“Be The Hero of Your Own Story”
Black women are some of the most fearless beings to walk the earth. We take on the impossible. We carry heavy burdens without showing one ounce of stress. We take care of everyone and everything around us, all while neglecting ourselves. But, guess what?… You’ll never hear us whine and complain about it. We endure heartbreak, but are always expected to keep it together. So, no; you won’t see those tears rolling down our eyes. We also experience some of the most unbearable pain you could ever imagine, but take it with stride and keep on pushing forward. The black woman is the most unappreciated being, but we take that unappreciative attitude and turn it into the fuel we need to keep pushing. We are Strong, Fearless, Brilliant, Ambitious, Courageous, and exude so much radiance.
If you wanted to find a black woman who embodied all these qualities and so much more, I would point you in the direction of Ms. Crystal Willis.
Ms. Willis has overcome some of the most traumatic times in her life; but was able heal, forgive, conquer hardships, and make a name for herself. Ms. Willis is a rape survivor, who birthed a child at the age of 14 and decided to place her daughter up for open adoption. Ms. Willis went on to start a career in the music industry and his gone on to accomplish much more.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Ms. Willis and learning more about her life as biracial child and teenager, life as successful adult and was intrigued by how sweet and how open Ms. Willis was to share her story but, like Ms. Willis ‘s favorite quote says “when we deny our stories they define us; when we own our story we get to write a brave new ending”.
During our conversation we started from Ms. Willis’ roots in Utah, and ended with what the future holds for her.
Ms. Willis was born in Salt Lake City, alongside her five brothers and sisters. She came from a very strict household mainly, because her father was in the military. She also came from a family that was very religious, and took their faith serious. Her grandmother introduced her family to church, and even had the whole family baptized on the same day. While attending a majority white grade school, she faced challenges from being biracial and also the condition in which she suffered from, Lipedema.
Ms. Willis tried for a while to fit in, and tried to figure out why people bullied her or didn’t like her; a struggle that most children have to endure. It was many years into her adult hood before she realized that maybe she wasn’t meant to fit in and that she was destined to stand out.
Ms. Willis always had dreams of being a dancer or a singer. She just wanted to perform (be she was even the activities director for the talent shows and dances at her high school).
Now, anyone who comes from a strict family knows tight rules are in place. Dating or even talking on the phone with boys was forbidden, and in Ms. Willis case there was no exception.
As we get older, it’s only normal that we become curious about the opposite sex. Unfortunately, since Ms. Willis came from a strict family; the topic wasn’t on the table for discussion. She was left to keep herself informed, do her own research by reading books and even talking to her girlfriends about it.
While in her freshman year of high school, she met a guy name Rick that was much older than her, but shared the same math class (she was advanced in her studies and taking AP classes at the time). Rick showed interest in her; and like any teenage girl that hadn’t had a boyfriend before, it’s not uncommon for you to like the attention and want to get to know someone showing interest in you. Although she wasn’t allowed to talk to boys on the phone, she would “sneak” around to talk to him. Rick would always say that he wanted to have sex with her, but she expressed to him multiply times that she was waiting for marriage to have sex, and was strong in her beliefs of saving herself. Rick being older; unfortunately, didn’t respect her decision as one would think someone older and more mature would. Instead, he took advantage of her vulnerability and used it against her.
Rick told her that he just wanted to fool around, and to meet him at the school one particular day. When she arrived, fooling around did happen, as planned… just kissing as Ms. Willis made clear. Rick, began to get aggressive; and when repeatedly asked to stop his aggressive advances, he held her down and raped her instead.
Ms. Willis blacked out during his attack. Before leaving, Rick warned her to never mention their encounter. Feeling dirty, and afraid to speak to her parents about the attack; Ms. Willis confided in a close friend.
After two months of missing her monthly menstrual cycle, Ms. Willis worried that she might be pregnant. After taking a pregnancy test; it was confirmed. Knowing her parents would kill her, her father especially; abortion was her only thought and immediate solution. She forged a note to give to the school counselor so that truancy wouldn’t call her house, but her school counselor could tell that something was bothering her. The truth poured out before she could think of the consequences. Of course, the counselor contacted Ms. Willis’ mother by phone with the news.
While the three, Ms. Willis, her counselor and now mother, didn’t immediately tell her father for fear of his reaction, he soon too found out the news. He was adamant about her getting an abortion.
On the way to the appointment, she begged her dad to pull over and told him that she did not want to go through with the procedure. She’d already prayed on it, and knew that she didn’t want the abortion; but didn’t know exactly what her plans were. She knew that she was going to have her baby, and that child had the right to live. Although, the circumstance was not her fault; her unborn child was worthy to have a chance at life.
After making the brave decision to keep her child, she still had to power through and go back to life as if it was “normal.” Ms. Willis had to deal with the stares at school, and what her church family might think to the point. She wrote an open letter and read it to the church, telling them it is God’s will that she gives birth to her child. Not only did she have to numb the feelings of being a disappointment to her family, but she also endured Rick denying her and their encounter; as soon after the rape he moved out of state.
One can imagine a mother’s difficult process of deciding on adoption. Although Ms. Willis came to grips with what was best for her life at 14; however, she built a natural bond with the daughter growing inside her. After giving birth, and handing her daughter over to another family, Ms. Willis recounts the pain, but is assured that she couldn’t give her daughter the life she deserved. Sometimes, it’s all about what you’re willing to sacrifice, and knowing some of the hardest decisions are the best decisions.
Thanks to the open adoption, Ms. Willis was and is still able to be a part of her daughter’s life. She has always been open with her daughter about what happened to her; yet her daughter, still to this day has not met Rick.
Ms. Willis reached out to Rick, once, years ago to tell him that he had a daughter. His response… just a disgusting as his actions. He told her that she was lying and that no one would believe that he touched a Black girl. When Ms. Willis did come forward about what happened, she was told that there was nothing that could be done as there was no evidence to prove her word against Rick’s. Rick was also accused of attacking two other girls at the same high school. He was known as the “school predator,” and was often heard saying he’s “looking for fresh meat.”
The feeling of emptiness followed Ms. Willis for years. It was 10 years before she even talked to some about the rape. She reached out to a rape treatment center in L.A., and began building the courage to talk. Doing that took her on a journey of self-healing and, learning how-to walk in her life moving forward; hence, using her experience for good to help other women experiencing similar traumas.
“Play Big Play To Win”
Sometimes, when hardships are thrown at you in life; at times it’s hard to recover. In the case of Ms. Willis, it would be understandable if things didn’t work out for the best; however, Ms. Willis told herself that if she was going to give her daughter up for open adoption she was going to make sure that her decision was worth it. She was committed to working hard to have the life she wanted for her daughter… she wasn’t going to let this time go in vain.
Using her daughter as motivation to “go hard;” she not only finished high school, but she went to college where she received two degrees. After college, she went on to work for a Fortune 500 company for many years before deciding to leave (finally realizing that she had spent many years working to make other people happy and making other people dreams come true but she need to do the same for herself). Leaving her career, would allow her time for herself and to figure what makes her happy. She was now going to be first priority.
Since, Ms. Willis launched her own PR firm, The Omni Firm, based in L.A.; where she does marketing, public relations, and artist development. She represents some of the most talented celebs in the industry, and hosts her own Podcast, the Crysalis; which is a safe place for sisterhood, love and respect. Ms. Willis is the author of two book, with a third release on the way. She is the L.A. editor for Hype Magazine, and hints to an exciting collaboration coming soon.
For relaxation and peace-of-mind, Ms. Willis is the host of the “Crysalis retreat; connecting for clarity, confidence, and courage” which had to go virtual this year due covid19.
“Empower Women To Own Their Stories, Transform Their Lives and Manifest Their Own Dreams”
If “owning your own story, transforming your life, and manifesting your own dream” was a person, it would be Ms. Willis. She embodies each of these qualities without a question. She was a survivor of rape and taken advantage of by someone she knew. She became a birth mom at the age of 14 and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. With so much unconditional love at a young age; she decided her daughter had the right to experience life, jumped over emotional hurdles and found a way to take accountability. Not only did she force herself to own the way she healed, but that included forgiving Rick for what he did to her. She made a promise to herself that she was going to make the best out of the circumstance, and see the good in her experience; to in turn, help other young women. She has a beautiful relationship with her daughter, who happens to get the “smart” genes from her mom. Her daughter graduated college at the age of 20 and now has a child of her own. She gets to be the grandmother of all grandmothers!
In episode two of the Crysalis podcast, she says “Your word has power. There is life and death in the power of your tongue.” She stayed true to her word and took her own story, wrote it how she saw fit, and spoke it the way that was true to her. Speaking her truth and her strong faith in God, pulled Ms. Willis through some of roughest of times. She, is truly the definition of a Woman to Watch.
While talking to Ms. Willis, I asked her what was next for her career wise and what does she do for self-care when it’s time to take a minute to herself. She said “anyone who follows me on Instagram can tell that I love to lay by the pool to relax, and that working on my business is also a form of self-care for me.”
Now, when it comes to her career… she continues to practice Public Relations, but also decided to tap into the “singer” at heart. Ms. Willis plans to release an album, with a Bluesy/R&B vibe to it. Her vision includes features from her good friend Anthony Hamilton, and possible collaborations with artists she’d love to work with, such as Drake and Usher. (Sidenote: Now you all know, I had to throw in a suggestion that she have Stokely from Mint Condition on the album. She agreed that he would be good choice, and that she would dedicate the song to me. LOL. I’m going to be looking out for that song).
Her vision towards a successful PR company includes a bucket list of Legends such as Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, and Oprah. Since she spoke it into existence, it’s bound to happen.