Though we all experience similar obstacles throughout life, we often deal with them differently. While some choose to face these challenges head-on, others succumb to the pressure and struggle through them. However, every once in a while, a person who at first suffered, makes a change and rises above.
In 2011, one man’s experience was just that – and it caught the attention of America. Ted Williams went from begging on the streets, to making six figures through his gift of voice. This moving story quickly became a phenomenon, but what he’s been up to since his twist of fate proves that that was just the beginning…
Almost seven years ago now, Ted Williams was seeking help on the streets of Ohio with a cardboard sign that read, “I have a God-given gift of voice.” Most of his days were spent holding this up at each passerby, in hopes that someone with status would eventually stop and hear his raw talent.
Ted discovered his love for voice-over work at just 14 years old during a school field trip. While touring a radio station, he met one of the announcers who explained the business by saying it was a “theater of mind.” This put young Ted on his path, but what laid ahead wasn’t all good news…
After serving three years in the U.S. Army, Ted went to school for voice acting. His education and passion led him to a job with WVKO (AM) in Columbus, Ohio. However, in 1986, drug and alcohol abuse cost him his career, and almost his life.
Ted’s addiction eventually landed him in jail for a short period of time. Once he was released, he quickly realized things weren’t much better for him on the outside. As he begged on the streets, his prayer of being noticed was finally answered by a reporter from The Columbus Dispatch.
The reporter filmed Ted using his magical vocal chords and later posted the video on their website. Overnight, Ted Williams became an Internet sensation! This gained the attention of other big news stations as well, changing Ted’s life forever…
After the video of his “golden pipelines” got 13 million views in under 48 hours, everyone wanted a piece of him -but it was The Early Show that held the most emotional coverage. As cameras rolled, Ted was reunited with his mother after twenty years of being apart!
In no time, Ted was offered a $375,000 book deal and offers from Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, MSNBC, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and basically everywhere else he could ever dream of. Just ten days after the video was posted, Ted had another TV interview on the set of Dr. Phil.
During the show, Ted admitted to his struggle with addiction and agreed to enter a rehab facility. However, after just twelve days, he voluntarily left the program. Most of his deals were then dropped, with the rest being put on hold. Ted later went back on Dr. Phil to apologize for lying about the extent of his problem.
Not wanting to blow his second chance at life, Ted signed up for another rehab program, and completed it. Soon after, he was on the Today show talking about the release of his book, appropriately named, A Golden Voice: How Faith, Hard Work, and Humility Brought Me from the Streets to Salvation.
Ted’s memoir revealed a much deeper, more startling look into his life. This included descriptions of him being a delinquent parent and having played “a role in prostituting his girlfriend so he could get money for drugs.” What happened the following year, however, was even more surprising to hear.
In 2013, while narrating the documentary Houseless, Ted revealed something quite shocking; “I own nothing. I don’t even have a car right now.” Apparently, some of the deals he signed at first led to this circumstance, along with a few bad people that were in his life. Thankfully, he did have one thing…
By 2015, Ted had two years of sobriety, as well as a new outlook on life. He even decided to run for president of the United States! Though his bid for the White House concluded by the end of that summer, Ted had no regrets stating, “I was created to create change… I wanted to inspire and encourage.”
Following his quiet failure, was another loud success: becoming the voice of the “Joy of Pepsi” campaign. Ted was featured at the start of the ad, which included American singer, Tori Kelly, singing a new version of the company’s jingle originally performed by Britney Spears.
Things didn’t slow down as Ted then got his own weekday radio program called The Golden Voice Show. What’s even better is that it was through WVKO (AM) – the very same radio station Ted began his career with in the ’80s! With a chuckle, he acknowledged this on the air by saying, “I’m almost like a poster child for redemption.”
Ted’s story of going from homeless to Hollywood was under everybody’s radar, but like all popular things, people eventually forget. As a result, an episode of Oprah’s Where Are They Now? aired in 2016 featuring Ted and his more recent ambitions – and boy, what he was up to was definitely something to talk about.
After sharing his story of failures and triumphs, an emotional Ted explained how he wanted to leave a legacy behind for his fans, family, and friends. He revealed how he has been working with homeless charities, including Friends of the Homeless, the shelter he often turned to just five years ago.
Ted has even more charitable goals, like opening a homeless laundromat! He explained that he wanted a place “where volunteer attendants wash and dry homeless people’s clothes so they have a shot at getting back to work” like he did.
Just when Ted thought he escaped the dark world of drugs, his ex-manager, Alfred Battle, tried to lure him into a heroin smuggling scheme. He even promised Ted he would be “treated like a king.” Ted denied the offer and Battle was later arrested carrying 18 pounds of heroin after arriving on a flight from Ethiopia.
Later that year, a much happier event occurred for the first time in Ted Williams’ life – voting. He told NBC4 that exercising his civic duty was more than words could explain, “special is an understatement.” In 2016, Ted voted for the first time in 25 years!
From pairing up with Bombas Sock Company to ensure every homeless person in Columbus has fresh socks, to becoming a strong believer and leader of faith, Ted has accomplished so much in such little time. “No matter where your dark place in life is, if I can make it out, you can too.”
Ted Williams continues to be grateful for his fresh start in 2011, and acts as an inspiration to all as he leads a life full of giving back.