You probably know Shauna from her self titled, hit TV show on TLC: ‘I Am Shauna Rae’; or for her popular social media lives where she is candid about her life as a little person in the public eye.
I was so excited to get this opportunity to ‘sit down’ and chat with Shauna about her life in the public eye, navigating content creation online, and of course… fashion! So without further ado, introducing Shauna, a 23 year old, 3’10” light olive-skinned woman with straight dirty blonde-brown hair and blue eyes.
Chamiah: Hi Shauna!! Thank you so much for speaking with me, I’m so excited to introduce you to our community, so, in whatever way feels most authentic to you, please tell us who you are…
My name is Shauna Rae, I have pituitary dwarfism due to the fact I was born with a malignant glioma in my brain. After the medical battle I endured I was left with a growth deficiency as a side effect. I was put on medications and such to help my height but unfortunately I didn’t grow like expected. I was diagnosed with pituitary dwarfism at sixteen. This is when I really began to think about my disability, up to this point not many people acknowledged it because it was supposed to be temporary. Since sixteen I have been trying to bring awareness to dwarfism, disabilities, and differences. This includes fashion, for me fashion is how you define yourselves to others. In a sense it’s your first impression and as someone who’s struggled to identify with the clothing that fits herself, I’ve always wanted to change that. I wanted to make life easier to be different and for differences to be more accepted.
I love that, fashion is definitely such an important part in how we express ourselves, whether that’s through cool loungewear, slogan T’s, or glamorous pieces, you can’t deny that everyone presents themselves in a certain way through clothing.
Shauna wears a white jumpsuit with a racer top and flared trousers, she is sat on a red sofa chair smiling.
You recently featured on an American TV show called I Am Shauna Rae on TLC, what has that been like?!
Being on I am Shauna Rae, was an eye-opening and amazing opportunity. I think it was important for myself and others to see what my life is like. It personally made me realize that I am more different than I thought, growing up I always thought the things that happened in my life were similar to what others had to go through or had happened to them. Sharing my life with people on a large scale has shown me that I have been through a battle and some things I have gone through were not typical. I am so thankful for that because I love myself more and acknowledge that I’m different even more so than I did, which is one of the things I love most about myself.
I’m so glad it’s helped you to love yourself a little more. How important is it that we feature short stature people in their ‘every-day’ lives in the media?
I think featuring short statured people in the media is extremely important. I think viewing their every-day lives may be even more important. I think that by viewing other people’s lives we would break stigmas and stereotypes while also showing people just because you're different doesn’t mean you live differently, and if you do there’s nothing wrong with you or your way of life. I think a huge stereotype I had to deal with is why I don’t live like a “typical little person”, meaning why don’t I accommodate the world around me to my height. Not every little person lives in a world where everything is accommodated for them, nor is it necessary. I believe the lack of understanding and awareness behind disabilities and the lives the people with them live has led to misinformation and negative thoughts towards the Little People Community. Media has a large power to change people’s perceptions by featuring little people in the media more than we would be taking small steps to proving that we’re all the same and deserve equality in every form.
What kind of feedback have you received since starting the show?
I received good and bad feedback, just like anyone else in the world. I will say there was an overwhelming amount of positivity, there of course was a lot of hate especially when it came to certain aspects of my life. I dress too provocatively, my sarcasm is an attitude issue, even I should be more grateful to be alive. The world found it fitting to judge every aspect of my life, this is something I had dealt with my entire life but now it was coming from all over. I had people arguing for me and against me, I was controversial. It wasn’t easy but I know that no one’s opinion can change how I view myself and the people who meet me see me the way I see me. I know that if someone does have an issue it’s an internal conflict they have with themselves and not me.
Shauna kneels down low, she wears black and white patterned flare trousers with a button up black t shirt, with white trainers.
Oh wow, that must have been so tough to navigate! It’s crazy that people have so much access to comment on your life online without any repercussions. But I’m so glad you’ve been able to remain grounded and positive in the end.
Going into the fashion segment (my favourite), how would you describe your personal style?
I think my personal style is a mix of everything. I think overall I would just call it everyday glamor. I definitely have a specific style, I tend to actually wear solids mostly but everything I wear I like to call loud. I like classy slimmer clothing, but I also like comfort or leisure wear. I think everything I go for has a certain message about me that day and is definitely attention grabbing. No matter what it is, it has to make me feel confident for the day, whether it’s a dress or sweats. I also believe that my fashion sense is nowhere near its peak so my style is ever changing.
I love the idea that everyday you could be portraying someone different, yet still with confidence! So, who are your style icons and inspirations?
I think growing up I had inspirations like Cher, Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, Gwen Stefani, and Madonna but a huge influence was the singer Avril Lavigne. I was a huge fan of the punk, grunge tomboy look. I had chokers from coin machines stacked on my arms and neck, I had a splatter painted room, and my first creations I ripped the clothing up and upcycled it. I would say that all of that was influenced by Avril Lavigne.
Collage of images of Coco Chanel, Gwen Stefanie, Audrey Hepburn, Avril Levine and Cher wearing punk and glamorous clothing
That’s so interesting! That’s such a mix of classic glamour and punk, I definitely get rule-breaker vibes. I can definitely see a bit of Avril or Gwen in you too!
There isn’t much on the market for short stature people, I’m sure you’ve become very savvy when it comes to finding things that work for you. can you recommend some places that shorter people can shop (other than ourselves)…
When it comes to recommendations for where to shop as per heels I think Cinderella of Boston is a good option but limiting, it is also the only shoe place I have found that works with my feet. As per clothes I suggest places that have a XXS size, I currently get workout clothing from Athleta but the sports tops don’t exactly work with a mature chest. I tend to buy clothing that only needs small adjustments in stores, like straps. When it comes to buying pants or more difficult items. I tend to shop in local department stores. Chains tend to run average sizes while local boutiques or stores may be a better or more personal fit.
Shauna poses for a mirror selfie, wearing a cargo skirt and a pink ribbed crop top
Interesting, we don't have much of a ‘boutique’ offering here in the UK. Are there any specific fashion tips or styling tricks that you can share for shorter women to enhance their overall appearance?
I think as a shorter person that there’s plenty of things one can do to enhance their appearance. It starts with being happy with what you’re wearing though. I think as a shorter person I tend to go for what makes me taller or heels. This is not always the answer, sometimes you can look longer without the extra height. I suggest finding your waistline, most of my shirts end above and my pants end below. It gives the illusion of that figure eight, which is also the illusion of length. At least it works for my body type, but each human is different. I think accessorizing is extremely important, using the right jewelry or accessories makes an outfit look more mature or gives an illusion of length in the neck or arm area. I suggest playing around with your look and seeing what you prefer best. You won’t make anyone happy with your fashion statements unless you exude confidence while wearing them.
Great advice! I also opt for high-waisted items because I feel like elongates the body, vertical lines are also a win for making you look taller! What future trends do you see developing in the world of short stature clothing?
I believe there’s a lot of potential when it comes to short statured fashion, I honestly believe there is going to be a fits tall and small kinda trend. Where it looks a certain way on a taller person and different on a shorter person, but it is the same garment. I’ve actually thought about it myself. I think that there could be a trend of stretch fabrics predominantly being used. I love all types of fabric but stretch is the most forgiving in the sense of shape. Therefore, I think there will be a trend of using predominantly stretch fabrics just like there has been in the past.
Fun fact, when I started Chamiah Dewey Fashion, the idea was to create clothing in average-height sizes and short stature sizes - I only pivoted away from this idea because I realised what a huge challenge it was to tackle developing clothing for little people.
What advice would you give to other petite individuals who struggle to find clothing that fits their proportions well?
I think my advice to anyone struggling with finding clothing to fit their proportions is look for as close to your size as you can get but also learn to do small alterations. I implore others to go to clothing you want whether it is going to fit or not, you never know what you’re capable of. If you don’t want to do alterations or changes to your clothing then continue to search till you find what works for you, boutiques or local stores may have a more realistic fit than a chain that is going off of a universal average.
Shauna poses for a mirror selfie in a public bathroom, she wars a black dress with sunflowers on it, with tan strappy heels and holds a blue handbag
What challenges do you commonly encounter when shopping for clothing, and how does CDF address those challenges / what could we do better?
I face many challenges when it comes to clothing and shopping for things that fit in general. Tops have always had a weird gap in between my bustline and waistline, my pants have always been too skinny in one, too wide in another, or too short or too long. Then on top of the fit issue the appearance of clothing was too immature. I was never the kid to wanna wear glitter or butterflies especially as I got older. I think CDF has done an amazing job at beginning to conquer those challenges. The sense of maturity in the clothing and the look of the fit provides a confidence I love to see. CDF is doing an amazing job and should continue the journey. Overall I think that if you keep exploring you’ll find endless possibilities. I personally would look into ruching or ways you can change an outfit to the liking of the body you’re dealing with. SInce dwarfism comes in so many varieties I feel like conversion clothing could be beneficial.
That’s really good advice, I’m aware there are over 300 types of Dwarfism, not to mention all the other conditions that can make someone short in stature i.e.: SMA, Brittle Bone, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, GHD etc. there are so many body types to understand!
You’re so open about your life on social media, which I think really helps to break down barriers in taboos and stereotypes, but what made you so willing to tell all?
Personally, I was willing to be so open with the world because I didn’t have anyone like me to look up to in the media and I don’t want anyone growing up now to feel the way I did. I want to be that role model I needed, and hopefully it helps someone else. I think it’s so important to be honest about every part of you and in a sense show the world it’s okay not to be the standard everyone expects.
That’s amazing, i’m sure there are so many people out there with similar stories to your own who find so much comfort in your openness. How have you found the world of content creation online, do you find it an overall positive place to be?
I find the world of online content creation to be a love-hate relationship. I love the community I’ve built and the love that has been shown to me, but at the same time the negativity can swallow you whole if you let it. I try to avoid any of this now. As a child I was surrounded by the negative thoughts of others so I have a backbone but it doesn’t change the fact that I still get hurt by what is typed. I don’t focus on it though, you either enjoy what I put out there or don’t. I won’t let others' negativity stop me.
Shauna smilies, wearing a salmon pink lace top, in the bottom left corner is TLC written in red blocks
That’s a very strong mentality, its not fair that you receive negativity, but if you can take it with a pinch of salt, then you’re on the best path. There are so little amount of role models in this space, what message do you hope to send to other short stature people through your platform?
I hope to show other people in the shorter stature community that it is possible to achieve what you want. You may have to work hard and go at it differently, but you’ll get there. I am still learning this myself so be patient with yourself as well as others. I want people in the community to remember not everyone in this world was raised with the knowledge of differences so when someone reacts to you view it as an educational moment. Try to educate them on what is okay, what isn’t, why, and your personal feelings. Know that you may not change their perspective and that’s okay they have to decide to grow by themselves.
Yes! I couldn’t agree more ‘not everyone in this world was raised with the knowledge of differences’, we have to be patient and kind, until we’re given reason to believe that they are simply ableist. And lastly, what would you like to see next in the fashion industry?
I would like to see the fashion industry become more inclusive not just in the way that there’s an individual outsource for everyone but I want to see universal acceptance of bodies among multiple brands. I want to watch fashion blossom into an accepting place that still carries its abstract larger than life personality. When it comes to the behind the scenes I want those questions asked. I want larger brands to see if they can make their brands more accepting or have a small line as a trial. I want people to break the boundaries and create new ones. I want people to try to include the communities that are missing from fashion. It’s not just dwarfism, there’s disability, there’s even the shorter stature of the average height scale that is lacking in clothing. I want to see these gaps close.
Yes, yes, yes - Shauna for President! Again, I couldn’t agree more. We need to brands with agency and money to invest in short stature product lines because there are 800 million short stature people worldwide, with varying needs and body types!!
What a beautiful conversation. If you found any of what we discussed helpful, then please comment bellow and share with your friends, our knowledge is more powerful when its shared. Who should we interview next?!