"Reality didn’t hit me until a friend, who’d been in L.A. for two years, told me he couldn’t get an agent..."
"I literally get excited when things go wrong..."
Since attending SHINE as a child in the ‘80s, Austen Brown Williams’ work in fashion and entertainment has flourished. She has been modeling, acting, singing and dancing for over 25 years. Clients include everyone from Abercrombie and Fitch, Ford, Sony, and American Airlines, to MTV, fitness videos, feature films and television shows. She’s been a personal development instructor, a stylist, acting coach, business owner and inspirational speaker. She was also Mrs. America 2014. She has been a Director/Youth Minister for the Runway Young Women’s Ministry at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas and has earned her bachelors degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Austen keeps everything in perspective by keeping God first.
Austen, you have been so busy lately and have had some exciting things happen this year…tell us all about it!
When I was crowned Mrs. America 2014, I was afforded the opportunity to represent married women across the country. It has been such an incredible and humbling experience. The Lord provided me so many opportunities to share His grace and love with my fellow state titleholders and so many others. I was able to pray and share the Gospel with about 40 of the titleholders while at Mrs. America. I always say, “It’s for HIS name and fame!”
Beyond that, I had a role in a film called 8 Days, which exposes the realities of human sex trafficking by dramatizing a trafficking experience inspired by true events. Though my role was small, the Lord has provided me such a platform to share the message of 8 Days while being Mrs. America. In fact, my platform for Mrs. America is Human Trafficking Awareness. So being able to speak about how I’m working to promote my platform in such a unique way has been really awesome.
You done so many things. What were some of your more favorite or memorable jobs?
I think I would choose different jobs as memorable for different reasons. I loved doing Size Japan Magazine. They styled me as a “Nubian Princess” and made my afro super huge. It was one of my favorite jobs as far as styling is concerned. Ruehl, which is an Abercrombie and Fitch brand, and the film Radio were also pretty memorable but for different reasons. Ruehl was shot in NYC and they flew me from LA to the city and we walked around with a huge entourage taking pictures all over… it was awesome. Radio on the other hand, was most memorable because I had one line…. and it got cut! Haha, talking about keeping ya humble! It was a great experience though. We filmed for several months and I was able to go to the wrap party and the cast and crew events.
What about unusual happenings?
Strange experiences have happened post industry jobs…for sure! I did 15 fitness videos while I was in LA, and no matter how hard I try to hide from them, they ALWAYS find me. Case in point, while I was working in full-time ministry I would randomly have girls and their mothers saying they “saw me on-demand” or “worked out with me.” It even happened while I was at seminary. A woman who worked in Institutional Advancement brought a workout video down to the office and said she saw me and I was too hard to work out to. She then gave the workout video to my friends…. who actually use it. Awkward! Another friend went to a beauty store and saw a balance ball for sale that had me on the packaging. It got so bad that one Halloween, (which we call, “Fall Dress-Up Day”), all my girl friends from seminary dressed up as different versions of “Austen”… so there was Dancer Austen, Workout Video Austen, Pregnant Austen, Pageant Austen…. yep…. always an adventure.
With so many experiences, what about an overcoming story that God helped you with?
We’ll be here all day if we talked about that at length! But in this season of my life, God’s work can be seen through my most recent victories in pageantry. I would often joke with the Director of Mrs. Texas that if things went terribly wrong I was going to win. She’s a believer, but she didn’t know exactly what to think about that. It’s so true in my life though. It even lines up with my life verse perfectly: 2 Cor 12:7-10, which talks about how Christ’s work is made perfect in weakness and how His grace is sufficient. Because of that, I literally get excited when things go wrong, because then I know that Christ’s work will be perfect in my life.
So at Mrs. Texas my wardrobe wasn’t completed until about 5 minutes before the show started, I got a flat tire on a loaner car (my car needed to be serviced) and I got to registration late. When I got there I just knew God was at work and I wasn’t stressed about it. I was excited! Only Jesus could have made something beautiful out of that mess. And pretty much the same thing happened while preparing for Mrs. America.
You started out very young with the founder of SHINE, Carey Lewis. How has that affiliation helped you and your career?
The real question is how did it not help with my career? I did not realize how fortunate I was until I moved to LA as an adult, and friends who’d been in the city for years would look at me like I was crazy as I tried to determine who I would sign with at various agencies and management companies. It never occurred to me that those opportunities weren’t afforded to everyone, because I had been working since I was four. Nearly everyone I knew who was established in the industry was successful because of AMTC or SHINE. Reality didn’t hit me until a friend, who’d been in LA for two years told me he couldn’t get an agent because he hadn’t worked and couldn’t get work because he didn’t have an agent. He caught a glimpse of my resume and asked, “How are you SAG eligible? How do you have an agent? How did you get all those meetings? How How? How? I’ve been here for years!” Hindsight bias, I can call it favor and blessing. At the time, and even still, I recognize SHINE's role in my success.
What advice would you give to performers who want to make a positive impact for God?
“Love God and love people and all your dreams will come true.” I write that on autograph cards pretty often. So many times in my own life I have been convinced about what I believed to be the desires of my heart, only later to discover that the heart is deceitful above all things and that I really don’t know at all what fulfillment of my desires actually looks like. The prayers for my life have changed from, “Lord let me do XYZ,” to “Lord, let me be Your hands and feet, wherever that may be.” And, “Lord, if you want me to walk through that door, open it wide, if you don’t slam it shut,” and He’s been faithful to His promises every time.