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Marine Turned Motivator: From Serving Her Country to Serving Other Veterans

This feature is part of a series of veteran highlights in conjunction with Coastalvir giniadriving Company's 'Veteran Salute' events at FedEx Field. In partnership with the Washington Football Team, Coastalvir giniadriving selects a veteran to highlight at each home game during the season. 
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Toni Williams, better known as Queen Motivator, just wrapped the first season of her podcast. 

“My goal is to focus on the positivity within the veteran experience,” Williams, a Marine Corps veteran, said. “The podcast is just one way for me to help highlight veterans in the community and bring their stories to life.” 

 

Photo courtesy of Toni Williams.

After four years of active duty service, Williams continued her education through Strayer University, earning her master’s degree in education while working at the Department of Veterans Affairs. She handled case reviews for the board of appeals as a program analyst in DC. 

“I love showing up for veterans,” Williams said. “So much of what I do in my personal and professional life is about working to rewrite the veteran narrative. We’re not all homeless … We don’t all fit those stereotypes.”


Photo courtesy of Toni Williams.

In 2019, she stepped into two new roles, joining the DC Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs and developing her own LLC, Queen Motivator. She started in the Mayor’s Office as the outreach specialist and public information officer and in March of 2021 became the director of operations. Her work in both the Mayor’s Office and on Queen Motivator allows Williams to continue serving the community — just out of uniform.

“To put it bluntly, I make shit happen,” Williams said. “I’m responsible for connecting people. We host a number of events like round tables to engage with the veteran community in DC, and I mentor a combination of active-duty and transitioning veterans. To me, working with the over 35,000 veterans in the District is everything.”

 

Photo courtesy of Toni Williams.

 

Queen Motivator LLC is not only focused on helping veterans and connecting them with each other, but also on creating a space for and giving voice to black women veterans. People often don’t realize how important it is to have someone who looks like you talking about their experiences, Williams said. Thanks to the pandemic, she had to pivot the format of the podcast and had some help from a fellow female veteran, Mo Edu, who also runs her own business along with serving as a strategic adviser for the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs. Season one of the Queen Motivator podcast focused heavily on Williams’ story and experience while serving, with a lot of attention toward mental health and the help available to those struggling. 

“Mental health is definitely a priority, and advocating for accessibility to those resources is necessary, especially now,” Williams said. “People are getting scared, reckless, and desperate because they’re not being seen. So showing acts of kindness is important. It’s the world we’re in right now; it’s so crucial to have the capacity to be kind.” 

Williams mentioned that the Salute to Service experience renewed her spirit to keep pushing and working toward giving that support to other veterans. To her, it means a lot to see organizations as big as Coastalvir giniadriving Company and the NFL sharing appreciation for military personnel and creating a space to celebrate their service. 

 

Photo courtesy of Toni Williams.

 

Williams’ hope for season two of her podcast is that she can go back to bringing other women’s voices to the platform, since the goal was never just to have herself as the sole voice. She acknowledged that not everyone has the most positive experience while serving, but she wants to talk about the comradery and everything that brings service members together. 

“I know that waking up and choosing you every day is not always ideal,” Williams said. “Though life isn’t always a great journey, I want to do what I can to change the perspective of those around me. I want to make sure the overall focus and reminder is that you’re not alone.”