We had the good fortune of connecting with Malika Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Malika, how do you think about risk?
Stepping into the unknown. Banking on myself. Living by faith. These are the phrases that come to mind when I think about risk. Taking risks has been essential to my development as a person, artist, and entrepreneur. Over the years I’ve transformed my anxiety about what I can’t control or predict into curiosity. When I start to think “what if I…” I can accept the thought as an invitation to find out what would happen, with the mindset of an explorer or anthropological researcher. Then, if there’s an option to take a risk or play it safe – playing it safe becomes the bigger liability. When I play it safe, I miss the opportunity for growth.
Choosing into entrepreneurship felt like a huge risk. What if I’m embarrassed? What if I fail miserably? What if I can’t ever get anything off the ground and feel like I’m constantly struggling and overwhelmed? Then on the other side, I thought What if I’m wildly successful? What if I change people’s lives? What if it’s easier than I think? Ultimately, there was only one way to answer these questions. I had to just do the thing.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I started The Center for Women’s Voice to help women communicate without apologizing or over-analyzing. So many women are undervalued in male-dominated industries and they don’t have the tools, confidence, or emotional support to challenge the status-quo. The idea of “being noticed” or “speaking out” can feel daunting, unattainable, and not worth the risks. As someone who was personally frustrated by that narrative in the entertainment industry, I wanted to create a context where women could confront their fears, talk out their goals, and make a plan to show up differently in the world. Through one-on-one coaching and group workshops, I provide a space where women can learn to trust their voice and get out of their heads, so they can speak with authority and contribute at the highest level.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned on this journey is that I have to be myself in everything I do – and figuring out what that means is the business of being an entrepreneur. I can’t coach people beyond my own sense of possibility and confidence. I can only speak from my experience and knowledge base, so I’ve got to be relentless about expanding and curating what I’m learning, paying attention to and seeking out in my own life.
I recently made the choice to move on from a full time job working for another organization because I realized I was limiting myself in what I could do with The Center for Women’s Voice. There are only so many hours in a day, and though I appreciated the financial stability, I got to a point of recognizing that I needed to believe I could support myself with my own business. For me, staying in a role that I wasn’t satisfied with because “I need financial security” was a veiled way of saying “I am willing to settle because I am afraid.”
As long as my personal mission is to help women know their worth and live accordingly, I’ve got to walk that talk. Ultimately, the energy of playing it small was not supporting me or my clients; it was time to move out of my comfort zone and into my full potential. The entrepreneurial lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but I know it’s for me. It feels exhilarating (and a great relief) to honor that.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My ideal weekend on the Eastside of LA:
-Start at Doubting Thomas for a caffeinated beverage, a buttery croissant and something else delicious from the pastry counter that isn’t quite appropriate for breakfast – maybe a slice of passion fruit pie with graham cracker crust.
-Experience a water adventure on the Echo Park paddle boat Swan. Enjoy some great people watching, geese parading, and a stunning view of the Downtown LA skyline across the lake.
-Stroll down Echo Park blvd, peek into the cactus shop and Shout and About.
-Head west on Sunset for a late lunch of spicy salmon, shoyu tuna, and marinated fixins from Ohana Poke.
-Window shop along Sunset Blvd and stop in for a cup of coffee with a cause at Muddy Paw Cafe. Take advantage of the patio in the back!
-Keep moving west for a Thai food feast at Song + Night Market – there’s usually a wait so we’d have some time to drink a thai beer before our table is ready.
– Nightcap at the Semi-Tropic for a funky and low key wind down. The cocktails do not disappoint.
-Go north to Descanso Gardens for an immersive nature experience – it will be hard to believe you’re still in LA County. My favorite area of the garden is the Ancient Forest, where there are at least a dozen towering redwood trees.
-Stop for a bite at Food By Chloe – hands down the best fast, casual, vegan fare around.
-Work up a sweat exploring the secret stairways dotted throughout Echo Park and Silverlake.
-Head east for dinner at Guerrilla Tacos in the Arts District.
-Pop across the street for a night cap in the beautifully lit backyard at Everson Royce Bar.
-Start with a hearty brunch of pancakes and omelettes at the 24 Hour Astro Diner Walk around the reservoir, scope out the two dog parks (one is for little dogs only), then chill out on a blanket in the Meadow.
-Spend an hour or so browsing in Skylight Books on Vermont.
-Catch a movie at the Los Feliz 3 Theater.
-End the evening with a dinner followed by carrot cake at the Alcove.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I dedicate this shout out to my voice teacher, Natsuko Ohama. When I was her student in the MFA Acting program at the USC School of Dramatic Arts, I could always trust her to call out exactly what she saw in my acting work – during a scene rehearsal she would give candid feedback such as “I don’t believe what you’re saying” or “You’re not talking like a real person.” Natsuko took it upon herself to report the truth of a situation in a way that few people do: directly and without embellishment.
Natsuko taught me that sharing what you observe in real time can be uncomfortable and messy. It can also be the best gift one person can do for another person, especially when it’s coming from a place of respect. This is what I strive to do for the women I coach. I reflect back honestly what I see in them, and strive to say the things that no one else will say.
Through Natsuko’s mentorship I also learned the value and scope of my own voice. It’s more than the sounds that I make. It’s connected to the very core of my being and represents my thoughts, feelings, perspectives, and experiences. Every single person has an infinite element to their voice, but not every person has the willingness or desire to own that size and power. With The Center for Women’s Voice I want to help more women connect to their own power.
Norm E. Anderson II, Rachel Summers