In her new memoir, The Pursuit of Porsha: How I Grew Into My Power and Purpose, out now, there are plenty things to learn from Porsha Williams‘ story. It’s all a lot deeper than anything you thought you knew about her from watching hour-long episodes of Real Housewives of Atlanta over the last few years.
Williams, who recently exited the series for a spinoff about her own life, Porsha’s Family Matters, has been writing the book for a year and a half. Bringing her story to life became a priority during a period of introspection amid COVID quarantine.
“Like many other people during that time, you’re doing a lot of self-reflecting and I just thought about it and I was like, ‘You know what? I really do have a story to tell,'” she tells ESSENCE.
That’s how The Pursuit of Porsha began. The end result is a memoir that covers her beginnings, from her relationship with her late father, bouts with depression, her entrepreneurial roots, the early years of Real Housewives of Atlanta, motherhood, and her work in the fight for social justice. It’s an in-depth journey into her walk towards her purpose. One of the biggest parts of her journey is the one she’s taken in love. She offers, in detail in the book, the ins and outs of a few of the most significant romantic relationships, often toxic, that she’s experienced.
“I should have called the book Red Flags,” she jokes. “There were red flags all through there that I ignored because I had this mission of being ‘this wife.'”
When we first met Williams on RHOA in 2013, she was just that. A committed wife. Then in her first year of marriage to ex-husband Kordell Stewart, she was a lightning rod for controversy for her nervous slips of the tongue, her stance on submission and the way she was treated by him. The lens put on her life and the criticism that followed, as well as the stardom for her, played a part in changing her relationship. The couple divorced at the end of that year.
“I was very set on a being a submissive, pleasing wife to my husband. So, you have to understand, when I joined the show, I wasn’t necessarily doing anything for the cameras. The cameras just showed who I was at that time. So when it came to me being submissive to my husband or talking to my husband about any decision I wanted to make first and people were calling it ‘controlling,’ all of that was confusing to me,” she says. “That’s not what I thought I was showing you. I thought I was showing you a young Black family who is finding their way…I thought I was showing something completely different.”
“I literally prayed my way through those tough times in my marriage,” she adds. “Unfortunately, we didn’t make it because that’s not what was supposed to happen for God, for me.”
But as the book details, even before she went as Porsha Stewart, unhealthy relationships with controlling men were common for her, including one with singer R. Kelly.
“For me it was all about me staying as true to my story as I possibly could. I felt like if I wrote this book and I left something out like that then I was doing myself an injustice and I was doing the young woman who was going to read the book an injustice,” she says of including the troubled crooner in her memoir.
“I couldn’t leave him out because I didn’t leave anyone out,” she adds. “It’s a full picture to explain my mentality of a woman who didn’t know her worth, of a woman who didn’t love herself, of a woman who didn’t have her voice, of a woman who didn’t value anything that she accomplished. And these are the relationships I found myself in.”
These days she’s doing love differently because now she does know herself. She’s engaged to be married next year to fiancé Simon Guobadia. As she’s walking confidently in her purpose, she isn’t allowing anything or anyone to be a part of her life who won’t complement her or won’t allow her to complement them.
“In the past I was afraid to say, ‘oh I don’t like that. Don’t talk to me like that. This is your vision for your life? Well this is how I want my life to be.’ I never would say anything because I never wanted to disappoint and I always wanted to be the perfect piece to their puzzle,” she says. “But at this point in my life, I have my own plan. I’m very self-aware and I know that everything that I want for my life would only benefit a partner.”
She’s more confident going into this marriage because as Williams put it, she’s her “truest self” at this point. She’s changed, but as she shared, her beliefs about submission are still important to her. She just plans to do it differently this time around.
“When it comes to me being submissive to my husband, I’m not going to change that. I’m just going to change who I’m submissive to,” she says. “It has to be someone deserving, someone who understands what their power is. Their power is given to them through God, and through me as a wife. How I treat you as a husband is how he’s going to treat me as a wife.”
“Back in the day I didn’t understand what I had been given. I was playing a role, which was ok because I had to go through that to get where I am today,” she adds. “But back then, I was giving it all to a man and the way I was being submissive was to throw away everything Porsha was. To kill off Porsha, literally. That’s not what’s supposed to happen. In my new relationship, I am Porsha. I am more Porsha than I’ve ever been. I’m taking her into the marriage and as I choose to revere my husband, choose to uplift him and choose to go to him and inquire about something before I make a decision, that’s out of respect and that’s ok. He’s the right person to do that with and he’s not going to misuse it.”
Whether through her lessons in love, her vulnerability in regards to her mental health battles in the past or her efforts to walk in the footsteps of her grandfather Hosea Williams for her people, she’s looking forward to helping others see a different side of her — and to hopefully pursue the best version of themselves.
“I really started looking at how I got to this place in my life and I realized I had to push through a lot of hardships,” she says. “I really, truly had a testimony. And I believe if you tell your testimony, it can help someone else, bless someone else or help them get through.”