Excerpt: If It Takes a Village, Build One: How I Found Meaning Through a Life of Service and 100+ Ways You Can Too
So instead of majoring in theater, I got a degree in the business side of the arts and set my sights on going into public relations. I'd been inspired by an article about Terrie M. Williams, who headed the largest public relations firm owned by an African-American woman at the time. Over the course of her impressive career she has represented such clients as Eddie Murphy, Janet Jackson, Johnnie L. Cochran, Essence Communications, Time Warner, and HBO.
I was especially intrigued to read that Terrie had been a clinical social worker before she'd become a publicist. After giving it her all in this field and feeling like she needed a change, she became a successful public relations professional, and when she began her new line of work, her first two clients were Eddie Murphy and Miles Davis. Talk about starting at the top! Terrie had gotten her start by convincing Murphy and Davis to give her a chance, so I thought maybe I could persuade her to do the same for me. My senior year at Howard, I wrote to her, expressing my desire to work for her, and she actually called me personally.
Later I learned that Terrie treated every single letter or phone call the same way, whether it came from the head of HBO or some college student she'd never heard of. No matter who it was, she responded promptly, either in person or by having someone on her team follow up (and if you were the one who was supposed to follow up, you had to prove to her that you did!). That was an important lesson that has stuck with me to this day.