When I was younger, I was taught that I should acquire strength of varying levels. A quiet inner strength that drew me closer to God and a dominant, physical strength that proved to anyone watching that I could fight my own battles. I have had my fair share of struggles meeting these standards throughout my life.
My 5’8” Black- belt toting, point guard-positioned mother was the strongest woman I knew in my life- and I have always wondered what kind of experiences she had to endure to seek out that sort of strength and agility. Is strength innate? Is it brought on by circumstance?
These questions inspired me to learn more about Shaina West’s story and her journey to becoming a ‘hero for hire’ in the midst of a white, male-dominated industry. The London born and bred Shaina West, or ‘The Samurider’, dedicated herself to learning martial arts from the age of 21, following horrific motorcycle accident that left her feeling helpless and weak. The strength and poise that is such a prominent feature of anime characters was a huge inspiration to Shaina to get back up again.
Learn more about her story below.
Q: Tell me about your experience as Black woman in this industry. What misconceptions have you had to overcome as you’ve gained more success and recognition? Or has it been smooth sailing the whole time?
Shaina: As a black woman breaking into an industry that has been dominated by white males, I have faced as many challenges as I have been presented with opportunities. Yes, being a Black woman does mean that there are way less roles for me to strive for. And, sometimes, it’s even a little more difficult to be taken seriously- until they meet me that is. However, this is also an advantage for me; mostly because I am now my only competition. I can create opportunities for myself and I am aiming to be both a stunt person and actor, rather than just a stunt double. I will be playing my own characters as well as creating my own shows and choreographing my own fight/action sequences as opposed to relying on those to become available to myself. I get to become the representation that black people usually don’t get in this genre of action/fantasy – I value this very much.