Photo Credit: Dwayne Franklin
The life of a celebrity isn’t easy, and neither is the job of their security force. However, when it comes to one man, who has been the protection of many of your favorite celebrities, the job couldn’t be more fulfilling .
Elijah Shaw, who owns an executive protection firm called Icon Global, works with clients domestically and internationally from corporate level business owners to many highly known celebrities.
Sources have stated that some of Shaw’s clients include R&B stars Usher Raymond and Kelly Rowland, Supermodel and Actress Naomi Campbell, and even Rapper and Writer 50 Cent.
Shaw’s story is quite nonpareil, as he stated that “most bodyguards come from a law enforcement or military background, where as he mastered his craft and has always been the private sector”.
Shaw grew up in the Ida B Wells housing projects on Chicago’s Southside and received his first gig working security for a nightclub called Riviera, owned by a NBA player from the Chicago Bulls.
But wait!! There’s more to the raw story of Shaw getting involved with security, which stems from Shaw having to pay his way through film school at Columbia University. That’s right , Shaw was and still is very much passionate about film and behind the scenes work, such as operating the camera.
The man of security, Elijah Shaw, is also a man of standard. As the founder of a non profit organization called Life Up There, Shaw takes pictures of his traveling adventures in the business, and publishes the photos on his website for purchase. The proceeds generated are then used to provide cameras for the inner city youth to invest in their dreams of film and photography.
When asked how did Shaw come up with this fascinating concept, he responded,
“I work quite a bit and again I’m involved with a lot of international travels. So I get to see these cool places, which is a great by product of my job. And what I was noticing over the years was I would be in these places and I would be so consumed with work , that I never actually got to see the place. I’ve been to Paris, France like 4 times and had never seen the Eiffel Tower,” says Shaw.
“So now over the last couple of years I’ve made active steps in either going a day early or staying a day later after my work assignments or getting up super early in the morning and going out exploring the city or countryside so I can see these things.”
Shaw goes on to say,
“Then I wanted to make sure I was able to capture that moment. When I started taking these pictures , I wanted to host them on a platform other than facebook or instagram so I developed this website and people kept asking could they buy the pictures. Photography isn’t my day job but then I thought it would be cool if I could give someone else the opportunity to take pictures and then maybe they could buy a camera. That was when I was able to tie in my level of photography.”
As a bodyguard Shaw mentioned that his role is to facilitate things. He is responsible for getting clients whether high profiled celebrities, CEOs or wealthy investors from point A to point B safely. This means that there is a vast amount of trust that is allocated to him. One of Shaw’s most honorable experiences in his field is providing security service to women who are survivors of domestic violence, known as ISC Safety Net. ISC Safety-Net was developed 9 years ago in October 2006, as a free security service to women affected by domestic violence and the shelters that provide assistance for them.
With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, just last month, relationship violence continues to plague our communities. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, statistics show that 1 in 3 women have been victims of some form of physical violence by a partner. Some argue that domestic violence is not a man’s issue, and instead of Shaw sitting quietly and doing nothing, he uses his gifts to influence the environment around him and act.
“It’s such a tragedy but very prevalent in particularly minority communities. As I’m working with the shelters, and seeing different perspectives I got invited to sit on the Board of Directors with an organization called Women’s Advocate.”, says Shaw.
The NCADV also reports that 19% of domestic violence involves a weapon and that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.
Shaw shared his experiences with survivors of domestic violence and stated, “I served on the Board for 6 years until my term ended. I really got a behind the scenes glimpse and able to understand the stories and struggles. I think this rates my top 10 list because I can the changes and how important it was to these women.”
When asked how does Shaw protect his clients without having to use his gun all the time and minimizing risk , Shaw said,
“A lot of times when we think about bodyguards , it’s an unrealistic vision. They are getting this from the media. People always think that guns solve the problem but it doesn’t, it creates more problems. For instance if anybody pulls out their gun and fires that gun whether it’s to protect themselves or protect their client, they are going to get questioned by the police. There are ways you can defuse a situation without pulling out a gun.”
It’s not just enough to keep your clients safe as a bodyguard. It’s also very imperative to have a strategic plan behind your methods.
Whether it’s keeping wealthy families safe heading overseas, working with the famous, tightening up concert security for clients,or servicing women in abusive relationships, Shaw’s story shows how much integrity and humbleness will take you far in life.
Check out some of the other questions and answers from this exclusive interview with Elijah Shaw:
Q: Can you tell me a real life situation where you learned a lesson, and improved your service in security protection?
Elijah Shaw : I took a wealthy family from the U.S. to South Africa for the 2011 Olympics. The issue was no one knew if South Africa was going to be ready to host the Olympics. They thought there were going to be so many infrastructure problems and that they wouldn’t be able to handle the massive crowd and people coming into the country. There was also a risk at the time that Al Qaeda had threaten to disrupt the game. So there were major security concerns we had prior to even going into the country.
One of the challenges was where we were going to stay — one of these big fancy hotels or put the client in a private rental home on the outskirts of town. I elected that we get out of the populus area. Because if there was going to be a problem , it would happen there.
That was great from a security perspective but what I learned though was I wasn’t thinking so much from a customer service perspective.
The client had two teenage children and all of the activity that was going on related to the event was 45 minutes away.
So you have the client who starts to get heat from their kids because they aren’t having the amount of fun they thought they would have. So what are they going to do, they are going to put the heat on us because we made the suggestion. And again we made that suggestion from a security standpoint.
So that was a learning experience for me. Even though we are doing security we have to remember to keep the clients comfort in mind and also know that we are a service first organization.
Q: What’s one important thing you’ve learned while being away from home and traveling? How has this opened your mind.
Elijah Shaw : One thing that I’ve learned, that is very important to me is that you become a global citizen. When you grow up poor and all you know is the neighborhood, you start defining yourself by that neighborhood. You start seeing people define themselves by a city, saying I’m from this city, I’m from that city .
As you start traveling abroad, you say hey there are people just like me that live in France, that live in Egypt, and that live in Greece. So you start thinking of yourself as a member of a broader community. I think that helps because it breaks down some of the barriers that we kind of self impose.
I don’t know if the Crips would be fighting the Bloods, if they thought of themselves as people instead of a color.
I think that same thing can expand on that geographically. You wouldn’t say hey I’m so pro American and anti this part of the world, if you thought of yourself as a person and thought of them as a person. So the traveling I’ve done has helped broaden my global perspective.
Q: Has being a security guard affected your personal relationships?
Yes, it definitely makes personal relationships tough. I travel about 70% of the year and spend about 50% of that international. For me it’s kind of normal because this is the only thing I’ve done for 20 plus years. But I have to stop myself and remember that for other people this is not necessarily normal. So if people are used to conversations everyday or seeing a person everyday, then that’s difficult . So it definitely requires a unique individual or understanding individual in order to see how my lifestyle works.
Q: With the social environment being in the present state that it’s in, can you share with us your perspective? What do you see?
Elijah Shaw: What I see is whoever shapes the narrative gets to set the agenda. If people are telling you the inner city is bad then that place becomes just that because that’s the narrative.
What I would love to see are alternative voices and alternative ways to offer different perspectives so people can make their choices and be informed. I think people are lacking because of ignorance. And they are ignorant because they don’t have the right information or they are getting all their information from one source.
In today’s society , there are other outlets for information and the internet is a big one. But you still have to do the work. It won’t just come to you.You can’t just cut on the TV and go to CNN , and expect everything that they are telling you is the truth because again they have their own agendas. Being able to read in between the lines and filter that information is a talent I wish more people would try to develop because it would help them to achieve whatever their individual goals are.
Q: What’s next for you? What are you going to take on next?
Elijah Shaw : My project right now is Life Up There so I’m excited for that. I have this love for photography so I’m excited to see what the kids come back with the pictures they take. So if I can groom that next generation of entrepreneurs I will definitely be content.
Keep up with Elijah Shaw’s Life Up There and Security Services at:
Check out this amazing footage of what goes on in the life of Elijah Shaw:
Photo Credit: Dwayne Franklin
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Photo Credit: Dwayne Franklin