Shaaanxo at home

Shaaanxo – YouTube Sensation

Almost five years ago Shannon Harris picked up a camera and started talking. With more than one million YouTube subscribers to date, she has become ingrained in the social media video blogging, or vlogging, sphere and has created for herself the household name Shaaanxo.

Tea timeWhen a hobby turns into a full-time job you know you are on to a good thing. “I didn’t even know you could make a living off YouTube,” says Shannon. “One day I got an email from YouTube saying ‘We want to start monetising your content’ and I thought, ‘Is this spam?’ I just used my vlog as a hobby to meet new people who had the same interests as me.”

Shannon’s blogs are the most subscribed and viewed online shows for fashion and beauty in New Zealand. Through her YouTube channel the Palmerston North beauty teaches anyone with an internet connection all about the world of makeup and fashion. She also lends advice on cooking, exercise and wellbeing. If this weren’t enough, she also has her own ‘xoBeauty’ business line, all of which is just in a day’s work for the 22 year old.

I don’t think YouTube is ever going to fade away, it’s taking over

The secret to her success is something even Shannon can’t quite put her finger on. “I don’t really know. I try to be myself and that comes off quite genuine I suppose, rather than trying to be scripted or professional because I’m not a professional or a makeup artist, I’m just another girl in her bedroom doing makeup. I just try to be positive and happy. I think people like seeing happiness.”

Face of success“No one else I knew really liked makeup that much, so YouTube was a good outlet. I didn’t really have any goals at first, but I guess now it’s educating people about makeup in New Zealand because it’s not really a huge thing here. I’m just trying to inspire other people.”

The constant stream of videos, photos and updates is anything but ordinary and is inspired predominantly by feedback from her followers. “I like to cover a lot of different things so that it’s interesting all the time. A lot of my ideas are from my viewers; I’ll ask them for inspiration or what they want to see. That’s a huge part because obviously you want them to watch it.”

When working from home Shannon enjoys the flexibility of being able to “do whatever I feel like doing on that day”. “On a typical day I usually go straight to my computer and answer all my business emails; I get on average about 150 a day. Then I jump into filming and try to film one or two videos. In the afternoon I like to sit back and start some editing, do some social media updates and post photos that I’ve taken.”

XO Beauty brushes“I have a separate room from where I film, which is different from my bedroom, but sometimes I’ll cart my computer out into the lounge and edit there just so it’s different, because it gets a bit hectic just working in the same area all the time.”

Her booming business, xoBeauty, is a professional brush and lash company that was developed in October 2012. “Makeup brushes are one of my favourite things because they are underrated in New Zealand. It is really hard to find good quality at a cheap price, so I thought there was a gap in the market. False eyelashes are something I just really love and I found I had so much fun designing them. It was just one of those things that came naturally to me.”

I try to be myself and that comes off quite genuine I suppose, rather than trying to be scripted or professional

At such a young age, Shaaanxo is taking her career one step at a time. “I can see myself doing what I’m doing throughout the majority of my life, but maybe not the exact same thing as what I’m doing right now. There is always room to do videos no matter where I am in life.”

At work“I also want to really focus on my business. As a hobby vlogging will always be there. I don’t think YouTube is ever going to fade away, it’s taking over. You are always going to get negative people so you’ve just really got to look past that and focus on positive people.”

Her advice to others is mainstream, but sincere. “Just follow your dreams. For me I was just your typical Palmy girl who didn’t have any special treatment or anything. I always knew I wanted my own business one day but never really knew what I wanted to do. I love makeup and doing makeup so I found an opening for my own opportunity. There is always a way.”

Angie Farrow

A bit like playing God

“I love writing plays because you get to invent just about everything within the world of drama. Theatre works in three dimensions, so when you see your play in action, you are watching a living, breathing experience that you have created. It is a bit like playing God.”

Author, playwright and teacher, Dr Angie Farrow has been involved with theatre since she was a student when she became addicted to the process. “I think theatre chose me. It is addictive because it is such a total, all-consuming process. Nothing short of dedication will do. It grabs you by the throat and won’t let go until the work is over. Then you think you will never do it again. A few weeks later, you find yourself searching for the next theatre ‘fix’,” says Angie.

After becoming involved in the process of theatre-making when she was a student, teaching was a natural progression for her. “Writing develops my curiosity and my creative instinct. Teaching lets me share what I know with others.”

After completing her teaching degree in Britain, Angie moved to Manawatū, where she focuses on theatre and creativity at Massey University in Palmerston North. She has won several awards that recognise Angie’s enthusiasm and dedication to her students and the arts. These awards include the National Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award, and she was voted Lecturer of the Year in 2011 by Massey University students.

The arts help us to know each other more deeply.

“Teaching is a great privilege. I feel very lucky to be at Massey and to be able to teach the things I love. At best, teaching is an art form because you have to be instinctive as well as have a strong knowledge base.”

Angie has won numerous national and international awards for her theatre and radio plays. Some of these awards include first prize in the Canadian international playwriting competition. Her theatre works have been performed in Canada, Singapore, Australia and India.

She has been an advocate for the arts both at Massey University and in the community for many years. Her creative interests led to the development of the Festival of New Arts, which gives artists in Manawatū a forum for presenting their work. Angie is also the driving force behind Summer Shakespeare, a production that gives people in Manawatū a chance to perform on stage.

“The arts help us to know each other more deeply,” she says. “They can be a gateway to new knowledge, new directions; they give us an anchor into the world or the imagination; they help us to dream and make some of the dreams happen.”

Craig Kawana

Shaping our Culture

With a shed located deep in the heart of Ashhurst, Craig Kawana is creating history through his commissioned carvings for Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge.

When the call was put out for projects to beautify Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge, traditional Maori carvings to decorate the entranceway were a popular choice. Five months on, Craig Kawana, from Rangitāne/Ngati Apa and Muaupoko iwi, is using his talent and expert knowledge of Rangitāne carving style to craft stunning works of art.

CarvingDeciding to leave his job at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa to take up the full-time project of uplifting Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge was not a simple choice for Craig. “It was a bit of a leap of faith, or should I say a jump. I was a bit over teaching and I wanted to get back to being hands on. It was a good
opportunity. I was doing my Masters and doing contract work as well and it was overwhelming. Something was going to give.” Craig also saw it as an opportunity to get back to ‘Rangitāne-tanga’ and immerse himself in work that celebrated his culture. “Every iwi has their own style of carving. This project is about the survival of the Rangitāne art form, so that it survives into the future.”

Carving has been part of Craig’s life for a long time, with it becoming his career of choice from the age of 14 years. While he was attending Awatapu College, his teacher, Waana Davis, now the Toi Māori Chairperson, recognised his hankering to learn more about his culture. “She took a group of us up to Pahiatua College. I walked into this room and there was a group of Māori carving and it was the first time that I had ever seen Māori carving by Māori. The feeling hit me like a brick wall and I have been chasing that feeling ever since. It was the first connection I had to my culture.”

That sense of connection is an intrinsic part of Craig’s work, and he hopes his carvings will enable people to make personal connections with the land and learn about its ancestral and cultural history. He has dubbed his Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge project Te Hono nga Maunga. “Hono means joining and nga Maunga means the meeting of the mountains, because that is where the carving is going, right between the two peaks at the entranceway.”

The feeling hit me like a brick wall and I have been chasing that feeling ever since. It was the first connection I had to my culture

Staying inspired is made easier thanks to Craig’s workspace, a shed in Ashhurst Domain that sits atop a historic fort site. “This area here used to be a pā site. Otangaki is the name of this place. It means to pull out the weeds and prepare the land for cultivation.

“For me it is a positive name. I have turned my life around. I was teaching and I got rid of that and came out here. I can do Rangitāne-tanga. That’s the thing for me. I can do Rangitāne style, Rangitāne stories, Rangitāne histories for the future of our great-grandchildren. This is my way of setting up Rangitānetanga to leave a legacy that they can take and learn.”

The shed has also become a hidden attraction for visitors to Manawatu, offering New Zealanders and international tourists the chance to see a true Māori carver at work. Craig has also created a display of other iconic cultural items, like a taonga pūoro (Māori trumpet).

Tools of the trade“We had Chinese delegates who came to visit on behalf of UCOL. They were looking at the viability of bringing Chinese university students to study in Palmerston North. The tutors didn’t know what to do with them, so one of my mates suggested they bring them out here. They loved it. He said that it was worth millions to UCOL and you just sealed the deal for us. Now they are going to have people coming out here to study and learn more about our culture.”

“Let’s tell the stories of the Gorge. It’s not just Rangitāne stories; it’s everybody’s stories – Scandinavian stories, Pākehā stories and immigrant stories. Rangitāne stories are not where it ends. Closer to today there are other people’s stories that have developed. You have to tell everyone’s stories so that they can connect to the place. It becomes special for everyone.”