Dyana Williams is not just an industry legend, she is an industry icon. Forrty-six years in the game and still going strong, she just accepted a position with Radio One for a new full-time show, “Afternoon Delight,” from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm on Classix 107.9. Dyana is very well known in the industry and she could easily be the mayor of Philadelphia from the undying love and dedication she has for the city. She is best friends with Radio One founder, Cathy Hughes, and goes into detail about how they met in this interview. Dyana has coached some of the biggest named singers and rappers in the industry and we could literally dedicate the entire magazine to Dyana’s accomplishments, but we only have space for a more concise version of her contributions to the industry. This year we give the Industry Icon honor to Dyana Williams in our Celebrating Women of Color in Media magazine.
I see that you recently returned to radio full-time. How do you feel about that after doing it part-time and running your business for a while, and what’s your new show going to be about?
DYANA WILLIAMS: I am grateful to Radio One’s founder, Cathy Hughes, and CEO, Alfred Liggins, for affording me this next chapter opportunity in radio. After 46 years since I started in this business, I am beyond excited about returning to the airwaves full-time with my new show, “Afternoon Delight,” 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm on Classix1079. The prospect of slowing my life down a bit from the extensive traveling that I have been doing the last 25 years as a result of my celebrity coaching business, which I will still do on a modified level, is significant. I will be playing quality, timeless music from the ’’70s [and] ‘80s, and the Sound of Philadelphia, as well as interviewing the music-makers from those eras. Plus, featuring cultural figures is appealing.
I will be working closely with my program director, Jay Dixon, and VP of Programming, Colby Tyner, to produce a world-class broadcast that is streamed worldwide via our free app, ClassixPhilly. Legendary broadcaster Lady B is leading the day with the 9:00 am to 3:00 pm time slot and I will soulfully glide our audience through the afternoon to the early evening! It is an honor to be on the microphone daily in a major city like Philly and the surrounding areas, to share good vibes through the music and disseminate vital information to elevate our citizens.
You and a previous honoree, the legendary founder of Radio One, Cathy Hughes, are best friends. How did you meet?
Cathy Hughes and I met in 1973 when Bob Nighthawk Terry and John Paul Simpkins hired me to do my Ebony Moonbeams show on 96.3 WHUR in Washington, DC.
Did you ever program a station?
I was the program director of WOL and Radio One’s first FM acquisition, WMMJ in DC in the late ‘80s. I also hosted “Morning Drive” on Majic 102.3 when I was the program director.
You’ve been around and worked with many legends in the industry like Teddy Pendergrass and Frankie Crocker. What was it like to work with Teddy and Frankie?
Teddy Pendergrass was my best male friend, as well as my borrow-a-cup-of-sugar- neighbor. I am a proud graduate of The Godfather of Black Radio – Frankie Crocker University! He was magical to listen to and to watch him do his show was an amazing experience. Without a doubt, one of the best to ever get behind a microphone.
You’ve seen the industry go through many changes and a lot of people come and go. What do you attribute to your staying power?
As a people person, I attribute my staying power to my dedication, as well as a strong connection with the community, in addition to my extensive knowledge of Black music and my viable relationships with those who create and promote it.
What do you like most and least about today’s industry?
I’m pleased that I have been able to adapt and contribute to the entertainment industry as it has evolved. As a coach who works with many of today’s chart-topping artists, I’ve encountered many talented and smart individuals. I feel blessed to be able to collaborate with artists, executives, managers, stylists and others who support and guide the careers of creatives. What I like least is that some people have forgotten those who came before them. Put some respect on them.
With so many artists on social media, isn’t it often hard to direct them?
Many of the artists that I work with are very savvy about social media. In fact, they often teach me things and, no, it isn’t difficult to direct them. With my clients, we do review their social media and, in some cases, I make suggestions to make adjustments. My clients are very collaborative. I love seeing them excel and am proud to be a part of their journeys.
What brings you joy each day?
Actual living and interaction with my loved ones brings me enormous joy. My grandson, Luke Gamble, is the light of my world, of course, my three adult children, my young mama, my ultra-fine man, and compelling friends bring me the greatest pleasure. I truly value every second of life.
Are you seeing any new people interested in radio, or have we had a dry spell with new talent?
Over the course of my career, I have encouraged many people. I currently mentor several rising stars in radio, among them I am most proud of Jackie Paige at iPower 92.1/104.1, Radio One Richmond. My Soulful Sunday cohost, Derrick Sampson, and I just finished teaching a radio class at Scribe in Philadelphia to a group of talented, eager folks who aspire to work in radio. Furthermore, I know many seasoned people in radio looking for opportunities who still have much to offer.
What do you tell people over 45 who are not embracing technology but still want to work in the industry?
I tell good and grown folks to do their best when it comes to learning and navigating technology. Embrace what you can to increase your knowledge and skillsets. Technology is evolving and here to stay. Get with the program.
What do you do in your free time to break away?
In my free time, I love going to see independent cinema, reading is always pleasurable, arranging flowers, spending time with family and friends, [and] attending live music always lifts me!
Was there ever a period that you wanted to walk away from the industry?
I have never wanted to walk away from the industry that I love and am proud to still be a part of after four decades plus.
Some people say that you can never escape the industry once you are in it; it’s a lifetime commitment. Would you agree?
It is different for everyone. I know some people who wish they were still involved in the business, but others who have reimagined their careers with success in other industries.
What would you like your legacy to be in the industry?
I am a champion for Black people, our culture [and] especially all genres of our music. My legacy is my work with Kenny Gamble with regards to the establishment of June [as] Black Music Month. Also, as a proud board member of the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) in Nashville, I firmly believe that much of my life’s work will be formalized in this institution.
You recently stood on stage with Patti LaBelle when she had the street named after her. What was that like?
Actually, I worked with City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown and others over a year to get my beloved Patti LaBelle a street named in her honor! She is a fine global ambassador for Philly and Patti is thrilled to have this level of recognition in her hometown. On the Fourth of July, I had the distinct pleasure to present Patti LaBelle with the Philly Pops at Independence Hall when she read an excerpt of the Declaration of Independence.
You came to Philadelphia after you worked in New York. What made you fall in love and have such a commitment to the city?
As a native of Harlem, New York, I happened to fall in love with a man from Philly, my ex, Kenny Gamble. We had three children, Caliph, Isa Salahdeen and Idia. I put family life roots down in Philly and I have come to appreciate the diverse people in my adopted city [of] Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.
What are you currently working on?
In addition to focusing on my new radio show, Afternoon Delight, on Classix1079, I am currently the on-camera entertainment contributor on Chasing News with Bill Spadea. The show airs on Fox5 in New York, Fox29 in Philadelphia, and WWOR My9NJ in New Jersey. Additionally, I am producing the 20th anniversary of the Marian Anderson Award honoring Kool & the Gang on their 50th anniversary in the business.
This gala will take place at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts [on] November 12, 2019. I am also working on a music documentary and developing a television project on various aspects of the entertainment industry! With my coaching business, I am still working with emerging and established individuals to be their very best. I serve on the board of my alma mater, Temple University’s Klein School of Media and Communication, as well as the National Museum of African-American Music in Nashville. My agent at William Morris Endeavor is encouraging me to write a book!
What do you have to say to all the Women of Color in Media reading this magazine from the rising stars to the legends?
Women of Color have always been foundational individuals in the development of media. We must continue to celebrate each other and our contributions to the industry; recognize the privilege that we have communicating with our communities. It is imperative that we mentor and develop the next generation of media professionals and continue to perpetuate positive energy. I coined the term “Sisterly Affection” in Philly and share that with all my siSTARS!