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Eboni K. Williams Reflects on the Moment She Took "a Risk in All the Biggest Ways Possible" Before RHONY

The Real Housewives of New York City cast member reflects on some of the most important moments of her life and career.

By Jocelyn Vena

Eboni K Williams is still settling into life as the newest cast member on The Real Housewives of New York City, Fans are getting to know the multi-hyphenate better since Season 13 of RHONY premiered on May 11. Before she came on the show, Eboni was a successful and busy lawyer, author, and broadcaster, who has even competed in pageants.

Basically, Eboni has proved she can do it all and do it well. When Bravo Insider recently caught up with Eboni, she reflected more about her life and career before the RHONY cameras were rolling on it.

The Louisiana native was raised by her mom and confessed to being "a super nerdy kid." In a conversation with Amplify Our Voices back in February held during Black History month, she opened up about her experiences as a Black woman. She shared a bit more about how her mom empowered her as a kid, saying that reading books about the Black experience was a big part of her life as a kid. "We got to know our story. We have to know our experience. I think one of the things my mother, shout out to Gloria J. Williams, gifted me with when I was coming up as a young girl for Christmastime and birthdays, yes I would get Barbies and Cabbage Patch Dolls and all that, but I would always get these incredible books on the Black experience... So, that's important."

Eboni has been open about her childhood and her family situation, including on RHONY this season when the women traveled to the Hamptons and met with a healer. When speaking to Bravo Insider, she opened up more about growing up with single mom and the important role her female family members played during her formative years.

"I think I carried a lot of shame around family coming into that experience with the healer, because I grew up with a single mother. I never knew my father; not only didn't know him; didn't even know who he was. So I had no identity as it related to my paternity. I was briefly, briefly married, quickly divorced, have no children, am a woman of a particular age, and just really felt like a total outsider when it came to family," she said. "Everyone talks about family and, especially, like in an Instagram era where, you know, Mother's Day is coming up, going to get a timeline flooded with all these beautiful Mother's Day pictures. Father's Day, same thing. Easter, all these holidays and my contemporaries with their children, and I don't have any of that, you know. I mean, I have a mother. She and my grandmother were the only family I had... And what I have grown to learn in such a beautiful way is that you actually have a choice around defining what family is. It doesn't have to be this nuclear thing that we've been kind of force fed for years. I am actually so much more empowered around defining and curating a family as I need it to be for myself. And my therapy has really helped with that, too."

She continued, "There's the family you're born into, known as your family of origin, and my family of origin was just extremely small, but you also get to do a family of creation, and that can be, you know, marriage, children, you know, biological, adopted, step, whatever, and friends. I now start to refer to my friends as a part of my family. And this group of women [on RHONY] in their own respective ways have become a bit of family to me as well. A chosen family and that's really powerful."

Eboni not only went to college at UNC Chapel Hill and later attended Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, but also competed in pageants. She worked for a time in the law as an assistant public defender and a law firm in corporate law in North Carolina. "Before I was a successful trial attorney, television host, or author, I honed my public speaking skills on the pageant stage. These pics (from the 2009 Miss NC USA pageant’s Top 5 On-Stage Interview) capture the first time I ever spoke publicly about politics [and] culture. It was [a] rush unlike anything I’d felt before. It was also the genesis of my on-air career because that moment empowered me to pursue a broadcast career alongside my legal career," she shared on Instagram in 2018. "I’m often asked how I transitioned from law to television...this moment was a huge catalyst in my transition."

Eboni shared a bit more about what inspired her to want to go into law and later go into broadcasting with Bravo Insider. "[I] went to college at sixteen; graduated law school at 23; started practicing and that was really what I wanted to do. I wanted to be the next Johnnie Cochran, so I was on that path, and loved the practice of law, and just wanted a bigger microphone, if you will, a bigger ability to amplify things that I thought were really important in the world like social justice and freedom and equality," she said. 

She continued, "So moved to Los Angeles in 2010 to pursue a broadcasting career and started really from scratch there because I knew no one in the business and really didn't even know what I wanted to do. I just knew I wanted to be in the industry and started in talk radio and long story very short, grinded, as you hear me talk about in the first episode, to create what we know in the industry you need, a demo reel with all these clips and excerpts of you showing your ability to do the work at a high level. The only thing is a lot of that stuff, none of that stuff really pays in the beginning. So I found myself in quite the financial conundrum where I was coming off of my first divorce, hopefully my last, trying to rebuild financially, but not really earning a lot of money. So, I wanted to invest in myself and my dream but it literally cost me.  And would I do it again knowing everything I know now? I don't know.  You know, I was younger then. I didn't have as much responsibility then as I do now and it was a risk in all the biggest ways possible. I always believed in myself but, you know, it's tricky."

In the years since she took the chance and transitioned into the world of broadcasting, she has published a book, Pretty Powerful: Appearance, Substance, and Success, hosts and produces a podcast, Holding Court with Eboni K. Williams, and serves as the host and Executive Producer at Revolt Black News, among other projects.

So, what advice would she have for her younger self?

"Trust the process; really trust the process. There are no shortcuts. You're not going to bypass anything, and the fact that your path might look completely different than someone else's and might take seemingly much longer to manifest and realize itself, it doesn't mean you've done anything wrong. I think a lot of my career I've felt like I've done important work and work I'm proud of, but I felt it was kind of niche in terms of reach and at some point you start second guessing yourself," she explained. "You know, like, 'oh, goodness, am I not as good as I think I am; or am I not approaching it the right way; or is it something innate about me?' And, none of those things tend to be true. It's just your process, and I would love to tell my younger self to just buckle up, put your head down, do the work, and don't occupy yourself with where it's going or how, when you're going to have your, quote, big break. I don't even know that there is a big break. I think that's kind of a false expectation. I think it's a series of mini breaks, and the question is what do you do with those mini break opportunities?"

Well, her RHONY tagline certainly speaks to her inner strength and determination to not let anything stand in her way: “I’ve had to work twice as hard for half as much, but now I’m coming for everything.”

-with additional reporting by Erik J. Mac

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