You’ve probably heard her distinct mellow voice in the morning on the Steve Harvey Morning Show. Shirley Strawberry is the co-host of the nationally syndicated radio show, and each morning she shares her advice about parenting, relationships, career decisions and more with eight million listeners a day with her signature radio segment, Strawberry Letter.
Now, readers can get Shirley’s quip and inspiring advice with her first book, The Strawberry Letter: Real Talk, Real Advice, Because Bitterness Isn’t Sexy (One World/Ballantine – April 2011; $22). Written with Lyah Beth LeFlore and including a foreword by Steve Harvey, The Strawberry Letter, draws on hard-won lessons from Shirley’s own life as well as a wealth of “best of” Strawberry Letters to address questions about how we can establish the relationships we want and deserve with our significant others, our families, our sisters, and ourselves.
As a divorced single mom and career woman – a woman willing to let Mr. Right find her – Shirley’s been there and done that. The Strawberry Letter is her “call to action” to help women look at their lives with a candid eye. Full of motivating “Strawberry Tips” – short gems that provide welcome advice on the run – and helpful suggestions for a drama-loving girlfriend, the book is divided into sections that fully address the scope of women’s emotional lives, from “Taking Inventory: Woman to Woman” and “Love and Relationships” to “Family Matters” and “Self-Love.”
Shirley Strawberry is one of the most recognizable names and voices in radio today. The native Chicagoan knew even as a young girl that being a radio personality was her destiny. But what she never imagined was that one day she’d be sitting in the co-pilot seat of one of today’s biggest, nationally syndicated radio morning shows in the country with nearly eight million listeners.
Shirley started her career as a radio jock in the mid 1980s at Chicago WCGI-FM, where she was the co-host of the Doug Banks Show. By 1990, her popularity locally had soared and Hollywood came calling. Shirley was wooed by 92.3 The Beat, KKBT-FM, in Los Angeles and quickly built a loyal fan base there.
In 2000, the radio mogul Cathy Hughes and her Radio One empire took over the station and made a huge deal with comedic superstar Steve Harvey to host his own morning show. Shirley was offered the job as his co-host.
The Steve Harvey Morning Show took the Los Angeles airwaves by storm. From 2000-2005 it reigned as the #1 morning show in Los Angeles, having a tremendous impact on the entire city. The show eventually became a nationally syndicated show and moved to New York City.
Today, the show has grown to 60 markets including NY, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Dallas, Kansas City, Atlanta, Washington DC, and Los Angeles to name a few. For a decade, Shirley has sat side by side with Steve Harvey and the country has fallen in love with her voice and her wisdom during the show’s Strawberry Letter segment.
Co-writer, Lyah Beth LeFlore was the writer for the national bestseller I Got Your Back: A Father and Son Keep It Real About Love, Fatherhood, Family, and Friendship by Eddie and Gerald Levert. She is the author of the novels Last Night A DJ Saved My Life and Wildflowers as well as the teen book series The Come Up. LeFlore has been a television producer and entertainment executive for more than a decade and has worked for Nickelodeon, Uptown Entertainment, Wolf Films, and Alan Haymon Productions. For more information visit www.lyahbethleflore.com
I spoke with Shirley Strawberry about her new book, and she is quite the inspiring and loving woman you hear each morning. Check it out:
TD: Each morning you bring your wit, humor, and inspirational advice to millions of listeners writing in to your hugely popular, Strawberry Letter, seeking answers to various life situations be it relationships, family, career, and love. When you started this segment what were you hoping to happen, or did you have a plan on where you wanted to go with the Strawberry Letter segment?
SS: The plan really was to make our show hot and one of the most listened to morning radio shows in the country. We wanted to make sure we reached as many people as possible, and what better way than to help people figure out solutions for whatever is happening in their lives. We did not know if it was going to be a hit, but we hoped our audience liked the segment as much as we enjoyed doing it. The response came immediately and we’re so happy that it’s continued to grow. And now, it’s more than 10 years later, and it’s still a favorite amongst our listeners.
TD: Why did you start Strawberry Letter? Were you receiving letters from listeners, or were people (family and friends) seeking your advice from your personal life?
SS: Steve and I were initially based in Los Angeles and were a local morning show. We just wanted to set the show apart by including an advice column. Since my last name is Strawberry, we thought using the Strawberry Letter 23 song from the 1970’s by the Brothers Johnson could be a great idea. We even had the Brothers Johnson call in one time, and the segment made the song popular all over again!
TD: You’ve done an amazing job with the book. And, you share a lot of your own personal story. Could you let everyone know your own personal journey, and how you overcame some very challenging obstacles you faced in your life, and personal relationships?
SS: What I went through was nothing that was devastating like death or a tragic illness that so many others endure. I was in a long-term relationship that was not healthy or safe for me so I made the decision to get out of it and make a new start. I feel blessed because so many women do not make the decision before things get so bad that their lives are in danger. I overcame this tough time in my life through my faith in God, which has only gotten stronger over the years as I’ve grown older. So to anyone who is going through anything, I suggest they get a relationship with God in their lives. It’s a simple answer, but it’s the truth. I also have good friends, an amazing mother, and work helps. I really enjoy what I do. It’s all about having a spirit that won’t lie dormant…it just keeps getting up. Everyone goes through stuff, it’s just about how you handle it. I try to handle those rough times with dignity and grace because I know inherently that you can get through it if you put your faith in God.
TD: Revealing so much about yourself is very courageous. How did you reach this point in your life where you felt comfortable in writing your story, as well as the process of reliving those moments as you wrote this book?
SS: It wasn’t easy. I don’t think it is ever easy for people to do that. I’m a private person. I had an excellent writer with me who pushed me to be open and honest. It’s a cathartic feeling of relief when you do open up. I’m old enough to have had some experiences in my life. So if you catch me at the right time, I don’t mind sharing. Plus, when you think you can help others, it’s easier to let go. I believe when you put it out there, those distant memories don’t hurt anymore.
TD: I’m certain you receive thousands of letters for your Strawberry Letter segment on the Steve Harvey Morning Show. How do you decide which letter gets read and is there a certain letter that brought an emotional charge where you personally reached out to the writer?
SS: People send us letters, and we have great producers who help us go through them. But we all chip in on the selection process. If a letter strikes us, we’ll read it on the air. There was a letter that didn’t make the book because we couldn’t find it. It had to do with a woman who was married to a man who had just let himself go, in terms of gaining too much weight and just not caring for himself overall in even the most basic sense. The things she had to do for him were just unimaginable, particularly for someone who could have really done for himself if he’d chosen to do so. That’s the letter that really got me! Barring any sudden or long-term illness, the situation this woman found herself in was just a hard one for me to swallow. That’s the letter I remember most of all. Out of all of the letters, people have opened up their worlds and lives to us with some incredible stories. They all move me in some way, especially the ones from young women who are suffering and have come from abusive homes, whether it be physical, sexual, or drug abuse.
TD: In the book you have your top Strawberry Tips. Can you give us a few top tips that every woman needs and can begin making the changes in their lives immediately?
SS: Tip #1 – Know what you want, say what you want, and get what you want – in that order. TIP #2 – Let that man know in no uncertain terms, if we can’t treat each other with love and respect, you can and will move on! Tip #3 – You can outlive anger. Recover and go forward with your life. Tip #4 – Any man who says he loves you, but doesn’t want to step up his game and support all that you do as a woman, isn’t the man for you. Tip #5 – Work hard towards loving how you look from the inside out.
TD: What is one thing you feel is a common mistake or behavior women do in relationships that is a deal breaker for men?
SS: We become intimate too quickly. That’s a mistake a lot of women make, and even I’ve been guilty of it. Older women in our lives tell us not to do that, but some things we just have to experience on our own. You don’t really get it until you go through it.
TD: What is one thing you feel is a common mistake or behavior men do in relationships that is a deal breaker for women?
SS: Cheating is a common mistake that many men make. The thing that has always puzzled me, and I suspect other women, is that men often seem to cheat when things are going great. But don’t get me wrong, not all men are cheaters. I know and believe that there are still a lot of good men out there.
TD: What do you want readers to take away from your book?
SS: I want readers to know they can be happy and it’s okay to be happy. Give themselves a break. And if you’re single like me, and have been for the past several years, it’s okay. Be grateful for your blessings and know that there’s more to come. If you get another day, that means you have another chance to make things right in your life. I want people to walk away with a “Thank you, Shirley, for sharing” feeling. The women who listen to our show are a reflection of me, and I of them. I just happen to be on the radio. It’s simple. I do feel that love can heal. As a matter of fact, put some love in everything you do. We need more of that. Plus, we look and feel so much better when we smile.
TD: What’s next for you and how can readers get in contact with you, or find out where you will be for book signings, events, or appearances?
SS: Visit www.shirleystrawberry.com and follow me on Twitter @mygirlshirley. I’ll also be on book tour and I’m excited to meet everyone. My tour dates on are on my Web site and I’ll be tweeting from the road to keep everyone updated with where I am. So far as the future, hopefully a good man and marriage will be on the horizon someday. But until then, make no mistake…I am happy. I have joy in my life and I’m immensely blessed. Oh, and as far as the immediate future, I gotta go shopping and get something to wear on this tour!