Meet Wadooah Wali, LGBTQ+ advocate and 'Wonder Woman'
Every June, WarnerMedia looks to speak to an LGBTQ+ individual to talk about Pride and their experiences. This year, we sat down with Wadooah Wali, director of communications for TBS and TNT, whose passion for the LGBTQ+ community has no bounds.
Her name is Arabic. Wadooah means “the loving” and Wali means “the nearest friend.” So together, “the loving, nearest friend.” But she isn’t just that to the people she knows. That's who she is to her entire community.
The now Los Angeles resident is a southern girl, born in Gainesville, Fla., but decided to leave Gator-country to attend the University of South Florida.
It’s while in college that she decided to be true to herself and tell her coming out story to a friend. Her truth is one she struggled to tell for the first time but was luckily met with a cheer and a big hug. She received a similar reaction from her four siblings. And while her parents are still learning to accept her lifestyle, she admits because of their conservative background, it was difficult for them at first.
“Growing up in a place in the South, in a small town, it's very hard to find community and other people like you. And my family was not open about it, and so it's definitely something that we didn't talk about,” she explained.
TurnOut LA produced a video showcasing various employees sharing their coming out story. Check out Wadooah Wali and others recalling the moment all LGBTQ+ people never forget.
Her career path
After receiving her degree in Mass Communications, Wali started her career in special events and promotion at the Tampa Tribune. But after a year, figured there has to be more to life than what she was doing. After coming up with a list of the top five cities she could see herself living in, with mild weather being the determining factor, Wali settled on San Francisco. However, she quickly discovered, it’s not sunny and warm in all of California.
“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” she recalled.
Over the next few years, Wali spent time working at PR firms and advertising agencies, including the agency instrumental in the launch of Facebook to everyone outside of the college community. She spent a number of years working in digital media and really enjoying the fast pace of the tech world. An opportunity at a digital start-up led her to Los Angeles. She worked as the head of communications for Fullscreen, eventually purchased by Otter Media, then did some freelancing before starting with WarnerMedia two years ago. Her responsibilities include helping amplify TBS and TNT, something she does for the LGBTQ+ community, as well.
Wali is very active in her community in Los Angeles, helping to launch the LGBTQ+ streaming service “Revry.” She was also instrumental in helping coordinate Los Angeles’ very first new media web series-based film festival “Out Web Fest,” now known as “QueerX Fest. “
She’s not only worked on several web series, she’s also an award-winning documentarian, winning several film festival awards for her doc “Gaze of the Beholder." The film is a way to talk about beauty and body image, but it was also a way for Wali to come out as herself. She recalls a moment she finally decided to show up as her true self for the first time.
“I always felt like I was in drag, that I could not be myself. While launching a site with supermodel Tyra Banks, I decided for the first time I was going to show up and not wear a dress. I wore a suit jacket and pants. I went to the event, and Tyra told me that I looked amazing. I got a lot of great feedback from my co-workers who never saw me dressed like this. It wasn't that it was a particularly great outfit. It was just that I was owning my truth,” she remembered.
It’s a truth Wali carries with her at WarnerMedia. When she arrived two years ago, she noticed there wasn’t an active LGBTQ+ Business Resource Group in Los Angeles. Along with colleagues, Matt Smith, executive administrative assistant – TBS/TNT and Mike Page, director of casting – TNT, they became the co-founders and co-chairs of TurnOut LA.
“Wadooah is a shining example to all of us as to what passion, determination and commitment should look like. In addition to her demanding day-to-day job responsibilities, she co-founded TurnOUT LA and helped create the vision of the group to prioritize inclusion, responsibility and community involvement. Wadooah always brings her A-game to every task in front of her while keeping in mind any potential blind spots or oversights that others may not be aware of. She is fierce, fabulous and a fantastic friend,” said Mike.
This year, Wali was also instrumental in putting together a cross-collaborative effort with LGBTQ+ resource group League at AT&T (similar to TurnOut) to get employees and business resource groups from across AT&T and WarnerMedia together to create a Pride-themed site.
Why Pride is important
The celebration of Pride is always significant but even more so this year, as many remember it’s been 50 years since the Stonewall Riots – an event which ultimately led to Pride celebrations worldwide.
“Pride is important because it celebrates our history and honors our history. It makes it visible; it makes it seen.”
Wali draws inspiration from remembering the past, as well.
“I always like to remind people that Bayard Rustin, who was an out gay man, was a critical figure in the black civil rights movement. I have a picture on the wall in my office of Bayard sitting next to Dr. Martin Luther King. Bayard was right there next to him, pushing him out for the March on Washington and the famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. It's all of our history,” she said.
When the conversation shifts to the moment marriage equality was passed on June 26, 2015, Wali gets very emotional. It just so happens she was in New York at the Stonewall Inn, directing and producing an LGBTQ+ video series when the announcement was made.
“I'll never forget that moment of being there, in the streets in front of this iconic place, and trying to shoot the video and hearing… (there’s a long pause as she fights through tears to explain the moment)… just hearing the people over the loudspeaker saying the bill passed," Wali recalled. "It was the first time in my entire life that I felt like an American citizen, a full American citizen. I still get goosebumps when I think about it.”
The fight for equality and rights for all, including the LGBTQ+ community, has a long way to go. The fight isn’t over. And for many, like Wali, it’s only just beginning.
“I just think an ideal world of any kind – for me, LGBTQ, black woman, whatever – is just the world that I don't have to think about, I don't have to feel like an ‘other.’ I don't have to feel like I have to explain things. I would just feel accepted,” she said.
Don’t we all need a little more of the "Wadooah Wali spirit" in our lives, and perhaps focus on being unrelenting in loving our nearest (and farthest) friends?
WarnerMedia companies have long been committed to diversity and inclusion as moral and business imperatives. It is essential that our content and creative partners reflect the diversity of our society and the world around us. We all must ensure there is greater inclusion of women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, those with disabilities and other underrepresented groups in greater numbers both in front of and behind the camera.
The companies of WarnerMedia have a historic and proven commitment to diversity and inclusion. But there is much more we can do, and we believe real progress can be made in the industry. We will work with our partners in the entertainment community to make this commitment a reality.