Dr. Whittaker-Davis and the Magical Stilettos
Shoes can change your life. Ask Cinderella. Even outside of fairy tales, the right footwear can transport you to amazing places. Long before Dr. Sharon Whittaker-Davis became Advisor to the Sophistication Unlimited Modeling Troupe at Stillman College, she discovered how potent a pair of black and gold stilettos from Bloomingdale’s can be.
This discovery came at a time when she yearned to obtain a doctorate degree more than Cinderella yearned to marry Prince Charming. Unfortunately, the expense seemed prohibitive. But her entire life changed one day after she donned her sleek stilettos and went to an in-service training at Howard University, where she was employed as a Residential Counselor. She was in the right shoes at the right time. The guest speaker, who was discussing the importance of distinguishing yourself in order to succeed in life, glanced down at her magical stilettos and stopped in his tracks. He asked her to take off a shoe, and he held it up for the audience to admire. This was no ordinary shoe. There was an elegant ball at the tip of the heel.
“He stated that it was not enough to be intelligent. You need to be smart, but you also have to have a competitive edge—to stand out. He used my shoe as an example,” recalls Dr. Whittaker-Davis, who serves as Stillman’s Vice President for Student Affairs. “Later, he contacted my boss about a job for me at Illinois State University that would pay for my doctoral studies.”
The new position allowed her to travel throughout the country facilitating workshops on student leadership, motivation, and programming as she pursued her doctoral degree. She already had an M.ED from Howard University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude. In addition to being well prepared academically, she had studied at the Cappa Chell Finishing School and Modeling Agency in Washington, D.C., and had a beautiful wardrobe replete with great scarves, jewelry, hats and, of course, shoes. Her intelligence, along with her flair for fashion and experience modeling in department stores, gave her an aura that quickly transformed her into a sought-after speaker. Because of her knowledge of the fashion industry, she was—and is still—frequently asked to serve as a judge at local, state and regional pageants, including Miss Junior League and Miss South Carolina.
“My mother always dressed well, and she always wore stiletto heels. Even though she only earned thirty-five dollars every two weeks, she would put clothes on layaway and set aside a portion of her money to pay for them. She knew how to stretch money and she believed in investing in quality things that last. I also had a cousin who was a fashionista, and she would give me her beautiful hand me downs,” says Dr. Whittaker-Davis, who inherited a generous spirit and has given away as many as 200 shoes to budget-strapped young women who share her passion for fashion.
Everywhere she has worked, she has either started a modeling troupe or helped to elevate one to a higher level. As Advisor to the Sophistication Unlimited Modeling Troupe for the past eighteen years, she has had the joy of passing her signature stride, as well as her love of fashion, on to hundreds of students.
“God has blessed me with the desire to embrace students. Perhaps because I never birthed a child of my own, this was God’s way of blessing me with children. Sometimes my job can be challenging. As Vice President for Student Affairs, I have to be prayerful because I make decisions that affect students’ lives. I’ve had to suspend students. But they have come back to me years later and thanked me. They’ve said, ‘I was on the wrong track and I needed to be suspended,’” Dr. Whittaker states. “I see my job as a ministry. My work has helped me to develop good listening skills and learn not to judge others. Some students have difficult home situations. Others lack confidence when they first come to college. I love seeing them grow. I cry at every graduation.”
At basketball games and other events, former Stillman students run to embrace her. And current students in need of advice often head to her office, where the tape dispenser is covered with rhinestones and she is well-shod and often draped in beautiful jewels. Although she may appear to be perpetually stepping from the cover of a fashion magazine, Dr. Whittaker-Davis is a “mom away from home” for many. Whether they are in her modeling troupe or not, she loves helping students to develop the poise and confidence they need to succeed in life, and she always encourages young people to be themselves and develop their own unique style.
In a world filled with people who are content just to walk across a room without tripping, she is among the select few who have learned to glide and spin gracefully through life in stilettos. Like Cinderella, she knows that shoes matter.
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