Malinda Williams, most known for roles on Soul Food: The Series and The Wood, and media executive Tariq Walker, recently got engaged. As an extension of their love for each other, and passion for traveling the world, the couple came together with an idea to bridge both interests. Their new travel website, This Is Leaving, documents their many trips abroad.
These lovebirds are far from stingy with the travel gems. They’ve put their readers onto under-the-radar hotspots in New Orleans, whipped up a bomb from-scratch tomato sauce recipe devised by the best chefs in Italy, and shared tips for how to get the best selfies at insanely crowded tourist attractions.
All of the content is made with love and perfectly captures how Williams and Walker use their wanderlust to enrich their relationship. We’ve spoken to Williams about This Is Leaving, her new fashion collaboration for the travel junkies and why her fiancé is the perfect partner in work and life.
ESSENCE: What was the first vacation that you and Tariq took together?
Malinda Williams: We went to Barcelona, Spain. It’s actually when we both realized that this relationship is bigger than just us as individuals. It was fairly early into our relationship – within the first year. When you’re out on the road and traveling, it magnifies problems or potential problems. It puts a spotlight on things that could potentially go awry. But because you are together, it’s sort of you two against the world. You really quickly learn how to problem solve and work things out together. And you learn so much about your partner that you are traveling with that you may not get to see while you’re at home with all the things that make you comfortable.
Is that how you came up with the idea to start This is Leaving?
You could say we both work in an industry that requires us to travel quite a bit. Rather than us always being apart, we decided, ‘look, let’s figure out how we can be in the same destinations and still manage our household and maintain our relationship.’
What we wanted to do is to just show people that you can go out, you can have a good time, and at the same time you can still fulfill your mind, your body, your soul, your relationship, and you can learn in the process. There’s nothing more rewarding than coming home having brought something back with you that is not necessarily a refrigerator magnet. Something that lasts a lifetime, something that you can share with others that also benefits them as well. There’s nothing like that.
Fashion is such a big part of your website. There’s a section called “She’s Gotta Habit” for your favorite style finds and your fiance Tariq has “Casually Obsessed.” How does fashion play a role in your worldview?
“She’s Gotta Habit” was born out of me being an individual who likes to share. I always say I have a really big mouth. I’m not one of these people that when you ask me where I got something, I won’t tell you. If I have something, it’s because it makes me feel good. Why wouldn’t I want someone else to feel good?
It’s really interesting because, in our travels, we’d scout out the boutiques and local shops where you can only find things specific to that country. There’s this really wonderful thing about discovering a piece that you can’t necessarily find everywhere. You’re not going to get it at the mall. One of the things that we decided, and I think it came naturally, was saying, ‘listen, when we go out, especially to other countries, let’s make this look good.’ So when we pack to leave, we’re not just throwing T-shirts and hiking shoes. No shade to people who do that, but we feel a certain sense of making sure we go out and represent our culture in a way that’s like, ‘Ooh, they look good.’ Because we also realize that it does not just reflect on us. Sometimes people treat you based on someone else’s behavior or appearance…fair or not.
As a writer and editor, I know that so much work goes into building a site and keeping content original and fresh. What has it been like running a website and transitioning into this line of work?
There are a lot of moving parts. Tariq and I are at the helm of this whole operation, and once we put our heads together, there are things that we each contribute to getting these tasks done. Then we also respect each other’s craft. He’s very good at what he does, as am I. We respect one another’s opinions. Listen, we didn’t just get here. He’s been building a career and a body of information for the last thirty years and I’ve been building this other career for the same amount of time. Put that together, what can’t we do?
I hear you also have a fashion collaboration in the works. Tell me more!
Yes! I have an essential travel dress called “the Malinda dress and I co-designed it with Okera Banks for OTG Essentials. The thing that I’m most excited about is that the dress is transitional. It changes with your activity and you can wear it in many different ways. Ultimately, it’s a racerback t-shirt dress. It’s very simple, very clean, until you want to make it into something new. It’ll be available mid-July. Early July for pre-order.
With this whole travel brand, everything that comes out of it will be extensions of travel. When you’re traveling, you need to be flexible and items that are versatile. You don’t want to pack two jackets. You want to pack one jacket that works for two outfits, right?
Very true! Lastly, what has building a business with your partner taught you about the relationship and about yourself?
The same tenants that you apply in your relationship for communicating with and respecting your partner should also apply in business. Another thing that comes up is sometimes when you’re troubleshooting with your mate, you have a certain way of communicating your frustration, right? Because it’s a safe place to communicate frustrations, within a relationship. However, when it comes to the business, I feel that if you wouldn’t speak to someone in the corporate environment a certain way, you shouldn’t speak that way to your mate.