Cover Athlete: Ebony Williams

Learned to find the light even after loss, divorce, and autoimmune disease

Written by Stephanie Kewin
Photography by Paul Buceta

Makeup by Monica Kalra

Hair by Laura Christine Clark

At the young age of 13, Ebony Williams lost her birth father. And, during high school her mom was often very sick; during this time, she felt as though nothing would ever be normal again. And for a while, it wasn’t. Ebony developed symptoms of autoimmune disease—although it took quite some time to receive a proper diagnosis. Says Ebony, “I couldn’t focus, started losing weight, and was extremely depressed. The stress of school plus my personal life made everything worse, and that was the introduction to my future passion for advocacy. I was dismissed by healthcare providers over and over again until I was 21 years old, when I finally received my diagnosis. Unfortunately, I had to stop running track in college because I was having issues with my heart at the time. Although I couldn’t lift weights or run, I continued walking and focused on what I could do rather than what I couldn’t.” It’s this take-charge attitude despite struggle that has propelled Ebony towards a brighter future.

“I learned to take things slow and recognized the
importance of listening to my body."

A future that’s full of potential. On how she worked through obstacles placed in her way, Ebony says, “I learned to take things slow and recognized the importance of listening to my body. Throughout my life, I have connected with people who have become family and have encouraged me to do what makes me happy, which includes fitness.” Fitness wasn’t always as prevalent in Ebony’s lifestyle as it is today. Now, it just fits. Because she makes it so. She says, “Fitness is a non-negotiable now. I have learned the importance of nutrition and movement. Even when I have a flareup, I can walk, do yoga, or gently stretch to care for myself. I do not deprive myself, and I love food, including learning more about cultural dishes.” 

“Remember that no matter what happens in your life, you are worthy of joy and love.” 

And for Ebony, to be strong has a multitude of meanings, including never compromising herself. From the physical to the mental, emotional, and even in her relationships: “I will no longer compromise my standards, morals, or values to diminish myself because I don’t want to make someone else ‘feel or look bad.’ I have unique skills, gifts, and talents that allow me to serve, and I finally recognize that beauty.” On her tumultuous journey towards finding herself, she says, “I have gone through a divorce, lost friends, and lost my sense of self. I have learned the difference between arrogance and confidence and remind myself daily that I am worthy. I will prioritize my mental, emotional, and physical health because I have learned that nothing is more important than our well-being.” The final puzzle piece to Ebony’s overall well-being? Building the community around her, and nurturing that community. “I want women to recognize their power and strength. We all have different goals and dreams, and it’s essential to remember that no matter what happens in your life, you are worthy of joy and love.” 

Get STRONG(er) with Ebony Williams