Today we’d like to introduce you to LaTianna Williams.
Thanks for sharing your story with us LaTianna. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Well, my story in mental health and theatre began in high school of 2000. It was a hard time for me as a freshman in high school because did not have any confidence or self-awareness. I never truly loved myself. I only found worth in being a straight-A student and doing good things for others. I wore my hair over my face as a defense mechanism, and I always looked down. I decided to do theatre arts as my elective because I heard you can get an easy grade by just sitting there. Attending Mrs. Hunter’s drama class made me see the world differently. Seeing the students perform without fear inspired me. I began to realize I wanted to feel free and be creative with improvisational theatre. I decided to take courage and volunteered to perform on stage, and I never looked back. That decision got me to embrace fear and make something new out of it. Even though I felt afraid, I would perform. Every time I auditioned for a play, Mrs. Hunter saw something in me. She always found a part for me to play. She is by far the most influential teacher in my life. I learned self-love from her unconditional positive regard, and she consistently highlighted the best parts of me. It took time to realize the purpose, plan, and power behind theatre and its influence on my mental well-being. There is a therapeutic component to the dramatic arts, and it has personally helped me to get in touch with who I am.
Looking back, I can recall my grandmother helping so many people in my life. This influenced me to enter the helping profession. When I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree at CSU Long Beach, I was fortunate to interview a recreation therapist. She used creativity to help others increase their self-worth, build life skills, and live a fun and thriving life. I was sold on the concept of using creativity to help others heal. I completed my undergrad in Psychology and Recreation Therapy in 2008 and dabbled in some theatre. While at CSULB I was exposed to using theatre for social justice. I performed in the Vagina Monologues to raise awareness about domestic violence. I put these experiences on the back burner, silently hoping that one day I could use theatre to ignite a discussion about mental health and its stigma.
After years of this work, I was burned out with my profession in Recreation Therapy. I took a break to work for a celebrity fashion icon, Kelis. I was a nanny to her first child for a year in 2012 and was able to travel internationally for the first time in my life. Kelis is another woman who helped shape my identity and my journey for self-love and acceptance. She gave me a makeover and taught me her passion for fashion. She gave me life lessons behind the importance of expressing yourself and not giving a damn about what others think. She showed me it’s important to care about yourself. I was always stuck with the concept of caregiving, which I enjoyed, but I slowly realized I was the last person I cared for.
Kelis gave me feedback that I have never heard. She noticed my hair over my face, and she told me never to hide it. My hair makeover involved a short hairstyle with bangs. My confidence increased as I finally became aware of the fun and freedom I could have. I learned I could choose hair and clothing styles as a way of self-care rather than pleasing others.
Working with theatre and other creative outlets has opened the doors for me to not only heal and recover from deep cycles depression, but it also opened opportunities to present and host drama therapy at state-wide conferences, small workshops, and private events. Humor, human connection, freedom, inner peace, happiness, and self-discovery were the results of my theatre craft. After working for Kelis, I began to be inspired by fashion styles and started sharing it to help others see a deeper meaning behind what we wear. There’s a psychology behind it. I went back to school in 2016 and recently graduated with my master’s in counseling, specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy. The only thing that held me together in the difficulties of working, interning, and going to school was fashion and theatre. My life underwent a metamorphosis, and I finally decided to incorporate the things I love all together: theatre arts, mental health, fashion.
I merge fashion and theatre arts together to create therapeutic outlets for people to learn more about themselves and to find healing and freedom in creative expression. To flip their life script, one outfit at a time.
Has it been a smooth road?
Not at all! My ultimate struggle was with myself and taking what other people said about me more seriously. I was bullied growing up, called ugly, and other derogatory words. I was also physically abused by classmates growing up and no one stood up for me. I was too shy to say anything and took the abuse. Instances such as these will help you believe lies that you are not good enough and that it is best to hide. I did exactly that until I met my high school drama teacher. From there, I was blessed to have many seasons of influence around me. It has shaped me into the strong woman I am today.
Another difficult road was trying to navigate my way in the workforce as a Black female. It’s hard when you don’t have a mentor to guide you into the healthcare/ entertainment/ creative art industry. I failed forward a lot. It was really discouraging how self-expression can sometimes be misunderstood. I was tired of acting like someone I wasn’t meant to be. There were many moments I felt misunderstood, but I have come to learn that people want to put you in a box. They don’t want you to venture into new territory. You have to give yourself permission to go outside the box. There’s always a new way to deliver a service, and I am beginning to embrace that. I am thankful for the women of color out there working hard and setting the standard of breaking boundaries— celebrity or non-celebrity. Seeing new opportunities happen, and seeing women breaking the stereotypes of what women should be, is empowering to continue my journey.
My advice is to discover yourself by participating in as many activities as possible. Dance, sing, visit museums, public speaking seminars, jewelry store shopping, wine tasting, etc. Who cares if you don’t know how, just do it with an open mind and open heart. The world has so much to offer and it is important to see what drives you to thrive. You begin to think about: how does this work, how does this industry operate, and what can I do to enhance it? From there, you must continue to build your craft. I always say hone in and harness your gift. My second suggestion is to seek inner healing using therapy. Find a creative art therapist so it isn’t just talk therapy. You will learn more about yourself in metaphors and with the use of artistic expression. Thirdly, I encourage you to take time to find your tribe. You blend with those who you spend time with the most, so choose wisely. Find those of good character.
We’d love to hear more about LaTianna’s World.
My world has so many things going on! I’m continually transforming my brand by having it become an icon of freedom, joy, self-discovery, self-love, and healing using theatre and fashion styles. I share my world and my story so that others can be inspired to heal and make changes in their own world. I inspire to cultivate a world of non-judgment and self-compassion as well.
Currently, I am a nationally certified Rehabilitation Therapist with a specialization in theatre. I facilitate creative art groups in theatre, music and dance. My other interests and work include acting, hosting, modeling, learning about new cultures, travel, playwriting, and fashion blogging. I also serve as a board member for a nonprofit putting an end to human trafficking, Passport 2 Freedom.
The populations I have worked for in my creative therapy craft are forensic patients, children & teens living in residential and shelter facilities, non-profit schools, and behavioral health units in the community.
I think there’s a new wave of health and healing that is underway, and I am excited to see what will come from using theatre and mental health together. Using drama therapy is still very new on the west coast, with only a handful of individuals working in this area. I am excited that it’s increasing!
What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a young woman just starting her career?
Remember, if it’s good, bad, or even ugly, this too shall pass. ALL THINGS WORK OUT TOGETHER FOR GOOD. We will never see the whole picture right away, so be patient and kind to yourself. You are called into the work you do, and you can change the world with it.
- Website: Www.latianna.com
- Phone: 5622686208
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @latiannas.world