Dyana Williams wears a variety of hats. The celebrity strategist and ambassadress of Black music, who has worked with Rihanna, T.I. Fantasia, Erykah Badu, Faith Evans, Justin Bieber, Mary Mary and many others, is also an in-demand speaker, MC and the host of Old School 100.3’s “Soulful Sunday” radio program. Williams also ran an international music foundation and has been in radio over four decades. Given her wealth of experience in the entertainment world, as well as her skills managing celebrities through crisis, (you may have seen her recent appearance on “Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta” advising embattled singer K. Michelle ) we caught up with her to ask her about one of the toughest weeks ever for Black folks this year. Here’s what she had to say.
If Black America was one of the your celebrity clients, what advice would you give them after a week that included the Zimmerman trial, Paula Deen and the Supreme Court’s decision to gut a major provision of the Voting Rights Act?
We would need to have open and honest, candid conversations about the reality of racism. And that’s a part of what is going on now. It’s like a planetary alignment all converging at one time. The reality is that racism has thrived in America. It’s been an incubator for discrimination and yes, we’ve gone through the civil rights movement. However.But. The bottom line is that racism is still alive and well in America.
Paula Deen has hired, ironically enough, Judy Smith, the real-life inspiration for Olivia Pope on “Scandal.” Can Smith resurrect her career if not her reputation?
I think Judy Smith is a capable tried-and-true crisis intervention professional, but the way major corporations are backing up from Paula Deen as though she had the bubonic plague, I think it’s going to be a serious challenge to turn the tide of negative sentiment against Paula Deen.
Yet at the same time people have been lining up at Paula’s restaurants and her book has jumped to #1 on Amazon. So she has her supporters, maybe among the culture of people who share her viewpoints?
Absolutely. Controversy can generate sales just like when an artist dies, people buy their music just to get their hands on whatever they can. That’s the nature of human beings. As you just said, people who share Paula Deen’s positions and there are many, are going to be right in her corner. But the major corporations have severed ties with her because they recognize African-American consumers are part of their bottom line and they are not trying to be insensitive.