While tending bar at a local hotspot, aspiring actress, army veteran and ATL transplant DominiQue "G.I. Jane" Williams found herself serving entertainment mogul Will Packer and his wife. After a lively chat, to Williams' surprise, Packer offered her his contact information to stay in touch about an upcoming role. She wrote it down on a copy of his receipt.
To her dismay, while searching for that same receipt a day or two later, DominiQue realized that it was long gone. At the end of that fateful evening, it had been collected with the rest of her receipts for the night. For someone else, the story would have ended there, a suspenseful little "almost made it" anecdote to tell the grandkids 40 years from now.
But as I soon came to understand during our conversation, DominiQue Williams isn't settling for cliffhangers or a life half-lived.
"What is meant for me will be for me," she says with conviction as we delve into her journey from the beginning.
Infectious optimism is her stock-in-trade. DominiQue glows with what the old folks would call an "in-spite-of" kind of joy. It's carried her through a network of storms and rewarded her with a windfall of wisdom in just 29 years of living. She can tell you all about surviving and thriving through military training, fighting an arduous battle with an aggressive illness, and the life-or-death decision to leave home at 23.
You wouldn't guess she's experienced so much or even think to feel sorry for her; you wouldn't have to. DominiQue tells her story with ease, humility and not one trace of self-pity. "I'm not dismissing [my] process because I understand that it's for my good. There is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for me," she says during our interview.
Leaving The Nest, Finding Her Best
Image courtesy of DominQue Williams
DominiQue always aspired to more than her small hometown, Cincinnati, Ohio, could offer. Acting presented precisely the right outlet for her unforgettable personality; animated and diligent, curious and determined. Though she applied to the local arts high school, things didn't go as planned.
Shortly after, DominiQue set her Hollywood dreams aside and focused on the "more realistic" goals. The kind of monotonous, hemmed-in realism a small town demands of its residents, no matter how big and brilliant and bold their dreams.
"There was nothing [in Cincinnati] for me. I've always had really high ambitions and it just wasn't where I wanted to settle because that's exactly what it would be...settling."
While in college, the Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC) offered captivating stories of international army travel and Dominique joined The U.S. Army without much hesitation garnering a new nickname "G.I. Jane." It was both an homage to her favorite movie G.I. Jane, the 1997 military drama/action film starring Demi Moore and DominiQue's new look sans hair. Not only was the name fitting, it was foretelling.
"The military provided discipline and they humbled me. [I realized that] if I could do that, I can do anything. The results that you want don't happen right away but if you are diligent, determined, and persistent, they will come," DominiQue says with a kind of conviction that can only be born of experience.
Flying Against The Wind
Image courtesy of DominQue Williams
Fast forward to 2013. At an age when most young women are making their first post-graduate career move, DominiQue was hit with life-changing news: a cancer diagnosis. "It felt like an out-of-body experience. I didn't believe it and I really didn't know how to handle it," she recalls.
With little understanding of her illness and no one to equipped to help her fight it, DominiQue found herself spiraling, unmotivated to seek further treatment or care for herself.
"[I thought] 'I have to get out of here. If I don't get out of here, I'm going to die.'"
Packing as many of her belongings as would fit into her Camaro, on Christmas Day 2013 DominiQue left Cincinnati for a seven-hour, one-way drive to Atlanta, Georgia. "I never looked back. I left my whole house. I [felt] that if cancer was going to be something that [ended] my life, I at least [wanted] to go live my life and I knew I couldn't live in Cincinnati."
What she'd been dying to find in Cincinnati saved her life once in Atlanta. New friends seamlessly incorporated her as family, taking an interest in her health and introducing her to traditional and holistic practitioners. They drove her to doctors' appointments, sat with her when she fell ill from chemo treatments, and used social media to raise money, alleviating the financial strain of medical bills.
Consistent treatment and her newfound community's support helped DominQue to feel like herself again and, with time, beat her diagnosis. She holds close an invaluable lesson:
"I remember thinking that even if I wasn't getting better, I was feeling better. A lot of people don't know that long before the disease will defeat you, [a negative] mental state, spiritual state will kill you first. So, moving saved my life."
Image courtesy of DominQue Williams
The move to Atlanta provided both a cure and an opportunity to continue living out her favorite quote:
"I'm willing to work for everything I prayed for."
Despite initially losing Will Packer's information, DominiQue's resilience rose to the top. She called a friend in the industry for help contacting the Hollywood hitmaker.
"We were sent to the gatekeepers and the answer was no [at first] but six months later my friend gives me a call and he says, 'Hey, Will Packer wants to know if you would be interested in an audition. I said, 'Me?'" she recalls with an ever-present awe.
Her friend echoed a sentiment to which DominiQue was no stranger, "Yeah, you. He didn't remember your name but he remembered your personality."
Just as Time and Opportunity met again, another obstacle presented itself: DominiQue was pushing one month with pneumonia on strict bed rest orders for at least two more weeks. Her friend's response? "He said, 'You can stay in bed if you want but this is a big opportunity. You just have to get up and go nail it," DominiQue lets out a raspy laugh.
Not even knowing what she was auditioning for, she submitted her audition reel with the help of another friend and returned to bed rest. A few weeks later, DominiQue got the call. She had landed her first movie role in the 2019 Shaft sequel starring Samuel L. Jackson, Richard Rountree, and Jessie T. Usher.
As her acting career begins, she looks to the greats for inspiration but holds space for her own exploration of a range of roles. She wants to do it all.
And with the knowledge she's gained, DominiQue is giving back no matter how far Hollywood takes her. "I want to speak to women who struggle with terminal illnesses, college students, [and] girls in the inner city."
Her ultimate desire is to stir up hope for those who are facing stacked odds because, as she knows well, sometimes your journey is about more than just you. "In order to get through you've got to go through. Sometimes what you go through isn't always [just] for you, it's for someone else," she implores.
DominiQue wastes no time on self-pity for past failures to launch, not with so many miles of blue skies ahead and the lives she now understands she was destined to touch.
"When I was going through [being sick with cancer] I felt like, 'Why is this happening to me? [I felt like I was] being punished.' But when I saw the people it was [inspiring] how many people reached out to me on social media and come up to me to this day… Discussing my story is helping them through losing loved ones or going into the military. Me aspiring to do something is inspiring other people."
Check out Shaft, in theaters now.
For more of DominiQue, follow her on Instagram.
Ashley is a storybuilder and storyteller who writes and produces to inform, connect, encourage and evoke. Vibe with her on Twitter/Instagram: @ashleylatruly.
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
This Content Creator Gets Candid About Touch Starvation In Emotional Video
Recently, a young content creator named Mayte Lisbeth posted an emotional video about experiencing touch starvation. She expressed that she feels she is dying from touch starvation and does not receive hugs. Additionally, if she were to receive a hug, she would crumble. The nearly three-minute video continued as Lisbeth breaks down her need for touch. Healthline says touch starvation or deprivation “occurs when a person experiences little to no touch from other living things.”
According to research posted in the National Library of Medicine, “touch is a powerful tool for communicating positive emotions.” Furthermore, other studies emphasize the importance of social touch. When an individual lacks touch, they can experience the following: depression, anxiety, stress, relationship dissatisfaction, difficulty sleeping, and detachment. Moreover, people who do not enjoy being touched can also experience deprivation due to occasionally longing for a hug or handshake.
Lisbeth’s video was triggering because touch starvation is something I experienced in the past. The first time I experienced this was when I was 17 years old after moving across the country to a state where I had no family. It happened again during the pandemic. I remember going into the pandemic optimistic as I really could be.
It worked for the first several months but quickly spiraled into some of my most challenging times, emotionally and mentally. That feeling was amplified when there was no one I truly loved to hug me. Something about a long embrace from a loved one assured me that no matter how dark my world was at the time, there was a light at the end of my darkness. Being away from my support system was rough during that time of uncertainty.
I was not fully aware of what touch starvation was at the time, but I knew I longed for touch. It was not until I was visiting my best friend and randomly asking for a hug that I remember having an immense sense of anxiety and sadness.
The content creator stated in her video that the solution is more complex than scheduling a hair appointment and receiving services. The form of touch was not suitable because she had no ties to these people. It is more about receiving affection, which can come in touch from someone who cares about her, not specifically a romantic touch.
Its been five years of touch starvation. I’ll probably have some more years of it. I’m not handling this well.
First, I commend Lisbeth for her vulnerability and courage to speak on a subject many sometimes do not know about or even acknowledge. She even commented that her family was not big huggers, which did not help her touch starvation. She could count how many times she hugged her parents when she saw them last. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, this is the norm for many families. “I do not know how to heal in a community; I only heal alone,” Lisbeth tearfully explained in a follow-up video. People instantly flooded her social media pages with support and suggested solutions, including breathwork, touch work, and even hiring a professional cuddler.
Sadly, many suffer from touch starvation and do not have family or a tribe to contact. If that is your current situation, here are some exercises that copy touch sensation when experiencing touch starvation.
- Blankets – Wrapping yourself up in a blanket can provide comfort. Another option is a weighted blanket. A weighted blanket mimics receiving a hug, which can provide a sense of calm for an individual.
- Self-Touch Breathwork – The counselors at Twinpowerment, LLC taught us a five-step self-holding technique that could help remedy touch starvation.
- Body Pillows (or pillows) – Cuddling up to a body pillow can mimic cuddling and allow comfort during sleep.
- Cuddle Therapy – Like the name states, you can pay a professional to cuddle with. The Institute of Counseling in Nigeria explains that “Cuddle therapy fills a niche that is complementary to traditional talk therapy.” With traditional therapy, a mental health professional cannot touch their clients.
- Companion Animal – Dogs and cats make excellent companion animals. The endless number of cuddles and “kisses” they provide can offer comfort during hard times.
Even though traditional therapists cannot provide touch to their clients, they are a great option if your symptoms from touch starvation increase.
Since then, Lisbeth has posted videos explaining remedies she has tried or is willing to try. Some days are better than others, but she keeps moving forward. I pray she finds peace during these times.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image by People Images/ Getty Images