When you look at Bershan Shaw, you may see an optimistic figure who only lives life on her terms. And why wouldn’t she? After being diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer and given three months to live, Bershan’s experience with depression and loneliness led her on the journey of searching many places for answers and support. The stage of her cancer meant that she had a 2% survival rate, and since beating cancer not once but twice, Bershan knows that she is a warrior.
Determined to make her mark, Bershan created a dedicated platform where those in need could be uplifted. From her recently released book, The Unstoppable Warrior Woman, her podcast, Buckle Up with Bershan, and her upcoming wellness app URAwarrior, she is succeeding on her mission of being created to create change. We’ve most recently seen her debut on The Real Housewives of New York City where she joins Eboni K. Williams as one of the first Black stars on the show. As her platform rises, she aims to continue her mission of inspiring people to live their best lives.
Her Agenda recently had the honor of chatting with Bershan about not settling for less, checking in with your inner child, and being featured on Real Housewives of New York.
Her Agenda: I am so excited to speak to you and I know that you went to Syracuse as an undergrad, and I just graduated from Syracuse a month ago! And you also got your master’s from NYU! In Hollywood, it’s uncommon to find talent who pursued higher education, so how do you think it helped you succeed in this industry?
Bershan Shaw: Higher education helped me become grounded. In university, you learn about yourself, and you learn how to deal with others. And, business classes taught me how to make money, how to use money, and how to save money. When we enter into the entertainment business, we are thrown into it and we don’t have any knowledge or help on how to handle it. I think my professors and support system helped me thrive and learn how to build my empire. You never know if you are going to make it in this world of Hollywood, so always have a backup plan.
Her Agenda: There are certain influencers who proudly preach the rhetoric that women are inferior to men. I just watched you on Wendy Williams and heard you speak about settling. So, I want to continue the conversation on that topic and ask if you can recall a moment when you settled and how you realized that you deserved better?
Bershan Shaw: I have to tell you, I think I settled in a relationship. We are taught as little girls to take care of the man, feed the man, listen to what he says, and don’t rock the boat. We grow up from little girls to women and believe that the man is the prize and that we have to catfight for him. But, I remember dating someone who wasn’t my type, had money, and was rude and condescending towards me. You know what, I come from a strong family with successful Black men and have a strong mother, and I thought to myself, “‘What am I doing?’ He puts me down, I’m not happy, and why am I here [just] because he has money?” We think because we have money that our lives will be good, but I was empty, lonely, and sad. I put all my energy into him; even though my life is about me. From that relationship, I realized that I am the prize and I am enough, which was a wake-up call that helped me step into my power.
From that relationship, I realized that I am the prize and I am enough, which was a wake-up call that helped me step into my power.
Her Agenda: I know that you are a motivational speaker and often encourage people to live their truth. And the foundation of our dreams belongs to our inner child. But, I know a lot of us, especially as Black women, had to grow up quickly and even neglect our aspirations. How have you been able to go on the journey of getting back in touch with your inner child?
Bershan Shaw: I check in with my inner child by living life. Stage four breast cancer woke me up. I remember saying to myself, “Bershan, you better get there if you are living or dying. Make the choice. Living means to live.” We often think that if we are older and grown that we can’t do something like bike riding, dancing, or having fun. But, that is your inner child living: being adventurous and being happy. We get stuck in a cycle revolving around paying bills, taking care of the kids, staying home, and miss out on joy. Find the joy in your life. During cancer and having chemotherapy, I would do something fun every day. I would go to museums, have ice cream, and ride bikes. It catapulted me to relive my youth again, and now, I live my best life. The one thing that I am never going to do is not live because tomorrow is not promised.
Her Agenda: As a business coach, you often talk to people about investing. And, unfortunately, not enough people invest in themselves. Can you give one step that women can take to invest in themselves regardless of age or occupation?
Bershan Shaw: We spend a lot of money and time on external aspects. On shoes, on clothes, on how we look, but what about the internal? As a business coach, I help people find their inner warriors and live their best lives. What are you doing to help your self-improvement and personal development? Do you love yourself? Are you giving yourself self-care? Are you where you want to be in life? Everyone needs a coach because we hold you accountable and motivate you to reach your goals and dreams. Most people say, “I should have done this or that,” or “If only I had a certain amount of money,” but those are just excuses. Many people have overcome those obstacles and succeeded. The first step is to do the inner work first.
Her Agenda: You are a founder of the URAWarrior health and wellness app, which will launch later this summer. Mental health is very taboo in minority communities and often neglected with women specifically. How do you think personal healing can change the way we interact with each other? What is your mission with your app?
Bershan Shaw: My mission is to remove the stigma of mental health. It’s not just a racial thing because mental health affects every community. We have been taught that if we are depressed, don’t say anything or let anyone know. So, we sweep it under the rug and take a pill. Maybe if we remove the stigma, we can talk about it and heal through human connection. The app is about support and receiving it from peers, coaches, celebrities, and more. I want you to know that you are not alone and so many people are dealing with what you are dealing with. If I can help one who then helps another and another, then I can change the world, and that is what I want to do.
Her Agenda: After a year of quarantine and isolation, what excites you most about this new chapter in your life and being on Real Housewives of New York?
Bershan Shaw: It’s a good opportunity for us to show diversity and inclusion. It’s New York City, and diversity is crucial. We need to stop separating ourselves and unite. I understand the Black Lives Matter Movement. My mother marched, my father marched, and as a kid, I marched with them. But, we need to come together as a country and join forces as one. Including every racial demographic, I want us to come together as one and that is what I hope this season represents.
Most people say, “I should have done this or that,” or “If only I had a certain amount of money,” but those are just excuses. Many people have overcome those obstacles and succeeded. The first step is to do the inner work first.
Her Agenda: You once stated that when you were younger you hid a lot and didn’t speak your truth. People always talk about the advice that they would give to their younger self, so instead, my question is, what would your younger self think of you today?
Bershan Shaw: She would say, “Girl, you did it. You are standing up, speaking up, and living your truth. I am so proud of you.”
[Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]