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How Using Your Gift Can Change the World

Holly Charles’ Excellent Writing Leads Her from Professor to Playwright to PR Professional

By: Sidni Williams


Holly Charles posing for Shoutout HTX Magazine

When I come to think of my professional hero, I can’t help but acknowledge the privilege I have of knowing mine in real life. By being an educator, social justice advocate, published author, playwright, founder and president of non-profit organization Houston Play on Purpose (HPOP), Holly Charles is a wearer of many hats. She first touched my life as my high school English professor and continues to pave a way as she takes on new roles. Her admirable traits of searching beyond surface levels in others, serving her purpose with passion and leaping into the unknown teaches that I can break through any glass ceiling set up against me. Holly Charles constantly shatters expectations and leaves pieces of wisdom for those who want to do the same.

Digging Deeper

Instead of being the typical hero that fights against a dangerous villain, Charles embodies a literary warrior that puts pen to paper and writes against oppression, stigmas and injustice. Charles doesn’t write these issues on a surface-level, though. She knows to dig deeper. When writing her published novel “Velvet”, she wanted to take a closer look into her lineage of single motherhood and how being Black affected them. Charles learned that she had to look past the stories her mother and grandmother told her. Instead, she had to reflect and find empathy within each imperfection and insecurity they passed down. In her TED Talk, Charles compared it to knowing when her students read SparkNotes versus actually reading a chapter and connecting with the characters. It is an important lesson to look past the given narrative and strive to create a deeper empathy for others.

Fueling Purpose with Passion

“I’m Still a Woman” written by Charles.

Promotional poster of a stage play “I’m Still a Woman” written by Charles. Discovering one’s purpose can be a constant struggle. Some people search their entire lives just to find what they were placed on this earth for and what drives them to do so. Charles was able to find her purpose through advocacy and her passion to give a voice to the voiceless. As she fights for underserved communities, she became a playwright along the way. She founded her non-profit organization, HPOP , to create stage plays that shed light on social justice issues. Charles’ productions became successful regardless of the fact she didn’t have any writing, directing or producing plays experience. Her path to success was paved through the perseverance to help others. “I am in no way a daredevil, thrill-seeking risktaker, but I do believe that risk taking is a necessary step towards self-fulfillment,” Charles said. “I’ve had many missteps, but they have taught me more than success ever could.”

Knowing When to Move onto the Next Chapter

Despite being in the educational realm for more than 15 years, Holly Charles knew when it was time to move forward with her life. She knew that being comfortable meant she was not continuing to grow. It gets pretty easy to stay in the regular grooves of life and develop a routine that makes once passionate people end up settling. Fortunately, it is not in Charles’ nature to settle. With a passion for storytelling, Charles was destined to work within the public relations field. She was sought out by a Houston-based boutique firm, Misty Blue Media, when it was discovered Charles’ was independently executing all of her own PR for HPOP. As she entered the world of PR, she once again did not have any professional experience besides figuring it out herself. She faced the unknown head-on, and still led a successful career.

As Charles breaks through barriers and wears a plethora of hats, she continues to be a hero of mine with each new project she takes on. Charles’ inquiry to think beyond the surface, passion to advocate for others and knowing when to move forward are all traits I strive to have within myself. I once had a conversation with her as a very scared high school graduate about the unknown of my future. With leading by example, she opened my eyes to all possibilities ahead and showed me how to look through the glass.



About the Author

Sidni Williams is a recent graduate from the University of North Texas. By studying journalism with a focus in public relations and minoring in marketing, Sidni always strives to find the perfect ensemble of words to tell a compelling story.