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Noella Williams is a Pisces Sun, Pisces Moon, and Libra Ascendant, thanks for asking. Her hobbies include lounging around with her Animal Crossing-themed Nintendo Switch; talking about Loki, the fictional character played by Tom Hiddleston; that he is an “acquired thirst”; and yelling at old men who try to control women’s bodies. Before our interview, she admits to herself, she got out of bed because she had been up late and dyed her new hair a vibrant purple. If you knew her personally, you’d know that she’s all the rage for the 23-year-old Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University graduate. Manic Panic hair dye and button-down aloha shirts (what she jokingly refers to as her “bisexual uniform”) are part of Williams’ era of embracing the sweetness of her as a black woman. It’s something she didn’t really pay much attention to until she started at FAMU as a transfer student in the fall of 2019.
“I had to unlearn a lot the expectations that my parents or the world around me set for me,” says Williams, alluding to the fact that black women have always been policed for their voice, body, hair and politics. She shaved her head earlier this year to combat that, a decision that high school me of hers would have gawked at. Throughout her teens, Williams attended a private Christian academy, where no one looked like her. “I had to unlearn what people expect her to be as a black woman,” she says.
He grew up in Pensacola, Florida, a part of the state so far north that it’s considered southern, practically an extension of Alabama that sits just above the Florida panhandle. For those familiar with the region, proudly proclaiming his status as a pro-black queer radical organizer is unheard of, but that is exactly what Williams prides himself on being. During his undergraduate years at FAMU, he drove to the state capitol building almost every week with Planned Parenthood Generation Action to protest anti-choice legislators ostensibly handpicked by Gov. Ron DeSantis. She is now assistant editor for news and culture at Apartment Therapy, working with LGBTQ+ writers to expand her stories after her time at FAMU journalism school. For Williams, standing up for black queer people and black women is at the forefront of everything he does.
“There are a lot of students who are taken advantage of and harassed on campus, and they are not adequately represented by our administration or our community at large,” she says. “If I can be someone who is making a ruckus that encourages someone else to make a ruckus, I will do it and I will make it everyone’s problem.”
Glamor: Did you always know you wanted to go to an HBCU?
Noella Williams: I didn’t know what HBCUs were until high school, and after graduating senior class president, I went to my hometown community college to sort my life out and not rack up a ton of debt. I applied to two schools in Tallahassee and got into FAMU; my boyfriend went there but other than that I really didn’t know what to expect. This mystery for FAMU finally turned into a love affair and it got me excited, wondering what’s next for me and what this next chapter will be like.