Vanessa R. Williams

Geniuses of Transformation – Have an AMAZING year in 2020! 

Vanessa R. Williams is a content strategist and consultant known for her ability to create unforgettable content that is thorough and compelling.  She has been featured in many publications, including the Huffington Post and more. 

What is the main focus of your work?

The main focus is to help Black women feel equipped to create genuinely fulfilling lives and careers.

How did you first become involved in this work? And what motivates you now?

My interest in creating content for Black women started in 2010 when I was a sophomore in college. I created a natural hair blog to document my hair journey. At the time, the “natural hair movement” was progressing, but it was nothing like how it is today. Over the years, wellness and career development have become more important to me, and I’ve realized that useful information isn’t shared as often as it should be, especially when it comes to building a career. People tend to hoard this information, and I want to share it with as many women as possible.

Your website mentions “dope and driven women”. What causes us to be “driven”? And what are some of the biggest challenges we face?

People who are driven understand that their time on this Earth is limited—most of the things they do are intentional and urgent. Driven people face challenges such as feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or even inadequate at times. Ultimately, they understand the importance of resting, not quitting, and they make use of the resources that are available to them, even if they are few.

What are some of the health and wellness challenges we face?

Women are socialized to know how to cook, clean, take care of a household—and nowadays, work a full-time job(s). Often times, this leads to overexertion, stress, fatigue, depression, and other ailments that arise as a result of lack of rest, proper nutrition, etc.

What are some of the mistakes we make, in terms of looking after ourselves (or not doing so)?

Women don’t look after ourselves enough—everyone else’s wellbeing comes first, and this is where we go wrong. We physically can’t do it all, regardless of what our minds tell us. We have to be okay with setting boundaries, asking for help, and delegating tasks. We can’t help others if we’re not helping ourselves first.

What are some of the ways we can look after ourselves and our wellbeing? What are your top three tips?

We can look after ourselves by:

  • Scheduling time every week to indulge in the things that make us feel grounded and happy (for ex. exercising, journaling, reading, dancing, watching a movie, doing a beauty routine, etc.);

  • Making sure we’re eating well and drinking enough water; and

  • Getting enough rest every night.

What are some of the health and wellness challenges Black women/women of African heritage face? Are they different from the challenges facing other women?

I can only speak about my experience and what I’ve learned talking to other Black women. From my experience, Black women experience everything that I previously mentioned at a greater magnitude—especially Millennials and Gen-Xers. We’re always juggling a lot, and we make it seem like it’s easy when it’s not. We’re building our careers and families with little guidance from previous generations (especially when it comes to careers because the job landscape is much different now, in comparison to how it was decades ago) — and many are even providing financial help to their parents and other family members. Feeling obligated to provide constant help to others seems to never end.

What are some of the challenges you have personally faced as a child of West African immigrants?

As a child of immigrants, especially as the first-born child, I felt a lot of responsibility to do well in school and to be a good example for my younger brother. From the time I was a young child, my parents instilled a love of learning in my brother and me. My dad encouraged us to order as many books as we wanted from Scholastic, and he was very adamant about taking us to the library frequently (my mom was also intentional about buying reading and math comprehension books every year to further solidify lessons that we learned throughout the school year).

My parents never really complained about or divulged their humble West African beginnings, so I never felt guilted into being an A student merely because my parents didn’t have the same opportunities that I had when they were kids. What influenced me the most was witnessing my parents’ work ethic and their dedication to creating comfortable, stable lives for their children. I learned that mediocrity was not an option, and I was committed to upholding the standard of excellence that my parents set for my brother and me.

Although my mom and dad are from Ghana and Sierra Leone, respectively, there are times when I felt that I wasn’t African enough. West African food, music, and celebrations were prevalent in my family; however, learning my parents’ native tongue took a backseat to everything else. My father speaks Krio, which I understand, even though I can’t necessarily speak it. My mother speaks Twi, and there are only a couple of expressions that I know in her language. My inability to speak my mother’s language is often met with comments like, “How come you don’t understand?” And I reluctantly respond by saying that my mom never taught her language to me.

A few years ago, my mom stated that she didn’t want my brother and me to have a hard time acclimating to American culture, which is why she chose not to teach us her language. While I wish I were fluent in Twi, and there is research that shows kids who speak multiple languages don’t have issues acclimating in school, I understand why my mother did what she did. She was an immigrant who only wanted the best for her children, and she didn’t want to do anything that prevented us from thriving in America.

I’m sure my parents experienced their fair share of blatant racism — my dad has even shared a story about how he went to buy a new Lexus from a dealership, and the salesman assumed that he couldn’t afford it. Now as an adult, I am profoundly aware of the obstacles my parents overcame to raise two, well-adjusted kids in America. This is why regardless of setbacks that I may experience in my life, I can tap into my parents’ strength and resilience and know that, without a doubt, I will be OK.

Who is your Number One main role model? And why?

My number one role models are my parents – especially my mom. She’s one of the most resilient people I know. She’s Ghanaian and came to the US in the ’80s. Her first job was as a nanny. She eventually became a nurse and has a masters in nursing. I haven’t experienced half of what my mom has, so I know if she can overcome her obstacles, I can certainly do the same.

Who or what is your main source of inspiration and/or motivation? What motivates you to get up in the morning?

Knowing that I’m not here by mistake is what motivates me to get up in the morning. I don’t necessarily think that everyone has ONE specific purpose to fulfill. However, I do believe that if you’re alive, your responsibility is to make the most of the life that God has granted you every single day that you open your eyes.

What are your current projects?

I’m currently working on improving my wellness and career newsletter to make it as valuable as possible for my audience.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to be more intentional about what I spend my time on because every idea isn’t worth pursuing (and I have tons of ideas!).

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Vanessa Williams is a content strategist and consultant known for her ability to create unforgettable content that is thorough and compelling. She is dedicated to helping businesses create quality content that changes people’s lives. Vanessa has worked with the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, The Huffington Post, The Muse, top lifestyle brands and influencers, and more.