While I don’t quite recall my first encounter with Shane Beard ’20, I do remember thinking to myself that he is one of the funniest people I have ever met. This week, I got to catch up with him about his childhood, Ritmo Latino and, of course, his life plans B through F.
Can you tell me about your time touring here?
I had a very wealthy friend, and she said, “I heard that you were very interested in going to Williams and seeing what the campus is like.” I was like, “Yeah, I’m mildly interested.” And she was like, “I’m going to take a trip out there tomorrow morning; would you like to join me?” And I was like, “Sure.” She said that the ride would be there at 6 a.m. sharp so I had to make sure I was there early. I wake up the next day and I arrive to a limousine – all black – in front of our main school building at six o’clock in the morning. A man in a tuxedo welcomes us into the car, beckons us in and then drives. He raises the partition so we can have our private conversation about I don’t even know what. I was just so shocked that I was in a limousine to go on a college tour. It was a really perplexing moment, but it was a fun tour of Williams. On the way back he stopped and we got McDonald’s, which I think is the most wealthy moment I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was a magical moment that can’t be replicated anywhere else. And that’s what’s magical about private schools in New England – there’s all sorts of craziness you would never see in Texas.
What do you do on campus?
I’m on Ritmo Latino. I have absolutely no dance experience. It’s a funny story because I was at a party hosted by VISTA – I was dancing with my friend and she says, “Shane, you know, you’re really good at salsa.” I didn’t realize I was good at anything involving hand-eye coordination or bodily movement. I said, “Oh, thank you. You’re lying to me but I appreciate it.” She said, “No seriously. You should try out for Ritmo Latino. We have auditions very soon.” I was like, “You know what? I’ll take you up on that. When are auditions?” She said, “Tomorrow morning, 10 a.m. Be there.” Mind you this is at two o’clock in the morning. I was not quite sure I was going to wake up for that and yet somehow I did. So, I show up, embarrass myself, leave and get called back. I’m like “wow.” The first thought that should’ve popped into my head is a sense of pride, perhaps in myself that I’ve made it that far. … I was like, “Wow, their standards must be incredibly low this year. I don’t know what’s going on. I mean they must be taking the scraps ’cause I should not be on this list. But I’ll show up.” They requested me and I showed up. I believed to have embarrassed myself again and somehow they let me on the team which seems to be to this day the biggest clerical error in the group’s history. But, I’m not complaining. I’ve been on the team for two semesters now, and we have a show coming up this week. And I feel like I’ve grown a lot, and not just in terms of my dancing ability, which went from zero to what I like to call comfortably mediocre.
Can you tell me something about your childhood?
An important part of my understanding of the world is that when I was 5 I was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. It’s a cancer that commonly pops up in children and has a 30 percent survival rate. If you see any commercials of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, that’s where I spent about a year and a half of my life. And even though I was really young, for as long as I can remember I understood the impact all of that had on my family, and on my understanding of my own mortality and things like that. I think it’s kind of both terrifying and wonderful to be that young and have some kind of sense of your own mortality because at first it feels limiting. But I feel that for me it becomes very freeing, in the sense that I know because there’s the chance that things could end at any given point, you have to enjoy and make the most out of any given moment. I think that whole experience influences how I interact with my family, with my loved ones, with people I don’t even know that well because you can’t be here forever. And I like to think that I can make an impact on as many people as possible before my time is up.
I hear that you’re a big fan of Sankofa. Do you agree?
I am the biggest Sankofa groupie of all time. I’m speaking a fact. I’ve been to every single show and I’ve auditioned twice. I’m really quite serious – I know every person on the team. My entire suite is made up of Kofa members, and they’re all my close friends. The team is very important to me and I know one day soon they’ll come around and they’re gonna let me get one of the shirts. If they put “groupie” on the back as my name, I’m perfectly okay with that. I just feel that I’ve been very loyal in these two years I’ve been here. And, I feel like I deserve that.
How did your audition go?
Initially I missed the spring audition, because by then I had just joined Ritmo Latino and decided that the year was winding down and I really wanted to focus on one group at a time. So, during the fall I was like, “You know, I really think that I wanna try out for Kofa again,” because a bunch of my suitemates convinced me. It would be such a crazy moment if I was a part of their ranks. Unfortunately, due to circumstances outside of my control, I actually missed the audition. But, I’m friends with the drill sergeants on the team, so I said, “Hey, I know I missed the audition but you guys have seen me before; let me come to the callback and get a second shot.” And they were like, “You know what Shane, yeah we’ll let you do that.” So, I show up to the callback ready. I asked to borrow one of the Kofa shirts; they did not let me use that. So, I wore a black t-shirt and some sweatpants. … I show up, I’m ready to go. They’re like, “Alright here’s the first thing. You’ll probably remember it from the audition,” and I said, “Wait I don’t remember it from the audition, not because my memory is bad – my memory is actually painfully accurate. I wasn’t there so do you think we can not do that?” And they said, “Hmm no, we’re gonna do that.” And so I tried to keep up and failed, but I was like alright the next one is gonna be all new. 10 seconds into the new step we’re learning and I realize I’ve made a massive mistake. I’m not prepared for this. I wasn’t ready. No amount of black sweatpants or swagger or connections could help in this situation. It actually taught me a lot about nepotism – that can only go so far. You can be friends with everybody, but if you suck, you suck. That’s a lesson I learned and that was a super interesting experience, so you will not catch me trying out for Kofa again. But if you ever go to one of their functions or celebrations, and you see me there, you’ll know. You’ll see everyone else jumping around doing the step, and you’ll see me sitting down ’cause I know better.
What are your future plans?
I have a plan B through F and I’m currently on plan B. Plan A was to go to Williams and get all A’s while I was here, and about a month in I realized that was incredibly unrealistic. So, now I’m on plan B, which is to be at Williams and stay within the range of a 3.0 – ask me about that in about three weeks. Plan C, as you might’ve guessed, would be a level lower than that. Plans D and E – I stay in North Adams and I start a start-up company. This is of course after I’ve dropped out of college because I’ve done so abysmally. And then comes plan F, which is my personal favorite. Because my mom would hate to hear that I dropped out of college and was doing nothing, I would use acid to burn off my fingerprints and hire someone to erase me from the internet. From that point on I hitchhike to Nevada. I spend about a week in the desert really committing myself to my next move. Then I slide into Las Vegas. I take all of my life savings, what few there are, and I gamble. With my limited knowledge of game theory that I’ve gained from myth-busters and rudimentary knowledge of a Monty Python problem that I found in eighth grade for a science project, I would dominate casinos and then, before I would win too much, I would lose a little bit and then leave. I’d go back to my hut in the desert, stay for six months, reemerge in the city and repeat the cycle until eventually I’ve bought my own casino and have started a successful chain of them. I repeat this plan until I can afford several buildings and invest in real estate. Eventually, I buy a share at a tanning bed company – 51 percent. I use this tanning bed company all the time until eventually it messes my skin up. And, then I get spray tanned to replace that sensation. My hands shrink and I dye my hair blonde and I run for president. That’s plan F.
And, what happens if you’re not elected as president?
Oh, that’s plan F.5. I blame the emails.