"A+++, very motivating. What a sensational and funny lady"
- WA State Executive Assistants Group
"Debbie's message of seeing people for what they are on the inside and approaching adversity with humor was very inspiring and uplifting. The students, faculty and staff had a wonderful time."
- Universtiy of Idaho
"I was impressed (as were others) with the way you were able to weave the experience of the Human Rights Commission into your performance."
- State of Washington Human Rights Commission
"You received rave reviews and set the tone for a great performance."
- Director of Washington Food Coalition
"You managed to captivate the room with charm, love and knowledge"
- Asst. Multicultural Services, Highline Community College
In addition to her speaking and comedy engagements she has put together many workshops including: Healing Adversity Through Humor; Using Humor In The Workplace To Defuse Conflict; Humor In The Parenting System - Not To Hit But Outwit; Black Women's Workshop; and Communicating On Different Levels.
Debbie Wooten is an expert in overcoming adversity. Born on the South side of Chicago with Spina Bifida and contracting polio at five months, Debbie entered a world of poverty, racism, abuse and family suicide. Her story is a vision of what the human spirit can prevail through. Debbie "hits home" emotionally with a wide range of audiences. C.E.O's of top companies to college students line up after her speech to give her hugs and tell how they related to her story on some level. Debbie almost always gets a standing ovation.
Her real strength is getting her message across that if she can rise above poverty, abuse, prejudice and physical barriers anyone can succeed. The fact that she gives here speech with great humor and pathos is a plus.
"Work with what you got"
Debbie Wooten, the perennial favorite of colleges and organizations for her sparkling message the last decade is new and improved as we enter a new year.
In early 2005 the disability and diversity speaker was fighting another battle of many through out her life. In debilitating pain from her hip giving way and the return of her polio, Debbie was unable to stand without excruciating pain. She even discussed leaving her career because of her continuing downward spiral.
Debbie's special charisma saved the day as she was chosen from a group of 20,000 people as the "cover girl" for an advertising campaign for Washington State's Health System.
Recently Debbie had received a hip replacement and through her interaction with Group Health was chosen as a candidate for an operation to limit her food ingestion (now a much less dangerous procedure). Debbie at this writing has lost 147 pounds with much less pressure on her hips and legs and is walking pain free, for the most part without crutches. It wasn't too long ago she was almost entirely confined to a wheelchair.
Debbie was born with spina bifida and developed polio at five months. She grew up amid poverty and alcoholism. Debbie suffered over the years with a marriage that ended in suicide as well as one that ended because of abuse. You may find it hard to believe when you meet this bubbly lady, who is full of sass and good humor, that her world has ever been so laden with tragedy. Her speeches and comedy have consistently won her standing ovations and letters of praise. Sincerely a gem and a performer not to miss - especially now that she's new and improved!
Debbie Wooten's story is a vision of how the human spirit can prevail. Debbie entered a world of poverty, racism, abuse and family suicide. But after years of struggle and barriers that for most of us would be too daunting. Debbie succeeded in becoming a highly requested speaker and comedian.
Debbie was educated in a school for disabled students where color was not a factor in her placement. Life was hard, but she still was able to laugh and dream. At eight he pushed through a crowd with her Dad and shook the hand of Martin Luther King. Words from his speech "judge people for the content of their character, not the color of their skin" has always stayed with her.
Becoming a mother as a teen, Debbie once again met the challenge. She would take her toddlers and groceries up to the third story of her apartment building one stair at a time. She would alternate bags of groceries and babies until they reached the top floor. They would celebrate their accomplishment with cheers. She had friends that had no legs and appreciated how lucky she was.
While still in Chicago she married a man, that like her father was abusive, but carried on and excelled at parenthood on her own. She started a business with ladies in the neighborhood called "Debbie's Dollies." Using brown fabric and discounted African American dolls heads they fashioned dolls that were sent all over the country. She even made a few with a miniature likeness of her leg brace.
In 1987 she decided to divorce her husband, take her children and move to Tacoma, Washington. She moved to a tough area in town called Hilltop, but compared to the slums of Chicago the family considered it a paradise. Debbie worked hard to keep the family fed and the lights on and found contentment with her second husband, Elliott. Even the kids liked him! Debbie was determined to not be on welfare, and in 1989 she found a good job at Washington State Lottery and worked there for thirteen years until her career in speaking could support her. But over the years, Elliott fell deep into depression and finally on Labor Day of 1995 he shot himself. Debbie was devastated but with a house full of kids, house payments and a job, life couldn't stop.
Debbie's comedy and speaking career began a year after she had moved to Tacoma, with a local Toastmaster's group. In 1989 she was chosen as the national winner of a Toastmaster's speaking contest and competed for the International award in Portland, Oregon. She was so poor that she could not attend the banquet and with her sister sat outside and ate McDonald's before she spoke and she came in second. With her national win, she was able to open for the comedian Sinbad, who enthusiastically encouraged her to continue her career.
Over the year's Debbie gathered confidence and professionalism and has hundreds of speeches and standing ovations to her credit. After every speech C.E.O's to disabled college students line up to giver her hugs and tell her how her speech has affected their lives. She has also developed numerous workshops that combined with her speeches add to her impact.
Her five adult children are thriving and include a recently graduated lawyer who works in the law firm of Bill Gates Sr., a real estate agent and a teacher. She remarried in 2000 to the man of her dreams who is "tall, dark and workin'".
Debbie's comedy includes the finals in the Seattle Comedy Competition, opening for Gladys Knight on tour and other comics George Wallace, Tommy Davidson, Bernie Mac, Jamie Foxx, Cedric the Entertainer and Louie Anderson.
|College Dates (Partial Listing)|
|Centralia College||Lower Columbia College|
|Wenatchee Valley College||Univ. of Washington - Tacoma|
|Longview Community College||Skagit Valley Community College|
|Washington State - Tri Cities||Green River Community College|
|Gonzaga University||Big Bend Community College|
|Eastern Oregon University||Central Oregon Community College|
|Southern Oregon University||Tacoma Community College|
|Columbia Basin College||Chemeketa Community College|
|Everett Community College||University of Portland|
|Linfield College||University of Idaho|
|Gray's Harbor College||Edmonds Community College|
St. Martin's College
|Spokane Community College||Central Washington University|
|Blue Mountain College||Peninsula College|
|Pierce College (two campuses)||Portland Community College (three)|
|Corporate and Governmental (Partial Listing)|
|Washington State Health Care Authority||16th Annual Support Staff Ed. Conf.|
|Department of Social Services Washington State||Washington State Exec. Asst. Group|
|Purdy Correction Institute||Solution, Women's Conference|
|African American Women's Conference||National Black Children's Assoc.|
|Arts Northwest||State of Wash., Dept. of Health|
|Group Health Cooperative||Interagency Com. State Employed Women|
|Walla Walla Foster Parents||State of Washington, Dept. of Labor and Industries|
|Washington Community Mental Health||Early Childhood Conference|
|Washington State Disability||USDA Forest Service|
|Intransit Trucking Co.||Wash. State Human Rights Commission|
|American Assoc. of Women In Community College||Children and Family Services|
|MLK Celebration City of Tacoma||Tools for Success Conference|
|National Assoc. of Campus Act.|
|A handful of direct quotes from those who have heard Debbie speak:|