Kenya Williams has known since she was a little girl that she was destined to perform and entertain.
“When I was a young girl I used to tell my family, I didn’t need to go to school anymore because I was going to be on TV,” Williams said. “I would write these shows and ask them to take me to Disney to give them to them.”
Williams is a third-year theater performance major at Florida A&M University. She was born in Orlando but considers herself a Tallahassee native because she was raised there for most of her life.
“She’s been in ‘character’ most of her life,” said Williams’ grandmother, Barbara Harrison, who is one of her biggest supporters.
Williams did not fully grasp the purpose of acting in her life until her junior year of high school. She recalls going through a period when she didn’t know what to do or where to turn.
“I was in an extremely dark place my junior year of high school, I remember sitting in my room crying and writing to God for help, guidance and to release these emotions,” Williams said.
That was when it clicked, that acting and performing were the light to help find her way out of the dark.
“Theater and acting were my release, it is what I use to get through a tough time, even now through college,” Williams said. “Then spiritually I understood that this is my purpose, this is what I am supposed to be doing.”
Williams interned at FAMU’s Essential Theatre program her senior year of high school. This internship led her to eventually attend FAMU after her high school graduation.
She originally wanted to leave Tallahassee and attend a predominantly white institution, what is perceived to be a better school for her major, but soon realized that going to FAMU, a historically black school, was one of the best decisions she’s ever made.
“There are more opportunities for me at an HBCU as an African American woman,” Williams said. “More stage time, being able to collaborate with people who look like me and to deal with plays that are more redirected to who I am and my culture.”
Since arriving at FAMU, Williams has starred in and produced four Essential Theatre productions.
Damon King, Jr., a classmate of Williams, recalled meeting her for the first time.
“It was during the rehearsal for the production of ‘From the Mississippi Delta.’ I remember her being the only underclassmen in the room. She was a freshman and that spoke volumes to me. It showed her dedication to the craft,” King said.
Williams and the Essential Theatre program performed “From the Mississippi Delta” in Scotland at the International Collegiate Festival. FAMU was the first HBCU to perform in the festival.
She dedicates her time and energy fully to the program where she serves as Ms. Essential Theatre and a College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities ambassador.
You can catch Williams next spring in the Essential Theatre’s production of “3 Little Birds.”