were all different at a certain time in life. They were all different things. But yeah, it’s pretty much that.

David Hershkovits (09:49):

I’m talking to you about these subjects, which I know they’re sensitive subjects. Um, but I know that you’ve spoken about it before and, and you’re very open about these subjects, so I hope I’m not pushing you to-

Shaun Ross (10:02):

No, no, no, no. You’re fine.

David Hershkovits (10:03):

Okay, great. As I mentioned, you were discovered at 16 on YouTube by a modeling agency. First, what were you doing on YouTube, and what did they see in the video, and what did you think when they approached you?

Shaun Ross (10:20):

It was actually around the time I was 15, when I used to do these videos. And this model scout named Shamir Khan who was young himself and a photographer in New York city shooting for a lot of different agencies. I had been voguing and dancing on YouTube and he actually was looking it up because he wanted to learn himself.

Shaun Ross (10:43):

And later on he saw me and he hit me up. He was like, hey, you know you could be a model, by the way. And I’m like, huh? Like, me? And then he ended up reaching out, and then I ended up telling my mom, and then later on went downtown and then I ended up doing a test shoot. And then I ended up getting signed, like, the same day. That was the entire story, but it was cool, to be very honest with you. Looking back at it, I can literally remember it like it was yesterday.

Shaun Ross (11:10):

It was such a cool moment in time, in my life, in my history. Not only because I didn’t know what I was about to step into, but what I was stepping into, that part of fashion, that time was so cool. It was so different from what it is today. I feel like it was actually more livelier back at that moment. And it was probably even more livelier in the freaking ’80s and ’90s as well. But I feel, like, I experienced, the last of, like, the real fashion, fashion, fashion, in my opinion.

David Hershkovits (11:43):

Yeah. Well, the ’80s, it was still very much, like, an underground thing. There were no, like, major tents. People had their shows spread around the city. You would run around from place to place. They actually had fans following the age of the supermodels, also the girls.

David Hershkovits (12:00):

The ‘90s became more of a business and that’s when all of the Europeans started showing in New York, which they really hadn’t been doing.

Shaun Ross (12:13):

Right, that’s when they had that New York, uh, what is it, uh they had at the US versus um-

David Hershkovits (12:15):

(laughs).

Shaun Ross (12:15):

What was it, it was France verses basically New York, American designers verses European designers?

David Hershkovits (12:22):

Yeah. And they started getting into a whole thing about who starts the shows first and, just became the precursor to what it is now, you started seeing that this was becoming an industry, like so many things in New York, they start out cool underground, not really for everybody, but as time and especially with the social media that you alluded to earlier, that this became global.

Shaun Ross (12:52):

Right.

David Hershkovits (12:52):

And everybody wanted to be there. And suddenly, the photographers showed up to take pictures of the people who were showing up to get their photos taken and it kind of became a circle of uh…

Shaun Ross (13:05):

Do you know the evolution of it? Trust me, I know you know.

David Hershkovits (13:07):

I know a little bit, and I know that you are very, interested in that as well and you have spoken out that a lot of people don’t really know the history of fashion and aren’t respectful of it and don’t understand why it even matters today.

Shaun Ross (13:23):

No, they literally don’t. It’s one of the things that baffles me, but I think that’s one of the biggest issues in any industry, when it comes to knowing history in general in any industry, for me it’s always weird, because anybody who’s young, they don’t feel like it’s a necessity to do their research at all, they don’t. They don’t feel like it’s their job to know who came before them, or what someone has done, and that’s something I’ve never ever liked and the only reason why I’ve never liked it, is because I see so many artists today, people who are older not even by, by that much late, late ‘30s early ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s that have been in fashion for years and a lot of them like, they’re living their life, as they should, but like they’re like suffering a little bit.

Shaun Ross (14:35):

And, I feel a lot of their suffering comes from the lack of knowledge of the younger crowd, and I don’t think that that’s cool, because I look at the younger crowd where it’s like, you wouldn’t be able, to do what you’re doing if it wasn’t for these people.

David Hershkovits (14:50):

Yeah, it’s true, although the ageism, is one of those areas of discrimination that hasn’t been addressed yet, maybe that’s, something we can look forward to at some point, there’s obviously people who have been around longer have a lot to teach the younger crowd, but they’re so into their own thing. And, and I don’t know if it’s really original to this group this thing has probably been that way forever, you know, 

Shaun Ross (15:18):

Right.

David Hershkovits (15:18):

Young people have to make their own mistakes, they have to learn, they don’t wanna listen to the older, the parents or whoever it is that thinks they can tell them how to live their lives and so, that’s how it goes. But, the one thing that I say is that, I can still learn from the new generation-

Shaun Ross (15:38):

Right.

David Hershkovits (15:38):

And, and try to keep up, but there’s things that I’ve learnt that they can’t catch up on their own.

Shaun Ross (15:44):

Absolutely.

David Hershkovits (15:45):

Unless they make the effort to do that. Uh, so, even in the fashion world, as a, a male model, there was certain stereotypes of that as well, right, ’cause people, the male models who were gay, were not really supposed to be acting gay-

Shaun Ross (16:02):

Right.

David Hershkovits (16:02):

I think when you were starting, was that the case then?

Shaun Ross (16:05):

Yeah, yeah 100%. It still existed there, but I didn’t follow that, I’ve always been openly gay, ima be honest with you, in New York City, I didn’t know any other male models that were like, openly gay, like, you knew who was gay but were they open? No.

 

David:

Even in the progressive fashion world, they didn’t feel comfortable, uh-

Shaun Ross (16:39):

No, not at all. And at that moment, I was like the only one in New York City that I knew of, it was very uncommon to see male models that were comfortable and openly gay, like I wanna say maybe like, five years into my career maybe, but for the longest time, I would see guys, you could tell that they were gay, but they wouldn’t be out at all, like at all, maybe I saw maybe one, maybe one, if I’m right or wrong, um, that’s pretty much it, but other than that no one else to be very honest with you. Now today, I feel like being any form of a family of the LGBTQ, plus family, is the thing now, which is cool.

Shaun Ross (17:26):

Let people express themselves, I think that people should be able to express themselves any type of way they want to, what we’re starting to do is, we’re getting rid of the garments that have been placed on us, from a past generation that it’s not their fault, but we’re starting to figure out, what sexuality is for a man and a women, because, I felt like for the longest time, like even when it comes to women, um, I felt like it is okay for women to…it’s weird the world we live in, like I, I literally have this conversation.

Shaun Ross (18:02):

So, you know, women, for the longest time, were never ever allowed to do things, you know what I’m saying, men always shutting them down, you know, staying in your place kinda situation. This is a massive conversation, and it even goes into like the whole hypermasculinity situation, the toxic masculinity and what that is. But then, we get into this place where it’s like, I took this as a joke the other day, I was literally thinking about this, a friend had a little situation, because things were starting to open back up in LA, and it was oh, all the ladies get in free and it was like all the men all have to pay whatever it was.

Shaun Ross (18:48):

And then, I thought to myself, it’s funny like, it’s a double-entendre, because women don’t wanna be sexualized, but in that moment they’re being sexualized, ’cause it’s like, you’re being sexualized and fetishized at that moment, but I guess, at that moment, it doesn’t matter, ’cause it’s free, ’cause I’m being honest with you, if I was a female I would probably do the same thing too.

David Hershkovits (19:08):

Yeah (laughs).

Shaun Ross (19:09):

Yeah, but it’s like, it’s so many things that I think that are changing, I think, in time, men, men and women will actually really become equal as they’re supposed to be.

David Hershkovits (19:20):

Yeah.

Shaun Ross (19:20):

And I think it’s okay that you have stay-at-home-dads and working moms, it’s okay that you have effeminate men that are loved by masculine women, these are things that I think that are becoming more okay, because people are more okay with wearing who they actually are, verses wearing something else.

David Hershkovits (19:45):

Do you approve of unisex?

Shaun Ross (19:49):

Like unisex, in what, where?

David Hershkovits (19:50):

In clothes?

Shaun Ross (19:52):

I mean, yeah-

David Hershkovits (19:53):

In fashion?

Shaun Ross (19:53):

100%. I think unisex is great. I think clothing, in my opinion should be genderless if you go back in history, heels were never really even made for women to begin with. They were first made for men, they were never made for women, they were made for men at first, back in colonial times, the guys that used to wear the white wigs and the rosy makeup, it was like, they believed that, where your heels that ranked. That was a massive culture. You can go back to things that women solely, like do today, that was never in the beginning really even made for them, it wasn’t designed for them, obviously, women wear it better than men in my opinion.

David Hershkovits (20:37):

(laughs).

Shaun Ross (20:37):

For me to even say that, is negative and ignorant, because, is it that they wear it better, or is it just what I’ve been born into. If I was born into a world of men wearing heels, and miniskirts, would I think anything different? ‘Cause it would be all that I know.

David Hershkovits (20:55):

Right, yeah, it’s as if you went to some, other civilization, where everybody does the opposite of whatever we’re doing (laughs).

Shaun Ross (21:04):

Exactly. And it works for them. So, I think that’s what’s becoming, I, I love unisex situations, you know how they have for women, the boyfriend jean, and I’m like, well when can guys wear the girlfriend jean?

David Hershkovits (21:18):

(laughs).

Shaun Ross (21:18):

Like what does that look like? But I think it also comes from that fact that women are also becoming okay with men being effeminate, women are becoming okay with men actually being in touch with themselves and their feelings, because a lot of women, just like a lot of gay men to be very honest with you, are very obsessed with the man that they can’t have, the jock, excuse my French, the asshole.

David Hershkovits (21:48):

(laughs).

Shaun Ross (21:48):

They’re obsessed with those things to come to the reality where it’s like, those guys, majority of them, are very, very shallow minded, and you want to have an extensive relationship, so you need to date someone with an extensive mind, a different outlook on life. So, women are starting to open up to that idea, just imagine if this was your son, if as a mother, this was your son, you would want your son to find happiness and love, because you raised him to be good, you raised him to be the man that he is.

David Hershkovits (22:25):

Yes, speaking of, which it’s a little bit of a Segue ’cause I’m thinking about voguing, which kind of relates to this subject in a way, right-

Shaun Ross (22:36):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

David Hershkovits (22:36):

Where, where you dress in these different categories and, and you assume these different identities for these house balls, and that, that was some place that you were attracted to as a kid as well, you said, and you did these YouTube videos, how did you connect with that world, and did you actually walk the balls and do the whole thing?

Shaun Ross (22:57):

I’ve walked balls before, but not like massively. I used to um, I used to live Upstate New York, in the Catskills. I was raised in The Bronx, but I ended up moving Upstate with my mom and the rest of my family. And, with that being said, I would practice at home, and sometimes I would sneak down to the city, and then I would go to little balls, or little events here and there.

Shaun Ross (23:24):

But when it comes to like actually, walking balls, like when I would actually be in the city, because I always had to do modeling work and stuff like that, I never would ever, go to balls, because I, had a different love for it, and it’s weird, because even when I’m in the ballroom scene today, whenever I’m around it, it’s weird, ’cause I get like this love, from them, it’s like a, a love-hate.

David Hershkovits (23:54):

(laughs).

Shaun Ross (23:54):

Which, I actually understand, because I would come to their part of the world for fun. Just for fun and amusement because I love the art of it and it was great. With the other side, that was what all of them knew. They didn’t get to pick and choose, I got to pick and choose. And so for me, if I was in a photo shoot and I have like time left over, I would find where was the nearest mini ball happening and I would wanna go and watch before I have to get back on the bus or like I would go to the, GMHC, the Gay Men’s Health Center like they would have classes, there’s some times that I would step in if I was there. Sometimes I would go to HMI, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, which is predominantly a school for… kids that are of the LGBTQ +Community, I would go and I would step in or go to there was like a program called, “The Door” in New York City.

Shaun Ross (24:52):

I would go to these things just to see what they were doing but the, the other reality was, this was their life, wasn’t solely my life, but being around them shaped who I was as an individual, 100%, it allowed me to have a certain sense. I already have street-smart but it allowed me to have a certain sense of self-smart in the street. It also allowed me to have my own sense of sass and to be witty and to also learn how to protect myself with words, and be quick and combative in a good way when necessary. But yeah, it did. It shaped me.

David Hershkovits (25:37):

Yeah and confidence, too, in your movements and expressing who you are that way, cause I know you also studied at Dance at with Alvin Ailey’s school,

Shaun Ross (25:53):

Well, movement for me was always a thing. Even before going to dance school, my parents are very creative individuals in their own way, it’s weird because I had a full blend of an up-bringing so I lived in the Bronx, in a private house, like, neighborhood. But then you have like, a few blocks away, you have like, the Crips and the bloods, you know, going against each other.

Shaun Ross (26:25):

You have buildings here and there but I lived in a private house that my family owned and with that being said, like I went to a private school for some time and it was just super weird because my parents, my mom, she and my aunt who like, my aunt passed away last year, she basically, had a business inside of the World Trade Center, on the 57th floor, so I… was World Trade Center kids, when school was out, I would go to the World Trade Center with my mom. And would sit next to her on the floor while she was in her work and then my dad was a computer engineer.

Shaun Ross (27:05):

So I had like these two parents that dressed in suits going to work and when they were going out at night, like my mother was out there like, wearing Manolo Blahnic or my dad was wearing either, French connection or like Kenneth Cole. Very into Issey Mayake, that-that the 90s. And they had this very collective style of music but they also just were weird in their own way, my family was never one of those super strict families, that you have to be this kinda way, my household was always fun and still is fun, to be very honest with you, we’re always fun. We always dance around, the holidays’ just like any normal family would, the same way I remember dancing when I was six years old, still do the same thing and I’m 30.

David Hershkovits (27:58):

Sweet. Yeah, so you got a chance to do what you did as a kid, as a grown up, which is really fun. Does that extend to music and singing as well?

Shaun Ross (28:08):

Singing, not so much, music, yeah. My mom and my dad, they both, listen to different things. My mom is more into the windy kind of pipe sound, stuff that is very smooth like Sade and then you have people like Chante Moore, Kenny Lattimore, Maxwell.

Shaun Ross (28:36):

Then you have my dad who love Meshell Ndegeocello to freakin, Layla and Donny Hathaway to Phyllis Hyman. But then there’s like, my mom back at Bjork and then you have, my dad listening to the cardigans. So, it’s a different genre of music that was always played in the house and then my father was super heavily obsessed with Busta Rhymes as well, we would always listen to things, house music, Herbie Hancock my dad, used to literally, go and like, I-I would cry sometimes when I was a kid, he would pick me up and rock me to Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man.

Shaun Ross (29:17):

And it’s just like different things. I’ve always heard different sounds growing up so I understand different cadences and nuances in music. Then pro… a lot of people probably do know, I don’t really know, but yeah.

David Hershkovits (29:30):

So what do you listen to now?

Shaun Ross (29:33):

What have I been listening to now, what I’ve been listening to now, it goes between, it goes between, I would say, I would always listen to my music, to, replay it, I listen to any of my friends’ songs, like Rush Davis or, DeLow or like things like that or listening to serpentwithfeet’s new album Deacon. Any album by Moses Sumney, Grae, Meshell Ndegeocello, I’m listening to a lot of different things, I try to make a conscious effort to listen to playlist on Spotify, not only because it matters in my field that’s my way of giving other artists their streams, finding a different artist and listening to music. I like to try do that now.

David Hershkovits (30:43):

When you made your first single that was almost four years ago, right? Now your album is ready, what took so long and what was going on during that time?

Shaun Ross (30:59):

Just time. Yeah, I think it’s a form of development. I wanted to … back then and I’m happy I didn’t. Your sound grows and you become this certain type of thing like, I have a certain sense of discernment that is behind this project than any other which I’m really would be proud of, to be very honest with you.

 

David: your first single, you had Lizzo on backing vocals, are you still friends with her, is that a relationship that, survived that experience-

Shaun Ross (31:37):

Yeah, yeah, one hundred percent, Lizzo’s great, she’s… the one thing about Lizzo is, she’s really, really great. I think what she’s doing now, like obviously , this entire year, she’s taking off, she’s doing what she wants for her. She’s doing her internal work on herself. I don’t care how famous you are, how much money you have, everybody has internal duties, and a lot of us don’t attend to them and I feel like that’s what she’s doing. She is, claiming the narrative of what it means to be a curvy, black woman. I think it takes a lot for that, sometimes I look in her comments and I see people writing the most… You know, I’m just like, you know, we really live in a sick world, we really do.

Shaun Ross (32:28):

I look at some of the comments and I’m just like, first off for me, the one thing that blows my mind is who has the time, why do you have so much time and why do you feel it necessary to write the things that you write. And then I click on some of the pages and a lot of them are troll accounts that don’t even have any followers or persons who don’t have their image up and I’m like, “Oh, I understand why you do this because you don’t even like yourself to begin with.” So therefore, hurt people hurt people.

David Hershkovits (32:59):

100%. I’ve read where you said, “I don’t want you to care about what I look like, I want you to care about how I make you feel.” And that’s something that’s about your music, and I guess and more than that, right? It’s sort of a definition of your life, of your philosophy of life.

Shaun Ross (33:19):

100% and it definitely goes with my album artwork, for example. Right around me and my boyfriend, we went to the tunnel downtown. And it’s actually funny because if you look at Justin Bieber’s album, so I think it’s kinda funny, he actually shot his album artwork in the same place that I shot mine and his album is called, “Justice” and mine is called, “Shift” but whatever.

Shaun Ross (33:52):

With that being said, I wanted to take a picture of the back of my head, not because I Thought it looked pretty, but cause for the longest time I been the forefront of my image. And now I want something else to take that narrative, I want something to take that part I would love for people to listen, you know what I’m saying, The back of my head represents where I’m going, I’m going somewhere.

David Hershkovits (34:25):

(laughs) I like that, yeah. Facing Forward.

Shaun Ross (34:28):

So I’m going somewhere, yeah, I’m going somewhere and you know, hopefully you come with me. But other than that, it’s a different, uh, scenario, 100%.

David Hershkovits (34:40):

I’ve listened to your music and I have to say I really like it, and not in a condescending way. I’m very particular about music. I listen to all kinds of music, but I really felt the emotion, I really felt the meaning, the feeling, and the voice, which I really like, The orchestration, the music that goes with it, so yeah, I think you really pulled something off there cause it’s not really easy to, to do what you’re trying to do, just step out of one situation into another, and be successful because people, have a way of trying to pigeonhole you as one thing, and when they see you doing something different, they don’t necessarily-

Shaun Ross (35:22):

Absolutely.

David Hershkovits (35:23):

…like trust it, right?

Shaun Ross (35:27):

Absolutely, 100% and that’s like kind of what I wanted to do, I wanted to take my time and even right now, like today, I actually do that today being that I’m up, but I’m trying to get into producing, slowly, One thing I love about music is the fact that it allows me to feel alive again because I feel like, being like you said, like pigeon holed in a certain side of fashion for so long,

Shaun Ross (36:00):

It became easy and I wanted to have a lot of new stuff. That’s also a part of the shift. I wanted to meet new people. I wanted to have new friends. I wanted to see new places. More so than ever, after this pandemic, I’ve always traveled. This is the longest I’ve ever stood still in my entire industry life.

Shaun Ross (36:31):

(laughs). I want to just do all things new. Like I’m turning 30, but I have to remind myself that I am still young, but I guess it’s subjective because it depends-

David Hershkovits (36:48):

You are. Trust me.

Shaun Ross (36:48):

… if you’re an older person-

David Hershkovits (36:49):

(laughs).

Shaun Ross (36:50):

Yeah. But if, but if you’re an older person and you’re looking at someone who is 30, you’re like you’re younger, but you know what I’m saying? You’re no longer going back.

David Hershkovits (36:58):

(laughs).

Shaun Ross (36:58):

There’s this thing that happens when you’re 30, I feel like you really realize what is happening.

David Hershkovits (37:05):

That could be. You have a little perspective.

Shaun Ross (37:09):

Yeah. You definitely have a little bit of perspective of life, like what this is. “Okay, like, this is what this is, and these are the things that are going to happen. And these are the things that are not going to happen probably.” And you really start to sit in that world. So you’re like, “Oh, okay.”

David Hershkovits (37:27):

Do you feel more comfortable in the music world, let’s say racially, because I know you’ve spoken out about the fashion world saying something to the effect like Black lives don’t matter in the fashion world. But in the music world, do you feel more at home in that respect there than in general with those people that you’re encountering?

Shaun Ross (37:49):

With people that I’m encountering 100%. But I think that the entire Black lives moment in any industry to be very honest with you doesn’t really matter. That’s how I feel 100%, I don’t think it, it entirely matters. In a lot of industries, I feel like right now, we have to fast forward maybe 5, 10 years from now to see what it’s really, really like. Because there is this thing that I only know how to identify as a pity party. Where like, with me, growing up, having albinism where it’s like don’t stroke my ego, or don’t make me feel some type of way because of me having albinism and, you know, you feel in some type of way ’cause I don’t feel any type of way.

Shaun Ross (38:35):

But it’s the same thing like when you get into a lot of industries today, like I feel like, people who are not of color, are starting to understand the responsibility that they hold. And a lot of people are becoming more accountable for their actions 100%. But I also think that you always have a knucklehead here and there that’s normal in any race, FYI, it’s not just, the White culture, it’s all cultures, is always a knucklehead anywhere.

Shaun Ross (39:08):

But when it comes to ending systemic racism, especially within America, racism exists in the world all over. But racism in America is a little bit different, 100%, because my opinion is the racism in America comes specifically from the older generation of White men. And there is so much that comes from the White man. I just recently watched the new show on Amazon Prime called Them. If I’m right or wrong, I believe it was either written or produced, by Lena Waithe. I know she has something to do with it. And it’s really amazing. A good acquaintance of mine. The actress, Shahadi, she’s in there really, really amazing young, talented, woman. She also played in a movie called Us.

Shaun Ross (40:03):

And, you know, the show is actually very triggering. A lot of people from what I’ve heard have been giving it really, really bad reviews. And, I’m going to be very honest with you, it’s actually really good. It’s pretty amazing. It’s just triggering for me. But one thing that it shows to me when it comes back to the systemic racism part is how it stems from White men back then the whole form of women being less then. Looking at women cater to their husbands and just staying at home and never being able to go get a job or not even being able to express themselves. It just baffles me because I can never imagine myself to live in a world like that today, where women aren’t as powerful as they are, Black people aren’t as free as they are, or think they are.

Shaun Ross (41:35):

I could never ever imagine that. It gets better with time, 100%, it gets better with time. But I definitely still feel like Black lives and lives in general of all like minorities, et cetera don’t really matter that much. I don’t like it when things feel trendy, even when it comes to me having albinism. I feel like certain brands only will work, like I remember coming into this industry and models today that we have, like, I, again, I was the only one at a time, it was myself and Diandra Forrest. And then you had people before me that came before me, like Alek Wek, Stacey McKenzie, people like Kate Moss and then you had Connie Chiu and, and the list goes on, Debra Shaw, people that had very, very exquisite, looks. I came into the fashion industry and you didn’t see much today. You have, you know, models like Winnie Harlow, Ralph Souffrant, Jillian Mercado, the list goes on. But, I don’t like, and it’s funny because Winnie said this in an interview a few years ago I don’t know if she actually said it out of her mouth, but it was what it was. And I was taken back by it a little bit. It was talking about how she doesn’t really want, she used me and Diandra Forrest as an example, like she doesn’t want to be looked at as a pity party, like how we are in a way, she just wants to be known to be a model for her.

Shaun Ross (43:17):

But in reality, I look at it where I understand her, I understand her 100% today, but at the time the way I looked at it, it was like, well, in reality, you wouldn’t even probably have the career you have, if, if it wasn’t for us.

David Hershkovits (43:32):

Yeah.

Shaun Ross (43:32):

You wouldn’t even be where you are if, if I didn’t have to go and take the blows that you didn’t have to take. The same way I probably wouldn’t be where I am, if Alek Wek didn’t take the blows that she had to take and Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks and Tyson Beckford and the list goes on. So there’s always a different effect that happens and, a trifecta kind of situation. So that’s what I looked at.

Shaun Ross (43:56):

But, looking forward to today, I know she would, because she would, and she does convey herself in a much better way as we all do, as we get older, we learn how to do these things called interviews. And-

David Hershkovits (44:09):

Yeah. (laughs).

Shaun Ross (44:11):

… you know, it’s a thing where, yeah, you don’t want people to always look at you for being this person that you think it’s a disability or, just different things because brands just start hiring you because, “Oh my God, we really, really love what you do.” Yeah. But as soon as this campaign’s over, I don’t hear from you anymore. And now you’re trying to find somebody else that looks different because right now you’re hopping on the bandwagon of different. And, and, and with the, you know, that, excuse me, diversity.

David Hershkovits (44:41):

(laughs). What’s, what’s your musical fantasy? Like playing where, who would be in the audience?

Shaun Ross (44:49):

Huh, a musical fantasy would be, I’m trying to think. A musical fantasy, I don’t know, I have a few. But I think a musical fantasy would probably be to perform in the Bronx in the Botanical Gardens.

David Hershkovits (45:14):

Oh, beautiful.

Shaun Ross (45:16):

That’s one. Or, I would love to perform for my school, my school that I went to. I think that’s probably one thing I would love to do is I’d, perform for like schools that are like, I went to probably. But other than that, I love to perform in the Botanical Gardens in Bronx. That could be pretty dope.

David Hershkovits (45:40):

And who would you like, anybody special to be in the audience?

Shaun Ross (45:41):

Um, I would love friends that I grew up with in that neighborhood. I would love my family. And pretty much that is. No celebrities. No. If anybody comes, they come. But like, I think I would be very, very pleased with that. And like any newcomers that, you know, are just discovering. I would love that.

David Hershkovits (46:01):

Well, I can’t wait for everything to open up and be able to see you performing somewhere. I think it would barely be an exciting moment for me and everybody else in the audience. In this conversation we’re being fairly serious. So you’re, you know, and you’re a serious person at the same time. But my sources tell me who spotted you at a Chateau Marmont bungalow party with Burb and with Kaytranada crew during the Grammys.

Shaun Ross (46:30):

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

David Hershkovits (46:30):

And, from what I’m told, you know how to have a good time as well?

Shaun Ross (46:35):

Oh, no 100%. I want to know who told you that.

David Hershkovits (46:37):

(laughs).

Shaun Ross (46:37):

But yeah-

David Hershkovits (46:38):

(laughs).

Shaun Ross (46:39):

I was there with Kaytranada, ’cause he just won two Grammys, he had a little celebration there. And it was so cool to be very honest with you, like to see artists, they’re like, uh, like I’ve always seen like Smino and Aminé, Buddy. There’s a lot of different artists there that were really, really cool. But it was a good time to be honest too. I mean, I love, I love having a good time. I’m, I’m about to turn 30. So I plan on partying pretty, pretty hard. (laughs).

David Hershkovits (47:09):

Okay. Well I hope to-

Shaun Ross (47:10):

Pretty hard.

David Hershkovits (47:10):

… run into you having a good time. You feel some of those vibes. Thank you so much, Shaun Ross for, being my guest today.

Shaun Ross (47:19):

Of course. Thank you for having me.

Shaun Ross (47:23):

Ciao.

 

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