Technically trained since the age of three, starting with ballet, Telisha Shaw has danced beside some of the most talented artists including BeyoncÃ©, Green Day and Christina Aguilera. Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, the dancer/actress has pirouetted a name for herself in Hollywood with roles in Dirty alongside Cuba Gooding, Jr., Showtime’s Weeds and 2008’s Step Up 2 The Streets. Clutch caught up with the budding starlet to discuss her success and her most recent dream come true: dancing with the legend herself, Ms. Janet Jackson.
Q: Did you first begin in the industry as a dancer or an actress?
My nickname my grandmother gave me at birth is “movie star.” It’s a family joke but I always wanted to have a career as a movie actress but I had no idea how to break into that world. I started dancing first in the industry cause that was more familiar to me. A lot of actresses and actors wait tables and do other temp jobs to make ends meet. My odd job just so happened to be dancing for Christina Aguilera and other pop artists.
Q: Do you enjoy one art more over the other?
My first love was dancing. I started ballet when I was three and had been dancing ever since up until the beginning of this year. It was hard to walk away from something you’ve known all your life but my desire to act definitely reigns supreme in my heart because I wanted to be on a movie set more than I wanted to be on tour. Dancing became more of a chore and that spark I once had with it was replaced.
Q: You’ve danced beside a diverse group of artists, from BeyoncÃ© to Shania Twain! What were those experiences like?
Art really imitated life for me. I truly believe being in dance class at an early age helped me not be closed-minded. Ever since elementary, I’ve always hung around various races and nationalities. This exposed me to all types of music and cultures. So when I danced professionally it wasn’t atypical for me to pick different jobs that were sometimes off the radar of most Black dancers. I was blessed to have a wide range of artists, from Kanye West to Green Day, on my resume because I always wanted to try something new and to never be categorized. I found that what I brought to the table was my relationships with choreographers and the more versatile of dancer I was, the more I worked.
Q: . . . . and dancing with Janet (Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty!) had to be insane!?
My greatest and craziest experience as a professional dancer by far was when I danced with Janet Jackson. This isn’t to discredit my other jobs but people who’ve never danced a day in their life know how amazing of an accomplishment that is because of her legacy. Thousands of people come from all over the world, literally, to audition for her. Not only is she a phenomenal performer but also as a person, it was a joy to be in her presence. That combination made you want to work even harder for her. I was always amazed that wherever we went form Tokyo to 106 and Park, her fans knew all of our names. Could you imagine being in that experience? That is when I knew I had arrived. As a dancer, being on stage with an artist such as Michael Jackson and Janet is like winning the Super Bowl. It’s a once in a lifetime chance. I knew it was the end for me as a dancer because there wasn’t another level I could go. Ms. Jackson, if you’re nasty, is top tier.
Q: So what’s next for you in acting and dancing? Where can we see you next?
Right now, I’m working on a Miramax film called How To Make Love To A Woman. The title is pretty self-explanatory (and something I don’t think I want my parentals to see—ever). I’m really excited about this project because I get to show my sense of humor, which is comparable to Seth Rogan/Jonah Hill. I’m also a founding member of Black Girl University which I will be expanding on later this year.
Q: What advice would you give to Clutch readers seeking to dance and act in Hollywood?
Live off your parents as long as possible. No, just kidding (kinda). Everyone has different paths to take but make sure you use your resources. There are great conventions and classes that can put you in front of the right people to help you along your journey. Whether it’s building a network in acting class or getting your name out there through avenues such as iPop, make sure you do all you can to get your foot in the door.
“Once you have that sliver of light, kick it open.”
Q: When you’re out and about, rehearsals, auditions, dinner, what do you keep in your clutch?
I’ll show you…