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The Inspiring Legacy of Shanna Forrestall

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

With over 100 movie and TV Credits to her name, one can easily say that Shanna Forrestall is an accomplished actress... but she wants you to know she’s so much more.

In fact, The Louisiana Native’s proudest achievements are those that aren’t scripted or in front of a camera. She’s also a passionate activist, who’s championed many causes close to her heart. Shanna’s used her ability to communicate effectively with audiences and positioned herself as a spokesperson for those who aren’t always heard.

Forrestall has produced six short films in the US that tackle social issues, and several video projects in India to support a school for disabled children and to raise awareness on the plight of eunuchs in Indian society. Shanna is also consulting producer on Restoring Balance: Autism Recovery, a groundbreaking documentary by brain trauma specialist Ryan Hetrick.

She's even written a book called “Why The Girl Became A Cat”, a children’s story about inclusion, empowerment and finding your purpose. Inpiration for the project came, as she was on the road to recovery from an automobile accident that had left her in chonic pain. 

Thoughout her journey, one thing has never changed, and that's Shanna’s ability to remain inspired. She spoke with us recently from her home in Los Angeles and talked about how she’s more determined than ever in 2020 to use her platform to offer some hope and love for those who need it most.

1) When in life did you realize your gifts in being such an intuitive communicator?  I believe even when I was young I knew I could connect to people, and empathize pretty easily.  Learning to communicate took longer - I was an avid reader and pretty decent writer though middle and high school, but my speaking skills really developed more into my 20's with college and work life.

2) At what point did you decide you wanted to go into acting? Why? Many many years ago a friend invited me to be an "extra" on a TV movie film set.  I had no idea what that was at the time, as the industry was very new to Louisiana.  I went that day and ended up being a "featured extra" and had a moment on camera as a waitress who delivers french fries to the lead actor.  I fell in love with the process that day - the teamwork it takes to pull off production, the layers and levels of creativity, the focus on making an imaginary world real and the ability to tell visual stories.  I knew that day that not only would I act, but I would also use my innate gifts of building teams and organizing to be a producer. 

4) When did you know that you needed to do more than acting to be fulfilled? Acting has never been the "end all - be all" for me.  I knew it would always be one of many things that I "do".  I have been a humanitarian since I was very young, and that will never change. I also enjoy a variety of industries and have a pretty wide range of gifts and knowledge - and I get bored easily.  

5) What have been some of your most satisfying roles outside of acting? (personally and professionally) I think up until 2019, I would have said my humanitarian aid work - I have spent years working in foreign countries and the US and since Hurricane Katrina, working in areas recently hit by severe natural disasters like flooding, hurricanes and wildfires (in states like Louisiana, Texas and California).  That work as a volunteer has meant a lot to me, because I have been able to use my gifts to elevate the needs/voices of the hurting, while organizing and connecting people who want to help.   This past year though, I have been able to complete some creative goals that have been on my heart for years, and I am very proud of them.  I believe they are part of my legacy - they are the things that I decided I had to make sure I did before I die. (www.wecanhearu.com and www.whythegirl.com)

6) You had an accident that injured you pretty severely. Can you explain to us what happened? I was rear-ended in Los Angeles in 2017 and at the time we thought it was minor and that I was OK.  However, by the next day, I had started hurting severely and I've spent the last two years in chronic (often severe) pain related to fibromyalgia etc. That accident changed my life and I had to temporarily lose many of the things that had been important to me - working out, riding scooters/motorcycles, acting, working with clients. etc. I am finally seeing the light, and 2020 is the year I will begin working with the public again.

Photo by Aaron Hogan

7) When did you make the discoveries that really put you on your path to healing? You know, we want healing to be sudden and complete, but that's not normally the way it happens. It's a process, often and a slow and painful one and my journey has been no exception. I have utlized many forms of pain therapy and healing modalities in my journey, most of them on the naturopathic side of medicine.  I follow my instincts and have learned how to listen to my body and mind and to trust myself and take care of myself more daily. Self-care is minute by minute.  

Photo by Michael Whitehurst

8) How are you different now than before the accident; mentally, physically? Absolutely. This long painful journey has reminded me of what's important.  It's continuing to teach my patience, emapthy and kindness - for myself and others. And it's helping me to get the push I need to be more focused about where I spend my time and creativity. It's a gift and I don't want to squander any.

9) What are some of the causes that are currently closest to your heart? I'm really proud of my children's book “Why The Girl Became a Cat” that came out earlier this year and it's not for sale on Amazon.  I was able to hire four young men on the autism spectrum with that project, and proceeds from the book will help us continue to do so.  www.whythegirl.com I also launched an interactive art project called We Can Hear U that started as a way for me to cope with my own pain and depression. It's a project that I believe will evolve into a global initiative, encouraging all of us to look deeply into and listen to ourselves.  www.wecanhearu.com

10) Regardless of the role you're in: actress or activist, what is your message that you constantly strive to broadcast to the world? I firmly believe that we are all innately lovable and that we all should be loved and cherished JUST AS WE ARE. I am a big advocate for people and groups who are mistreated simply because they were born a certain way. God made us. We're perfect and that means we all deserve BIG LOVE. 

Photo by Cory Smith

If you would like to follow Shanna Forrestall you can follow her at:

IG:  @shannafromla, @forrestallconsulting  FB:  @shannaforrestall 

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