She speaks her mind

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Shawn Judge teaches other women how to speak their mind

More than once, Shawn Judge was sent to the principal’s office in high school. The outspoken girl became a strong woman who now advocates for women to speak their minds. “I’ve always been a talker,” she said. “I always had something to say, always had an opinion … as a young woman, I needed to be heard. I got into a lot of trouble for it.”

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Once, in radio class, Judge couldn’t get a handle on the character she was supposed to perform and asked for help. The teacher told her she had to do better and got angry, but wouldn’t help her understand what she was doing wrong. Judge finally performed the character in a “sexy” voice and was sent to the principal’s office for insubordination. Her dad showed up, and he stuck up for her. The whole experience was, she said, empowering.

“My dad told me to pick my battles,” she said. “He asked if it was important to me. It was. She wouldn’t explain it. It was her responsibility to make it clear to me. If I was rude, I should be reprimanded.”

Judge described her home environment as strong and loving. They always celebrated birthdays. “I only knew love,” she said, “and it’s what I try to give out in my work and friendships. Why have it any other way?”

Though she grew up in the housing projects of New York City. “it wasn’t rough,” she said. “I grew up when gangs were big … [but] they were more a social thing. The violence was nothing like today. So much of it wasn’t drug-related.”

During high school, she attended the High School of Performing Arts, and later graduated from New York State. When she was 31, she moved to Minnesota.

Working as a professional actor for 25 years on stage and television, Judge, 49, naturally transitioned into her current line of work as a public-speaking, media-relations, voice and diction coach. She started her own business, the Speaker’s Edge, in 1999, to help people enjoy the spotlight. Her clients vary from lawyers at Dorsey and Whitney in Minneapolis to staff at Weber Shandwick Worldwide, a public relations firm.

Judge is also part of the National Association of Women’s Business Owners and loves giving women courage to ask for what they want. Where does she get her rambunctious spirit? It runs in the family. “I come from a long line of strong-willed, outspoken women,” she said. “My mother’s very opinionated and will go to bat for those issues.”

The challenging part of her job today is helping people realize they need help and that change is possible, she said. Judge believes in asking for help. “Everyone needs help,” she said. That’s one reason she has so many mentors, from speaking professionals in New York City to teachers she had in grade school.

Judge said she always had that feeling of being important, connected to someone, throughout her life. The confidence she gained from people around her fed her enthusiasm to do what she does today. “Women are always looking to be heard. Define how you want to position yourself. What do you want to be known for? It usually starts with your passion.

“I love my work,” she said. “I chose to do this. I get up every day glad to be doing what I’m doing.”