Photography by Tony Ward, Copyright 2017
FEATURE ARTICLE: THE NAKED TRUTH
Text by Debbie Williams, Copyright 2017
I met Tony Ward in the 90’s, which I would probably say were my modeling heydays, but to be frank, I have been dragging my 15 minutes of fame out over my lifetime. I don’t remember how many times Tony and I have shot together, but I think it’s about five times by now. I like the way he sees art in the human experience. As we shot our latest session, he reminded me of one instance that made me completely uncomfortable. I shot a scene with his wife Sandy. I remember her wearing lingerie, and me feeling like I wanted to find the closest exit. When we shot the other day, he mentioned that shoot, and said it implied girl on girl action. I don’t remember her touching me. I don’t think she did, but I know that I didn’t like it.
Before you judge me, understand that I grew up with a sibling (and other loved ones), who are gay. The funny thing is, some people think that just because you are comfortable with a person for who they are, how they are when they are gay, that you must also be gay. Not so. I have even lost friends who were lesbians, because I just wanted to be friends. I have also lost male friends that way. Maybe the fact that I wasn’t allowed to date until I was in college helped me to be a better friend, because I couldn’t do anything else. My mother said, “You have straight “A’s”, and you are going to keep them”. I was the smart girl. You know, most likely to succeed. A nerd. I didn’t really think about being pretty, except for cheerleading, gymnastics, ballet, oratory, or an occasional talent show until I was a teenager. I always loved clothing and shoes, but being raised by my mother was tough at times.
I was raised first in my family’s AME church, then the Pentecostal church, which wasn’t really big on encouraging women’s outward beauty, so modeling (and acting) isn’t looked on as a good thing. Jesus said in Mark 16:15-16King James Version (KJV)
15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
It is sad, but there’s are entire groups of people who are not being ministered to because they are models, actors, athletes, dancers, artists, Personal Trainers, gay, etc., because someone has written us off as not “good enough” for Heaven. Yet, the Bible says in Matthew 7,
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall bejudged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerestnot the beam that is in thine own eye?…”, and in Romans 1 (which pretty much covers all of the bases) says in verses 30-32, “30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” King James Version (KJV) and in Proverbs 11:9 KJV, it says, “ 9 An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.” and in Proverbs 26:20-22King James Version (KJV)
“20 Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
21 As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
22 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”
I am not telling anyone that he or she has to create The Gospels According To (fill in the blank), in order to carry out their mission as a person of faith, but I am saying that there is a wonderful little verse in John 3:16 KJV that speaks volumes, 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
When each of us goes before the altar of God, we can’t take our Mother’s faith, or our Father’s prayers. We go before God as we are -who we are. It is up to God to fix whatever needs to be fixed, and to heal what needs to heal. We often do ourselves, and others a major disservice, when we try to “play God”.
I thought about how I might explain away my reasons for doing this photo shoot, and feeling so free to dismantle this time. Other photographers have asked me to go completely nude before (when doing a nude shot would have been much easier to explain), and I didn’t do it. So why now, you might ask? Because, I want to let go.
God knows, I am not trying to promote Naked Sundays at the church. Oh, please don’t. This shoot allowed me to let go of some of my fears.
In 2011, I had kidney failure, a stroke and was diagnosed with Lupus. At first, I couldn’t talk, and could barely walk, see, hear, read, write, reason or remember. No one had to tell me I was dying. I could feel it. It was a definite life changer for me.
The specter of death had a profound effect on my way of seeing life. For years, I have been in the ocean, trying not to make too many waves, while at the same time, trying to make a difference.
If you don’t make waves, you don’t make a difference. I can’t sit around worrying about what everyone is going to think about the choices I have made. I may not have that kind of time. I have to choose, and keep things moving.
I am always covered up under makeup, clothing, jewelry, degrees, titles, religious beliefs, family honor, motherhood, politics, responsibility…stuff.
I just want to be free.
It’s funny that Tony asked me to talk about the 2016 election. I decided to run for the US House of Representatives again after receiving a very encouraging letter from President Obama. I ran for this position against Congressman Bob Brady in 2004, on the ticket with President George Bush, Jr. I had a lot more votes in this election, but it was pretty brutal. I don’t think many candidates, or many Americans for that matter, came out of 2016 unscathed. It is now May of 2017, and now that I look back on it, I would have made some different choices.
Aside from getting hacked, and I was and still am a Republican, I felt the environment was toxic. I was not angry or disappointed on November 9th, after the election was over. I was relieved. Little did I know that there would be lingering questions about what happened during the election, and what was happening to me. I mentioned I was hacked. That happened pretty early in the campaign, but I was completely floored when I received an email on December 20th, which is the day after the election results were certified, saying someone from Russia changed the information on one of my financial accounts. Afterward, there came threatening emails, ones that sound like bribes, emails about bank accounts, credit cards, and websites that I didn’t set up, etc. It has been a long, drawn out nightmare.
Have you ever watched a “B movie”, where someone is killed, but they use the entire fifteen minutes of fame to die. You know, the kind of scene where you find yourself telling the person, “Oh just die already”! Yup, election 2016.
Even though that election was far from normal, I joined the others who were in support of Mr. Trump, because I didn’t want the party to be ripped apart. I was asked to lead Women For Trump, and African Americans For Trump, which I turned down. Quite frankly, I was waiting for the moment when I felt like he knew more about world events than I knew. I didn’t have a huge staff, or any money, so I had to study, write my own pieces, come up with my own slogans, design my own literature, etc. I had to work. I didn’t have the luxury of being lazy.
What should have been a pivotal moment for me was when the Billy Bush video came out. After hearing it, I wanted to walk away, but my name was already on the ballot, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I took a semi break for a week, and did an interview with the Philly Voice, where I opened up about the election. I also spoke up for Hillary Clinton in that article, but that part never made print. I had my issues with Secretary Clinton, but I believe she really wanted, and deserved to win.
It’s hard. I met Mr. Trump September at a meeting with Ministers in Philadelphia. I was asked to appear on MSNBC for an interview with Joy Reid later that evening. I was willing to speak in support for Mr. Trump from that day forward, but when the Billy Bush video came out, it hit me like a load of bricks, especially because I ended up moving out of the apartment I was renting because the landlord touched me inappropriately. Talk about tragic irony. I was hoping for a better, stronger America, and though the lines are blurred, I have not stopped hoping.
All Right Reserved. Copyright 2017
Cover: Debbie Williams photographed in Brooklyn, New York on May 18, 2017
Body Suit: Moda International
Earrings: Dream Plus
Metal Necklace: Dream Plus
Makeup: LA Colors
Nail Polish: Broadway Nails
Dress: Nicole Miller Collection
Lingerie: Calvin Klein