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Shannon Thornton

Source: Andrea Fremiotti / Andrea Fremiotti

M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I

If you’re one of the millions of people who tune into Starz every Sunday night to journey down to The Pynk in Chucalissa, you most likely read the above Mississippi with a cadence that goes something like “M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter I, crooked letter, crooked letter I, hump back, hump back I.”

We’ve grown to love the characters/ dancers at The Pynk, especially the burgeoning star that is Keshawn a.k.a Miss Mississippi, brought to life by Shannon Thornton.

Keshawn a.k.a Miss Mississippi is the pole twirling goddess whose subtle on-screen romance with hunky security guard Diamond (played by Tyler Lepley) keeps us glued to our screens. Keshawn is relatable, making her one of the breakout stars of the unique series.

As the say goodbye for now to the Pynk (season two was given the green light), we caught up with the brown beauty Shannon Thornton whose pole presence has her going viral on the show and in real life.

HelloBeautiful: How did you land the role of Mississippi and how much does she differ from you in real life?

Shannon Thornton: I initially found out about it through my manager. She knew about my reservations pertaining to nudity but told me about this amazing script and thought I’d be great for Miss Mississippi. I read the script on the way home and instantly became emotionally connecting to the material. I was just so excited about this potentially becoming something special that so many would connect to. So, I threw my hat in there and after a bit of a wait, I got an audition for another character on the show, then a callback for Miss Mississippi that was on tape, and another in person before finally landing the role.

The difference between Keyshawn and myself is that she’s very childlike and oftentimes can come across as naive. Which was actually very refreshing for me when I got to play her because I haven’t felt that way-seen the world with a childlike wonder, getting easily excited over the smallest things, as if experiencing them for the first time-in a long time.

HB: We’re approaching the season finale of season 1 and the show has been met with such great reviews, did you expect all this love from the show?

ST: I did! Although, you can never anticipate a reaction quite like this. Most of the cast had that feeling when we shot the pilot two years ago. This show is like nothing I’ve ever seen and it peels back the layers of sex workers in a way that’s so complex and nuanced, I just knew audiences would absolutely love it. And the music is just bomb.

Shannon Thornton

Source: Andrea Fremiotti / Andrea Fremiotti

HelloBeautiful: You are stunning, was there ever a time you didn’t feel pretty inside? How did you learn to accept yourself?

ST: Thank you. I think almost everybody goes through an awkward transitional phase in their preteens. At that time, I actually didn’t like certain features like my nose, which is crazy to think of now because I love it. And my body was going through all these changes and I found myself nitpicking and striving for perfection. But ever since I was very little, my family has always told me how beautiful I was. And not because they felt the need to build my self-esteem; because they believed it was true. They still do. So, I learned to look at myself through the eyes of the people who love me most and not be so hard on myself. Now, I believe it and no one can tell me otherwise.

HB: The ladies on P-Valley all have such beautiful hair. How do you care for your natural hair? Who slays your wigs or weaves?

ST: Thank you! I like to switch up my looks often, so one day you’ll see me with long curly hair, the next with long bone-straight layers and when I’m bored with that I’ll wear it in a sleek inverted bob. With all the extensions I wear, I like to make sure my own hair is healthy. My hair is very thick and a lot to deal with on my own, so I usually get it done professionally. My hairstylist, Tlisha Matthews has been taking care of my hair for years now and keeps my haircuts sharp and treats my hair regularly. I love getting hair masks and I use castor oil on my scalp to promote hair growth. For the past couple years though, I’ve been doing my own extensions! I love clip-ins.

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HB: What do you think is your greatest asset?

ST: I think my greatest asset is my creativity. My mind.

HB: Did you ever have trouble embracing your brown skin?

ST: Never. And I’ve been told everything from, “You’re ugly because you’re Black.” To, “you’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl.” And these comments were coming from people who looked like me.

I’ve never been insecure about my complexion. I think a big part of what makes me beautiful is my Blackness. I love that my skin is a sun-kissed brown. I love my golden undertones. I’ve always loved it and understood early on that anyone who had anything to say in regard to their disdain for a darker complexion spoke of their own self-hatred and that it wasn’t to be taken personally.

The fact that there are girls who feel this way, Miss Mississippi included, is what drew me to her and was a big part of why I felt it was so important to be part of this project, because we do tackle colorism on the show. I’m also so grateful for songs like Brown Skin Girl, celebrating how beautifully made we are.

P-Valley season one may be over, but it’s an even better binge-watch! Head to Starz to watch now.

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Shannon Thornton, Brandee Evans, Elarica Johnson
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