A self-proclaimed nerd for television, Deilia Williams uplifts the local LGBTQ community as a director of marketing at KHOU 11. Most recently, the out bisexual wife and mother helped KHOU 11 become Pride Houston 365’s official media sponsor and successfully pitched a documentary on Houston’s LGBTQ community for Pride Month.
“At the end of the pitch, I basically said KHOU 11 is different from other TV stations. We don’t change our logo for a month, cover a parade, and that’s it. We are not just gay for a day. We’re not just gay for the week or the month. We’re gay all year,” she says.
Williams is also proud of KHOU 11’s commitment to the larger Houston community. The station has supported city-wide efforts through food drives and partnerships with local nonprofits such as Wreath Across America – Houston, a project dedicated to honoring veterans for their service, and Books Between Kids, a literacy campaign created to collect books for struggling children.
“When we say we stand for Houston, those aren’t empty words. That’s a commitment, and we live by it every single day, with everything we do, and that’s impressive as hell because that doesn’t happen in a lot of TV stations.”
While she is now an out, proud bisexual woman living her best life, this wasn’t always the case. Growing up in South Carolina during the ’90s as a bisexual teenager came with hardship. She remembers when a rumor broke out at her high school that she liked her best friend, another girl. Although it wasn’t true, her friend stopped talking to her.
Like many Gen Xers, Williams says the TV was her babysitter and one of the only constants in her life. TV was also her window to the world and ignited her dreams of becoming an actress. But her family struggled financially, so she knew there was no way for her to move to Hollywood. She decided to get a degree in radio and TV. “If I wasn’t going to be on the TV, I had to have something to do with it.”
Williams graduated with an associate degree in radio and television broadcasting from Tri-County Technical College in Pendleton, South Carolina, and has moved around the country for television work ever since.
At KHOU 11, Williams manages the relationship between the viewer and the station.
“My job is 99 percent problem-solving, studying audience research, learning about our community and what’s important to them, and then finding the best way to deliver that information to them,” she says.
She considers herself to be a scrappy professional who has fought her way up in a male-dominated business. She once worked for a station where she had only four female colleagues among her 40 co-workers. She also remembers attending a meeting at another company where four male executives shared with her what they thought women ages 25 to 54 wanted, only to miss the mark. “I’m sitting there thinking, ‘I’m in [that demographic], and that’s exactly what I don’t want,’” she recalls with a laugh.
Gender disparity has improved in TV throughout the years, and Williams is partly to thank for that. Following in the footsteps of the female marketing director who hired her as a commercial producer when she graduated college, Williams has employed and supported countless other qualified women. “I’m all about empowering other women in the workplace because we need it. We’re not done yet.”
But she struggled with being supportive early on in her career. At one point, she felt like she had to prove herself to the men in the room. Based on the classes she took and the self-help books she read on women in management, Williams felt like she had to talk and act like a man to advance in her career.
“A lot of the info back then on how a woman gets ahead in life said you have to come in and put your stuff on the table, you have to lean in and remove words like ‘I feel’ and ‘I think’ because men don’t use ‘I feel,’ ‘I think,’ but women do.”
As director of marketing, she manages KHOU 11’s marketing priorities and goals. Due to her initial “think like a man, act like a man” mentality, she entered many rooms with “something to prove” rather than with an open mind.
“I know better now, but I think that’s an example of how that early way of doing business can backfire.”
Williams said KHOU 11’s commitment to the community freed her from the limiting mindset. It also inspired her to come out at age 45 to her co-workers and then to her kids, who accepted her with teenage indifference. Now her kids have fun trying to identify who would be her type if she were single.
Williams hopes to inspire better media coverage of the LGBTQ community by highlighting the issues it faces at KHOU 11.
“I don’t want to be flippant and say we can change the world, but the changes that we make right here and right now will resonate,” she says.
Williams and her husband eventually plan to return to New Mexico, but she wants to help Houston’s LGBTQ community and beyond during her stay.
“While I’m here, I wanna do the best I can do. I wanna be the best I can be, and I feel like this is the first time in my life that I am.”
For more info, visit khou.com.
This article appears in the June 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.