Shellanee Marie, a new local author, is on a mission to teach children to embrace each other’s differences. On June 3rd, in an intimate setting at the University of San Diego, Marie launched her first children’s book entitled “Bright Skin Afro” to an eager bunch. Born in Coronado, Marie grew up, in and around the North Park area for most of her formative years, and then transitioned to Southeast where she attended Knox Elementary. For high school, she attended the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, where she saw that creative success was attainable. She realized “you could make a living doing what you love…the resources at my fingertips were overwhelming; considering it was rare that I was ever able to attend a dance class, music lesson, theater training, etc. There were so many options.” In high school, Marie says she knew that she had a story to share. A testimony that many of her peers and strangers could benefit from. “Loving through family struggles with addiction, the foster care system, being a class prankster in order to hide insecurities, selling candy for ‘household’ expenses… I knew I wasn’t the only one who lived in this scenario,” she recalls. But it was through a particular situation her daughter was struggling with at school, Marie was able to pen an important lesson to pass on to others.
“The book is not just for those with bright skin, or an afro,” she says. It’s a story to encourage empathy. “Bright Skin Afro” was birthed out of frustration, irritation and borderline anger. When her daughter was in kindergarten she was teased endlessly about her curly afro. “It made me upset because I had worked so hard to make her a confident little girl by encouraging her ways of dressing and expressing herself with her hair. To know that her classmates in kindergarten had the power to strip that away really ticked me off.” Marie didn’t find out what was happening until she walked her daughter into the school campus one day, and noticed how her demeanor had drastically changed. It was because of her curly afro. Then and there she knew she needed to do something about it. Though Marie wanted to storm into the classroom and render a lesson from this situation to all the children, she opted to take another route. “I reassured her that she was beautiful,” and then got to work on the solution. “I feel like we all have our ‘bright skin afro’ stories. Whether it’s how we speak or our cultures,” she says. “The book will definitely help children relate to others, and teach them how the things that are different about us make us unique, not odd.” Lanee Battle-Johnson, a long time supporter of Marie’s and an attendee of the book release shared how pleased she was with the launch. “An incredible, awe-inspiring book launch it what I witnessed for ‘Bright Skin Afro.’ This story is not just a children’s book for kids, but rather a sweet and encouraging reminder that we are all made uniquely by the amazing creator, God.”
While she debuted on Saturday as an author, Marie wears many hats. A stylist with almost 20 years of experience under her belt, Marie began braiding hair at the age of 12. “[It] turned into a faith based business where my clients not only came for a service but serviced me as well. It’s true what ‘they’ say about hairstylists. We really are like therapists.”
In addition to growing, repairing and transitioning the hair of many men, women and children, Marie is a voice over artist. “I believe there is power in the way a message is delivered, no matter how simple it may seem.” To date, Marie has work on Soundcloud, YouTube, iTunes, and Spotify. “My goal is to book animated movies and TV series as well as be the ‘go-to’ for faith based platforms and positive message movements.”
Marie plans to publish multiple books and audiobooks in the future, however she shares that she thinks God tends to laugh at her plans every now and then. “I am working on ‘Road Trip by Faith,’ which is scheduled to publish in the Fall” You can follow Marie on social media, including YouTube as “Shellanee Marie” to stay current with her progress.