Shontavia Johnson serves as a highly acclaimed writer, speaker and attorney thriving at the intersection of law, innovation, and pop culture.
A Southerner by birth, I have built a company that allows me to connect my love of learning with my strong interest in all things related to innovation, technology and culture. Through my speaking, writing, and work in higher education, I get to connect with people who have similar interests. I teach social media literacy, help entrepreneurs improve their brands, and combine pop culture, research and education to break down complex topics.
How did I get here?
I have always wanted to help educate people using culture and the world around us as the foundation. Here’s an early example: when I was ten years old, I had to research and write about the journey taken by slave ships from Africa to the Americas. I was so transfixed by this story that instead of writing a basic report like everyone else, I wrote fictional diary entries from the perspective of an African making the journey. I burned the edges of the pages, used coffee to stain the pages, and bound it all together in a worn, leather-like cover. I brought the report to life in such a way that a teacher began teaching from my diary entries.
My company, LEVERAGE, is the grown-up version of ten-year-old me. I founded it after realizing that I could help people learn, answer burning questions, and solve huge problems using stories and experiences.
Teaching is in my blood.
My mother spent her entire career educating kids in some of the poorest public schools in the United States, and I watched her mold and save the lives of countless students. Seeing her dedication inspired me, and I use the lessons she’s taught me each and every day.
I believe strongly in the power of education. Because of this, I want to bridge the divide between academia and the public through my work. I have spent a good portion of my career in higher education and have seen firsthand how knowledge can open doors for all kinds of people. I don’t stay in the ivory tower though. I work with real entrepreneurs and change-makers every day to impact lives and address challenges.
I am driven by curiosity.
I’ve always loved to read. I’m eternally curious, and this draws me to learning as much as I can about people, places, things, and ideas. One of my favorite books is The Four Agreements. It taught me to be impeccable in my word and do my best – and to forgive myself when I fall short. I’ve made many mistakes, and I appreciate them just as much as the successes.
Innovation excites me.
I love new, big ideas and have spent years working with the most creative people in law, business, entertainment, and science & engineering. These experiences have given me a unique perspective, which has led to some very significant professional moments.
I love to write and speak about cool things.
As a young legal scholar, I wrote an article about trademark law and the internet that was named the best in the world that year by the International Trademark Association. A few years later, I was named one of the Top 40 Young Lawyers in the United States by the American Bar Association.
I was recently named one of the 2018’s 200 Black Women in Tech to follow on Twitter, which was a true honor because of the other names that appeared on that list.
I founded my digital platform, Pop Culture U, because I wanted to connect my legal and scholarly knowledge to a broad audience. One high point for the platform has been getting a shout out by Fortune.com.
I love adventure.
Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. I’ve bungee jumped in South Africa from the highest bungee-facility on the planet, sky-dived over the Bridges of Madison County in Iowa, walked around the top of Toronto’s CN Tower, and hiked the mountains of China. I not-so-secretly believe that if I can travel the globe solo and strengthen my nerves, I can accomplish just about anything.
I am grateful that I get to do what I do and believe in being of service to others. I hope that something I post here helps you on your journey. Thanks for visiting.