Sunshine was reality TV before there was reality TV. Had camera’s been following her in the mid 2000’s she’d no doubt be a household name by now. The boisterous diva from the Motor City took her lumps for being audacious and opinionated, and I do mean that literally. I watched some of her “so-called” friends ditch her after one of her many PR disasters, only to see her bounce back even stronger, and strangely enough, leave those that once supported scratching their head and looking lost. ChiStepper often received criticism for letting Sunshine “off the hook” and not asking her the REAL questions. So in this exclusive interview we cover everything from her love/hate relationship with Lady Margaret, Panty-gate, Shine Entertainment’s success, and much more. Add a little Sunshine to your morning …
T Pratt (TP): Tell me what you love most about living in Florida and what you miss most about not living in Chicago?
Sunshine (S): I absolutely love the weather and scenery of Florida. I can BBQ or be at the beach on Thanksgiving or New Year’s Eve in 70/80 degrees. No more cold for me. I love that Florida gives Veteran discounts on almost everything from clothes to cars. I love living in a diverse city that has such a strong Latin and Caribbean influence; I feel right at home. Plus, I’m a 3 hour drive from Miami. Hmmmm … What I miss the most about Chicago is being able to go to a club and listen to R&B any day of the week with people in my age group. I miss going out dancing to real house music and of course Harold’s Chicken.
TP: You recently moved to a different part of Florida right?
S: Yes, I moved from Brandon, a suburb of Tampa at the end of last August. I live in Orlando now.
TP: When you first moved to Florida you faced some resistance from one of the local groups. Have all those issues been resolved?
S: Actually it was not just Tampa but the Miami and Orlando groups, as well as their students who believed the lies they were fed. They immediately began their gossiping and character assassination campaign from the moment I moved to Florida in August of 2012. I made it crystal clear right away on and off of Facebook that I would never teach a Steppin class in Florida ever again after that fuckery. They saw me as a threat for no real reason. Their acts of insecurity that they would lose their position of power and money with their students ‘cause I moved here was disheartening and hurtful to me. I was all excited to be a part of the community here but they made damn sure I wasn’t. I was never a threat to them, if anything I would have helped them to be better and help the instructors to produce better students of the dance so they could really hang with everybody on the dance floor not just shuffle with each other. I believe that I, along with my good friend Jacques Sanders who’s also from Chicago, could have built a community of strong and good steppers like Detroit did together with all these groups. But it was too much mess, loyalty to these groups and not enough love for the dance, so I have disassociated myself from them, aside from those that are cool, didn’t prejudge me or have truly been apologetic to me for their part in participating in that nonsense. I don’t fool with any of the groups or their sets. When I wanna step, I go to places where I’m respected like Miami Steve’s Adult Spring Break in Miami and Walter Lane’s White party here, or fly to the Chi and really get it in. Maybe when the others apologize to me I can add more Florida sets, but until then, those are the only two I will attend. I only go where I’m celebrated not tolerated. Real talk.
TP: On one of your trips back to Chicago the internet made a big deal about a photo that you and Lady Margaret took together. For better or worse, you two have been inextricably linked to each other. Was the photo just politics or are you two really in a better place now?
S: No politics, we are in a better place. And I hope that inextricable link that you speak of is explained because she taught me the tools to be my best on the dance floor, she taught me the game of Steppin and because her influence, my affiliation with her and her reputation as a great dancer allowed me back in 2005 and 2006 to be able to dance with some of the best male steppers that many may never experience. And that’s a great link to have in Steppin.
TP: A lot of the major Steppin instructors in Chicago are telling me that the days of an instructor having 50 to 100 students in a single class are over. I see it in Detroit now with Drew and Sherry’s classes respectively, but in Chicago you were the last instructor to have a really big consistent class to my knowledge. Now from what I’ve heard, you’re about to do it again in Florida, but based on what you just said, I’m not sure. Why were you able to draw so many people when some of the top instructors in the game can’t get more than 10 Steppers a class in some cases?
S: Wow that’s interesting. Well let me clear up that rumor about me teaching in Florida, because of what I already discussed about the community here, I will never teach another class here. As far as why I think I draw so many people, it’s gotta be God’s gift of business savvy, personality and spirit. I may come across as tough, but in my classes and workshops, we have a good ass time, there’s always lots of laughter and good fun. When I taught, because of Tyk being right there in class with me from the very beginning of my teaching, I was technical, detail orientated and a perfectionist that teaches with passion and with lots of humor infused. I tried to fill a void that was lacking in other classes. I made sure no one was ignored. I still to this day know every one of my sistas’ names … that’s what I called my students. I never made any of them feel less or more than the sista stepping next to her. Sisterhood was taught and institutionalized. On the business tip, I advertised a lot on and off the dance floor. The sistas would go out and women on or off the set would ask whose class they were in and this word of mouth from the divas really made every cycle huge. So huge sometimes I would get nervous and doubt if I could effectively teach that many women. But God was always in the details and we did. I got the support of dayummm near all the male heavy hitters on the set. They would come to class and dance with all the women from Ice Ray to Andre Blackwell. And most importantly I never ever put down other instructors or talked against any other class. I believe in karma and wanted all the good I could get.
I treated my courses like a college course complete with a copy-written Steppin course book that I wrote, and a weekly lecture followed by practical [application]. Me and the assistant instructors gave them our undivided attention during class. They knew from orientation to the end of the course, Shine Entertainment didn’t want their money, we wanted them to get what they paid for, to learn everything we could give them in the dance. We had fun together. I made sure they were integrated into the Chicago Steppin community … they felt a part of something. Shine Entertainment is a brand and many don’t know but it was you Terrance, thank you again, that chose that name for this very reason. I paid close attention to and worked with Pete Frazier and DJ Raphael to throw good parties of value in the Steppin community especially for the new school. It takes consistency, ingenuity, passion, love, patience and at times taking big risks to be successful. As I look back, I know I was so blessed. I loved as a teacher when I saw the “aha” moment when the light bulb goes on and they go to the next level in their dance. Every graduation ceremony of each cycle was special, wonderful and filled with tears of joy from women who truly loved each other. I loved that at my stepper’s brunches and parties people danced till the lights came on and they were the parties to be at.
TP: Looking back over your Steppin career, you’ve have some highs and some lows. Do you have any regrets?
S: Of course, I’m human. As I look back with a wiser eye and spiritual growth, I regret not knowing how to close chapters on former friends where it didn’t result in us being enemies or not being cordial to each other today. I regret that I allowed the negativity I experienced in the Steppin community to change the way I interacted with some people.
TP: Are there any things you would do differently if you could do them over?
S: Yes I would redo 2009’s Panty-Gate scandal over with a sexy pair layered ruffled bloomers underneath my dress so I could have won a place in the WLSC that me and Royce earned with the dance we worked so hard in practice to have. (Laughing) (Editor’s Note: For those who might not be familiar with Panty-gate, Sunshine danced with Royce Banks in the 2009 World’s Largest Steppers Contest. She decided not to wear panties under her dress unbeknownst to Royce. So every time Royce turned Sunshine, the dress came up and you could see Sunshine’s privates. Royce and Sunshine would have placed in the World’s Largest that year but they were disqualified.)
TP: Is there anything that you’d still like to accomplish in Steppin?
S: Yes, I would like to enter the WLSC again, this time no distraction and hopefully place. I love this dance that allows self-expression like no other and to compete again against my peers and place would be a dream come true and redemption. Funny thing is, a while back, I asked some heavy hitters who have won contests that if me and my partner deserve to win, would the judges be fair and let us win, they all emphatically said, “No. The politics of Steppin contests would never let me even place in the World Largest.” I would love to prove them wrong.
TP: When I first met you on the Steppin set, contrary to what most might believe, you were extremely quiet and reserved. You kinda stayed to yourself. By the time you finished writing for ChiStepper.com, you were a household name in the Steppin community. Who are you really? That is to say, did the Steppin game make you so brash and outspoken, or were you quiet because you didn’t really know a lot of people yet?
S: This is a good question, I don’t ever remember being quiet in my life, I just think when you and I first met, I had no reason to have a voice in Steppin or be outspoken about anything. But as soon as Chistepper.com launched in 2006 and I became a controversial writer for the site, coupled with being friends with Margaret, in which I inherited her then enemies and made few on my own in the process, I think I had no choice but to “toughen” up. When it got out that I was not even from Chicago but from Detroit, folks started coming out the woodwork for my head on a platter literally. So yes, being launched into Steppin fame or infamy within a year of becoming a stepper, forced me to show I’m a Leo Lioness from the “D” more often than I wanted to.
TP: You always have something up your sleeve. What’s next for you Sunshine?
S: Well coming up Terrance next month, I will be celebrating my birthday with a weekend long birthday celebration in Atlanta from Friday, July 25th to Sunday, July 27th. I’m calling it “Shining in Hotlanta” weekend on Facebook. My main birthday party is Saturday, July 26th, at Karma Bistro, 1179 S. Hairston Rd in Stone Mountain, GA from 4pm – 10pm. Just $5 at the door. I’m so happy ‘cause I have DJ Raphael on the 1’s and 2’s. I have folks confirmed from the Chi, STL, NC and the DMV to name a few coming in to help me celebrate, so I have something real special planned.
I was looking forward to walking away clean from Steppin and teaching after the Boot Camp because I just cannot deal with anymore negativity in that community. But now I have something new, something I think everyone will enjoy. I don’t wanna teach anymore workshops in the way it has been done or the way I have done it in the past. So I came up with what I call “Tips & Chips.” The goal is to empower and inspire both men and women to respect their progress in their process of the dance by providing invaluable insider tips of knowledge and raising their skill level of the dance while chipping away at anything that is stopping their dance from progressing. And yes, we gonna have lots of fun.
And after being off the scene since 2012, the success of Diva Boot Camp in St. Louis for Stepaganza sparked a new fire inside of me. Oh yeah, I gotta give a shout out to the over 250 women that attended and special love to those who wore the diva gear. We made Steppin history together; thank you so much. I have never did a anniversary party for Shine Entertainment nor a Steppin weekend, so in the fall of 2016 right here in beautiful city of Orlando, land of Mickey Mouse, there will be a weekend of Steppin to celebrate our 10th Anniversary. I am so excited to reunite with the original players that helped me and Shine Entertainment become award winning back together like DJ Raphael, DJ Shorty Smooth, DJ Mellow Khris, DJ Calvin, Pete Frazier and of course you T. Pratt. And I will do the reunion of the sisterhood of Shine Entertainment along with reunion of the “Just Because We Feel Like It” party. Oh and the next Diva Boot Camp with sexy diva gear will be during that weekend.
TP: For those that are new to Steppin, many may not know that I attribute a lot of ChiStepper’s success to the attention you brought the site when you were writing. So it’s always a pleasure to see how you’ve grown and to have you back. Is there anything else you’d like to say before you sign off?
S: I want to thank you Terrance for never turning your back on me and taking the heat for me when you didn’t have to in the past. I never forgot that. I also want to tell all my Shine Entertainment sistas from Cycle 1 to Cycle 25 in Chicago along with the divas I taught here in Florida that are my true sistas how much I love them. My life has been elevated because they have been in it. And lastly I want to tell the steppers that had encouraging words for me that I met for the 1st time this year from around the country that they changed how I looked at the Steppin community and I have nothing but love for them. Do it baby!