Dr. Desi Williams states to me as we reflect upon her life journey thus far.
When I say I have never met someone with such a diverse experience in their career, I meant that…until meeting Dr. Desi Williams. The Los Angeles resident truly exudes the expression ‘not just one note’ and instantly sparked the inspiration in me by just listening to her life experiences. By getting the pleasure to spend some time with her, she admits to me that if someone would have told her, at 15 years old, everything that was to transpire in her life, she would not even be able to fathom her accomplishments.
Graduating from Hampton University in southern Virginia, the story begins with Desi striving to challenge herself from the beginning by attending a college in a completely different state from her home in Georgia. Receiving her undergraduate degree in Health & Physical Education, she was seeking to inspire the lives of high school students by student-teaching her senior year.
I was curious to know where her fitness and health inspiration came from. Desi shared with me that her fitness interest started at a young age with her mother’s Jazzercise videotapes that she would wake up early, before school, to have a mother-daughter workout. Then in high school, she tore her ACL twice in competitive cheerleading and had to receive physical therapy during her recovery. This gave her a glimpse of how people’s lives are changed through physical recovery which sparked her career interest.
By giving her hat off to schoolteachers, she realized that she desired to pursue a doctorate degree in Physical Therapy. (Little did she know at the time that receiving her doctorate degree would be the key to her future in Los Angeles!)
One thing Desi lives her life by is having a fallback plan in case things take an unexpected turn. By securing a plan A, B, and C, Desi expresses that this aids in making those calculated risks to pursue her dreams. Whilst Desi was studying the hardest to excel at the top of her class, she also paralleled another endeavor simultaneously with her education.
Let me also introduce you to Dr. Desi Williams, two-time winner of Miss Virginia in the Miss USA and Miss America pageant systems. Yes, meaning Desi Williams while pursuing her doctorate, won the pageant crown for her state. Competing for the crown for over 5 years, Desi learned a lot about what she didn’t know. Expressing that she didn’t grow up in the pageant world, she realized that there were a lot of aspects that she was green to.
Laughing as she stated, “I didn’t even own a curling iron!”
With being so new, she had let others paint her decisions and tell her what she should wear or say in the pageant interviews developing a persona from what others were telling her to be. Although, a personal challenge she faced was understanding that the competition normally, was won by a white, blue-eyed, and blond-haired woman. This meant she had to not only compete through her beauty and persona but also by her skin color. Therefore, to win the crown for Miss Virginia as a black woman meant she could leave no margin for error. Having that internal drive for 1st place, she had to step on that stage and have the judges look at her and have no question that Desi Williams IS Miss Virginia.
After the first year of letting others paint her persona, Desi explained that she competed in the following years’ pageants by being her authentic self and believed that who she was, was enough to win. Achieving what she set out to do, she won the crown for Miss Virginia USA.
We reflected at this moment, where being the crown winner exposed her to many opportunities with public speaking across the state of Virginia.
Discovering a newfound confidence within herself, she reached the lives of many people across her state by speaking at school assemblies, parades, and charity events.Desi juggling Miss Virginia and finishing her doctorate program, she soon became the Director of the Leadership Institute at Hampton University, developing a full-time career at her school.
Desi reached for what she wanted and achieved it all at the age of 27 and truly survived many different high-pressure experiences. Surviving and thriving have become this woman’s best aptitude in life.Who wouldn’t be enamored by this woman’s resume? Yet, she still reached for another challenge and one that truly took everything she had inside and out.
Taking time off from her career at the university, she became a contestant in the hit reality show – Survivor. Yes, Desi went weeks competing in challenges, starving for food, and strategizing with team-mates in the islands of Fiji.
If you thought she could do it all before, you need to think again. She kept inspiring and leaving me astounded by her success. Being on the show taught her a lot about her physical stamina and grit but also gave her a life-altering moment she will never forget. Sitting around the campfire talking with her tribemates about what they miss from back home, she soon realized internally that she wasn’t happy back home and would rather stay in Fiji. Being voted off the reality show and getting back to her reality – she decided to make a change.
By having the moral support of her family, she was able to quickly resign from her position, sell most of her belongings, and venture into the next part of her journey.Carrying on only two suitcases, she ventured out to Cali with her dream and her natural ability to finesse each challenge she takes on.
By falling back into her dreams, she had her doctorate to carry her forward by starting a career in physical therapy in LA. Working in home health, COVID didn’t sway her too much since many people wanted home service physical therapy throughout quarantine.
Today, Desi is currently building her own home health business in physical therapy and taking her fallback and turning it into a dream. The inspiration this woman exudes derives from her ability to believe and put trust in herself to accomplish everything she sets her mind on.
Desi Williams is a survivor, a pageant queen, a doctor but most importantly – a dreamer and a doer. The world awaits what she will do next!
ORANGE DRESS: JACK MANNING III @jaxonphotogroup
GREEN DRESS: FRANK ARMSTRONG @frankarmstrongphotography