Elaine Williams: Discover How Owning Your Own Power And Speaking Your Why Can Lead You To Greater Things In Life
It’s scary to own your power. When there is pressure or trauma, the squeaky voice can come on. Owning the core power that we all have and perhaps had to hide while growing up, will empower us. We are socialized to be pleasing and nice and this can cause us to not get the things we want. Listen to comedian, speaker, and vocal coach Elaine Williams as she teaches us how to tap into that lower register and take command of our why. We will also dive into Elaine’s struggles with addiction and her mission to change the conversation around this. There is something about our culture that leads to addictive personalities and we need to be taught emotional intelligence and understand how to detach and unplug in a healthy way. Elaine’s ultimate mission is to help people through the difficult times in their lives, whether it be an addiction, navigating college, or traumas, to speak and own their lives on their terms. Listen and learn how to tap into your deep goddess voice of truth!
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Elaine Williams: Discover How Owning Your Own Power And Speaking Your Why Can Lead You To Greater Things In Life
Captivate The Crowd
Elaine Williams moved from Texas to New York City to pursue musical theater and accidentally became a stand-up comedian and motivational speaker. Elaine Williams is an award-winning comedian, speaker and performance coach with credits like Saturday Night Live, America’s Got Talent, HBO, ABC, NBC, FOX TV and been featured in The New York Times, Hay House Radio and The Huffington Post. Elaine‘s clients have gone from never doing video or speaking live to having their own YouTube Channels, doing international book tours and speaking for NASA. Elaine loves to help women go from squeaking to speaking with conviction. Elaine combines her Debbie Ford/JFK University coaching certifications with her 30–plus years of performing professionally in theater, film, TV, voice-over, radio and stand–up comedy to transform her clients into captivating speakers.
Elaine has spoken on college campuses across the US. The colleges include Kent State, Notre Dame, UT Austin, SUNY Empire State and the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. Her TV pilot, Room for Improvement, about her life as a landlord, comic and speaker was a finalist with Lifetime TV and A&E in the New York TV Festival. Elaine was voted the top Up–and-Coming Comic in the New York Underground Comedy Festival. Her other training includes Leadership Training with Landmark Education, EFT Training, Meisner Acting Training and has been honored for her work with the military and their families at Fort Drum in New York and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.'Yes and' is about collaboration and listening and then responding. Click To Tweet
She did the New York City Marathon in 4 hours and 40 minutes and raised thousands in charity bike rides for MS. Her degree is a BA in Drama from UT Austin with honors. Elaine is the author of three books, Stop the Madness! How to Identify Addiction Warning Signs in your Friends…and What to do About It, What Every Student Needs to Know Before They Leave for College: How to Stay Safe and Stay Smart and Nothing but Net: Creating Your Customer‘s Wow Experience with Humor! Welcome, Elaine Williams to Grateful Goddesses.
I’m excited to be with all of these amazing goddesses. Karen, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to meet Alyssa, Dena and Rachel.
You’re here with the OGs, the originals. We’re excited to talk with you. You’ve got so many hats that you wear. We’re going to dive right in with Alyssa’s question.
Elaine, it’s nice to meet you. I know you have said that you love to help women go from squeaking to speaking and I wanted to delve into that. What does that mean? How are women squeaking when they talk to crowds? Why is it important to help women move past that and go to speaking?
I’ve been performing my whole life. For many women, I think it’s scary to own your power. It’s 2021 and we’re taking a look at the patriarchy. I get nervous. I can be like, “Oh my God, hi.” I’ve found that so many women, when there’s pressure, go into like the little girl or if they’ve had a trauma. I got to watch one of my old clients. We haven’t worked together since COVID because she likes to do one-on-one. She’s brilliant. She’s a designer and realtor. She does beautiful high-end linens, but she used to always talk like up here. We worked on coming from her body and deep belly breathing and giving herself permission to let it out.
I think for a lot of women, that can feel so scary. That’s one of the things I work on. It‘s very intimate because I’m like, “Squeeze your vagina.” It’s all about owning that core power that we all have. Sometimes we’ve had to hide it for whatever reason, the way we were socialized, the family we grew up in, the bosses we had to deal with or whatever. That’s the one thing I love. Also, it’s nerves, helping people with deep breathing because that can help you so you don’t go up to that. You can hear a few of my very old speeches where I am a little like Minnie Mouse. That’s one of the things I help people with.
When I read that quote, I couldn’t help but think of that Japan Olympics guy who said that women in meetings tend to go on and that’s why women shouldn’t be heading a meeting. He has since resigned, thankfully. I can’t recall the actual quote, but anyway, he made very sexist remarks. It had to do with women speaking publicly or in meetings. I thought about that. It’s horrible. I do agree with you. I think women need to own the room. When they do, you don’t have people thinking like, “They’re just squeaking and going on droning.“ I like that.
It‘s such a good point, Alyssa, because we have this crazy double standard. If you’re a mother, you’re a triple standard. You’re supposed to be organic, sexy, beautiful, cook with your blue apron, do all these things and look gorgeous. If a woman speaks commanding and with conviction, sometimes she’s labeled as a bitch. There was a video going around showing how women would say, “I’m sorry to interrupt. I’m sorry to bother you.” It was like, “You’re doing your job.” You can be polite, respectful and answering the phone “This is Elaine“ versus “Hello.”
It’s so interesting because my daughter, we were driving somewhere for an appointment. She was a little nervous about asking for something and we were reviewing that. We practice things and my comment was, “Lower your voice.” She was like, “Hi, I’m here for.” She said, “Mom, this is my voice. This is who I am.” I felt bad for telling her to lower her voice. What if someone says that to you? I don’t know if they do, but if they say, “I can’t lower my voice. This is who I am.“
For young women, that can be such a big transition because we’re socialized to be pleasing and nice even though things have changed. I call it vocal authority. Maybe you can keep having conversations with her and things like yoga breath.
I also want to show her Margaret Thatcher. I don’t know if you watched The Crown. They had a whole bunch of scenes about her improving, lowering and commanding her voice because people were criticizing and saying she was talking in a shrill voice like she was a complaining housewife.
I have a video on my YouTube, Captivate the Crowd. It’s a five–minute warm–up that is for speaking that will help you tap into a lower register and it’s free. One more point about that, there’s that woman who had the blood test and she got all this money. She‘s Elizabeth Holmes. She wore black turtlenecks so she could be like Steve Jobs. People interviewed her and they were like, “She was like this normal teenage girl who talks like this.” Now, she has this very affected, “We‘re going to revolutionize the world.” Part of that vocal authority that she practiced was one of the reasons she got smart people to give her a ton of money. She lied, cheated, and stole. I’m sure that’s all going to come out. Smart people kept investing with her because she had a good presentation. Part of that was that low voice. We elect officials who have lower voices.
Rachel, did you want to add to that?
No, but I kept thinking about her and her affected voice. People thought that it was strange how low she spoke, yet she was incredibly successful and persuaded people and was a leader amongst a lot of men who were leaders. I find that interesting.
I would like to jump into another book that you have called Stop the Madness! How to Identify Addiction Warning Signs in your Friends…and What to do About it. Personally, I’ve had to deal with that with a very close friend who passed this 2021. He was clean for at least two years, but one night, I noticed he came over for dinner and he was agitated. He had a lot of iced tea. I thought it’s just the caffeine. A little bit inside of me was like, “Something is up.” I asked him and he got mad at me. He was like, “I’m fine. Leave me alone. I’m clean. Enough. You’re like my mother and you’re not my mother.” I didn’t know what to do. Now, I’m thinking like, “All along he had been lying.” I’m so interested in reading that book because it’s a disease addiction and people will lie to use it however they can, even with family. I first want to know how did you even come up with this book. I’m sure it relates to something personal in your journey. Can you share with us about that?
Sure. I worked on this book for seven years and people were like, “Elaine, it’s this thick.” Now, I realize I have 50 more books in me. When you don’t know who exactly you’re writing it for, it’s hard. I finally realized, “I’m speaking on college campuses, I should write this geared towards twenty-somethings.” I made a tip book. We worked on the name because if you’ve ever dealt with worrying that you might have an addiction, you don’t want anyone seeing you reach for that book. That’s why we said, “How to Identify Addiction Warning Signs in your Friends,“ to make it okay.
When I first brought it out, I said, “I hope that this book is on everybody’s toilet.“ They were like, “What are you talking about?“ That’s the safe space where you’re all alone and you can pick it up and go, “What am I doing?” That was the intention and because I had so much shame. I had three addictions, but I’ve seen what it can do to generations of families. One of my dreams is to change the conversation around addiction so that it’s like everybody has to take a Math class. It is affecting everybody in some way, from a friend, family, lover or co–worker. Everybody who we know has been affected somehow. It‘s like cancer, but cancer has more compassion connected to it. One of my missions is to keep talking about it because it is tricky. I’ve seen many brilliant people who got sober and then go back out. I go to meetings a lot because I am scared, but I think it’s a healthy fear.
How many years clean are you?
More than twenty years.
How did you get yourself out of that?
Growing up, my parents divorced. My father remarried. My mother is a classic narcissist and a brilliant lady. She’s albino so she is handicapped. She had her own pain and trauma. My dad was her first love and she didn’t understand why they got divorced. My dad had met his dental assistant who became my stepmother. She had trauma. She was in concentration camps in Yugoslavia in World War II and then afterward when they were in communism. There were lots of trauma. My dad was always in the shadows of his big brother. He had a lot of trauma, too. All of this is completely unarticulated and untreated.
Here comes Elaine. I’m this big personality and bright soul who’s also super sensitive and needy. Unfortunately, all three of my parents were dealing with their own stuff. It was like the perfect storm for me to get messed up. I truly believe that they all were doing the best they could, but it was a mess. It was the ’70s and nobody gets divorced. I was put on my first diet in the first grade. My stepmother used to tell me I was fat. I was never fat. I was just short, curvy and muscular. I would starve during the week and then binge on the weekends in 4th and 5th grade. In sixth grade, I was yo-yo dieting, cabbage soup, Scarsdale, you name it.
When you’re hungry and you feel deprived, you’re obsessed. I moved in with my dad, stepmother and stepbrother when I was twelve. My stepmother and dad’s cousin began molesting me. All this is happening. My stepmother was drinking and then my mother took off to go live in Europe. I get it like, “She had to do that. She was in her own pain.” A lot is happening and there’s nobody I can talk to. I’m having all the sex and it’s confusing because I don’t like it. I liked the attention, but I feel dirty, ashamed and confused. I have no control. The only control I have is food. I started reading “Karen Carpenter had just died from being bulimic.” My brain was, “She was so skinny. How do I do it?“
I started taking laxatives. This was Dallas in the ’80s. Between my family and society, it was all about how you looked and being fat was not acceptable. By the time I stopped taking laxatives, I had sometimes taken as many as 23. I’m very lucky to be alive. Meanwhile, I was growing up. I was doing my thing. I was doing some drugs. I was making straight–A’s, 4.0. I was the president of the choir and president of everything. The school was my safe, happy place. My stepmother came to school and we got in a huge physical fight. That was horrific. I went to college, “I’m free.“ Drugs. I was always in control. Luckily, I stopped using laxatives.
I was doing drugs to lose weight like crystal meth. I could go into the whole drug log. Those were lots and lots of ecstasy, crystal meth and cocaine. Thank God I was terrified of needles or I would be dead. I‘m very clear. I graduated and traveled. I did theater. I was in Austin, Texas. Do you know when you tell yourself, “I’ll be happy when?” “I’ll be happy when I get a boyfriend, when I’m doing back-to-back shows or when I have a better job.” I was living in beautiful houses for free. I was house-sitting in Westlake in Austin. I worked at the best restaurant in the city. I was doing back-to–back shows and I was miserable.
This is so important for people to know. I looked like I had it together on the outside. My career is coming along in Austin. I knew tons of people. I had a sweet boyfriend. I was miserable. I got a ticket on the way to one audition to Houston. I went to a driving school. If you take the class, you don’t get the ticket or it doesn’t go on your record in Texas. I met this woman. She invited me to this thing. She said, “Come to the forum. It’s about putting the past in your past.“ When she said that, I heard this ding in my head. I went and these people were happy. I hate them because they were happy, but I wanted what they had.It can be scary to own your own power but exhilarating to claim it. Click To Tweet
I went to my sister’s wedding. I was around my family. They had done more crappy stuff to me. They had stolen money, lied to me, messed up my credit and all this crazy stuff. After the wedding, I went to the forum. I had a spiritual awakening. At first, I was like, “I’m not getting it.” It was a three-day course. On the third day, the leader was like, “Get up from your chair and go make that call. Get off it with somebody. How many cigarettes are you going to smoke? How many Diet Cokes are you going to drink? This is your life.” I felt like God lifted me up and carried me to the payphone. I was sobbing. I was coming down like ugly crying with snot and sweat. I was like, “I’m doing this forgiveness thing. I love you.” They were like, “Okay.”
I went back and this was way before comedy. I told everybody at the forum like, “What had just happened?“ I had a spiritual awakening. I sat there shivering and shaking. I felt black clouds of energy leaving my body. I was sweating. I was hot and cold. It was the most intense physical release I had ever had. At that moment, I stopped using drugs. I was like, “I’m not going to binge and purge anymore.” I don’t know what happened, but I want more of this. I was so grateful to Landmark Education. I did all their courses. I have this community of people. I have support for the first time since I was in high school, but I was getting beaten at home. It was like support with love.
I have this community of people going, “How‘s your dream? How’s your acting career? How can I support you? When are you moving to New York?” When you have a whole community of people, it drives you crazy. I knew I have to move to New York. That’s my dream and I was terrified. I knew one person. I had this dream that everybody was going to be skinny and perfect, wearing black and super cool and sophisticated. Here I am like, “I’m from Texas.” I had all this fear. Of course, it was not enough and there was no support. I had this crazy weekend where people were giving me money. There was so much love and support. I couldn’t be with it.
My whole life, I was searching for love. I can’t get it from my family. “Let me try theater. Applause, I love theater.” My whole life, I was searching, but then it’s hard to let it in because that was dangerous and my experience. All this love was coming at me and I cannot handle it. I took a half of Rohypnol. I was drinking. It was such an intense weekend. There was so much love and I was saying goodbye to people. I was so messed up. Luckily, I was in the gutter next to my car on 6th Street in Austin, Texas. These guys were shining their flashlights. I was like, “That is so rude. Hi, officer.” They sent me home in a cab, but they should have taken me to jail because I‘m so grateful that I didn’t drive. Unfortunately, there were many times I did when I wasn’t that messed up but under the influence.
The next day, my roommate was like, “You can’t do that when you move to New York, Elaine.” I was like, “I know. Let me get my car.” I was sitting there drinking my last glass of wine. I knew like, “Something is wrong,” but the denial was so strong. I was highly functioning. I had money in the bank. I saved. I was moving to New York. I have friends and family. People love me in spite of my foibles. I kept thinking, “It’s just because I’m moving out of state.” I agreed. My boyfriend said, “If you don’t go to AA, that’s it.” I said, “Okay.” I went to my first meeting in Austin and I was like, “I don’t belong here.“ “It doesn’t matter if you’re from Yale or jail.“ I was like, “Please.“
I was on the plane the next day. I thought, “I could have a drink. I’m not in Texas. I’m not in New York. I’m not anywhere. It’s the plane,” but I heard this voice that said, “You gave your word.” I‘m very clear that was God and Landmark Training because left to my own devices was just my ego. My denial was so wrapped up in my identity. Landmark had taught me, “Honor your word,” because I grew up with addictions. That concept had been drilled into me for two years. I got to New York. My friend, I said, “I’m not drinking.” He was like, “Okay.” We went to Don’t Tell Mama. His friend behind the bar had seven years of sobriety. I went to my next meeting at St. Bartholomew’s at Park Avenue on 50th. That’s a whole other story, but that was my last drink in Austin, Texas. It has been hard, but I am so grateful to the fellowship, programs and many people.
That’s an incredible story. Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing that. You have such courage and bravery.
You’re welcome. Thanks for giving me the opportunity.
I’ll let any of you jump in. I’m at a loss for words. I’m thinking back to my friend of functioning. He seemed he had everything around him. Sometimes you think it’s that drug addict on the corner, but it can be anyone and you don’t know.
I wanted to say one more thing about addiction. I talked on college campuses and always felt like, “It was great, but there was so much more that needed to be done.” They would bring you in for an hour. I would try to do extra workshops whenever I was on campus because I wanted to give. Unless you’ve been through it, it’s hard to understand. It’s like you had a really bad stomachache.
I’m sure that your talks in that hour would touch many.
I’m grateful. I know that I stopped a couple of suicides. I always felt like there’s so much more to do. I was doing my steps and meetings and humming along, but I’m very results–oriented. I’m a very triple-A personality. I remember hitting in 2015. I was like, “On the outside, again, looks okay. She’s going to meetings and doing her service,” but inside I was complacent. I had hidden that from myself. Luckily, I had a tough sponsor who was like, “I strongly suggest that you come to the International AA.“ I was like, “I’m too busy. I’m building a business. I’m not too good. I don’t want to spend the money. I don’t want to spend the time.” We had this conversation every week, “I strongly suggest.” I was like, “Fine.”
I went begrudgingly. I didn’t realize I was drifting. It’s like you can show up and go through the motions but you’re not fully engaged. I think it’s a very human thing sometimes. I went and there were 70,000 people in Atlanta, 70,000 alcoholics from around the world. They were so happy. I was like, “Can you guys tone it down a little bit?” They were like, “Hi.” I was like, “Oh God.” I finally got registered and found the room where my sponsor was speaking. There were 30 meetings going on at the same time. There were meetings for how to do this and meetings for if you want to work on this. There were a million meetings.
I finally found this meeting at the Atlanta Convention Center. I went in, “Hi, I made it. I’m registered. Do you need anything?” I turned around and there was a bunch of people from my home group in Montclair in this meeting. I had seen them. It was a morning meeting so you were always like, “Have a great day,” and then you run to go do your day. I was like, “Oh my God.” They were like, “We didn’t know you were coming.“ I was like, “I didn’t know you were coming.“ What I got from that was I got to reconnect. Even though I got to see my sponsor because she lived in Alaska, it was God to me. I kept hearing the message that weekend of people who had hit 10, 15, 20 years and they were getting complacent and weren’t fully engaged. They were like, “I’m either going to kill myself or pick up again. I have to go back into rehab or something.” I’m so grateful that was my rehab. It was the best money I ever spent on that Atlanta plane ticket and the shared hotel room.
It reminds me of when Oprah always says, “God is going to throw a brick on your head to wake you up.” There are so many messages and then finally it’s like, “Wake up.“ That happens to a lot of us. Rachel, what did you want to add?
I feel especially during this time of COVID, there’s the word addict. It’s a word that’s siloed and you don’t see the continuum of it. Speaking for myself, all of us have gotten to a place I do feel complacent, but I also feel like we’re using things to make us feel better, whether it’s having a drink, marijuana is legal in Illinois, eating or whatever we’re doing to suit ourselves that doesn’t feel like it’s probably the healthiest thing. Where do you go on that spectrum where you’re ultimately an addict and you have a problem?
I hope that we can all have these conversations. The cool thing is Bill and Bob created AA. There have been many programs leading up to that. From AA, there have been 200-something other programs that have come out of that concept. I mentor young women who are Latinas at William Paterson University and then I sponsor people. I do lots of everything. I say, “We all have a shtick and there’s nothing wrong. Sometimes I need to check out.” My favorite way is on my new spin bike and I’ll Netflix or watch comedy. It makes me so happy to move my body and sweat. I can’t wait to go back to hot yoga.If you realize that the action you are doing is hurting you or others, there is a problem and you need to seek help. Click To Tweet
Geneen Roth was the first person who talked about eating disorders publicly. She was on Phil Donahue before Phil had white hair. Before there was Oprah, there was a sensitive guy and he had white hair, but before he had white hair, he had brown hair. That tells you how old it is. She came on and started talking about how she had lost the same millions of pounds up and down. She has been to India. I’ve taken some of her workshops and she talks a lot about mindfulness. If you look at the American culture and I love this country because of all of the good, bad and ugly, but this culture was built on boldness, “Go. Frontier. Technology.”
There’s something about the American persona, which leans towards addictive qualities are beholden at times. As part of our culture, we love to put people up on pedestals and then we love to knock them back down. There’s a lot of strange things that happen. “Be strong. Go to Starbucks. Turn up your iTunes. Go. Don’t feel.” One of my dreams, I worked with Debbie Ford for five years. That’s who I got my certifications from as a life coach. She has passed, unfortunately, but she worked with Deepak Chopra. She talks about emotional education.
I know our parents are doing the best job they can. Being a parent now is harder than ever. Who teaches us how to process our negative feelings? Who teaches us how to process, “What is that thought?” There are so many tools that are needed to navigate our new and fabulous world and learning to detach and unplug. A lot of people, especially during COVID, are reaching for alcohol, drugs, food and shopping. I know I have put on a couple of pounds. I don’t weigh myself because that’s a trigger.
Rachel, you were asking specifically, “When does a person know that it’s a problem?“
Ideally, if you realize that it is hurting you, that to me is the hardest challenge about “addiction.” Technically, probably 80% of Americans were overeating because of COVID or stress. Does that make you a food addict? I don’t know. We all know the diet industry doesn’t work. It’s a billion–dollar industry and people usually gain more weight.
Is it interfering with your life with a lot of the things that you’re doing daily or hurting others too if you’re getting things or messing up with appointments? Sometimes you don’t know if it’s hurting you, especially with anorexia. I have not experienced it myself, but I have someone close to me who has. I would always say to her, “You look great.“ She would always say, “Okay,” and then keep losing weight.
Here’s the tricky part of our brains. As human beings, we can rationalize anything. One of my dear sober sisters who has 30 something years started vaping. This is the power of the program and being vulnerable to me. She came to our morning meditation meeting and she was like, “I’m such an addict. I’m realizing I have to stop. I was on a Zoom and I was bending down off-camera to vape.” You realize like, “This is out of control.” If you’re present, it’s like, “I am preoccupied with.“ I’ve done it with men. I love the chase. I love the beginning parts of a new man and my sponsor would say, “That’s like a martini with legs, Elaine.“
It’s true. We’ve talked about sexual addiction, too.
Sex is powerful and confusing.
It’s more about what you can control. I can control Dena is going to ask a question.
I wanted to go back to the life coaching that you do and ask you to talk about how you work with your clients and getting them to captivate the crowd.
I’ve been a coach my whole life. Once I got certified in 2005, I did date coaching and weight loss coaching. In different years, it’s trying to find your niche. I wanted to do creativity, but actors don’t have any money. I started helping people with their presentations. When I developed Captivate the Crowd, originally, I was like, “I’m going to be a presentations coach and help people speak to crowds because there’s a lot of fear.” Facebook Live was coming out at the same time and I realized, “People are even more afraid of the camera.”
I pivoted. Luckily, I was teaching on Zoom before COVID came about. What I have found is we put all of these judgments on ourselves. I’ve been speaking my whole life. I should know how to speak, but speaking in your life is very different than speaking with attention or like “I’ve done some camera work.” I create a safe space. I’m being warm and goofy and helping people breathe. When people go through my program, we do a group warm–up, which helps people get out of their heads and into their hearts. I teach all these goofs. Sometimes they’re like, “Do we have to?” I’m like, “Yes, there’s a point.”
What I love is there’s this safe container. I’m like, “It’s okay. It’s good.” I create a safe container. They come and practice and then I get positive feedback. Having that safe container is amazing because some people take off and then some people take longer. Everybody has their own process. To me, it’s so much more than video. It’s helping people tap into that deep voice and knowing of like, “Who I am is important. What I have to say is important. I can make a difference in the world, too.” A lot of it is creating that safe container for people to practice, play and discover.
Alyssa, do you have a question about another book that Elaine wrote?
I was reading even the titles of your books and I was like, “That seemed all over the place.“ Now, as I’m hearing you speak, the theme is you are helping people through very difficult times in their lives, whether it’s through addiction or helping creative people project, speak and be out there. You wrote What Every Student Needs to Know Before They Leave for College: How to Stay Safe and Stay Smart. That is helping young people through a very difficult time and transition in their lives. Finally, it’s like the light bulb. I’m seeing the connections. What drew you to write this particular book? Tell us a little bit about that.
Do you have children?
I do. I have a son who‘s in college and then I have a son who graduated college. I taught them how to do their laundry before they went to school.
Dena‘s eldest is going to college. She needs to know this for sure.Let's get out of our heads and into our hearts. Click To Tweet
I was in New York City. I fell into stand–up comedy. I couldn’t write. I didn’t know what I was doing. In the beginning, people kept saying, “Talk about your family.” I had this light bulb moment of like, “I’m supposed to help people.” That was my big moment in comedy. You‘re a new comic. You’re trying to get on stage and it’s hard. You hear about, “The college market. They have money.” I got it. I had an agent and I was like, “I’m going to do comedy for the college market.” Luckily, my boyfriend at the time, who was a headliner said, “Elaine, you’re going to be going to conferences where you pay to go and competing against people who have been on The Tonight Show ten times. You’re not ready.” I was funny and cute, but it’s like the Olympics.
They said, “Didn’t you have all those addictions?” I was like, “Yes.” They said, “Why don’t you be the funny eating disorder girl?“ I was like, “I’ll try it.” I came into the market. I had no expectations. I was so nervous. I thought I was going to throw up because even though I had been performing my whole life, I had never done this talk this way. The kids loved it. It was like, “I don’t believe in diets.” It was shocking. I had beginner’s luck so I thought, “I’m in.” I came in as the eating disorder girl. I booked fifteen colleges. I was like, “I’m going to be able to stop waiting tables.” My agent was like, “I’m quitting the business. I can’t handle the ups and downs. Good luck.” I found another agent, but they didn’t get me. My topics kept morphing. They were like, “Can you talk about drugs and alcohol?” I was like, “Sure.” I became the funny addict girl and it was fine. I was happy to share anything.
I finally got a better agent and she said, “Can you talk about your sexual assault?“ Which honestly, I had worked on it in therapy, but I had not thought about it. It’s not something you just want to go dwell in. I was like, “Let me get back to you.” I meditated and prayed. I thought, “This is not something I want to do, but if I can save one person, I have to do this.” I thought that God, the universe or whatever that I was going to do this. I started talking about my assault. This was before the #MeToo Movement was so broad. The woman who started it, I’m going blank on her name. She’s amazing. She had started this movement, but it was not mainstream. It was in a lot of African-American communities, but it wasn’t in the mainstream parts of American colleges to my knowledge. This was like 2011, 2012 or something around there.
I was talking about sexual assault and thought, “I guess I’m doing this.” People kept saying, “This is so needed. You need to do this. This is amazing.” I thought, “I‘m committing.” It cost money to write books and print them. I wrote the book because I feel like many people have these kids and it’s hard to be a parent. You do so much. You get them through high school and now you’re like, “Let me get them into college.” It’s such a process, “Let me get them in.” I was doing the college thing, but I was trying to get into the high schools.
I had counselors say, “If one parent complains, I’ll get fired.” I had a dad say, “I’m not ready to talk about this with my daughter. I can’t do it.” I had mothers say, “That doesn’t happen here.“ It’s the denial of it. This was again before the #MeToo Movement. I felt like I was screaming into the wind. I did the book and website. I hired a whole social media team. I was all–in and then I stopped getting booked. I still have the book. I’m more than happy to go speak after putting about $15,000 into it. I don’t have a husband. I’m on my own. I thought, “God, this is what you wanted me to do. I’m going to give this to you.”
I still have the book. I took the website down, but I would love to launch this book. I would love to do things with it. I’m a single entrepreneur so I’ve had to choose like, “I need to make money,“ but I’m still open because these are conversations that we need to have. Unfortunately, universities and colleges are businesses. Their interest is their interest first and they are not criminal justice specialties. That’s a huge thing that most parents haven’t even thought about. The first semester of freshman year, that’s when most things happen.
What was your talk? Was it comedy or serious?
Every once in a while, I accidentally offended people. Unless it’s mandatory to tell 18, 19, 20–year–olds, “You have to go to this talk and we’re going to talk about sex,” who would show up? I always worked with my contacts at the colleges to say, “Push my comedy. Push HBO, America’s Got Talent or whatever.” I would start with comedy and talk a little bit about my story. I would say, “We’re going to talk about some heavy stuff, but I promise we’re going to have fun. I’m going to start fun. It’s going to get heavy. I’m going to leave fun.”
I tried to use comedy, which was challenging because every once in a while people would get offended, but I would say, “I’m not making fun of anybody else’s experience, just mine.” I have jokes about drinking, alcohol, eating and body issues, but I don’t have rape jokes. I don’t make fun of anybody else. I would always set up the context, “I’m not here to offend anybody, but I want to pierce through. I already know this stuff. I’m going to be giving you information that could save a life.” That was my goal.
As Alyssa said, everything that you have been through, you are using as a tool to help others and even tap into that episode of what happened to you.
It was a lot because once you’ve been molested, you’re like beeping for the predators.
It’s amazing what you’re doing to help others. One of the best marriage couples therapy classes I took was improv.
I know. I love this about you. I think it’s so cool, Karen.
My husband wanted to do stand-up. In order to do stand–up at The Second City, you had to first go through all the levels of improv. I got that for his birthday. When I gave it to him, he said, “Can you do it with me?” I took acting classes, modeling classes and camera TV. We had to practice eating a cookie like, “I ate all these cookies.“ I said, “Sure, I’ll do it with you.” I loved it. The key concept of improv is the yes, and. If you don’t know what that is out there, it’s my rule of life besides saying yes to a lot of things in conversation with people like, “Yes, and,” instead of cutting them off and saying, “No, but. Wait, but however.” I want to know how that has helped you. I know it has helped me to not sweat a lot of the small stuff and deal with communicating with people and even on the show. Yes, and, how is it with your life?As part of our culture, we love to put people on pedestals, and then we love to knock them back down. Click To Tweet
I think of Tina Fey and some of my comedy heroes. It brings me back to my comedy. To jump back, I was in New York. I was newly sober and was trying to figure it out. I was trying to make money, go to class and make up for the lost time. People were like, “Elaine, can you go take an improv class?“ They weren’t saying, “You need to calm down,“ but they were saying like, “Go take an improv class. Why don’t you try comedy?” I love yes, and because to me, it’s about collaboration. When I get huffy, positional and defensive about something, then that’s pushing the thing or the way I’m holding myself back. I know it’s a natural defense thing, but when I can go, “I’m leaning in. Yes, and,” it doesn’t mean I always feel great.
You‘re having someone‘s back and you know that they have your back no matter what you do. It’s like in a scene, you have to support whatever it is that person has decided to do. If someone else is a banana and the person is a monkey eating a banana, you have to be that tree holding the banana or the fellow monkey. You can’t say, “What are you doing?“ It just applied. My husband and I after we would come home from class would be so great at it in class and then we would have a little argument. I would say, “What about the yes, and? You’re supposed to support me.” I highly recommend it. All my kids took classes. It‘s such a great skill. It helps you with active listening.
They’re teaching it at MIT and Harvard Business School because if you think about negotiations, it’s about listening and responding. I know I’m still working on my listening. I’m not always the best at it. Many times, we’re waiting for our turn to speak. I love that concept. I think it’s fun and hope that we can teach it everywhere.
What are your future plans? If people want to connect with you to learn more about how to captivate the crowd or even to order your books, how can they do that, Elaine?
I have a fun Captivate the Crowd confidence checklist on my website, CaptivateTheCrowd.com. I would say come there. If you grab that cool handout, then you will be put on my email list so we can stay in touch. I don’t email all the time. It’s once a week maybe, depending on what’s happening. That’s one way. I have my own podcast called Still Human. We are building that and learning a lot about having guests, recordings, lighting and all kinds of things. If you want to get my book on alcohol and drugs, Stop The Madness! that is on Amazon. If anybody is interested in the What Every Student Needs to Know Before They Leave for College, you can email me at Elaine@CaptivateTheCrowd.com.
Thank you so much for having me, ladies. It’s interesting because we go through life and stuff happens. When my last agent quit the business again, a part of me was like, “I didn’t want to go through the whole college conference because you pay to submit and then you pay to go.” It‘s like a $2,000 investment. If you don’t get booked, it’s like you gambled and I did that. I played that game, but I thought, “I don’t want to keep doing it this way, but I love speaking.” You, having me here, it’s been such a gift. Thank you so much because I realized I do have so much to say. I feel like it’s not even about me but helping people who might be highly functioning addicts or addicts who might be thinking of going out. This is the conversation that hopefully we can all have. It’s common knowledge like working out that it doesn’t have to have the shame and stigma.
In fact, I said to you because many times I’ve seen you on different networking events and you’re on your bike. The only thing I‘ll say is, “Don’t be on your bike.“ What I love is that you get on that bike and you keep riding forward. You’re such an amazing inspirational woman. You’re helping all of our audience to tap into their inner deep goddess voice to speak and show their truth. We are honored that you’re here. Thank you for joining us on Grateful Goddesses.
Welcome, everyone to Favorite Things with Elaine Williams. I think I went a little crazy on this episode. No joke, it exploded because I’m sitting here squeezing it. It’s one of these squeeze balls. I don’t know. It’s so funny it exploded. When I get stressed or go to the doctor’s office, especially I’ve been getting physical therapy down there, I carry this ball with me and squeeze it. It relieves so much stress. I’m going to have to get a new one because I literally squeezed the life out of it. I wasn’t stressed on this interview. I was just having fun squeezing it. It‘s fun to do. It’s one of my favorite things, but I’m going to have to get a new one. Rachel, what did you bring?
It’s called Deep Blue. It’s like essential oil and an all–natural version of a Bengay or something that you put on sore muscles. I use it a lot even if I’m not necessarily sore. Who doesn’t get a sore neck and sore shoulders? When I’m looking for a pick–me–up or something or even before I play tennis because even though I played my whole life, I still get sore from playing and I’ll put it on. I can even feel it when I’m playing. It’s seeping into the muscle, burning and working. I use it every day.
Rachel, you have shown up before, but I have to say that’s okay because it shows how much you love it. The whole idea with Favorite Things is to look at your life and rituals, products or things that help you every day to live a more joyous and comfortable way. Dena, what did you bring?
I’m guilty of becoming addicted to TikTok, which is very embarrassing to my three children. In the TikTok obsession is the Trader Joe’s world. These TikTokers are telling you what to go buy at Trader Joe’s weekly and daily. I don’t know. All of us here have become obsessed with Everything But The Bagel dip. I love sour cream, onion dip and potato chips. I think this is healthier because it’s made with Greek yogurt. It’s delicious on like cucumbers, peppers and chips.
Let me interject with addictions for our audience. There are healthy addictions. Unless you’re smearing that everywhere in your house and waking up in that, that’s not good.
The TikTok has a limit and timer in it. Once you‘re going on for long enough, then it’s time to quit.
You don’t just sit and watch TikTok all day. You do limit.
We are quarantined so I do watch it.
Don’t they have a seasoning?
We have that, too. They have potato chips now called Everything But The Bagel chips, which I’ve been to Trader Joe’s twice and they’re not back on the shelves. They can’t keep them in that stock.
Thank you for sharing that. Alyssa, what did you bring?
I am going to piggyback off of Rachel’s rub. I am obsessed with these ThermaCare HeatWraps. Someone who I know who I used to do Pilates with, I also have incredible neck pain and then sometimes low back pain. These are the greatest things in the world. You peel and stick. They’re contoured around your neck or the ones for your back are contoured on your back. No joke, they stay hot for eight hours. I’ve skied with them for the heat on a cold day. They’re like body warmers. The ones for the neck, sometimes I forget I have it on. It‘s ten hours later and it’s still hot. I love it and it’s incredible. Combine that up with the blue rub and you’re good. All your aches and pains would go away.
We’ve all said things that make us feel good. Elaine, we can’t wait to know what your favorite thing is.
First, thank you for all. I want to get the squeezy thing and I’m going to Trader Joe’s. This is so cool. I found my feather boa as we were singing happy birthday to one of my clients. I thought, “This is so fun.“ That’s one of my favorite things. It’s a glamour thing.
Let It Go, I hear that every day because I teach preschool and the girls are in costume almost every day. It’s such a good message.
My friend gave it to me. You guys get to see the fun part of me when I’m telling my fun story, but I have a hard time sometimes letting little things go. I get tripped up sometimes with the little things. She sits on my window sill to remind me to let go.
It’s a very good message. I sing it almost every day with the kids and then it’s like, “I should be listening to that.”
I think it’s so cool when you get to be a teacher, parent or mentor because sometimes we’re saying things to them that we need to hear, too.The hardest challenge about addiction is when you realize that it is hurting you. Click To Tweet
If anyone out there is struggling and you need help, please reach out to a friend, AA or any type of organization that is on Google to have support because there are people out there who can help you.
There are some incredible phone meetings and online meetings that are happening. They’re all around the world. What’s cool with virtual is you can go to meetings in Paris. I met a woman in Israel from a networking meeting with people who we know. She reached out to me and celebrated three months of sobriety. I had a tiny bit to do with it. Reach out. You don’t have to be alone.
People are there for you. We’re here to support each other and we’re going to let it go. Enjoy the day. Thank you for joining us on Grateful Goddesses.
- Elaine Williams
- Stop the Madness! How to Identify Addiction Warning Signs in your Friends…and What to do About It
- What Every Student Needs to Know Before They Leave for College: How to Stay Safe and Stay Smart
- Captivate the Crowd – YouTube
- Still Human – Apple Podcasts
- Everything But The Bagel dip
- Everything But The Bagel chips
- ThermaCare HeatWraps
About Elaine Williams
Elaine Williams moved from TX to NYC to pursue musical theatre and accidentally became a stand up comedian and motivational speaker.
Elaine Williams is an award winning comedian, speaker and performance coach with credits like: Saturday Night Live, America’s Got Talent, HBO, ABC, NBC, FOX TV; been featured in The New York Times, Hay House Radio & the Huffington Post.
Elaine’s clients have gone from never doing video or speaking live to having their own You Tube Channels, doing International Book Tours, and speaking for NASA.
Elaine loves to help women go from squeaking to speaking with conviction.
Elaine combines her Debbie Ford/JFK University coaching certifications with her 30 plus years of performing professionally in theatre, film, tv, voice-over, radio, and stand up comedy to transform her clients into “Captivating Speakers.”
Elaine has spoken on college campuses across the US. Recent colleges include: Kent State, Notre Dame, UT Austin, SUNY Empire State, and U of Wisconsin, Green Bay. Her TV pilot, “Room for Improvement”, about her life as a landlord, comic and speaker, was a finalist with Lifetime TV and A & E in the NY TV Festival; and Elaine was voted the top “Up and Coming Comic” in the NY Underground Comedy Festival.
Her other trainings include: Leadership Training with Landmark Education, EFT Training, Meisner Acting Training, and has been honored for her work with the military and their families at Fort Drum in NY and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. She did the NYC Marathon in 4:40, and raised thousands in charity bike rides for MS. Her degree is a BA in Drama from UT Austin with honors.
Elaine’s the author of 3 books: Stop the Madness: How to Identify Addiction Warning Signs in your Friends…and What do do about it.
What Every Student Needs to Know Before They Leave for College: How to Stay Safe and Stay Smart.
Nothing but Net: Creating Your Customer’s Wow Experience with Humor!
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