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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Chrishaunda Lee, Television Personality of Animal Attractions

Chrishaunda Lee currently devotes her on-air camera time hosting a show centering on one of her biggest interests-animals. Animal Attractions TV, is a PBS family -based show that focuses on animals and their well being. This is just one more way that Chrishaunda has used her voice in the entertainment and educational industries. She has worked both in front of and behind the camera, at one time, doubling as a pr consultant for companies that ranged from fashion to finance as well as a freelance television correspondent for Entertainment Tonight.

Born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, upon entering high school, Chrishaunda was lucky enough to be accepted at the prestigious Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, CT and went on to college at Wesleyan University. While in college, Chrishaunda spent one semester at Spelman College in Atlanta and one in Spain becoming fluent in Spanish and working diligently at her major and concentration, theatre and costume design. For her major she’d completed two fashion internships (one in London) as well as performed Golden Age Spanish theatre whilst in Madrid.

After moving to New York, Chrishaunda began working in public relations at Ralph Lauren and soon moved on her own as a consultant as well as evolved with her outreach capabilities. She became a patron of the Humane Society, got involved with educational organizations like NFTE (The National Foundation teaching Entrepreneurship), the East Harlem School at Exodus House and reconnected with the development department at her high school alma mater, Miss Porter’s School. In 2003, Chrishaunda revived a play she’d written for her senior project in college, for which she’d also won an award and produced it Off-Off Broadway. That play, “Getting Under Our Own Skin”, in which she also starred, was loosely based on Chrishaunda’s upbringing in Milwaukee and was well received by both the audience and local media.

In early 2005 Chrishaunda evolved within her media-based career by serving in front of the camera when she first landed an opportunity to correspond on the Oprah Winfrey Show working with troubled teens. This appearance led to her freelance correspondent position for Entertainment Tonight.

Though currently in front of the camera, Chrishaunda has always used her voice to promote her passion for education as well. Through her membership at the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park, she has served as commencement speaker for New York City high schools supported by the club. She was just given the honor of becoming a Governor at the club, and in 2004, the additional responsibility of chairing the fashion committee. Whom You Know was pleased to attend this past Monday night to see Chrishaunda present the Young Innovative Award. (see previous Nightlight post.)

Chrishaunda has not only matured professionally but personally as well. In late 2005 she got married and the following year became a proud mother to a beautiful daughter.

Peachy Deegan is so pleased to present Chrishaunda Lee as our Mover and Shaker!

Peachy Deegan: What is your first animal memory?
Chrishaunda Lee: Though I have a few before this, my most memorable experience was adopting my dog Reina in 1997. She was tiny, the runt of her litter, with all of these other supposed 'issues' and she peed on me when she first got in my arms. Two
weeks in, she was cured of most of these 'issues' and she was already potty trained. Love can go very far. I knew she was the dog for me!

What do most people not realize about animals that they can learn through
watching Animal Attractions TV?
What people will find most interesting about Animal Attractions TV is the detail we take when it comes to giving pet advice and information. We don't really do 'overviews'. For example, when we are covering a segment about picking up dog poop in your home and the best way to clean your carpet, we re-inact the entire process if cleaning by using tootsie rolls in a very clever way!

What animals are your most and least favorite and why?
Love the furry, a bit nervous about the slimy! But ALL animals I enjoy observing.

How is your dog Reina?
Now that she is 14 1/2 years old, she is very very settled in her ways. Her 'ways' are for the most part very good and these are obviously ways she has been conditioned to be through me. Yet, as anyone who has a pet knows, they, too have their own personalities and DEFINITELY have feelings! When she does not want to be bothered, it is very evident. I think she is overall a happy old girl.

What did you learn through PR that has helped you in television?
PR has helped me pay more attention to detail as well as more of how the entertainment business works. Though PR is generally the first to go if a company has to downsize, it has still become a very important part of merchandising as well as personal careers. With regard to working in front of the camera, I have been conditioned to have extra respect for those that are called 'handlers'-the folks who can be the first to blame if something goes wrong but can be last to receive recognition if something goes right. I used to be one of those people.

As a journalist, what common mistakes in the English language bother you the
most? We believe you were in that same class as Peachy Deegan where you were
taught "It's not who you know, it's whom you know!"
I was and am a stickler for practicing proper grammar in any language. I also speak Spanish fluently and really have a hard time hearing that language butchered as well. Peachy Deegan and I had the best teacher, Mr. Rennie McQuilkin. Between him and my seventh grade English teacher Mr. Winterfeldt, I have truly become a language geek of sorts. Sometimes if I send a text message to someone and I misspell and word but push 'send' too soon, I can be known to send another text behind it with a correction. Also, if I know I am misspelling a word and don't have time to correct it, I will naturally write (sp) after the word. You don't want someone thinking you think you've spelled a word correctly-nor do you want to mislead someone into possibly copying your spelling of a word. I let them know ahead of time "I'm not sure if this is right!" Surely in these days of 'rush everything' or everything is written in abbreviations, no one cares, but I am one who will probably always will. For me, excellence begins and ends in the fundamentals.

What inspires you to be passionate about education?
I am inspired most about education simply because it is the one thing that someone can be given that cannot be taken away unless there is tragedy. One can be bankrupt but still have their smarts, one can be homeless and still have their intelligence. Even at the most humble of times, a proper education can work for you to help get yourself into a better situation. Not necessarily the type of degree you receive, but you are able to 'think' in a way that you would not be able to without education. With that forward thinking, you are already ahead of the game.

As you chair the fashion committee at the National Arts Club, what aspects of
style do you feel are the most important for both men and women and who are your
favorite designers and why?
Chairing the fashion committee at the National Arts Club has been so rewarding because I am exposed to so many people's personal styles. Conservative, trendy, couture, casual. All are fine if it works for you. At the club there is a dress code, so we are not able to express in such a broad way, but we I still play with it. The only aspect of style that is least important in my opinion is when you are not dressing yourself to make your personal canvas look best; you are trying to follow a trend or please someone else. Whatever you wear make sure YOU look smashing!
My favorite designers are Gianfranco Ferre, Lanvin, Oscar De La Renta, William Calvert, Valentino, Carolina Herrera and Diane Von Furstenberg. My reasons are: Lines, no lines, draping, silhouettes, and subtle drama.

What are the responsibilities of being Governor of the National Arts Club?
Meetings, a strong grasp of the how to maintain a balance between the traditional vision of the National Arts Club as well as futuristic endeavors, and a responsible mentality.

Do you have theatrical ambitions?
I love the art of oration, period. Speaking, acting, whatever that talent calls me to do. Of course I would love to use my voice for everything, and so far, I am very lucky to have been able to use it as I have thus far. However which way I am continuously used, as long as it is calling forth my best, I am always honored.

What are you the proudest of and why?
I am most proud of my best accomplishment yet-my daughter.

What is your favorite place to be in NYC?
My favorite place to be in New York is probably sitting in Central park in the summertime on a blanket with light jazz playing. My husband and I are being 'so together' by reading separate things and every once and a while, sharing thoughts, and our daughter is napping. Plus, there is a chilled bottle of my favorite reisling wine nearby. Other than that, at some authentic Mexican restaurant like Mama Mexico eating tacos with no etiquette.

What is your favorite shop?
Intermix- it really is a one stop shop for many different types of apparel.

What is your favorite drink?
Reisling Wine. Preferably Hogue. I am a very cheap date.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Cafe Luxembourg for breakfast.

What is your favorite NYC book?
Don't have one. All of the books I have read that list New York as the main setting are not extremely deep. More 'fun' reading. But one of my favorite NY writers is Malcolm Gladwell. He always provokes thought.

What is your favorite thing to do in NYC that you can do nowhere else?
Walk miles on pavement and not notice.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Underrated-Taxi availability. Just because there are taxis EVERYWHERE, depending on what time of day it is, what side of the street you are on, corner you are on, blah blah blah, can STRONGLY lessen the chance of you getting one.
Overrated-sample sales.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I am a bit of a fitness junkie as well.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Through the "Whom You Know' site or at Thank you.

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