Episode 159

Why Authenticity Cannot Be Denied In Storytelling

I’m at the main TEDx event, sitting in the theater next to a lady who’s captured my attention. Her name is Carrie, and she’s impeccably dressed. I can’t help but fixate on her outfit!

So as I’m chatting with her, I compliment her on her dress. She thanks me and says she’s a designer who makes custom dresses for her clients based on their unique measurements.

In addition to wanting to get a tape measure and order a custom-made dress of my own from her right then and there, I have to ask her out of curiosity, “How did you get started in the fashion business?”

“I believe the fashion industry has it wrong,” she responds. “It should be about role models, not runway models.”

She feels fashion needs to highlight the humans wearing the clothes, instead of the clothes themselves. Not only does she go on to debut at New York Fashion Week with this campaign, she’s also one of the first designers to feature a model in a wheelchair on the runway. She’s challenging societal norms and giving voice to a segment that doesn’t always have a voice and doing so in an industry that is set in its ways in certain aspects.

As someone who identifies as a non-binary gay cowboy, my special guest today also highlights marginalized voices in his work. Shawn-Caulin Young is an acclaimed LGBTQ+ actor, writer, director, and film and TV producer. In this episode of the Storytelling School Podcast, he’s here to talk about the importance of authenticity and vulnerability in his storytelling journey and the impact these qualities have in storytelling to bring to life the experiences of marginalized communities. He also answers questions such as:

What story imprisons too many actors, writers, and other artists? How can you get to your breakthrough moment of authenticity as a storyteller? What’s one thing that instantly disarms any resistance others might have to sharing their stories? And how can you use the breath to help you handle fear and enhance your presence and creativity with storytelling?

What you will learn in this episode:

  • Why stories have the power to keep you safe (or cause self-inflicted harm)
  • What impact embracing authenticity, vulnerability, and dis-likability have in storytelling
  • How you can create a safe space for others to share their story

Who is Shawn-Caulin Young?

Shawn-Caulin Young is an acclaimed LGBTQ actor, writer, director, and film and TV producer whose storyteller roots extend deep into the arid expanses of Farmington, New Mexico amidst the vibrant tapestry of the Navajo Nation. He’s the youngest of four whose distinct, artistic voice has been shaped by his unique upbringing amidst the professional horse racing world where he identifies as a non-binary gay cowboy.

As a beacon for LGBTQIA+ narratives, Shawn-Caulin has garnered acclaim across the spectrum of his various roles. His artistic voyage began in the corridors of high school drama, eventually propelling him to the prestigious Hartt School (UHA) in Connecticut, culminating in a BFA in Acting. His journey, enriched by classical training in England, led him to the vibrant streets of New York City, marking the beginning of an illustrious career in film and television.

Known for his transformative and heartfelt performances in Godless, Santa Clarita Diet, True Detective, and notably in the film The Hammer, Shawn-Caulin has etched a place in the hearts of audiences worldwide. He also received the esteemed Screencraft Fellowship in 2022 for his work delving deep into the fabric of the Southwest (and beyond) and championing the untold stories of underrepresented communities with a keen eye on identity and perseverance. His scripts are not just tales but lifelines to the unsung experiences echoing from the underdog’s world.

Beyond the camera, Shawn-Caulin is a seasoned horseman and a devoted mentor, guiding young artists in the art of storytelling and filmmaking. His artistic journey, dotted with significant accolades and an undying passion for storytelling, continues to push the boundaries of creative expression. His commitment to diversity and authenticity makes his body of work not just entertaining but profoundly impactful and inspiring for storytellers and audiences alike.

Want to take your storytelling skills to the next level?

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Learn how to craft a story that will make your brand unforgettable

The Proven 5-step process to captivate any audience


my proven 5-step process for short-form storytelling that you can apply to your stories forever


and craft your own Spotlight Story that you can use in a plethora of scenarios


on where and why to use storytelling in a variety of business situations to become unforgettable


clarity on the most common mistakes storytellers make and learn how to avoid those

...and so much more!

I want to stand out!

The best storytellers are memorable for a reason.

Traver Boehm

2-time TEDx Speaker, Author, Coach, and Founder of the Uncivilized Movement

Mo Barrett

TEDx Speaker, Anecdotist, Connector, Mischief-maker, Retired Military Commander, Keynote Speaker

Katy Stevens

Musician, Performer, Recording Artist, Voice Teacher

Greg Smith

TEDx Youngstown Organizer and Voice Coach, Chairman and CCO of Compco

Than Baardson

Entrepreneur, Speaker, Connector, CEO of Unseen, Humanitarian

Cathy Sommerville

TEDx Speaker, Coach, Advisor, Leader, Author, Vice President


I'm ready to stand out!