Using Your Voice to Create Change in Yourself and Your Industry with Karen Williams: Podcast Ep. 374

Using Your Voice to Create Change in Yourself and Your Industry with Karen Williams: Podcast Ep. 374

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Join us for a powerful episode with Karen Williams, also known as the Black Visual Queen. 

Karen, a skilled photo director, sat down with our lead speaking coach, Diane Diaz, to talk about her journey from corporate life to entrepreneurship, her advocacy for more diversity in the photography industry, and her experience in crafting her impactful keynote talk during a one-on-one VIP Day. Spoiler alert, her talk went great! 

In this episode, Karen and Diane talk about: 

  • Why and how Karen made the shift from corporate professional to entrepreneur 
  • The events that shaped Karen’s perspectives on her work and herself and the actions she took as a result
  • The challenges she faced as a black woman in the photo industry and her path to empowering herself and others
  • Making the decision to use her voice to champion her own work and bring more diversity to her industry
  • Why she decided to work with Diane on her keynote talk and the outcome of her speaking engagement 

Karen Williams’ journey is not just a story of breaking industry barriers; it’s about the power of voice and identity in creating influential narratives, both behind the lens and on the speaking stage.

 

 

About Our Guest: Karen Williams is a dedicated mentor to aspiring photographers, advocating for equitable access to information within the industry. With more than 10 years of experience in photography, Karen is a visual creative director, keynote speaker, and founder of Black Visual Queen, a photography consulting firm. An industry insider, she’s had a hand in visual stories for iconic brands like Netflix, Masterclass, Square, Wired, AARP, and San Francisco. In her free time, she loves marathon training and all things pop culture. Karen lives in Los Angeles, California.

About Us: The Speaking Your Brand podcast is hosted by Carol Cox. At Speaking Your Brand, we help women entrepreneurs and professionals clarify their brand message and story, create their signature talks, and develop their thought leadership platforms. Our mission is to get more women in positions of influence and power because it’s through women’s stories, voices, and visibility that we challenge the status quo and change existing systems. Check out our coaching programs at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com

Links:

Show notes at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/374/

Karen’s website: https://www.blackvisualqueen.com/

Register for our Business of Speaking workshop live on Zoom on February 22: https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/business-of-speaking-workshop/

Discover your Speaker Archetype by taking our free quiz at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/quiz/

Get your own VIP Day to create your signature talk by enrolling in our Thought Leader Academy: https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/academy/ 

Connect on LinkedIn:

Related Podcast Episodes:

374-SYB-Karen-Williams.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

374-SYB-Karen-Williams.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Carol Cox:
This is a powerful conversation about using your voice to create change in yourself and in your industry. With our guest, Karen Williams on this episode of the Speaking Your Brand podcast. More and more women are making an impact by starting businesses, running for office and speaking up for what matters. With my background as a TV political analyst, entrepreneur and speaker, I interview and coach purpose driven women to shape their brands, grow their companies, and become recognized as influencers in their field. This is speaking your brand, your place to learn how to persuasively communicate your message to your audience. Hi and welcome to the Speaking Your Brand podcast. I’m your host, Carol Cox. If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, then you know that here at Speaking Your Brand, our mission is to encourage more women to find and use their voice to dig deep into their story and to their ideas, and to share them in bigger ways, because we know that’s how we challenge the status quo and change existing systems for the better. Well, that’s exactly what our guest, Karen Williams, also known as the Black Visual Queen, has done. She and our lead speaking coach, Diane Diaz, worked together in a VIP day last fall for a keynote that Karen was asked to deliver. This was one of those speaking engagements that Karen knew that she wanted to do an excellent job at, not only because of the topic in the audience, but also because she wants to put herself out there as a speaker in bigger ways.

Carol Cox:
And you’ll hear towards the end of this conversation that Diane and Karen have, that Karen has definitely been bit by the speaking bug, and she’s excited to deliver even more keynotes and talks. So much so that after her VIP day, she ended up joining our Thought Leader Academy and our Thought Leader Academy. We work closely with you both one on one and in a small group over a period of eight weeks. To help you develop your thought leadership message. Create your signature talk. Learn the power of storytelling in your presentations and talks. We talk about the business of speaking and of course, preparing and delivering your talk. To learn more about our Thought Leader Academy, go to speakingyourbrand.com/academy. Again, that’s speakingyourbrand.com/academy. We’re also hosting a live three hour workshop on Zoom on Thursday, February 22nd. So coming up very shortly. This is all around the business of speaking how to find speaking engagements, how to position yourself as a premium speaker, how to get paid to speak, what to charge for your speaking, how to use ChatGPT to write your speaking proposals. It can be really good and so helpful at doing that. So we’re going to show you how to do that, how to optimize your LinkedIn profile to attract speaking invitations, and more. You can get all the details about this business of speaking workshop by going to speakingyourbrand.com/workshops Again, that’s speakingyourbrand.com/workshops. I hope you can join us. Now. Let’s get on with the show.

Diane Diaz:
Welcome to the Speaking Your Brand podcast. Karen.

Karen Williams:
Hi. Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited.

Diane Diaz:
I’m really excited for our listeners to hear from you. Um, so why don’t we start by? I’ll just let you tell our listeners a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Karen Williams:
So my name is Karen or aka the Black Visual Queen. It is a photography consultant company. So I help brands businesses kind of with their visual output. But also I coach and mentor photographers on, you know, presenting their best work and get them seen in front of the right people.

Diane Diaz:
Um, I love that, I love that, and so maybe share a little bit about we’ll get into your background and how you got to this, but how long have you been doing this sort of photo direction type work?

Karen Williams:
I would say ten plus years, but really kind of breaking out on my own starting this year, um, which has been really exciting and working with new people and kind of expanding my horizons. Basically, I turned 40 and I was like, life is short, and now I am not going to let fear hold me back. It’s like if do it scared anywhere the weight it’s do it scared anyway as I’ve heard it. So it’s like taking that leap and we’ll get into the keynote and everything and really kind of stepping out on my own.

Diane Diaz:
Yes, I love it, I love it. And so maybe we can start there. So I know because we’ve Karen and I have worked together in a VIP day, and we’ll talk about that in a minute. But I know a little bit about your story from our conversations during working together in that VIP day. So what I know you had sort of a circuitous route to what you do now. And one of the things that intrigued me before this conversation that I really wanted to talk about, and I mentioned to this, this to Karen before we started recording. But, Karen, you made a post recently on LinkedIn and the. Post began with the death of George Floyd changed everything for me. That really intrigued me. And then in that post, you talked about sort of, you know, where you were at, what you were feeling, and then the action that you took, which you said, I went into therapy for the first time, started addressing childhood trauma, understood how my race affected my work ethic. And so you talked about the fact that as a black woman, you felt like you needed to, quote unquote, prove yourself in the corporate space. So so let’s back up a little bit and maybe talk about what, well, what brought you to making that post, but also what was your experience in your industry and what. Talk us through what that was like. What were you feeling experiencing? What were the challenges as a black woman in your industry?

Karen Williams:
Kind of to back up from there? How I even got into this industry, which is pure by accident. Like I went to photo school thinking I was going to be a photographer, not knowing, oh, you can be a photo producer, editor, director, um, kind of being behind the scenes of facilitating the photography and creating it with the photographer. And so I just happened to do an internship after I graduated, graduated with my MFA, and I was like, oh, I love it. It was like for a custom publishing company. And I was like, this is what I want to do. So kind of fast forward a few years later, I got my first real job and. I know this is like, it might sound weird coming from me, but it’s like, I. I know that I’m black and I know that there’s racism. I grew up in a middle class family and, you know, from both my parents are retired, um, Army. And, you know, I never really faced, I guess, in my, you know, in your face, kind of blatant racism. So when I started working, you know, yes, I knew that I was pretty much the only person of color in these kind of corporate spaces, but it was in a sense, I was so used to it of growing up, and that’s what was shown on television and stuff like that, and kind of ingrained in me.

Karen Williams:
I just kind of assimilate it. So I would just go to these places. But knowing that, I think deep down that I, I felt like I just had one shot. And so I, you know, that’s when I became a perfectionist and I was just like, okay, I can’t say no. I have to do, you know, say yes to everything because I just got one shot because they just give me, like for me, in my mindset, they were like, okay, they’re just giving me a chance. So if I screw up, they’re going to be like, okay, we gave you a shot, goodbye. And so that kind of like mentality and hustle, you know, eventually led to like two burn outs. Fast forward to when George Floyd happened, I think when I finally saw it, because it took me a couple weeks before I really like it really sucked in, and I really kind of saw the impact. Like it wasn’t like right away, like I was kind of avoiding the news at that point, in a sense. And then I was confronted with it. Something deep inside of me just shook me to my core.

Karen Williams:
It was like I woke up. I had been in this industry, basically assimilated in a sense, not thinking that I knew I was black, but I wasn’t black. And I was like, oh my God, I’m not safe. I’m not safe. I keep thinking I’m safe. I keep thinking I’m like that one lucky person. But no, I could walk down the street and get shot just for walking on the wrong side of the street or the wrong neighborhood. And that. Just that. Whew. That just opened the floodgates of anger. I was like, for a few months, just angry. Angry. And it wasn’t, you know? You know, my coworkers would come and be like, all of a sudden be like, are you okay? Are you okay? But you never asked if I was okay. Why? I’m why? You know, it was all these questioning, and that’s when I knew where it was. Like, I’m tired of being angry. And I was like, okay, I’m going to therapy. I just got I got to talk it out. I can’t suppress it anymore. And that was this most scariest. But the best decision I made to help process what I was feeling now. But things I’ve been processing since I was like a kid.

Diane Diaz:
Yeah, yeah, I can imagine. I can imagine when you’re like you were saying, if you’re the only person of color in that space and you’re. But but after a while, like you said, you, you know, you’re black, but you just you’re just going about your day. And so you’re doing your work. And so you assimilate because you’re just doing the thing. But then all of a sudden this thing happens, which brings into sort of focus, oh, wait, I am the only black person here. Oh wait, if I mess up. Oh wait, I’ve been I’ve been holding all this together. It’s almost like you’re it’s almost like you, you know, you’re black, yet you’re just you’re just there doing the thing. And then all of a sudden that, like, whips you back into focus of. Oh my God. I can only imagine the. I can only imagine the weight that that must have had.

Karen Williams:
That’s what I mean. I think it was the best and worst thing in the world because it was like the worst being like, oh my God, how could I be so naive in a sense, thinking I am like the only black person who’s never going to be touched, who’s never going to have racism, who’s never. But then at the same time, okay, it woke me up. Where? Okay. I’ve been in a sense. Carrying on all these, these these these systems and this gatekeeping that’s been happening in our industry. Right. Because I haven’t been saying anything. I haven’t wanting to make waves, not speak out, because even when I started speaking out, there was even though the initial the initial response of George Floyd, everyone was like, okay, we’re going to make a difference and we’re going to do the black square and, you know, and then you start. And then I said, okay, it started okay. I started saying my, you know, my piece started saying like, this is what I think. And I got some pushback. I had to leave a company because I was like, no. Because you’re saying this, but internally you’re not living what you’re saying, not doing what you’re telling to the world. And, you know, at that point I was like, okay. Baby steps, but that’s kind of been my rallying cry behind black visual queen. You know, knowledge is power. And if you just look through the history of when you’re trying to suppress people, what are you usually holding back knowledge or something to help educate themselves, to think for themselves and to be able to fight against you? And that’s just not like racially think about like in the world of like finances of how like they want you to be empowered.

Karen Williams:
But do they do they really want you to understand how you can, in a sense, gain the system, like what the 1% can do, or figure out the loopholes, figure out, oh, how I can make this work for myself. Again, that’s a form of gatekeeping or just on a personal level when you’re, you know, competing with a coworker, being like, I’m not going to give you this information because I want to get ahead can be just as little as that. It’s just those little things you don’t think about. And for me, going forward from that day on, I was like, okay, what can I do? Because I can’t depend on a company. I can’t depend on the world having a consistent, you know, a like a rallying power. Okay, we’re finally going to all work together. It’s like. And that’s what I preach to people. It’s like, what’s that one little thing you can do? And for me, it was coaching. It was mentoring. It was like, you know, if you need to have a five minute chat. If you need me. What have I been blessed with that I can serve and help others?

Diane Diaz:
Yes. Thank you for sharing that. I think, um, I can imagine that. I can imagine that a lot of people of color in, in all spaces, not just the photography space, but all spaces probably felt something like that. And then it’s probably that feel as you were describing it. It came to me that it’s sort of like this feeling of like, oh, yeah, let’s, um, you know, let’s be empowered, but not too much, like still play within our we still play, please play within the system that we’ve set up that is not set up for you, but be empowered. But just don’t overdo it. Like, just, you know, tone it down a little bit. So so then so nothing ever really does change. So then that just continues to perpetuate it. So I can imagine that part of I would imagine that that’s partly what drove you to kind of go out on your own. Is it.

Karen Williams:
Yeah. And again I’m still working, you know, you know, for people and stuff like that. But for me to be able to, you know, kind of separate myself and be able to on my own be like, this is what I stand for. This is, you know, I’m not connected necessarily to something because that’s the one thing. It’s like people, you know, the initial, you know, reaction, you know, being on the right, try to be on the right side of history. It’s like, yes, we need to stop this, but I, I, I push back and be like, where are we now? Where’s the search? It feels like we’re going. We’re kind of back where we started, in a sense. We had that initial rush, but then. Oh, no, customers are leaving. Oh, no. We’re. You know, when you start losing money on up, like, I think for me, it’s like, are you willing to stand up and are you willing to walk away? And are you willing to, you know, lose people to push, you know, to make progress in the right direction?

Diane Diaz:
Yes. And I am a firm believer, and I’ve said this in lots of other spaces before. I’m a firm believer that even when you’re working for someone else, you should have your your you should build your own personal brand because you don’t want to rely. It’s it’s fine to be, you know, loyal and do your best for an employer, of course, but you do have to think about yourself because at the end of the day, and I’ve learned this, and I’m sure many people have had this lesson, the corporate world isn’t there for you. It’s not because they like you. It’s, you know, it’s a transaction. So I think everybody, regardless of whether they work for themselves or work for someone else, should focus on building their personal brand so that they can have their own thing that they’re building. Right. That’s not necessarily connected to any other entity. And that’s kind of what you’ve done too, is this build, this black visual queen, which I love, because it’s to me, that’s sort of the essence of who you are. Right? And it it sort of walks the walk and talks the talk of who you are and what you do and what you stand for.

Karen Williams:
I totally agree, because for the longest time when I, you know, when I was working, when I especially when you’re younger and what they kind of teach you, you know, you graduate and you work for this company, you give loyalty to this company. And back in the day, that used to be that. But now you’re a number. When things go down, you know, and through therapy, you know, trying to separate myself of, you know, you are not your job, you are not your work. And it’s hard. Again, I love where I’ve worked, I love where I work, I love everything I get to do, but I know I need to have what is me. Something happens. It’s me. And I want to make sure that I have built something that, you know, can, you know, outlast every, you know, company, brand and stuff like that, that I can just walk, you know, get up and then just walk away and be like, okay, I got something. This is this is my brand. This is, you know. Let’s work together in a sense.

Diane Diaz:
I love it, I love it, and Karen, what are so I know that that was your experience kind of or your awareness that you came to when this what happened with George Floyd. But it’s overall in your career, what are some of the other challenges that you’ve faced? Because I know that you a lot of your messaging on LinkedIn is about helping other, um, black women in your industry, sort of, you know, find their place, find their space, um, find themselves and figure out how to navigate their careers. So can you talk through some of the other challenges that you might have faced throughout your time in this career as a black woman? Like, what are some of the unique things that you experienced?

Karen Williams:
I think it’s true when, you know, kind of Malcolm X has that quote, you know. Like cut it on. The lowest tone poem is a black woman in a sense, because it’s like being able to raise my voice, or to have an opinion or to be able to suggest like, hey, let’s start working with these type of photographers. When you’re running against, against a, you know, resistance of, you have people like, yes, we want to diversify, diversify. But then, oh, we just want to hire the same five photographers over and over again or hire, you know, going against particularly in kind of this industry of basically where I’ve been, it’s been white males and those leadership positions and navigating like not coming off of like I’ve always said, is like, I can’t yell, I can’t talk back because, oh, I’m the black sassy lady. When you hear literally arguments with other people who are not of color and they’re like, oh, they are, you know, a.

Diane Diaz:
Passionate.

Karen Williams:
Right? Yes.

Diane Diaz:
Passionate or assertive. Yeah.

Karen Williams:
And so I am walking that fine line of like, okay, how do I, you know. Assert myself. Speak in power, but not make it feel like I’m threatening. Because and again, this is the things that are just taught to us innately that you just don’t know, like, you know, and again, I still have to work on this. Like, not like, oh, I’m prejudiced on certain things or certain people and stuff like that. Like racism is everywhere. So everyone’s like a racist in some little form, or you just don’t know that maybe it’s in, you know, you know, like blatant like, but, you know, just deep down, subconsciously you just what you’ve been taught from your parents, from where you grew up, from the community, you know, and stuff like that. But just balancing that line of feeling like being a valued and being valued.

Diane Diaz:
Yes. Yes. And and I think it’s to, to sort of make another side of that coin. You’re trying to do all of that while also doing a good job. And doing your work. And so you’ve got this double. It’s almost like you’re you’re doing double duty because you’re doing the job, but you’re also doing a job underneath that, which is to appease everybody else’s. You know, how they might react to this black woman having a voice or opinion about something. And how do I make sure that I don’t upset anybody? And so you’re doing double time. So it’s more exhausting. I can imagine how that led to burnout.

Karen Williams:
I would say triple time because it’s like because and again, as a person of color, it feels like, okay, if you’re not, you come into this industry, they give you so many chances, but it feels like, you know, I had the grace of having to learn. But then I, you know, I knew that if I made that one misstep, okay, I gotta like, triple learn myself, Google like, figure things out, you know, like on my own and be like, educate myself. And that’s like part of my post. And, you know, I always say it’s like you need to take control of your own personal development. Don’t wait for the company to do it. You need to always learn. Do learn something new. And I think that comes from of going into the industry at a time when it was, you know, layoffs, layoffs, layoffs, and people had been at jobs for over 20 plus years. And I knew from then, okay, I cannot depend on this job. You know, I need to learn. I need to keep being able to adapt and pivot. And so going into this being like, okay, someone comes to me and like, hey, do you know this? And I’m like, am I, you know, kind of like a white lie in a sense of like, yeah. And I just go back, okay, I’m going to Google what is this? And I’m going to figure it out and like, maybe ask my friends, like, okay, how do you do that? Like, you know, because at the time I feel like today, you know, is not a taboo in a sense, like ask for help, ask questions versus, you know, like five years ago where it was like, you need to, you know, everyone is out for their own, figure it out.

Karen Williams:
Like you just thrown in and you sink or swim. And that’s kind of how I like, operate it for so long. And that’s leading to like the burnout of like, oh, here you go. And you have like ten shoots. You need to, you know, be on tomorrow and you just got to figure it out and navigate. And I don’t want to have to do that. And and that’s what I feel like, you know, going, you know, going forward in the work, you know, kind of in the workforce future when you see these entry level jobs and it’s like, but I need you to have like three, five years of experience, like how do you learn, how do you learn? And that’s why I like provide kind of my mentoring and coaching of like, here’s the fundamentals. I don’t want you to have to learn the hard way like me of like, here’s the foundation you need and this is how you’re going to get the experience. So you can walk in there and be able just to basically they want you to like almost like a turnkey house. Like they want you to be like, okay, here’s the systems we use. We train you on that. Okay. Go.

Diane Diaz:
Mhm. Mhm. Yes. Yeah. No that’s a good I think that’s a good um nuance is that triple time because you’re doing, you’re doing all the mental labor of all those things plus your job. And so it’s, it’s a lot. And so let’s speaking of pivots let’s pivot a little bit into us working together. Because you came to speaking your brand because you had already booked a talk and you needed to work on that talk. And so we worked together in a VIP day. But let’s talk first. How did that talk come your way? Did they reach out to you? Did you pitch yourself? How did that come about?

Karen Williams:
So came to me. So earlier this year I did this event called flow and they had asked me like, hey, we want to do something on diversity. And they’re like, hey, do you want to do a keynote? And at the time, like, and I was transitioning from, from San Francisco to LA, where I’m out now for a new job. And I was like, okay, I was still I was scared. So I was like, I don’t want to be like and scared in the sense of when you’re talking about diversity, you know, you don’t want to come off of, like, I’m like the expert and this is the one right way. So I was like, can we do like a fireside chat? Like I needed like that safety net. So I did that. So I said, I vowed I was like, okay, if the next, you know, the next time I get asked, I’m going to do this keynote. So at least I could say in my life I did a keynote. So like a few months later, another photo conference that was happening in L.A. saw my talk or my kind of fireside chat on like, socials and they like, they reached out to me and was like, hey, would you be interested in in the keynote? And it’s like, yes.

Karen Williams:
So I just immediately say, yes, what do you need me to talk on? And again, on the diversity, you know, in the photo studio. Love it. I love though it’s, you know, present like talk about it. If no one else is going to do it, at least I can do it from my perspective. And I knew I wanted to be prepared and kind of how I found speaking your brand actually is like, because I’m currently working on a book, I was like in this course with Tiffany Hawk emailed her, and then she gave me the speaking of brand, Carol Cox. Like like, yes, reach out. And that’s how I got connected. And I saw that for me, I’m like one of those talkers where I want to work with someone and I’m like, I’m listening to all the podcasts, I’m looking at all the socials, I’m looking at all this like, okay, y’all legit. And I was like, okay, this would be like perfect for me, because to have someone to help me come up with the come up with kind of like my idea or make sense of it and put it in a structure where I’m like, okay. This makes sense. Break it down. Easy peasy.

Diane Diaz:
Yes, yes. And so for everybody who’s listening, Tiffany Hawk is a book coach. And so, so if you if you’re working on a book, reach out to her. But you know, thank you to Tiffany for for connecting you with speaking your brand. So you you had already so they came to you, asked you to do this talk. So there was already a sort of an idea around what the talk would be. And I remember when you came into the VIP day, you had a lot of ideas. And then we sort of worked on a framework for your, your talk. And so tell, tell our audience what the general gist of your talk was. And then let’s talk about that framework and what that is and how we built that into your talk.

Karen Williams:
So like the general, uh, the of the kind of talk was kind of like, what are ways of how you can, um, diversify your photo studio, because in this industry, it’s very notorious of who, you know, your connections and networks. Like I tell photographers, it’s like the number one thing is usually when they are looking for a photographer, people go to forms or they ask their coworkers like, hey, I got to shoot in Miami, who do you know? And so it’s kind of the same way when you’re working in photo studios and those like kind of, you know, in those roles and production and like photo assistants, city techs, it’s like, who do you know? Because again, the framework is we are, you know, creatures of habit. We want people who kind of just already know. We just teach them one little, two things, and then they’re they’re good to go. They can figure it out. You know, it’s hard to want to take the time to train. And I get it. But that’s how we learn. Like, how do you learn? Like, how did we all learn? Um, and so I wanted to present something in a very easy and accessible way. Um, because when I came to you, I was like, okay, when we do this presentation, I want to keep it light and breezy because I’m after lunch. Yes, a.

Diane Diaz:
Hard time.

Karen Williams:
Slot, you know. So it was, was so funny. But I’m glad I wasn’t before lunch because before lunch everyone was starting to get hungry and they were like, hey. And it was like, you know, it was like at 1:00. So it was like 1230. People were like, I’m ready. Um, but then knowing that. But then after lunch and kind of the idea of having the walk up music when we let one of my presentation led up with the slide of Beyoncé, um, really got that energy going. And so within this keynote, we came up with the Framework Act. And so with each one with a, you know, assess your team, you know, who’s on your team, who’s missing. And that doesn’t mean, like, you know, it means diversity in all shapes and sizes and different, you know, backgrounds and, and and education and stuff like that. And then see, you know, challenge yourself and how you’re finding people. It’s easy to go to those friends and be like, hey, who do you know? And you got five people, but it’s like some of the best people. And who may have the greatest ideas they may not have, like the traditional educational background, because and again, a lot of people, when you talk in the creative, they’re like, how do you get in this thing? And some people are like, well, someone just handed me a camera. So I just started, or someone was like, hey, you look good.

Karen Williams:
You could work on a set. Hey, come, PA, like it’s a weird way to get in. And so you have to be kind of intentional and challenge yourself to make sure are you, you know, you’re broadening broadening out how you’re finding people, um, the resources you’re using, um, to help. And then with T. Take action now. Like what is the small step you can take? Because I think what diversity and you know, initiatives people are waiting for the rally cry of the company. What is that big idea that they’re, you know, going to say, but it’s like there’s so much red tape that can go along with that. You can just I always say it’s like, what is the thing you’ve been blessed with that you can help and be a service to help others. Can you just take a quick 15 minute coffee chat? Go to networking events. Do portfolio reviews, you know. Can you sponsor someone, like with an internship or like link up with an organization to help kind of start an internship program? This there’s so many little things you can do that adds up that cause ripple effects, where if this person didn’t get this one opportunity or didn’t have this chat with you, or they did, you know, they had this chat with you, you know, it put that idea that sparked that like this is possible.

Diane Diaz:
Mhm. Yeah and.

Karen Williams:
I.

Diane Diaz:
Know go.

Diane Diaz:
Ahead go ahead.

Karen Williams:
Oh I was gonna say I was like I kind of like put it to the sense of when Barack Obama finally was was, you know, elected president. A lot of people, a lot of kids and especially black kids, black male finally said, oh, I can be president. Because you see, you know, you know, usually, you know, that phrase of like, you know, you know, we only, you know, believe what we can see in a sense.

Diane Diaz:
Yes, I will. I will never forget that image of the little black boy touching Barack Obama’s hair. Literally. Literally seeing feeling literally that he too might be able to be president one day. And because here is this man standing in front of him that did it. I am like you. That means I could do it too. I love Karen too, that you you were using. So all that you went through in your career leading up to this point and all the challenges that you experienced and the things that you saw, um, with diversity or lack thereof, and feeling like the only one who had to represent and also then do all that emotional labor and, and the job you’re taking all of that and sharing this message to do exactly what you’re asking others to do, which is to just be the one person that does the one small thing that can change things to create more diversity. Because if we we can’t. There’s some saying, and I can’t, I don’t remember who said it, and I’m going to kind of butcher it, but it’s we can’t all of us. What is it? We can’t individually do everything, but everybody can do something. Yeah.

Karen Williams:
Right. Exactly.

Diane Diaz:
So whatever that small thing is. So I love I loved that your idea was to keep your talk fun, because I remember you telling me you don’t want to come in as, like, you know, kind of like chastising everybody, like, oh, you’re not doing enough. You’re not doing this. You wanted to keep it fun and light, which was your idea to use all the memes in your talk and your slides. So Karen used in her slide deck for this talk a lot of memes to lighten the mood, because this can be a heavy topic, especially if it feels if the audience feels like they’re being reprimanded, we don’t want that. Right? So your idea to use memes, I think was really smart and really effective. And so I know you already gave that talk. How did it go tell everybody how it went?

Karen Williams:
Oh, it went great. It was so funny because when I because I was there the whole day. And so we were in a smaller conference room because it was like for different conferences all in this one big room in different like in we’re all in different rooms. So we were in the main one, which was like creative operations. We were in the photo studio side and then there was a design op, and then there was another one I cannot think of at this time, but we were in this little tiny room, so and it wasn’t that many people as much. So I thought, oh, no one’s going to come to this. And I saw some of my old friends and they were like, yeah, we’re coming to your talk. We saw you on the agenda. And so they were all there. And then there was and it was so funny because when we when you had suggested about like the Beyonce walk up music and stuff like that, there was one of my friends who went to another talk and she’s like, Karen, I heard that. I heard that Beyonce and I knew I made the wrong choice.

Karen Williams:
Oh, like, yeah, mine.

Karen Williams:
Mine too, you know? And it was really well received. People came up to me like, this was like one of the best tops, because I think you had a lot of people there who were kind of like keynote by the numbers. If I want to say this, of like, we do this all the time, this is what we do. This is you know, and I knew that. And again, with the age of phones and people work, having to still work during those conferences, seeing them, that’s kind of why I wanted to lean into the memes and keep people engaged, because people are like, oh, look, it’s video, it’s something is moving. Or it’s like a fun meme where it’s like, oh, I want to look. And, you know, oh, I remember that. That makes me laugh. So again, kind of what you were saying is it can be a heavy topic. I’m not the expert. Like I didn’t study in this. This is just based on my personal experience, but really just kind of, you know, presented in a way where it’s like, you don’t have to do this mesa, you know, this massive, like, grandeur. And I think that’s what people I think when you get into the discussion of like, what can we do about racism? It’s like, that is such a big, broad topic and different avenues you can go into, but it’s like bringing it down to you yourself as a person. What is the one thing you can do?

Diane Diaz:
Yes. So your talk was almost like a metaphor for the whole the whole thing, the whole point, which is that you don’t have to do everything. You just have to do something, some one thing.

Karen Williams:
Have to act.

Diane Diaz:
Yes, act.

Karen Williams:
That’s right. Just bring it full. Oh, I love it.

Diane Diaz:
I love it, I love it. And so what’s next for you then with regard to speaking?

Karen Williams:
Um, I am.

Karen Williams:
Just like, yeah, I’m just trying to put myself out there to do more of it and just to continue to get better at it. Um, you know, more practice to get more comfortable. But the one thing what I love about it, after working with you and just having that prep after I was done with that keynote and I had mentioned in an email, I just felt energized. And every time, you know, people are like, you know, they fear public speaking more than death. And like, I would be like, okay, I and I remember I would do the speeches in my toastmaster and I’d be like terrified. And then after I was done, I was like, I never want to do this again. After that keynote, I was like, I want to continue this. I just felt the energy. It’s like hard to explain, but it just felt energy. After I’m like, okay, I’m ready to do another one, which I was like, so y’all did y’all dogs, right? Like, I want to continue to speak.

Diane Diaz:
Oh, I’m so excited about that.

Karen Williams:
Figure out where it’s like because of the preparation. I mean, like was amazing. So well organized, such a simple like framework to follow you just input and it’s like you do the work and then you can’t. It’s hard to screw up. It’s really hard to screw up. Which you know, again, I appreciate all what you and Carol do, but shout out to you because you were my VIP. Like my.

Diane Diaz:
Vip. Oh, thank you for VIP. Oh thank you.

Karen Williams:
Uh, and so, you know, patient and kind and just a wealth of information and just I knew right away when I want, when I was going to do that keynote and I was like, I gotta find somewhere to work with. And it was like the best investment.

Diane Diaz:
Oh, I’m so glad to hear that. Speaking is very nerve wracking. But I think the difference is when you, like you said, when you have structure to it like that and you made it yours, you made it with memes. That was on. That was your idea. It was a great idea. I think that makes it. And then the stories, of course it makes it fun, not just for the audience, but also for you. Because if you’re not enjoying your talk, then probably shouldn’t be doing it right. So I think it makes it fun for the speaker too. So I’m glad. I’m glad you enjoyed it. And obviously the audience loved it.

Karen Williams:
Yeah. I was like, are you sure? Because it was one of those, like, kind of things where it was an odd or outer body experience. Yes, of like, I did it, but I don’t remember it.

Karen Williams:
And you sure I was okay? You don’t have.

Karen Williams:
To hurt my feelings, but it’s like, you know, it’s like, am I sorry? I know because I was just, I think really just in the moment and trying to make that was another thing. It was like I was consciously trying to look out and make eye contact. I wasn’t trying to, because at first I thought I was going to be walking across the stage, but they had a podium. I had no idea they were going to have one, and I and I had notes and I was like, I’m glad I didn’t know I didn’t do that because I don’t want to get have that as a crutch all the time. But it was like, oh, I want to engage. Like I want to have that conversation.

Diane Diaz:
Yes, you are a very good speaker instincts. So I do see more speaking on the horizon for you. Now, I just want to bring this back up. You mentioned briefly that you’re writing a book, so can you just give us a little insight into what that’s about?

Karen Williams:
So it’s kind of for like any photographer who is curious about kind of like insider kind of knowledge and seeing the photo industry, but also giving practical tips on how to succeed. That kind of bridges the gap from kind of what you learn in, you know, you know, in school or on your own, uh, with real life of like what? This is like the real side of business.

Diane Diaz:
Oh, I love it.

Karen Williams:
And being able to empower yourself and go in very confidently when you start working. Well, if.

Diane Diaz:
Anybody’s qualified to write a book like that, it is you, because you you certainly have a lot of experience.

Karen Williams:
You’re so cool.

Diane Diaz:
You have a lot of experience to draw upon. So I’m sure that’s going to be I’m sure that’s going to be valuable. And like you said, you know, nobody’s teaching you the things. And so this is something that’s going to be useful to people who want to go into this field. And they can start out at least knowing some of the basics. That’s going to get them a leg up. So that’s always valuable. So good. That’s a goal. Well Karen.

Karen Williams:
Get that knowledge out.

Diane Diaz:
Yes absolutely. Well knowledge is power as we know. Yes. Right. Well take a moment and tell our audience where they can connect with you online.

Karen Williams:
So you can find me kind of everywhere at my website, at Black Visual Queen, LinkedIn IG and TikTok at Black Digital Queen. Great.

Diane Diaz:
Well, we’ll share all those things in the show notes. Definitely reach out to Karen. Follow her. Definitely follow her on LinkedIn because she you post on LinkedIn a lot and it’s always really insightful things and short posts, but very insightful. And so I definitely recommend connecting with with Karen on on LinkedIn if you haven’t done that. So we will share all those in the show notes. Karen, thank you so much. First of all for entrusting me with your VIP day. I truly enjoyed working with you and thank you for coming on the podcast and sharing with our listeners.

Karen Williams:
Thank you so much for having me, and it’s just been such a pleasure working with you and gaining all your knowledge. So thank you.

Diane Diaz:
Well thank you, it was my pleasure.

Carol Cox:
Thanks to Diane and Karen for this really powerful conversation. If, like Karen, you have an important speaking engagement coming up and you know that you want to make sure that your keynote is rock solid, this is exactly what we do. You can find information about working with us in a standalone VIP day, or in our Thought Leader Academy on our website as speaking your brand comm. Until next time, thanks for listening.

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