Don’t limit yourself by labelling yourself, says Shimmy Isaacs

Shimmy Isaacs takes to the TEDxCapeTown Intersections of Change stage.

“I am a female in a very male dominated industry, within standup comedy, but the distinction here is that I am faster, better and I am quicker on my feet than many of the men on stage so I’ve given them a run for their money and I unapologetically say that because I am great at what it is that I do. [...] I don’t enable being ignored and I think sometimes, women - we are not rooted in our definition as women - we don’t stand in our authentic truth and that sometimes sort of waives us from our standpoint.”

The fourth conversation of our 10-part series, Intersections of Change, focused on the challenges our society faces with gender inequality and how gender equality can be achieved, through the lens of three phenomenal womxn from different backgrounds and decades. The second speaker on the ‘Decade of Womxn' panel was Shimmy Isaacs, an award-winning comedienne, actress and writer who focuses on social issues of womxn of colour.  

As a comedienne with many years of experience and several degrees under her belt, Shimmy has unapologetically claimed her space or, as she refers to it, “a seat at the table” in the male dominated industry of comedy and encourages other womxn to not only do so, but also claim their voice and speak up. 

“We got people sitting at the table making decisions for us, about us, without us.
Which is why I decided as a writer, producer and actress to take back my narrative and start to create my own storyline.” 

Growing up, Shimmy learnt that there are no gender-specific tasks or jobs through doing numerous chores in the house such as working in the yard and changing light bulbs at the age of 15. Shimmy exudes confidence because of her intellectual property and knowledge that she can conversate and express her views with her male counterparts, without feeling intimidated. 

During her honour’s year, Shimmy focused her thesis on the representation of womxn of colour in television, film and theatre, which resulted in her realising the importance of narrating her own stories because there is a lack of representation. Through her storytelling, she focuses on people of colour in a positive light and aims to resonate with their true reality because she feels “our struggles and poverty are glamourised to make a buck or two” in the entertainment industry. 

“Don’t limit yourself by labelling yourself.”

Through years of experience, many shows and performances - Shimmy continues to acknowledge her capability and talent rather than what she’s labeled as. She encourages womxn to surpass their internal censorship and give themselves permission to reposition themselves to what they are destined to achieve. 

“The change you want to see is the change you need to start applying.”