Born January 19, 1971 in New York City, Shawn Wayans is the second youngest of the 10 Wayans siblings, a close-knit family of actors, screenwriters and directors best known for comic spoofs such as Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, the Scary Movie series and Dance Flick.
Shawn Wayans was born January 19, 1971, in New York City. His father, Howell Wayans, was a supermarket manager, and his mother, Elvira Wayans, was a homemaker. Shawn Wayans is the second youngest of 10 Wayans siblings, all of whom are notable figures in the entertainment industry. Most notable among the Wayans clan are Keenen, an actor, director and writer; Damon, an actor and producer; Kim, an actress; and Marlon, an actor and writer.
Wayans attended the Bayard Rustin High School for the Humanities in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. By the time he reached high school, several of his elder siblings were already achieving success as comedians, actors and directors, and Wayans set out to follow in their footsteps. While only a junior in high school, he made his film debut, a brief cameo in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, a parody of the "blaxploitation" films of the 1970s written and directed by older brother Keenen Ivory Wayans.
Film and Television Career
Shawn Wayans graduated from high school in 1989, and in 1991 he joined several of his siblings in the cast of In Living Color, the highly acclaimed sketch-comedy show, also written and directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans. The show established the Wayans clan as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood while also helping launch the careers of unrelated future stars like Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx. Shawn Wayans left the show in 1993, but three years later, he again teamed up with brothers Keenen and Marlon to make Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, a spoof of earnest coming-of-age-in-the-hood flicks like Boyz n the Hood.
Shawn Wayans gained wider popularity when he and brother Marlon costarred in the largely autobiographical sitcom The Wayans Bros., which aired on the WB network from 1995 to 1999. The show helped to establish both Shawn and Marlon among the most prominent members of their illustrious family. In 2000, Wayans co-wrote and also acted in his most popular film to date, the blockbuster horror spoof Scary Movie. The film, which cost only $19 million to make, raked in an astounding $157 million at the box office, making it the highest-grossing film ever directed by an African-American (Keenen Ivory Wayans). Shawn Wayans also co-wrote and appeared in the film's several sequels: Scary Movie 2 (2001), Scary Movie 3 (2003) and Scary Movie 4 (2006). Apart from the Scary Movie series, Shawn Wayans and his brother Marlon have also starred in the popular spoof films White Chicks (2004), Little Man (2006) and Dance Flick (2009).
Shawn Wayans is also the creative force behind Thugaboo, an ongoing series of children's television specials that began in 2006. The specials attempt to communicate important life lessons to kids through humor and music. "The shows deal with universal themes and issues that kids are facing today," Wayans says. "We try to deal with them through humor. Then, at the end of each episode, we wrap it up with a little song about what it is that they just learned from that episode."
Wayans' lone foray into acting in a project outside the family came in the largely forgettable 1999 thriller New Blood.
Shawn Wayans has three children: two daughters, Laila and Illia, and a son, Marlon, named after Shawn's younger brother.
Shawn Wayans and his remarkably talented siblings have created dozens of hit films. Still, the family's most impressive feat may not be their films' success, but rather the fact that they all still get along so well after working together for so long. It's something Shawn Wayans attributes to their upbringing and their insistence on putting fun and family first: "We love it. We make a family environment, it's fun, everybody knows what needs to be done," he says. "I think it has to do with how we were raised, to look out for one another."
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