Dyana Williams: Radio Royalty, Guinness Record Holder & Panic Attack Sufferer
Welcome to our column, Reset. Written by Karen Taylor Bass, this column, published each Tuesday, is about life lessons learned and mastered mentally, spiritually, and physically and how they contribute to a successful life and career.
Dyana Williams is radio royalty and founder of Influence Entertainment. Her silky voice has hypnotized radio listeners for 40 years, an impressive catalog of work as on-air radio and TV talent from WHUR-FM (Washington, DC) and WBLS-FM (New York) to the Soul of VH1, BET, and TVOne’s Unsung.
Currently, Williams hosts “Soulful Sunday,” a weekly show broadcast via Radio One adult contemporary station, WRNB-FM (100.3), which won the Achievement in Radio Award in 2006.
And for Influence Entertainment, her mission includes crafting stellar talking points, message development, crisis media management, and lifestyle coaching for celebrities, athletes and corporate executives. She has counted Rihanna, Jill Scott, PitBull, Mary Mary, Justin Beiber, T.I., Erykah Badu, Chris Brown and many more among her clientele.
On top of that, she’s a “Guinness World Record holder for organizing the largest Soul Train line in Philadelphia,” Williams tells us.
But having a successful career is only part of the story for the loving mom to three bipolar children. I sat down with the inspiring Dyana Williams for a talk about how she pressed reset.
MadameNoire: How did you get started in the radio business?
Dyana Williams: I am a proud native New Yorker, attended CUNY-City College and listened to the legendary Vy Higginsen on WBLS-FM in New York. Vy’s style as an on-air personality changed my life; I immediately took over my college radio, got my own show and never looked back. Next big gig was working at WHUR (original Quiet Storm format) in the ‘70s.
MN: Tell us about your company, Influence Entertainment?
DW: We all want to influence people. Influence is the ability to prevail thoughts and emotions on others and that is what celebrities do. It’s been an amazing journey to create a company, which is 20 years old now and encompasses my four decades of working in media. I started the company to focus on artist development, media coaching and production. Coaching emerging artists and established ones to help them with their public persona.
MN: Why is media coaching important?
DW: My style of media coaching is life coaching; strategizing with clients to be the best, even when they don’t feel like it. The goal is to empower clients to give their best version of themselves, maximize their experience as a human being to uplift, inspire, and aspire.
MN: What has been your biggest challenge to date?
DW: The balance of life and work. Being a single parent to three children after a decade relationship with Kenny Gamble (co-creator behind the lush Philly Soul sound, one of the most popular and influential musical developments of the 1970s).
I went back to college 20 years later to get a degree, working full-time and graduated cum laude. Finding a way to do all these things and not letting things stop me while involving with my children.
MN: How did you press RESET?
DW: The reset light bulb came on for me seven years ago. All three of my children are bipolar and face challenges that most children and parents face.
At one point all three of my kids were manic and all I was doing was putting out fires. Although Kenny Gamble is an absolute involved parent and we were doing this together, my health started to become compromised. Heart palpitations, panic attacks, weight gain… After a battery of tests, there was nothing wrong with my heart, [but] the circumstances of my children’s illness took me down. I had to inform my children, who were in their early 20s at the time, that I loved them dearly and had done the best I could. However it was time for me to take care of myself.
I moved out of the family home, and stopped enabling my children. It was time for them to grow, take care of themselves, which included taking medication and carving a life/career for themselves. My children are doing well now and all have careers in the entertainment industry, behind the scences.
Dyana Williams’ RESET: She had to learn to put her own oxygen mask on first when panic attacks had taken over. By taking care of herself, ultimately she taught them how to be self-sufficient and help themselves.