IMPRINTS – Rachel D. Wilson

IMPRINTS is back and what a fabulous way to restart the series than with none other than Rachel D. Wilson.  From running for Miss NCA&T to becoming my Big Sister in our sorority, I have always admired Rachel’s drive, focus and how she presents herself.  This interview is one of my favorites to date and I know that you will be blessed and inspired just as much (if not more) than I was.  Read up as the former Miss Black North Carolina gives us the inside scoop on her reign as Miss Black NC, her company “The Dream Girl Movement”, her hair (of course I had to ask!) and shares with us one of the most pivotal points in her life journey: her residency in Kenya.

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Let’s start with the basics: Name, Age, & Location.
Name: Rachel D. Wilson
Age: 28
Location: Brooklyn, NY

What do you do for a living?
I work as a consultant in various capacities. Essentially, I work with start-up organizations, businesses and initiatives to help them connect vision to strategy.

What inspired you to start the company The DreamGirl Movement?

When I was in grad school, I was invited to speak to a group of girls at the Boys and Girls club of Greater Cleveland. It wasn’t an extraordinary event, because I had spoken to many similar groups before, especially during my reign as Miss Black North Carolina. It was, however, a very transformative event because I recognized that the questions these girls had were not about what they should become in life, but HOW they could get access to the things that will help them become what they wanted to be in life.

It was at that moment that I realized that the dreams and goals that I aspired to accomplish in life were always accompanied by life-changing experiences, access to resources and exposure to various opportunities that helped me to grow into who I wanted to become in life. In fact, I am still becoming!

After that I began to plan a conference that would provide the tools that could answer these questions. From the conference, a movement was developed. The quest was to provide access to resources that could help young girls and women to attain the lives that they dream of.

Discuss target audience, mission, purpose, and whatever else important related to this movement.
The DreamGirl Movement, Inc is a global resource network that {connects} women and girls to resources, opportunities & life-changing experiences.

Ultimately, we hope to develop an interactive network that will connect men and women with an active interest in the positive social development of women and girls around the world to various opportunities. We identify opportunities for people to volunteer, donate, advocate or work with organizations, initiatives or campaigns that are in need of their talent and skills.

We also “tell the story” of these organizations in hopes of sharing their work to new audiences who might have an interest in the work that they are doing. By doing so, we continue to build and expand the brand of the projects that we connect with.

In turn, our hope is that DGM followers and supporters would contribute to the network through writing stories, serving as advocates for the work that we do, helping us to find various projects that are doing work that we support or assisting us in event planning the various events that we

As a past Miss Black North Carolina, what were some of the opportunities afforded to you based off of that platform alone?

Wow! My service as Miss Black North Carolina was by far the most life-changing experience that I have encountered to date. The year that I competed was the only year (to date) that the pageant was held in another country. In 2007, the pageant traveled to The Gambia, West Africa and changed the lives of 36 young women forever. The opportunities that I received through that experience were surreal. We were appointed by the President of The Gambia as Goodwill Ambassadors and were encouraged to use our individual skills, talents and passion to work on various projects to empower the developing Nation.

I had the opportunity share my platform, H.E.A.L. (Helping to Enrich African-American Lives) with the beautiful people of The Gambia. So, we’ve done work with schools to promote literacy and better access to education, hospitals in their efforts to improve maternal health and youth leaders as we helped them to develop their capacity to one day lead their country. In 2008, I lived in The Gambia for two months conducting research in mental health and developing an inclusive community engagement plan to address the issue of stigma against mental health disorders or illnesses. In 2010, I returned to the same mental health hospital with a team of social workers who could help to implement the community plan that was developed a couple of summers prior to that.

It was simply amazing!

In addition to the work that I did in The Gambia, that same opportunity took me to several other countries throughout the continent. Sometimes I would travel on behalf of The Gambia and other times through self-planned trips that allowed me to share my gifts with various communities.

From 2007 to 2012, I traveled to The Gambia a total of 8 times, Egypt, South Africa, Morocco, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, South Africa, Nigeria, El Salvador, Greece and Kenya. All of this to say that it was through my single experience as Miss Black North Carolina that all of these doors were opened. When God has plans for your life, all it takes is ONE move of obedience to unleash the potential to change EVERYTHING!

You recently took a trip to Africa, which is (if I am not mistaken) 1 of 2 trips you have taken in the past few years. Please discuss your trip – when, why, where… You can get as personal as you may like.

I moved to Nairobi, Kenya last June to work as the Director of Communications and consultant for a start-up organization that provided support to new and innovative businesses within the country. I packed up my entire life and put it into a 10ft by 10ft storage unit and “sailed” off to East Africa for the first time.

My contract was for a year, but when I arrived to Nairobi, I began to realize that I was not given all of the information. In fact, the information that I was given was not truthful. There were a lot of unethical things happening at the place where I was working and I had a personal conflict with various things that I saw there. Because of my devotion and commitment to the continent that I so affectionately call “Mama Africa”, I realized that it was in my best personal and professional interest to resign.

After weeks of prayer and fasting, I felt a release and I submitted my resignation letter. Submitting a resignation letter to an organization that is “paying” you, taking care of your housing, providing transportation and other incidentals requires an extraordinary level of faith. Not only had I packed up my life for a year back home, I was now required to give up any and everything that was familiar in Kenya.

Kenya was a place that was still (seemingly) a foreign place to me. I had really nice accommodations and I was super comfortable, but when I choose the road of integrity over comfort, I had to forfeit it all. For a month, I lived with a powerful woman of God who became an angel and like a mother to me. She and her family opened their home to me and for 31 days, I shared a room with a 12 year-old girl, sleeping on a foam mattress on the floor.

That experience taught me so much about life and myself that I couldn’t have learned any other way. I learned that there is an ugliness of vanity and pride that lives so deeply within us that we don’t even notice it anymore. That ugliness has to be dealt with in order for us to accomplish great things in this life. I learned how to trust God on a completely different level, away from everything familiar and comfortable. My faith was truly put to test. I learned that in life sometimes taking the “high road” will costs you everything. And I do mean everything! I should mention that 1 week from my return back to the US, someone broke into my storage unit (where my whole life was) and stole my entire wardrobe—-evening gowns from the pageant, line jacket/other Delta paraphernalia, clothes and ALL of my shoes! Can you imagine that?! But all things that assisted in my sometimes high levels of vanity.

But, even through all of that I knew that it was purposed. Somebody will need to hear the story of young woman who went from nothing to having things she could only dream of to being stripped of everything that she held on tightly to.

Somebody’s life depends on that story. I am (now) honored to be the vessel that God could tell that story through. As painful as it was for me, I finally realized that it was not about me. And it will never be about me.

The lesson: Be willing to stand up for what you believe in. It is the foundation of who you are and what you will become. Sometimes, you’ll get it wrong. More often than not, actually. Learn to TRUST God and be willing to deal with the ugliness that life presents. The breaking process is painful, but so necessary. But, never forget that in the grand scheme of things, life overall is a beautiful journey.

Off topic, but relates to the blog all the same: I remember when you first went natural, then you loc’d your hair, now you are sporting a TWA (which is absolutely stunning on you)! What inspired you to go natural?
Thank you!

After my first trip to Africa, I did my first BC. I dreamed of traveling to Africa since I was a little girl, after reading my favorite childhood book “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters”. When I finally made it, I realized what true “beauty” was—being comfortable in your own skin and appreciating everything about what makes you, you—that’s true beauty.

I loc’d my hair—honestly– because I was tired of my thick, course curls that seemed unruly! But as they grew, I began to love them! It was also an interesting experience for me because, in the past, whenever I was tired of my hair, I cut it off or straightened it beyond belief as a “quick fix” to an issue that was deeper than my roots. Loc’ing my hair forced me to sort through some of those self-esteem issues and deal with them for what they were.

Kenya taught me so much that I felt like I had been born again. So, as much as I loved my locs (and I would be lying to say that there are times when I don’t miss them like crazy!), I wanted the freedom again that comes with a curly afro and I needed a fresh start so to speak. So, off they went!

Being natural is such an empowering feeling for me. I hope that it will continue to push me toward my better self

There may be some up and coming entrepreneurs who are reading this right now. Any words of wisdom or advice?
I think the most important lesson that I can share is simply this: Surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth. Be flexible, be consistent and be patient with yourself. Don’t just develop a business, develop and devote yourself to your brand. That becomes your legacy and legacy is eternal.

What are your ultimate goals in life?
Ultimately, I strive to continue to connect people to opportunities that can change their lives and the lives of the people they are connected to in positive ways. Any and everything that I dedicate myself to is focused on helping people to identify what their life’s calling is and empowering them to move progressively in the direction of that calling.

Anything else you want to share?
To be broken is a gift, contrary to how it feels. Don’t be afraid to be transparent (with wisdom and discernment) about your story, somebody’s healing could be wrapped up in your words—SPEAK!

Rachel, your words are as inspiring as you are! Bless you and your life journey!

Contact Rachel:
Twitter: @DreamGirlMove

  • Tecara Bracey

    Loved this story!