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Beautiful, inspiring, and truly humble are just a few words to describe Shavonne Marie. Marie, who is a model and actress suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis. Though times can get a bit tough juggling arthritis and pursuing her career in the entertainment industry, Marie handles the challenges she’s given with so much grace. Currently, Marie has committed herself to making her dreams come true all while working a regular job, working on a PHd, and being a loving wife to her husband. We sat down with Shavonne Marie to find out who this empowering woman of many hats is.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got into acting and modeling?

To be honest, it’s not that much of an extravagant story (laughs) but when I was a kid, my dad used to always tell me that I should model. Unfortunately, he passed when I was 13 years-old and shortly after, an application for modeling came in the mail. My mother discussed with me the importance of school and she didn’t think it was a good idea to pursue it at the moment. Once I finished undergrad, I really believed in myself and thought, why not try?

How and when did you know that this was the career path you were meant to take?

I would say that it really hit me when I starred in my first play and had my first photo shoot. After seeing it all play out, I could turn them in for more opportunities. To me, it’s considered art, it’s all beautiful and that’s when I realized that this is what I wanted to do in life.

You are pretty open about suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis. Could you tell us a little about that and how it has impacted your life?

I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis when I was 25. It started with my fingers swelling and my back aching all the time. It got to the point where I had to walk with a cane and wear a back brace. I was going to the doctor and they were prescribing a lot of medication that didn’t really help with the pain. In 2013, I could hardly walk; I was in the hospital almost every other weekend. I was always in pain. When I moved to Chicago in 2014, I met my rheumatologist who has been magnificent. She put me through chemotherapy. Though I do have my days where it can be tough, it’s much better than what it used to be. Whether I have pain or not, I still try to do other things. I have a Bachelors and Masters degree, and I’m currently working on my PhD. I got married and I also run the finance department at work, while still auditioning. I still try to stay busy, it doesn’t stop me from what I love to do.

How has suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis played a role in your career? How do you find the inspiration to push through?

It can be really hard at times. Sometimes arthritis can cause you to be really tired and I’m often in ‘lazy-mode’ where I just don’t want to get up. I honestly just get up and go do it. I fight through it. There have been times at photo shoots where I can’t do a specific pose because it hurts but I really do try to give it my all.

Can you share with us any upcoming projects you have in 2018?

Well, to start off the year, I just got back from Africa where I did a Doctoral Consortium presentation at the Africa Academy of Management Conference. In 2018, I’m continuing to get booked for Empire, Chicago PD, and Chicago Fire and auditioning for more opportunities. I’m very much focused on school but I am committing myself to other projects too.

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CREDITS: Photographer and Makeup – Michael J | Wardrobe – Shēk Boutique