Shelby Rushin has worked in the entertainment industry for more than 26 years, so chances are you’ve at some point heard her voice on one of Miami’s top radio stations. She’s hosted shows on both WEDR 99 Jamz and WHQT Hot 105, and counts interviews with hip-hop artist Rick Ross and President Joe Biden among her on-air highlights. But according to her, the best part of her career has been the opportunities it’s afforded her to help others.
Rushin established Shero, a nonprofit dedicated to women and children in South Florida, in 2017. Since its inception, the organization has grown exponentially. Activities including various drives for food, toys and back-to-school supplies.
In 50 years, I want people to say, ‘she really cared and wanted the best for everyone.’
The recognition Rushin has received for her outreach work – which includes a BET Black Girls Rock! award, Jessie Trice Community Service Award, OneBlood Service Award and being named an “Unsung Hero” by the City of Miami Gardens – reflects an unwavering and admirable commitment to community, though she’s the first to downplay her efforts.
“When I do [the work], I don’t do it for the bells and whistles,” said Rushin. “It isn’t about me.”
It took a lot for the 49-year-old to get to where she is today.
Born and raised in Fort Lauderdale by two loving parents, Rushin describes a happy childhood. However, she did struggle with finding herself.
“Those were the times kids still went outside to play,” she said, “but I was very shy as a child. I would kind of shy away from the spotlight.”
In an attempt to pull her out of her shell, her mother entered her into a beauty pageant. It didn’t go well. Rushin vividly remembers being terrified to go out onto the stage. Now she laughs at the memory, given her present life in the public eye. But growing up, the entertainment industry was always close by, so perhaps her career was inevitable.
Rushin’s father is Jerry Rushin, renowned radio show host and former 99 Jamz executive, and the first Black American to operate a station in South Florida.
“He was a hands-on type of guy. I grew up around the radio station with him,” she said.
Because of that, it was “only natural” for her to be drawn to the industry. At first, Rushin thought the advertising side of the business was her calling. But after graduating from Bethune-Cookman University and slowly becoming more confident, she changed her mind.
“My father played a very major role in inspiring me,” she said. “Even when I was studying advertising, he would always say to me, ‘I want you to learn every corner of the business.’ In doing that, I realized that my passion was for the people side of things, and connecting with a listening audience.”
She can’t chalk up her success to one thing in particular, but acknowledges that her empathetic nature has played a big part.
“Working in radio automatically connects you to the community,” she said.
One night after Rushin first started hosting on-air, a young woman called into the show and said she was contemplating suicide. She doesn’t remember what she said to soothe the caller, but the conversation ended with the woman thanking her.
“She said I saved her life,” Rushin recalled.
She recounts other instances of connecting with her audience as defining moments of her career. She’s encouraged callers to get screened for cancer, for example, based on intimacies they’ve shared with her. On the lighter side, listeners often tell her that she’s made their day.
“Those types of reactions made me want to do more,” said Rushin. “The people really drive me.”
Getting more involved in the community came next. She had already done some service work through her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, but wanted to amplify her efforts. Rushin began by feeding the homeless, alongside her two daughters and husband of 20 years. That evolved into partnering with other organizations, including Miami Rescue Mission, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and shelters for women in distress.
Shero was born out of that work, as well as from Rushin’s desire to continue serving the community she knows and loves. Her immediate future plans for the nonprofit include an event to empower local women in business and technology, but regardless of how her outreach evolves, it will be informed by her wish to create a legacy of service.
“In 50 years,” said Rushin, “I want people to say, ‘she really cared and wanted the best for everyone.’”