Inspiring People

Terrie Williams, Public Relations Guru

Terrie Williams
Public Relations Manager, Terrie Williams, has handled some of the biggest names in entertainment, sports, business and politics. The likes of Janet Jackson, Russell Simmons, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Johnnie Cochran, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Time Warner, HBO, and Essence Communications Partners have retained Terrie's services.

Today her Agency is a division of PGP Communications (of which she is Vice-Chair), a multi-media firm that develops cause-related campaigns for personalities, products and entities.

One of her current projects, RECYCLING INSPIRATION (RI)™ is an international campaign designed to educate and encourage career development and to inspire dreams. Please click here to read more about this amazing organization.

Treating people well is clearly a theme for Terrie Williams and the way she chooses to live her life. And she lives her life as an unapologetic stand for humanity!

It is evident in the work she does and in the causes that she supports. I caught up with Terrie while she was in Atlanta. She was down there working with Katrina survivors. While it was my first time meeting and speaking with Terrie -- within minutes I felt like I was with family.

DR: I know what you do for a living because I've read your book and I have followed you but, can you just share, for the benefit of my readers, what you do for a living?

TW: I actually I do a lot of things. I started this foundation…running the Stay Strong foundation, I do a great deal of speaking around the country…related to successful business purposes and helping people to realize their purpose in life and their potential.

I have written 3 books and I am working on my fourth book. People refer to me as an inspirational author. My book -- 3 really distinct different tones. The first one which still sells very well - The Personal Touch - and then my teen book has probably been the one that has been most gratifying. It has been adopted as curriculum in a lot of schools around the country. I just feel really blessed that this book came through me. I get a lot of letters from young people in juvenile detention centers and group homes who have read the book and they just really connect with it and they tell me how the book has changed how they treat people and helped them to refocus their goals and…it's gotten letters from India and Pakistan - it's really amazed me… I am working on my next book. I have put deals together. Do you know the Hue Man Bookstore in Harlem?

DR: Yes. I do. I love that bookstore.

TW: I've bought the 3 financial partners to that bookstore. So I have put a lot of deals together…. I've sold my business to my business partner and…we do more cause related marketing campaigns. That's what we are doing; how we've evolved now. And so, I just work on the projects that I'm really, really interested in, the ones that uplift and inspire me. Somebody who has a project that I really, really want and think people should know about…

We bought property in Atlanta and we are going to be building music studios on the ground - it's about 10 acres and that's the thing that we're doing and where we are having this event for Katrina survivors.

There'll be 1500 - 2000 survivors. We are going to have a beauty salon for the day where men and women can get their hair cut and styled. We're doing manicures and pedicures. I'll be doing something like Stay Strong - for lack of a better word, like Stay Strong group therapy, to give folks an opportunity to talk and kind of exchange thoughts and feelings about their lives and where they are headed…

DR: Is that just for young people, Terrie, or is that …

TW: No. Tomorrow is for everybody - parents and kids. And I do, I do this, it's called…the signature event is Stay Strong with The Personal Touch of Terrie Williams, Sharing Stories Transforming Lives…Cause the thing is that the tiniest element of your story can totally impact and transform somebody's life…

I learned, I learned so much, I don't know if you saw my story about my depression in the June issue of Essence but I have gotten about 2000 letters and emails from people, Dana, from around the country…

DR: Well I haven't read it yet. Terrie, but this evening I put it on my list of things to do before I go to bed tonight…

TW: (Laughs)

DR: So…particularly because we are talking. My husband brought it to my attention that you did this article…

TW: It's been, it's just been amazing. I mean I always knew that people moved through their lives -- we all do -- with our game face on, and many times most of us are the walking wounded. We have a lot of challenges and yeah, I think so many people are just walking around passing for normal. People are very, very depressed. And, sometimes it's episodic. Sometimes it's chronic but the reality is that people are really suffering; silently suffering because they think that they are alone. But, when you share your story with somebody else you find out that you are not standing on that ledge all by yourself.

And why somebody would think that because I'm Terrie Williams and I've done this that and the other, that I wouldn't have pain and challenges - I, it's beyond me but people were stunned. Many people were stunned. People have thanked me for my courage. Many people have shared their stories with me. People are nicer to me since that piece came out.

Sometimes I will see somebody coming toward me like, when the article first came out - and I could tell because they were somewhat tentative. I could tell that they read the article and they wanted to say something. So they would come over and sometimes, ya know, tentatively and I would say, "Look I can tell that you read the article"…

DR: (Laugh)

TW: "…and just so you know, I took my medication. Everything is copasetic!"

DR: (Laugh)

TW: and we would laugh. They would laugh and it would just break the ice and then they would go on and tell me what it was that they, ya know, wanted to tell me. But people are suffering!

DR: Terrie, can I just…I have to share with you that over the last couple 2 or 3 months uh, my husband's name is Auguste and he and I have been talking about this very thing. I am so inspired by what you are saying about how people - so many of us are walking around hurting…

TW: Um-hmm. Yes!

DR: ...dealing with stuff!

TW: Yes!

DR: And being private about it and shutting down the opportunity for community.

TW: Right! You are so right! And see -- you are so right! That's why we are not going to really be able to heal as individuals and then as a community and then as a nation, unless we talk about those things. And see there's nothin' new under the sun!

DR: No. No. You are so right and, ya know …we are launching our new site and the whole new effort is called Living Out Loud…

TW: Mmmm…wow…

DR: …and I just decided that I am …

TW: Oh, I love it…

DR: ...going to put myself at risk and I am just going to be straight about all of it, ya know for what that could contribute, hopefully to other people.

TW: You're gonna, you are going to really, really change people's lives. I am telling you, people are just in unspeakable unbearable pain. And we mask it or we try to mask it and the thing for me when I was really ya know, hit rock bottom 2 years ago, I had a really, really -- it was like the darkest storm in my life…It wasn't just being really depressed. There were days when I really just couldn't get out of the bed, couldn't stop crying, would wake up with crippling anxiety, just lie in my bed - sometimes in the fetal position, sometimes just barely able to get up to make a few phone calls and get back in the bed…You know, it was, it was a lot. So it wasn't just the depression. It was the pretending that I was fine.

But, when I did my speaking engagements, when I went to receive an award --sometimes I wouldn't stop crying until just before I got there but God always gave me the Grace to not fall apart in public….Always gave me the Grace to not fall apart in public. And I said it's just, and people are just in pain and the thing is when we have this pain that is repressed and we don't talk about it, we don't know where to go, or we can't afford to go, and black people get so mis-diagnosed. Black people - it's behavior, for white people - it's an illness. You know what I mean?

DR: Yes I do.

TW: So it comes out in other ways -- when we don't deal with our pain... we take drugs, we drink, we over eat, we have promiscuous sex, we kill each other…those are the things that are manifested when we don't deal with what's goin' on with us! Ya know?

DR: Yes.

TW: And it's just been an incredibly liberating thing…ya know I used to wonder sometimes when people would tell me that God told them to do something. But I know now that that's true because I damn sure wouldn't have put all of my business out in the street like that if he hadn't directed me to do so. Ya know?

So, I think you're gonna help a whole lotta people.

DR: Well now, talking to you, I think this is so perfect that you are the person I'm talking to for this first kick off of this whole series of talking to celebrities and …I had to keep giving up this whole notion of "Am I doing the right thing?" …"Am I gonna regret that I'm … just being willing to just kind of have it all out there?" But I kept talking myself into the fact that - know one does it…

TW: Right, that's right!

DR: …for the most part…

TW: No.

DR: And I…

TW: It's the mask. It's the game face that you have to wear. And you are going to help liberate so many people. You're going to… you're just doing His work…

DR: And, thank you …

TW: Because people, Dana are waiting for you to do this!

TW: I was…when I did one of my talks recently there were like nine -- about a hundred people at this particular thing…and um, I asked people to kind of share what their passions were and … this young lady alluded to something and I asked her if she wanted to elaborate and she didn't - so that was cool. But by the time I finished, I looked over at her and I knew that she wanted to speak because other people had gotten up and shared some things and I asked her if she wanted to share and she said "yes". But before she started to speak she started crying -- before she even got to the podium.

So she comes up there Dana. She's crying so she says "I look youthful but I really have an issue with my age". She said "There are about seven people in this room who are friends of mine and they have absolutely no idea how old I am. They may think they know but they don't." And then she said - out loud - for the very first time, "I am 30 years old!" And I asked her "Where did that come from?" because the tears were really flowing.

She was left back in junior high school - never got over it…walking around all those years Dana, with that kind of pain…embarrassed -- what ever. Then afterwards just before I was getting ready to leave, she came over and she hugged me. She said "I really wanted to thank you for giving me that opportunity." She said "There were three people who came up to me and told me that they had the same issue with age." And she said "It made me just realize in sharing a little piece of my story that I could really make a difference in somebody's life."

The smallest element of your life could profoundly change somebody else's life!

DR: It gives us such freedom to hear somebody else going through a struggle when we think we're the only ones and that's what that silence does to us.

TW: Yes it does.

DR: It makes us think we're the only ones who are flawed. Everyone else has got their game face on…

TW: Sure.

DR: I know for me I buy it lock stock and barrel - they've got it all together and I am the only one with stuff.

DR: Terrie, what is the secret ingredient for your personal recipe for success?

TW: I think that … I honor everybody on the planet for who they are.

I would say that… my empathy and my ability to just communicate with people, I think that that's my gift. I think that that's my purpose on earth. I was speaking somewhere last week, this past Saturday. It was a mental health conference and I was speaking and this woman raises her hand in the middle of my talking and so I said "What's up?" and it seemed like she was gettin' ready to be a minute and so I said "Would you just mind waiting until I'm done?" So she said "I just gotta say it now." So she comes up and she starts to tell this…well she says…that she is the house help for this particular person. She said I met you at {her} home when she had the dinner party. And…she tells the audience that I came to the kitchen to speak to her and that "Nobody comes into the kitchen to talk to the help."

…That kind of thing happens to me all of the time. I'm just honoring people and who they are. That's all. And it comes back…

I was just sharing that with you because - I wouldn't have even mentioned it to you because it's just who I am, but it was only because you asked me that…Everybody is somebody. There is no difference between you and me and the homeless person on the street except for the Grace of God! No difference! None! None! You know what I am saying?

DR: I do!

TW: If you just honor people just as the human beings that they are you just win. That's all. It's really simple.

There are so many people on the planet who literally think their better than other people and I think "How dare you? You are just blessed!"

DR: I love that…and I am in the presence of all that secret ingredient right now…

TW: (Laughs) No, but I'm really excited about your work and Living Out Loud. It's just -- we gotta lead this movement, Dana …so that people know that they are not alone. Everybody I meet, when I meet them - I know that they are just as messed up as I am - (laugh) you know what I'm saying?

DR: (laughing) Right yes. And…doesn't it seem like it's time? It's like something is in the wind that's demanding this now, I think.

TW: Yes.

DR: I really do…over the last couple of months…not to that I should be talking about myself right now…

TW: No please…

DR:…I just felt like I had no choice but to just stop it - stop that madness for myself…

TW: Dana …there is so much "lie" in the air that we don't even know the truth anymore. We are so accustomed to saying to someone "how are you doing?" "Fine", knowing full well that you are dying inside! So I'm just so happy that you're about to do this. Everybody is goin' through it.

…everybody is the same! I don't care who you are!

Oh you watch. You're gonna change a lot of people's lives…

DR: Well from your mouth to God's ears. Can you tell me what you love most about your life?

TW: I tell you, I mean this really might sound corny but it's true, I have a son who's 28 that I met through a mentoring program that I suggested for Essence - what just gives me the most gratification is to be able to use my unique gift and resources to just make a difference. That's all that really matters to me. I think that that's why all of us are on the planet to lift each other up, to encourage each other, to support each other. So God gave me a set of gifts to use. So that's my charge -- to use them to make a difference so when it's all said and done all anybody ever needs to say is that she just did the best that she could.

DR: What scares you the most?

TW: (laughing) Oh! O.K. what scares me the most? So the vulnerable side of me is like…You know what? I made a choice when I got into changing careers. I don't think that I could have met the right man and had children and did the things that I did. I am at a very different phase in my life right now and I am really open to connecting with that special man. But there is this part of me that says "Oh my God! I won't ever find him!" (laughs) That's the real thing. O.K., that's one of them. This is the real thing that I, that I won't reach my full potential because of …challenges or whatever …that I won't be my best self. I think that that's what it is 'cause I'm always …I'm not this, I'm not that.

My greatest fear I guess would be that I won't be really at peace with who I am …

…that I really won't be able to accept who I am warts and all and be O.K. with that.

DR: Is there one thing that you haven't done yet that - at the end of your life, if you haven't done it -- you will regret it?

TW: It's probably something as simple as singing at a Karaoke bar.

(We laugh)

TW: I am really painfully shy, right… and …there's this part of me that is so scared to do that but, I really want to …do something that is completely uninhibited. I mean I can get up in front of thousands of people but to do Karaoke with …that's …

I am an introvert at heart. I do what I do because I am called to do it…and so that to me would be a major accomplishment…

TW: Will you let me know when you do, do that?

(We laugh)

TW: Alright. I will and I'll remember that I said this to you because…nobody ever asked me this before but um, I'll let you know.

DR: O.K. good. Is there anything else Terrie, that you want to share with me? This has been a great conversation first of all and for me it's been a confirmation that I'm movin' in the right direction….

TW: Oh definitely. You are…

DR: with

TW: Well there are no accidents according to His plan and I just get …more and more, ya know everyday I just get some sort of confirmation about us. We are not in charge. It's just Me. And I just have a strong belief in God. It grows stronger everyday -- that I am here and making strides in my life and it's not about me it's -

How can I serve Him? What is it He wants to have happen,

'cause that's what's going to happen.

I was touched personally by Terrie Williams -- the woman with the Personal Touch. I got to be a bigger person, spending that time talking with her. In her presence I got bigger.

DR: So if I were to ask you, a hundred years from now what do you want to be remembered for …

TW: Just that I did the best with what I had and helped to transform people's lives. That's it!

Thanks Terrie!

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