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Author encourages women to be fearless during Woodlands event

March 23, 2018 GMT

Fearless. That’s the word that Annella Metoyer has chosen as her motivational word for 2018.

“Every year you come out with a word that you’re going to stand on, so I’m going to ask you all to think about what is that word you’re going to stand on this year,” Metoyer said to the crowd. “When things are not going well for you, what you do is you step back and you stand on that word.”

Metoyer, a performance improvement coach who specializes in enhancing leadership skills, was the guest author and inspirational speaker at a luncheon on March 21 hosted by The Woodlands North Houston Chapter of the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce. Minerva Perez, a Houston media icon who has interviewed numerous trailblazing women, had the honor of introducing and interviewing Metoyer.

Dozens of women listened as Metoyer shared her story. From being the first to integrate her hometown bank to being transitioned out of an industry in which she had worked for 40 years, Metoyer discussed how she overcame adversities in her life.

Metoyer, author of the No. 1 selling paperback on Kindle “Dare to be the Change,” began with how she felt hopeless and afraid when she was let go from her long-term career at 59 years old.

“I had been through one of the worst transitions that anyone could go through, and it was similar to a death because I had worked 40 years in banking,” Metoyer said. “Then one day somebody shows up in your office and says, ‘It’s over.’ And you look at yourself and say, ‘Now what? What am I going to do?’ I didn’t know what I was going to do, and the first thing that came across my mind was fear.”

After being let go, Metoyer said she didn’t know what to do. Writing the novel about her life story helped her to get beyond the fear and use an adversity to her advantage as well as show others how to do the same, she added.

“I wrote the book in one weekend. (I) Never dreamed I would do something like that. Now it took me about a year to go through the revisions because I wanted (readers) to feel the pain and also the happiness of my journey to get to the other side,” Metoyer explained.

Metoyer, who is half black, was the first person to integrate her high school and the first to integrate her local bank.

“My journey started in Louisiana,” she said. “I was the first person of color to be a cheerleader at the school I went to. I also integrated that school so that was interesting. Lot of bus stories there. I also was the first person of color to work in the bank in my hometown.”

Her first job was to stamp and address envelopes that bank statements were mailed in. When she was promoted to teller, the customers were not happy that she was working in the bank. Metoyer described how on her first day, a gentleman was angry that she was the teller and said some unkind words in French Creole, which she understood, about how he did not want her to touch his money. Metoyer said she dealt with racism and other obstacles throughout her career, but she kept pushing through it.

“No matter what, through all of that, I kept saying, ‘I’m going to go through this because I’m going to open the door for somebody else who’s going to come behind me,’ ” Metoyer said. “I can tell you I went through a heck of a lot. But I always said what my father famously always told me, ‘If you don’t, who will?’ I would go, ‘Daddy, don’t tell me that. You’re saying I’ve got to go do this. I don’t want to do this.’ But he was right. If you don’t, then who will?”

When she first started climbing the banking ladder, Metoyer said there was a lot of red-lining, the practice of refusing a loan to someone because they live in an area deemed to be a poor financial risk. Upon seeing the injustice, she decided to speak up, which she said only landed her in trouble.

“I got myself in a lot of trouble. I probably stayed in more trouble than most because when you fight for the underdog and when you fight for what’s right, you’re not the most popular person,” Metoyer said.

As she began to climb higher on the corporate ladder, Metoyer said she worked with an individual who once asked her to inform people that she is black. When Metoyer questioned him as to why she should, she claimed his response implied that she should be responsible for making sure others are not embarrassed by their own words.

Metoyer explained how several people with whom she had worked for years read her book and were surprised by some of her stories.

“It’s given individuals a platform to talk about a subject that people don’t really want to talk about,” Metoyer said. “I have individuals who will call me and say, ‘Oh my goodness, Annella. I didn’t know you were a person of color. Did I say anything ugly to you?’ ”

When Metoyer visited New York City, she went to view the Charging Bull and Fearless Girl statues on Wall Street. She would ask passersby what they thought of the girl facing down the bull, and they would respond that it’s not about the bull. It’s about the girl. It’s about being fearless. This inspired the cover of Metoyer’s novel “Dare to be the Change,” which features Metoyer standing beside the bronze statue of the fearless girl in New York City, both of them facing the bull which has been faded out. It also inspired her motivational word: fearless.

“This year I’m going to step out of my norm and do some things to carry this forward. I’m not going to sit back and not do something to continue that space of helping other people,” Metoyer said.

Metoyer currently is in the final publication processes for a children’s book about bullying. Inspired by her grandson’s experiences with bullying, it is set to be released in late summer this year.

Kelly Dramberger, a business development representative with Next Level Urgent Care, attended the luncheon and was captivated by Metoyer’s story.

“She was very engaging. She was incredibly inspirational and I just loved her shine,” Dramberger said.

Cindy Doyle, who works in the communications and education foundation departments at Klein ISD, said she will think more carefully when choosing her words in the future.

“I truly enjoyed hearing her story. For those of us that have lived during the same time, we’ve seen many transitions like this,” Doyle said. “For me as a grandmother of biracial children that are small, my words will be different now because of her.”