My mantra when visiting New York has remained the same for as long as I’ve been coming here: “I don’t see how people survive this.” By this I mean the constant hustle and bustle of pursuing project after project (many never coming to fruition), working day after day to make ends meet in a city consistently ranked the most expensive in America. Yes, there are dreams at stake: many have moved here from all over the world to pursue careers in theatre and fashion, paying steep prices to keep those dreams from dying while simultaneously figuring out how to keep their heads above water. This city and this life are not for the faint of heart, confirmed annually by the mass exodus of those who no longer can, or have the desire to, endure the stress and strain of the ultimate rat race, opting to take their dreams- and what remains of their sanity- elsewhere. But Memphian William Hawkins has proved that with a heart rooted in family, there is a well of strength from which one can draw to remain grounded and eventually find success while immersed in an environment tailored almost exclusively to survival of the fittest.
Last year while waiting for my train at one of Manhattan’s subway stations I struck up a conversation with William who, even in this crowded space, stood out. There was a calmness about him as we chatted in the middle of this rather chaotic transportation hub and though he definitely looked like he belonged here, something set him apart. As we talked and laughed about life here in the city I learned that William moved to New York from Memphis to continue building a modeling career which had already begun blossoming before he left the south. One year after graduating high school and at only 19 years old, he left his home and his family for a city- and career- that will aptly chew you up, spit you out and send you back whence you came if you’re not careful in your decisions. The fashion industry isn’t for the faint of heart so the strength William had built up in his worked well in his favor.
He is a successful model whose face and body has graced countless magazine pages; he has walked the high fashion runway more times than many of his industry peers. I’d planned to sit down with him while here in New York but current projects have him overseas (as is to be expected!) So instead, I asked William to answer a few questions so that we could get a glimpse into the life of this young Memphian who is showing us it is never too early to follow our dreams.
What do you miss most about Memphis?
[My family] I come from a big family that has dinner together once a week; that's tradition for us.
What is the first thing you do when you come home to Memphis?
I call my grandfather and have him come pick me up from the airport. [We] typically go to lunch or dinner with the family!
What is your favorite charitable organization in Memphis?
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
How do you feel Memphis prepared you for your career?
Memphis is one of the realest cities I have ever been to…being prepared for the real world [was] taught at a young age. So the New York transition was easy but the hard part was getting used to all the people!
What are the biggest lessons you've learned in your modeling career?
The biggest thing I have learned would be everyone has a past and you can always learn from it.
What advice do you have for young people who want to pursue their dreams?
Stay true to you.
You can keep up with William’s national and global work on social media. He has almost 30,000 followers on Instagram (williamhawkins_20) where much of his work and travel is highlighted.