You may not be familiar with the name Elijah Shaw, but one thing I’m sure of is that you’ve seen his face more times than you probably realize. Elijah Shaw, the CEO of Icon Services Corporation, a Minnesota based security agency has made a business out of protecting some of your favorite celebs. Everyone from 50 Cent and Usher to Naomi Campbell and Chaka Khan, have solicited Elijah’s services at one point or another. And now, Elijah’s found a way to turn his passion into a very successful empire.
Although bodyguards are supposed to be scary, I was surprised to find that Elijah is actually very poised and mild mannered. To put it plainly, he’s a gentleman. His conversation was pleasant, and oddly enough, just based on our chat, there was no way for me to tell that he was a highly trained security expert who could really eff you up, if need be.
Elijah started his own firm in 1998, and since then has turned his passion into a career. Appearing on E! News, in Black Enterprise and The Washington Post, Elijah has inadvertantly become somewhat of a celebrity in his own right.
“I found something that I liked. If you find something that you like, and it doesn’t feel like work, then maybe that’s your calling.”
But Elijah didn’t always know that he’d be protecting celebrities for a living. Initially, he went to school for film.
“Most people like me have a background in law enforcement or the military. My background is a little bit different. I grew up in an inner city housing project in Chicago called Ida B. Wells, and it was pretty tough, but I made it out of there. I ended up going to film school, and to pay for film school, I started doing security work. “
In his line of work, it’s pretty much a given that Elijah’s had to deal with a lot of unexpected crises over the years. When asked about one of the craziest experiences he’s had on the job, he shared this mind-blowing story:
“I think it was the 2003 MTV Awards. I think that year they had it in Miami. The particular client I was working with, we needed to get back to Atlanta. Because we were so pressed for time, we needed to hop on this private jet and leave Miami and fly to Atlanta. I noticed the pilots were conferring with themselves, so I went over to ask what was going on. They were trying to decide how to navigate this storm that was coming up. Well, the client wanted to go, and the crew was willing to do that. So the next 45 minutes, I got a crash course on aviation and weather patterns, and eventually, I ended up saying, ‘Hey we can’t do this.’ That storm ended up being Hurricane Katrina, and we would’ve been flying right into that. So that ended up being one of those narrowly avoided crises.”
Amazing, right? When we pried for more juicy details, Elijah let us know there were many stories he simply couldn’t divulge due to the sensitive nature of his business, and we respected that, of course.
Elijah is like that, you know…very loyal. He made it clear that he wasn’t in the business of selling his clients’ personal stories for money.
“Just because you’re not working with a client anymore, doesn’t mean you go out and do a tell all book.”
But as you all know, a good journalist always does her research, and I found out that Elijah actually played a major role in keeping rapper 50 Cent safe all these years! That’s something he never mentioned. Oh yea, Elijah’s extremely humble, too.
Back in 2003 Elijah was contracted to handle the security services of rapper 50 Cent who had recently re-launched his career after being shot 9 times by unknown assailants. Acting as the intermediary between 50’s street ties and the suspicious eye of law enforcement, Icon Services is also believed to have provided the rapper with the bulletproof car he made multiple references to in songs and interviews. Whoa!
While Elijah is known for working with celebrities, his client base also includes a number of Fortune 500 Companies, and he has a political roster as well. Elijah has been involved with both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions including the upcoming one in 2016.
But there’s more. As if Elijah doesn’t already do enough for people, he’s found a way to give back to the community. By developing the ISC Safety Net, Elijah has created a safe environment for victims of domestic violence.
“The ISC Safety Net is sort of this brainchild that I had. What I had been doing is providing these bodyguard services to high end clients and VIPs, and what I realized was that there were a lot of people who have a need and can’t afford our services, and some of those people were victims of domestic violence. I wanted to give back, so I began to volunteer my services to victims of domestic abuse. Say you’re a woman who was involved in an abusive relationship, and you need to go back to the house and get your stuff, we’ll escort them. We’ve had an outpouring of support for this program.”
Elijah says that once this program took off, his phone began ringing off the hook. He says that he’s had lots of his employees step up and volunteer their time to the cause. As I discovered, Elijah is really very selfless. I mean, the man was donating blood while doing the interview, for God’s sake! Now THAT’S how you multi-task! Check him and his team out while they’re in action.
While Shaw maintains that he really loves his job, 22 hour work days are hard, no matter WHO you are. Elijah says that his biggest regret is not having the opportunity to watch his son grow up.
“I spend over 75% of my time on the road. My son is 21 now and he’s a lot older. But ever since he’s been born, this is the only thing he’s known. I try to maximize the time that I have at home with him. It’s tough to be in a third world country, on the internet, trying to help your son with his math homework. So the biggest sacrifice, is the time I’ve missed with my family. It can be tough for both you and for them. I’ve been doing this for 20 plus years, so I think my family has just kinda gotten used to it. They know I’m good at what I do, but sometimes it’s tough for the family, but I think there’s a familiarity with my business. But as long as you have a support system to come back home to, it really makes it all worth it.”
As a body guard, your job requires that you completely immerse yourself into your clients’ lives. I mean, this guy has been around the world five times, touching every continent but Antarctica–He’s always on the go! I wondered how exactly Elijah managed to stay sane. He says it first starts with loving what you do.
“I think you have to like what you do. I like what I do. And I try to remember that I’m blessed to be able to do it. There are people who work jobs that they can’t stand going to. Of course I have bad days, but I think the thing that motivates me is remembering where I came from. I also kinda find these outlets. I work out a lot and get my frustrations out in the gym. I also started taking pictures as an outlet. I’m definitely an amateur photographer, but it’s been great learning the process and printing out what I like and what I think other people like. When I get free time, I do it every night.”
Who would’ve guessed? Photography! Here’s the best part about it all- With these photos, Elijah established Life Up There, which is another way this dynamic guy gives back! All proceeds from photo sells go towards purchasing cameras for inner city youth. I love it! Elijah has so much going on, and he’s always super busy, but no worries, you can still stay connected. To keep up with Elijah and everything he’s doing, follow him on Twitter, and don’t make sure you check out his blog.
Ladies, thank me later. He’s a cutie!
“I think one of my biggest accomplishments was being able to take an idea and turn it into a reality.” -Elijah Shaw