The welcome mat outside Sunshine Bella Goodman’s front door in North Charleston says, “Check yo energy before you come in my shit” — a fitting introduction to a woman who is the president of the Alliance for Full Acceptance.
The sun streamed in slats of light through the blinds on the living room windows as she sat barefoot in her purple armchair. The apartment decor is elegant yet understated like Goodman herself.
The Charleston native has many trades up her sleeve: fashion and hair styling, personal training and empowerment speaking. Goodman said she realized that college wasn’t for her, and when she moved from Virginia back to Charleston in 2005, she eventually pursued an apprenticeship at a local salon instead.
After earning her hair care specialist license, she opened a salon in 2011 in West Ashley, Celebritimage Studio. It has since relocated to a small studio in North Charleston that caters to brides and special event styling. Her goal is to one day own her own building with a styling closet and photography space as a full service studio.
“When I started in the beauty industry is when I started to experiment with my look,” Goodman told City Paper. “In 2019, I went on vacation, and I had a tarot reading. And with the first card that she flipped over, she said, ‘Why do you allow people to refer to you as he if you prefer she?’”
Being who she is
The very next morning as she was doing her makeup, she recalled how she gave herself permission to be who she truly was inside.
“Growing up, I didn’t have the language that we have now,” she said. “My parents weren’t able to nurture me as a queer child. They didn’t know what that was. Anything that I may have thought got tucked away.
“I believe that when you come here to this earth you know who you are, and life happens to derail you. And as you get older, you start to discover things. You come back to the knowledge and wisdom that you have. Like, ‘Oh, this feels right.’ And that’s what that moment was for me.”
In January 2020, she started her transition with hormone replacement therapy. Her journey was in the public eye, and she realized how much she loved caring for others, showing them — through her own resilience — what it looks like to succeed as your authentic self.
“Transitioning was a complete roller-coaster,” Goodman said. “It affects you mentally, not necessarily in a negative way — it’s like your brain is waking up. Looking in the mirror, you’re wanting to look like how you feel on the inside instantly and that doesn’t happen [right away].”
Goodman quickly became more involved in her community, and she sat on a panel for Black Women Who Vote in February of that year. In turn, that opened the door for her to become more familiar with local humanitarian causes.
“It was just having the support of my community and having the support of my family and friends that really made [transitioning] a lot easier,” she said. “They put me in the position to be a leader in the community, and I cherish it. And it’s opening me up to all these things that were already inside of me.”
She became the first Black transgender president of Alliance for Full Acceptance in July of this year. AFFA is a local nonprofit organization launched in 1998 centered around empowering LGBTQ+ individuals.
“I know what this organization can be and what I see for it,” Goodman said. “When I was growing up, my father was always telling me, ‘You’re a leader.’ So I thought, ‘Well, why not?’ And I put my name in the hat and the board voted for me to be president.”
AFFA specializes in advocacy and social programming, such as discussion groups for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals. AFFA also secures small grants for other youth-oriented nonprofits and offers diversity and inclusion training certification.
In June 2021, Goodman founded Sunshine Bella Global to house her personal brand and create content that encourages people to be their authentic selves and approach their sexuality from a place of acceptance and truth.
These days no matter the challenge that’s in front of her, for Goodman, the integral force behind her drive is influence.
“Having money is great and the money will come, but getting myself to an elevated level of influence — where I can say, ‘Hey, go and tell this person that I sent you,’ and you get what you need — out of everything that I’ve done, it’s all so I can reach back and make it easier for someone else.”
Checking her energy
A self-described movie buff, Goodman’s favorite pastime is curling up with a good film. When she chose her apartment three years ago, one of the most important aspects for her was natural light, and her living room is certainly flooded with it.
“I consider this my chakra room,” Goodman said of her living room. “Every color in here coordinates with all the chakra colors. I want people to feel calm as they come from outside — like my mat says outside, ‘Check yo energy.’ ”
From the purple armchairs and bright yellow couch to the shocking red corner seat and burning orange footstool to the green and blue accents — all of the chakra colors are accounted for.
An array of paintings hung above her couch reflects her respect for Black and queer artists and a love for a visual style that nods to pop art. One of her favorite pieces is a painting that includes the late trans icon and liberation activist Marsha P. Johnson, a New York City leader in the 1969 Stonewall uprising.
“As a Black trans woman, it’s important for me to have her here. I always want to have that representation,” Goodman said.
THE LOWDOWN ON SUNSHINE GOODMAN
Birthplace: Charleston, S.C.
Education: Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke, Virginia.
Current profession: Image consultant/speaker.
Past professions of interest: “As a child, I wanted to be an art teacher.”
Something people would be surprised to learn about you: “I’ve had eight teeth removed. This includes four wisdom teeth.”
Favorite thing to do outside of work: Eat snacks and watch movies.
Your passion: “Empowering, motivating and encouraging people to live their most authentic lives.”
Favorite food to eat: Chicken wings.
Favorite food to cook: Any type of chicken or pasta.
Favorite cocktail or beverage: “I don’t have a favorite. But I prefer fruity drinks.”
Five foods you always need in your refrigerator: Kraft cheese, sliced turkey, salad mix, Texas toast, chicken.
Three people (alive or dead) you’d like to dine with: Prince, Lil’ Kim and Oprah.
What meal would you want served to you for your last supper: Fried chicken wings, collard greens, yams, mac and cheese, limas beans with smoked turkey, white rice and cornbread.
Something that you have too much of at home: Clothes lol.
Hobbies: “What’s that?”
Secret vice: “I love cold M&Ms.”
Guilty pleasure: “Eating ice cream… I’m lactose intolerant.”
Favorite musicians: Patti LaBelle, Lauren Hill and Prince.
Pet peeve: “People who lie or communicate poorly.”
Philosophy: “Everything is working in your favor, even when it looks as though it’s not.”
Your advice for better living: “Pray and/or mediate.
A few minutes of alone time each day makes a world of difference in your mental health.”
Your advice for someone new to Charleston: “Get out and explore the city. Do not be confined to the four walls of your home. There are plenty of beautiful places to see.”
Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.
Stay cool. Support City Paper.