Shawna Renee: Cocoa Mode

by Erin Whitlock


For over a decade, Shawna Renee has dedicated her life to a career in radio from co-hosting the Morning Drive at WERQ-FM in Baltimore to being the program director of XM’s WorldZone and later producing The Joe Madison Show. It wasn’t long before she discovered a way to combine her love of radio and her passion for beauty, fashion, and wellness as she does in Cocoa Mode.

Q: What is Cocoa Mode?
Cocoa Mode is a weekly radio program dedicated to African American women who are interested in leading healthy, happy and fabulous lives. We cover a variety of topics from fashion and beauty to relationships and finance. Tuning in to Cocoa Mode is like hanging out with a million of your closest girlfriends.

Q: How did you come up with the title of the show?
My original thought was to create a show that focused on fashion and beauty for women of color. The name “Cocoa” is in honor of my brown sisters (all shades) and “Mode” is the French word for trendy or fashionable.

Q: How did you get your start in radio?
When I was about 13 years old my father, who has been a talk show host for over 20 years, would take me to the studio and have all of his support people teach me everything there was to know about radio. By the time I started high school I knew how to screen calls, produce a show and run a board. After I graduated from Howard University, he hired me to produce his show. Since then I’ve hosted and programmed talk, hip-hop and world music stations all over the planet.

Q: How do you select/research topics to discuss?
Almost all of the shows are inspired by my personal experiences and the experiences of those around me. I have an incredible network of friends and family. I speak with many of them daily, and our conversations are often the starting point for a particular show. My listeners are also an important part of the process. I get tons of email everyday from men and women with great show ideas.

As far as research, the internet is my best friend. However, I try not to “over-prepare.” I’m more interested in conversations than interviews, so I’ll start with a basic outline of the discussion and let the interview flow naturally from there.

Q: Are there any differences to working in satellite radio than working for other types of radio stations?
For one, XM is national. From a single studio I can talk to millions of women from all over the country. With mainstream or terrestrial radio you’re limited to just one city. Best of all, satellite radio encourages freedom and creativity from its hosts. We can cover a wide range of topics without the fear of being punished or terminated. As someone who has been fired for voicing my opinion in the past, this is very important to me.

Q: What kind of advice would offer to those individuals interested in a career in radio programming?
First, be sure this is what you want to do. This is a crazy business that requires an incredible amount of time and sacrifice. Second, try to go to a college or university with a good communications department. Broadcast schools are okay, but most of them try to cram too much information into too little time and usually only focus on the technical aspects of the industry. Having a four-year degree promises to make you a more rounded (thus interesting and creative) radio professional. Finally, intern. Internships are so important in this business. No, they don’t pay. And yes, you will probably be making your share of coffee runs. But trust me it’s worth it. Once you prove that you’re hungry enough, a good mentor will go out of his/her way to help you.

Q: When you’re not working, what can we catch Shawna Renee doing?

I’m the mother of a one year old, so my free time is spent changing diapers, running back and forth to play dates and reading baby books. On those rare occasions when I have some time to myself, I’m usually reading, in the gym or shopping.

Q: Who was your most interesting/unusual guest?
Two guests stand out in my mind.
Kevin Powell: He was on the show a few months back to promote his Men’s Seminar in New York. I often invite men on Cocoa Mode to discuss issues that affect them and to remind the women that we’re in this together. Kevin Powell is hands down one of my favorites. I admire and respect his honesty. During the interview he challenged our male listeners to take responsibility for their current condition and dared them to make the necessary changes to improve their lives. His message is in line with what Cocoa Mode is trying to do for women. In fact, I was so impressed with his article in the December issue of Clutch I sent it to everyone I know—I know for a fact that article changed more than a few lives.

Gina M., creator of What About Our Daughters: I call her the 21st century Angela Davis. In a time when most of our “leaders” are just looking for the spotlight, Gina is behind the scenes, getting things done. I had her on during the BET Hot Ghetto Mess debate. She was able to lay out a plan of action that everyone could (and did) follow. As a result, BET had to respond. Trust me, if she keeps it up, she’s sure to emerge as one of the most influential Black female leaders in the US.

shawnareness2.jpgQ: Beauty Health/Wellbeing are two of the main points of interest in the show. What are your tips for living a healthy lifestyle?
Of course there are the things we hear all the time: eat right, exercise, take your vitamins. These things are great for getting the body right, but I believe we need to spend just as much time focused on getting the mind and spirit right as well. No matter how strong your body is, if you’re stressed out and out of whack mentally, it’s going to shut down anyway. One of the best things I’ve ever done is take up yoga. I wish more women of color would try it. Since I’ve been taking my practice seriously, I’ve lost over 20 lbs, I’m focused, my overall health has improved and I’m happier.

Q: What are some of your New Year’s Resolutions?
I would like to kick this nasty little caffeine addiction I’ve developed over the last year. I also need to learn how to slow down and be more patient. Other than that, I have big plans for Cocoa Mode and my career in general.

Q: If you weren’t hosting a radio show, what would you be doing?
Depends on how much money I have in the bank (laughs). I know I’d be involved in the arts, I love writing and acting. I’ve always wanted to host a travel show, so if the Academy Award winning actress thing didn’t work out I’d probably be working on that.

Q: What would you consider your secret to success?
I’ve learned to grab hold of my destiny and enjoy the ride.

Q: Whether you’re headed out to a big event for Cocoa Mode or just an evening with the girls—what’s in your clutch?
My blackjack, the lip gloss de jour, keys, credit card, ID, $20 (just in case), my business cards, gum.

To learn more about Shawna Renee and The Cocoa Mode Show please log-on to

  • Sandy

    Hey Shawna! I listen every week. I am so happy to see you in my favorite magazine. Keep the great and thought provoking shows coming sis!

  • Gabbie

    I need to get XM! I am so excited about this sister and what she is doing. Congrats on your success Shawna Renee.

  • Rose

    I am currently a broadcast student and I am in love with what you are doing. You are such as role model and I too am a regular listener!

  • Duke

    Shawna, The Power has been good 4 me & da country. Iformation is real. Thanks from The Gulf Coast. We Love You.

  • Shawna

    I always find it amazing when I find someone with the same name doing well in there life
    Shawna Renee Brown

  • Joe Patterson

    Ms. Renee.
    I find your commentary on political affairs to be bias, misleading, and just plain ignorant. Everything you and your employer, whom claims to be an independent, is bias on behalf of Barack Obama. You portray yourself as a sophisticated, intelligent, and well-educated woman. You nor Joe Madison have once brought to your audience’s attention that the Barack Obama has a not so impressive background politically. His claims of being this great community organizer is questionable. He, through the position he held, earmarked money to his political friends to work on low-income housing. According to the Chicago Times these projects were never finished. This means his claims, Obama that is, that he improved neighborhoods in his district, is simply untrue! Though Obama was not charged with any crime in Chicago, he’s named in the indictment that sent one of his associates to prison. The bottom line is that if none of his so-called efforts to help the poor suceeded, he didn’t accomplish anything – fact! You’ve never address his socialistic beliefs or training as an Saul Alinsky community organizer. By the way, Saul Alinsky dedicated his book “Rules For Radicals” to Lucifer – that’s the Devil!

    What you and Mr. Madison do is voice your bias opinion on the airways without any objectivity. When someone calls in that disagrees, they are attacked usually without being given a chance to respond to Mr. Madison or you. All Blacks aren’t Democrats as I’m sure you know. It seems that for those of us who have a different political leaning as you guys, you think we’re ignorant. Do you do the same with Blacks who have a different religion as you – do you? I thought so! It’s sort of like John McCain’s vice-presidential pick. If Obama had chosen a woman with children I know for a fact the narrative would have been different. Let me sum it up this way, you cool-aid drinking Negros voluntarily living on the Democratic Plantation. The party of the KKK, Dred Scott, and over a hundred years of trying to prevent Blacks from having the same freedoms as everyone else in America was the Democratic Party until they needed your votes to obtain power. You Negros are so brainwashed that your political party comes before sisterhood, brotherhood, and even your religeous beliefs!


  • http://[email protected] ken

    Hell Miss Renee just wanted to say you and your father are doing the best to engage thought and free thinking. I have called to Mr. Madison’s show a couple of times and yes I am a long time listener. Yes Miss Renee I listen to you when your on, but please include the guys a little more we would love to learn more about the ladies. Keep up the wonderful work and your voice matches your beautiful face. Thank you.

  • Osiris

    Hi Shawna Renee,

    As a (mature) male listener to your show, I am very impressed with the subject matter and guests you feature. Perhaps you should have been ‘chosen’ over DL Hugely as host(ess) of the CNN program, which, BTW, I can’t bring myself to watch as of yet. Should I?

    Anyhow, the main reason for this note is: “” I found the brief conversation very interesting, but, I was unable to find the web site online. Is my spelling correct?


  • Larry K

    Hello Ms. Renee,

    I don’t get to listen to your show often, but enjoy it when I do. I know you offer a postive show and the topic I bring up is a cold dark one that has been talked on before, often with little or no progress made, to make it short I would like you to visit Snitch on Murder and give some input, also if you have time pose a question or two to your listeners after viewing the site. The questions I suggest are 1. Can the word snitch be a word of beauty if use against someone who has taken another person’s life?.
    2. If someone murder your ________ would you want someone to snitch?

    the blank can be Mother, Father, sister, brother, etc.,
    Thank you and continue to do your best!
    Cherish Life,

  • Jap

    Listening to your show this morning gave me the impression that you think and feel that because you have a higher education than high school it would effect your relationship with a man that doesn’t have the same. Have you experience this in a relationship or are you just assuming that it will happen or are you using this assumption as an excuse not to be in a relationship. You seem to be so up on yourself which is not bad but at the same time it seems that you have been program to talk down on Black Men and that the system that we live in is in no kind of way holding the Black Man back in many ways to become a sufficient provider and if you think that willie lynch is dead then you aren’t as educated as you think you are, his concept is well and alive, ask Joe Madison or Dr. Welsing. The roll of the Black man and woman has somewhat switch and it wasn’t by accident. So don’t be hard on the Black Man because he’s not as educated as you in the books, go out and get some more education as to what is really going on around you because listening to you tells me you haven’t a clue, you seem to rely on what you think and feel as being fact versus what is real….peace my educated sister!!!

  • george

    i love listening to ur show, are u going to air more on wolam in the future, w/ur own show ?

  • Robert Dixon

    I’ve been listening too you for a long time, I love you! I think you are beautiful inside and out……Robert

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