Classy ladies inspire, and Khit Masoud does just that. Read on, in Khit’s own words.
Life will only change when you become more committed to your dreams than you are to your comfort zone. I don’t want to inspire others by being perfect. My name is Khit Masoud and I want to inspire women by how I deal with my imperfections.
I have a word called “BLESSONS”, A blesson is what happens when you see the blessing in the lesson that your challenge taught you. We all have a story, we all have our own demons, we all have our own issues and fears. Not everyone has the emotional support from their loved ones when you think you need it most. You have to learn how to survive because when you know that you are all that you have, being STRONG is the only thing you can be.
I always wanted to make a difference and teach women like my mother who I would see depressed as she raised 7 children at home as her only duty in life. I ran away from home at 16 where I was born and raised in Northern California. I took my family to court, was legally emancipated in 1998. I wanted to be free to go to college, make something of myself that wasn’t cleaning, cooking and raising children as my only options in life. As the oldest of 7, it was really hard to take this risk of never seeing or speaking to any of my family members once I brought shame to the family. By sharing my story with the world that I can leave home at 16, finish high school while working two jobs, living on my own and getting into college to make something of myself without depending on a man to support me, was one of my biggest goals.
Life’s challenges have taught me what it’s like to have slept in my car, slept on friend’s floors, live off 29 cents hamburgers and top ramen to survive those tough lessons. After trying the first few years in college, I eventually couldn’t keep up with my grades to maintain the financial aid for school in completing my first Bachelor’s degree. Since then, I have been working on my first Bachelor’s degree while making it through life on my own with no family support. I have always wanted to finish my college education.
At 26, 10 years after running away from home, I was diagnosed with a very rare cancer called Vulvar Cancer caused by HPV. Back then in 2006, HPV was very new. Not much research was done and the only thing we knew was that my body and my immune system couldn’t fight off these strands. I was sleeping on the couch at a friend’s place at the time.
In 2007, I had several surgeries and treatments to fight off the cancer. I went through cancer on my own. I have had to do what I needed to do to survive and was not ashamed of the choices that were made to survive. When I came to Chicago in 2007, after all my surgeries, I wanted to start over.
I enrolled into HWC, spent 3 years there while bartending full time and volunteering at a NFP organization that provided 1-on-1 cancer support. Through that organization, I learned how to make a difference by using my legs and started running for charity and growing a charity running team. I learned that the power of healing by sharing my stories, my experiences, my BLESSONS would also help me make peace of my lessons and to view the blessings that those challenges has taught me. I was able to make a difference for so many cancer fighters, survivors and caregivers because no one should have to face cancer on their own like I did.
Since November 2015, my cancer check- ups started to come back with positive cancer cells again. My doctors are always trying to help me reduce the stress in my life because my body just doesn’t take it well, and I believe the cancer in my body feeds off of it so easily. That’s why I run.
I run for many things, but mostly to reduce stress while making a difference. In Jan 2016, I had another biopsy. The cancer cells were increasing and spreading, early stages of Cervical Cancer at that time. I have changed jobs and made some changes in job duties moving forward to reduce stress, have let people go that have been the closest to my heart possibly in my life, as much as it hurt to watch them walk away from me, I needed to be strong so I can reduce the stress. I rescued a dog as an emotional support animal.
Since 2011, I have completed 95 races including 3 Bank of America Chicago Marathons, 1 TCS NYC Marathon, February 2016 Sketchers LA Marathon, in April the 2016 Boston Marathon while fundraising for charity. I’ve raised over $95,000 to date since my first race.
Soon after the LA Marathon, I had another biopsy and learned within a week that I have been diagnosed again with cancer. Over the past several months, I have recently had to accept that even the ones you love the most in your life, may not be as strong as you need them to be. Life sure has a way of teaching you who really understands the meaning of unconditional love and how much they value you as a human being when you need them the most. Being strong and being in survival mode is all that I have known. Fun facts of how I have fun through all these experiences, I post about what I’m grateful for during the marathon as I’m running it!! While running the 2016 Boston Marathon, I dedicated every mile of the marathon with pictures and posted to Facebook as I crossed each mile marker. It kept reminding me why I started this mission in the first place each time I wanted to give up.
Taking care of your health first is something that I have been working on for years. I have decided to take this opportunity to create my own NFP organization that raises funds for scholarships called BLESSONS. Website is coming soon! I want to continue making a difference by raising awareness for women around the world to see the blessings in the lessons that your challenges teach you. No matter what happens in your life, no one and nothing can take away your education & strength. Knowledge truly is POWER. I’m dedicating the rest of my races in 2016 including my 7th, 8th & 9th marathon and Abbott World Marathon Majors, at the 2016 BERLIN Marathon on September 25th, 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 9th & 2016 TCS NYC Marathon on November 6th to my new NFP organization, BLESSONS. Staying on top of my health with the help on my doctors including my Sports Medicine Foot & Ankle doctor, Dr. Chin at The Running Institute here in Chicago, keeps me injury free.
Being classy to me means that reminding myself of the biggest lesson I have been teaching myself all these years, is to never be pushed by my problems. Instead, be led by my dreams :)) The only person that I need to make proud, is ME. We need women who are so strong they can be gentle, so educated they can be humble, so fierce they can be compassionate, so passionate they can be rational and so disciplined, they can be free. Educate a woman and watch, she will change world.
Women have the power to change the world for the better. Melissa Malka (affectionately known as Mel) is one entrepreneurial woman who absolutely takes this to heart (heart being the operative word… wait until you hear about her dating startup!) Ladies, read on, and prepare to be inspired.
Mel’s latest project is LoveLogic Labs, a dating data analytics project. This started around six years ago, when she was a student and needed to pay her bills. “A friend of mine joked that ‘I was the ultimate wing-woman’, and that I could charge for that, so I gave it a shot,” Mel explains.
Quickly, Mel became a dating coach. “By word-of-mouth, I started getting more and more [male] clients who wanted help learning how to talk to women. And from there, women started approaching me and asking if I could coach them in their dating lives. It was like a short-term field-study in modern-dating problems.”
From the experience, Mel realized two things: 1) Modern dating is broken and 2) She was not going to be able to single-handedly fix what was broken, at least, not then. Nonetheless, Mel identified a need and knew she could create a way to fill it – one day.
“I think I had the creativity and the talent but not the discipline and mental focus to get things done. I realized that about myself, so I went and got a ‘real job’ so I could learn what it meant to get up every day, put pants on, and go to work.
“But, when I’d get home from work, I’d still obsessively read about relationship theories from the more methodical and quantitative social scientists out there. I still spoke to some of my former clients and gathered more data. I wrote my ideas and theories down, and looked to see if the research supported them. It was my big project. Even when I wasn’t being paid for it, I still wanted to solve the dating puzzle.”
Six years later, the LoveLogic is the answer to that puzzle. It’s still in its early stages, but we expect it to be a smashing success (after all, any new venture that you start with an ex-boyfriend is likely to be successful, if you two have the grace, the poise, and the wit to keep it going forward – as Mel and her partner, Sasha, do).
What inspires us most about Mel’s story is her ability to continuously pursue her dreams, even if it means constantly being on the road (and spending only 23 nights in her bed during the second quarter of 2015). In Q3/15, Mel has yet to spend the night in her own bed! Despite that, Mel has some sweet takeaways:
“47,706 air miles later (since 1/2015), I think the most salient takeaways are the following:
1)There is ALWAYS something left to learn. I try not to speak in absolutes, but strongly feel that no matter how much you’ve accomplished and grown, there’s always more to learn. It’s humbling.
2)Home can be a fluid place, as long as you center your mind. I stopped worrying about feeling homesick and worked on becoming more adaptable to not having a place to nest. Every place I stayed became ‘home’ while I stayed there.
3)Make time for the people you love. When I come into the city, I try to see as many people as I can because I miss them so much. If I can’t see them or it has been too long, we literally schedule Skype dates to catch up. I want to be there for them and support the incredible things they’re doing.
When Mel isn’t helping change the world’s dating game, drinking five cups of coffee per day, or texting with her 29 cousins across the globe (her WhatsApp may have hundreds of texts for her to check in a given day), Mel is a huge advocate for organizations that support women, especially young girls who want to pursue careers or hobbies in male-dominated fields.
“If a girl wants to learn to code, great, let her learn to code. She doesn’t need to become the poster child for every girl learning to code. That can exert some weird pressure on the situation,” she explains.
“I’m also incredibly passionate about teaching women self-defense. We, as a society, are working on equalizing our gender differences (pay, etc) but biologically speaking, we (women) are generally the tinier humans. It can be very empowering to have the confidence that you can defend yourself, if need be, and a lot of the underpinnings of martial arts are useful in other aspects of life as well. In short, while I try to avoid speaking to my cohort as ‘a woman in tech’ or ‘a female scientist’ (I’m just a person in tech, or a former scientist), I will add the gender framework when I’m talking to young girls. I want them to have a reference point for a feminine tomboy, or a female startup founder.”
To us, classy women inspire. They’re fair. They are smart and unafraid to use their mental prowess to wow the world. Mel Malka is absolutely a classy lady, and we can’t wait to see how the world benefits from her classy and loving contributions.
When you think of engineers, do you instantly think of fashion? If not, Katherine Quigg is ready to change your mind on that (oh, and PS, Katherine is brilliant).
By day, Katherine is a Staff Engineer at American Institute of Steel Construction, where Katherine manages the process of answering technical questions from engineers, architects, fabricators, and owners on the steel industry. By night, she writes a fashion and lifestyle blog, Engineering In Style. (We couldn’t love the black dress and purse on her homepage anymore than we already do – it is marvelous!)
“It might seem like a strange combination,” Katherine explains, “but I’ve always had a love for both creative and technical fields. As a child, a few of the things I wanted to be when I grew up were a fashion designer, architect, and interior designer.”
Growing up, Katherine’s mom helped inspire her passion for fashion. “My mom worked as a nurse my entire childhood, but actually has a degree in Fashion Design. So, I was the little girl that loved to twirl around in big poofy dresses, most of which were made by my mom.” (How cute is that?)
Now, Katherine owns her own style (with an eye for picking items off the clearance racks that she will love for years). On a whim, Katherine created her blog, but she soon realized that this creative outlet was just for her.
“It makes me commit to some of the creative aspects I enjoy and otherwise might be lost in the hectic-ness of life. There are a lot of things I love about my site, but outfit posts are my favorite. It’s taught me not to hate looking at pictures of myself. And it pushes me to always be creative with my wardrobe, whether I’m taking pictures or not!”
Long term, Katherine definitely seeks to grow her blog, but fame and fortune aren’t her end goals. “Don’t get me wrong, extra money, free clothes, and food is always nice, but I just hope some day when I’m dressed in my style, and I introduce myself to someone and say I’m an engineer, they aren’t so surprised. Or that ‘not fitting in’ is no longer a reason for girls to stray from STEM fields,” she says beautifully.
All the while, this classy lady maintains a classy and fabulous attitude. “I think being positive, even through tough times is a true sign of maturity. Something good almost always comes from something bad, even if it’s just learning.”
As you can tell, we are huge fans of Katherine and think she’s doing an amazing job of moving womankind forward. Whether she’s helping an engineer with something complicated, writing a blog post that just may one day encourage a young, stylish girl to become an engineer, or marrying her left and right brain talents, Katherine makes a positive impact.
“I’m really proud of where I am today and the balance I’ve found between my two passions, but I never see myself choosing one over the other,” Katherine shares.
You may find Katherine pursuing her Masters in Structural Engineering or writing a style guide (like this clever one about mixing prints). Whatever Katherine does, she’ll always be in style.
Baaba Grant-Acquah knows all about style and class, and she’s always had a passion for helping other women. In another life, she may have been a professional dancer, soccer player, painter or scientist, but we’re so happy that she’s in this life! (You’ll see why.)
After growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Baaba ventured to DC for college. Currently, she lives in Chicago (where she also earned her MBA), and she follows her true passions: finance and personal styling.
While building a successful career in finance, Baaba founded The Style Agreement, a personal styling business that she is ready to grow. “[It] helps classy women dress impeccably for life and build a wardrobe that they 100% love,” Baaba says (sign us up!).
Originally, Baaba started the site as a place to share style inspiration. The site has recently launched as a personal styling site – which you absolutely must check out. The pictures alone are stunning. (We think Baaba models on the side!)
As classy ladies build fellow womankind up, Baaba does exactly that. “I’ve always had a passion for helping women, and I saw the power of an impeccably dressed woman from my mother at an early age. She always looked put together, and her confidence always shined through her style,” she explains.
She furthers, “I love mentoring young women. I see how impactful it was to have people believe in me at a young age, and I believe that the earlier you gain the confidence to follow your dreams and believe in yourself, the more successful you will be.”
Baaba has certainly gained the confidence to follow her dreams and her heart, and we absolutely admire her for that. “I believe in staying true to who I am, and I bring a lot of my experience and personality into my business. I believe in positivity and feel that the fashion industry can be looked at as judgmental and negative. I want change the conversation about fashion/style and help women love who they are with a positive relationship with their style.”
Even with a successful and busy job in finance, Baaba continues to remain positive while she builds her company (while also living by her Day Designer and Google Calendar). How does she do it all? To Baaba, gratitude and surrounding herself with positive people are the answers.
“It’s easy to get sucked into negative thinking and negative people, but I believe in focusing on your goals and not being too concerned with what other people think and what other people are doing,” she advises.
If she’s having a bad day, she knows exactly how to resolve it. “I usually have a pep talk with my sister, mother or boyfriend, then grab a glass of wine, have a great dinner and watch one of my favorite movies or tv shows…..it works….every time,” she smiles.
Baaba has that certain je ne sais quoi, and we’re honored to celebrate Baaba on our one-year anniversary. From our first classy lady – Kate Middleton – to Audrey Hepburn and to Baaba, we’re humbled and inspired by these classy, wonderful women.
PS: don’t forget to check out Baaba’s site! Click here.
Katie First will be the first one to line up for a job in politics – especially anything that has to do with a campaign or something with local government. She dreams of working on the Convention next summer, and she gracefully handles all the politics (just ask her – she doesn’t want to fight!). Katie is also the first lady in line, ready to support her politicians (though she says she doesn’t want to be a politician herself).
For Katie, politics have always been a part of her life, since she was born and raised in Bexley, Ohio. She expects her passion will remain with her for a while, long after college graduation at John Carroll University.
“I definitely see politics as a part of my life for a long, long time. My freshman year at John Carroll, I acquired a nickname of ‘the First Lady’, and someone I work with has even picked up on it, due to my last name,” she adds.
She furthers, “When I tell people I’m a Political Science major, they usually say ‘I could never do that, I don’t know anything about politics, and I don’t want to fight’, and neither do I! I’m really fascinated by the process of government itself, and I think more people should get involved with that process.”
Even though Katie has always loved politics, she actually became a political science major “by accident.” She intended to be a business major, but she immediately took to her political sciences courses.
“I volunteered in an election for class credit and connected with the campaign manager, all while failing my Accounting courses, and I realized God was trying to tell me something!” she says.
For classy ladies that also want to get involved in politics, Katie recommends voting as a first step. She adds, “Representatives, especially at the state level where their decisions more directly impact constituents, enjoy hearing from their constituents, in my experience (I interned for a State Representative for a summer). If you find a candidate at any level who you support, volunteer on their campaign. It’s such a great experience, and I guarantee they’re always looking for help. I think that’s the biggest misconception about politics, is that it means that you have to be outspoken on an issue; rather, it’s about understanding and getting involved in the process.”
As Katie likes to see the big picture of our government, Katie also sees the big picture of life. “It sounds terrible, and maybe it’s just because I’m a senior, but I try and think about the grand scheme of things. Is staying up a few hours to read really going to make that big of a difference when I’m doing fine in the class? No. Should I really go to the library to start working on a paper when my sorority sisters (I’m a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, just like [my sister, fellow Classy Lady] Lucy) are watching a movie together? No. Those are the memories I know that are going to matter when I look back on my college career, and my paper will work out one way or another anyway. So, I guess I just try to do the things that make me happy. Even little things, like lighting candles and taking ‘Real Housewives’ breaks.
“I think that women, in particular, put a lot of stress on ourselves and simultaneously ignore what our bodies are telling us. So, any way we can treat ourselves to help us work through our goals is essential. Also, just talking about things and vocalizing whatever is going on in life makes a huge difference, to me at least.”
Katie is also about to finish #100daysofhappy on Instagram (@KatieThe1stLady). “Let me tell you, it’s pretty hard, and I definitely skipped some days, but it’s been a good way to find the little things that do make me happy in the midst of some bad days.” Even so, Katie recommends it to our classy ladies!
You can also find Katie advocating for organizations like Reading Is Fundamental, organizations that fight Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. “I’ve thought to myself that if I had the opportunity or if all else failed, I would love to work for organizations that work for cures for those diseases (or even lobby Congress on their behalf),” she shares.
Ultimately, Katie doesn’t take herself that seriously at all – and she absolutely loves to laugh. “I love to laugh more than anyone. I make fun of myself on a daily basis, after all. And I think everyone should laugh more, especially about yourself. In my family, being teased is a form of a compliment, so you gain a pretty thick skin. If you can be secure enough about yourself to make a joke about yourself, then you’re doing something right. No one is or ever will be perfect so you might as well laugh about your imperfections and accept them.”
Can’t get enough of Katie? (You haven’t even heard her fun quote about wearing Sperry’s yet!) We’ll be the first ones to tell you that we can’t get enough of her, either. The good news is, you don’t have to! Today’s Celebrate story (click here) features a list of Katie’s fun facts, the facts that make us unique are definitely something to celebrate.
Sara McMahon has always had a positive disposition. She’s often the first to point to the silver lining or look for the “open windows” – when a door has shut. “I don’t know how I got to be this way, but I’m so blessed I am,” she says. (And we’re so glad she is!)
She grew up in Columbus, Ohio with her two siblings and her parents. Sara’s parents divorced when she was in third grade, and she learned from this experience. “My mom went back to school to renew her teaching certification, and I watched her grow and at times, struggle. She taught my sister and I to be resilient and to stand up for ourselves. She made us promise to be self-sufficient and encouraged us to follow our dreams. And then she remarried a man I now endearingly call Pops, who competes with her for the role of my biggest cheerleader.
“My dad has also played an important role in my life and has always supported me and encouraged me to be inventive and curious. As a result, my childhood was full of scientific toys, NPR on family road trips, and camping adventures, although I’m still scared of spiders,” she adds.
Her close ties with her family have become even more precious after she graduated from DePauw University and returned to Columbus after graduation. “I love experiencing my family as an adult. I loved that I was close when my sister was at Miami of Ohio, just a few hours away. I love that I get to meet up with my mom for lunch on a Saturday to gossip and laugh over a glass (ok, bottle) of wine!” she laughs.
“Their support as I’ve continued to ‘grow up’ has also been priceless. I bought my first house at 25 and that summer, the night before vacation, a 30′ tree branch kissed the front of my garage. I’d like to say I kept my cool but that couldn’t be further from the truth. My big brother showed up with very little bribing with a chain saw in hand and taught me to use a machete on the brush so that we could clear the tree away together. And that’s just one time that my family has come to the rescue,” she shares (isn’t her family sweet? PS: how much do you love Sara’s word choice? The tree branch “kissed” the garage – love that!).
After college graduation, Sara also found support in the form of her Kappa Alpha Theta (KAO for short) sorority sisters. After finding that her high school and college friends were scattered across the country, Sara wisely reached out to the Columbus KAO Alumnae chapter to get involved. She even became the Vice President of Membership for the Columbus KAO Alumnae chapter.
“As the VP of Membership, I had the opportunity to meet so many Theta’s from different chapters and walks of life. While I enjoyed this leadership opportunity, what I cherish most from this experience are the relationships I’ve built and steadfast Theta friendships I hold dear that extend beyond my college years and my own chapter.”
Thanks to her wonderful experience with sorority life during college and afterward, Sara recommends that all women who were in a sorority reach out to their alumnae chapters. “Even as a member, your continued involvement can be full of new friends, new experiences, and a renewed growth through your sorority membership. I’ve learned to curl, networked with women to find new career opportunities, and made amazing friends whom, without Theta, I would not have the pleasure of knowing,” she explains.
When ladies reach out to their alumnae chapter, Sara encourages an open mind. “It is an adjustment to go from spending all your sorority days with 18-22 year olds and then attend a BYOB painting night with 35 year Thetas from a chapter on the other side of the country where they didn’t sing the song your way or didn’t have a chapter facility. But make the most of those opportunities. Make these women your peers, friends and champions, and you will be surprised how far your alumnae connections can take you!”
When Sara isn’t involved with her alumnae chapter, she serves on the volunteer board for Friends of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and the Foundation Fighting Blindness. You can also find her home-brewering with her boyfriend (they’re now the proud owners of a kegerator, a super cool 1950’s fridge they made). “The best recipe we’ve made is an Imperial IPA – the more hops, the better in my opinion! Our dream would be to own our own brewery some day, but until then my laundry room does the trick!”
This year, Sara will celebrate a “big birthday”. We know she’ll do it with such grace! She reflects: “As I stare 30 in the face this year, I’ve grown a lot in the last decade. I’ve dabbled in political fundraising and seen a man accept the nomination for President. I’ve been a key stakeholder in a small marketing firm and gained invaluable experience in the past six years.”
She furthers, “And I’m now beginning a new adventure as I seek a new job with the opportunity to grow within my industry. I do not know where I will land at this point, but I am overwhelmed by the amount of support I’ve had in my search and I’m confident what ever lies ahead will be a positive new experience. An important thing I’m learning to accept at 29 is that 30 is just the beginning, and it’s okay that I don’t have all the answers yet.”
It is absolutely okay (we don’t think anybody has the answers!). Nonetheless, Sara maintains (at least!) one great answer: a positive attitude.
Clare Robinson was flying on a plane from Chicago to Atlanta when she generously offered to share about her life as a classy lady. As you’ll see, Clare often finds herself on planes to make one difference. If you need to learn how one person can truly be the change they wish to see in the world, read on about Clare.
As an IT consultant with Accenture, Clare routinely finds herself on planes (next week, she’s flying to Minneapolis and Tampa). “That may sound a bit chaotic, but I love that every week is different, that there’s a dynamic element to my work – and it tests my adaptability,” she explains.
Being adaptable is something that Clare is well versed in, thanks to her extensive abroad experiences. She’s lived in Brazil, Uganda, Thailand, and Guatemala (and we bet she’ll find herself in another city at some point!).
“When I travel, I try to change the pace in more ways than one – different location but also different role. In Brazil, I played beach rugby and taught new players how to tackle as they taught me the words in Portuguese for my actions. In Guatemala, I worked with migrants and tried to humble myself, farming, cooking and cleaning to serve them.
“In Thailand, I set my budget to $1.30/day, and even got to the point of living four days on $0.66 when I had splurged previously. That’s typically the cost of a meal in the town I lived in. It gave me perspective! I was hungry, I had no money. I refused to ask for any, even though I’m sure my friends would’ve lent it, and my parents definitely would have. It would’ve defeated the purpose for me, I had to learn,” Clare shares.
While in Uganda, Clare and her siblings worked through a larger global organization – The Starkey Hearing Foundation. She and her siblings actually started a chapter on their campus to spread the cause’s mission (providing hearing aids to those who cannot afford them). Clare and her siblings fit thousands of hearing aids in Uganda and Rwanda (yes, Clare and her family are amazing).
Abroad, Clare began teaching English as a way to finance her travels and integrate with the community. “But the patience it taught me, the hard work I had to put into lesson planning, how tired it made me, and at the same time, how excited – it was an incredible experience. It gave me a new level of appreciation for my teachers throughout the years, and I still talk to my students periodically!”
She still talks to her students abroad, she and her siblings have helped Africans get access to hearing aids, and she’s an avid blogger who believes in the power of reflection. Wherever Clare goes, Clare makes a difference.
Where is Clare off to next? “Where I’d like to go is the million dollar question! (I feel like I’m not alone in that?) Ideally, wherever I go, I’ll be in service to others,” she says. (PS: she’s totally not alone in that.)
Her current role in consulting allows her to be in service and to help a company improve. “I like working with clients because I can witness the problems, anticipate their questions, and work towards a resolution. I can solve something! And IT has always been an interest of mine because it creates efficiencies. If I can take your work, make it more efficient, and give half the hours back to you for other usage — isn’t that exciting? You can write a book! Learn to dance! Spend more time with your family!” (Clare is currently rooming with her sixth grade brother, and she’s experienced a good deal of waking up to ice cubes down her back, or finding silly putty and slime throughout the apartment.)
Next, you may find Clare addressing how to use IT to make the justice system “swift and sure”, as she says. “Hopefully, I can do something!” she cheers.
With Clare’s attitude and dedication, she will do something. We can all learn something from Clare – how to put our words into action and how to be the change we’d like to see in the world.
When Clare needs a break from it all, she finds truth in the serenity prayer – “God grant me the power to change the things I can, the strength to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
She furthers, “Accepting things that you cannot change brings peace! Brings happiness! Don’t stress about things you can’t change – and if you can change them, don’t stress about it, just do it!”
A big thank you to Clare for setting an example of a classy lady who knows how to get things done and how to truly make a difference.
Laura Ellis is absolutely a sweetheart. Her life’s perspective will quickly warm your heart and will encourage you to run to achieve your goals (because, as you’ll see, Laura makes her goals a reality). She also finds joy in the simple things – a movie on the couch with her fiancé, a long, quiet run in Central Park, texting with her 13-year-old niece and trips to Boston to see old friends. Whatever Laura does, she finds and spreads joy.
Laura was born in Southern Maine as the youngest daughter of a Denturist and a Paralegal. At 16 months, Laura started wearing glasses, which she says resulted in many amusing photos and home movies of her childhood (we’re sure they’re pretty cute).
She has always made a commitment to being active – whether she’s played softball, basketball, and field hockey during middle school and high school, or whether she ran around campus at Plymouth State University. “Through countless life lessons (good and bad), I believe I really grew up in college and became the independent person I am today,” she shares.
“I am not a patient person by any means and had a job in Boston immediately upon graduating. While I had spent the last 21 years or so in more rural areas – I couldn’t deny the draw of a bigger city and spent the next 6 years living and working in Boston,” Laura explains.
While working in Boston, Laura continued to stay active (she was so engaged, we’d definitely call her the definition of a “busy bee”!) She served on the Alumni Board of Directors of Plymouth State, took several “humbling” comedy improvisational classes, ran two marathons and waitressed on the weekends for extra money to travel with (isn’t that amazing?)
She continued to pursue her passion for running, and the city itself helped encourage her to do so. “Boston is a very ‘runnable’ city, and I spent my early years there learning the landscape by pounding the pavement in my sneakers – a cheaper alternative than a gym membership for a recent graduate!” she smiles.
Always one for a little competition, Laura registered for her first half marathon in 2008, where she raised money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute (which remains one of Laura’s philanthropic passions). Instantly, Laura was hooked. “The thrill of the crowd, the energy from the other runners and even more so, the feeling of accomplishment after crossing the finish line was completely addicting. I signed up for many other races and eventually ran the 2010 and 2011 Boston Marathon again on behalf of Dana Farber Cancer Institute, raising more than $5k each race,” she shares.
“I think I will always identify myself as a ‘Boston girl’, but after six years in Boston, I was ready for a new adventure and to challenge myself. This came in the form of a move to New York City – a transition I covet and will never regret,” she smiles.
In New York, Laura works at a hedge fund, where she helps the firm grow its human capital. She can also capitalize on her relationship building skills (which we’ll say are fantastic!). “It’s incredibly rewarding to me to tell the firm story, introduce someone and see them grow and succeed.”
Laura also has advice for women trying to navigate the working world: “My advice for women is to really think about what you love to do – I love building quality relationships and helping others. While I will always have a calculator handy, I have found my place in an industry that continuously challenges me.”
When Laura isn’t helping tell her firm’s story, she continues to volunteer and to pursue her passion for running. She volunteers for the New York Junior League and 100 Women In Hedge Funds, and she ran the 2014 New York City Marathon on behalf of Team For Kids (and just in case you need further proof of how generous and sweet Laura is – she even donated her 2015 half marathon ticket to someone who had always wanted to run the race and couldn’t get in!).
“Most importantly,” Laura adds, “I met my better half here and will be marrying him in June of this year. I consider myself to be beyond lucky to have found someone who loves me wholly and truly and supports me through even the craziest endeavors. I’m really looking forward to his hugs for years to come,” she smiles.
To stay positive, Laura believes it’s important to surround yourself with a strong team (which surely includes her sweet fiancée). The team should have “people who will stand by you but most importantly, people who will also test you. Getting away from the people who would just ‘yes’ me to death has caused me to be a stronger and more independent person so when a challenge approaches, I am forced to look at it from many angles. I also believe that when I’m faced with something that could be tough – a long run, a good glass of wine and an early bedtime can help me wake up with a different mindset,” she says.
Laura is such a classy lady, and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for her (we know it’ll be wonderful!) “The future me hopes to continue to grow and learn in my career, be a positive role model for my future children and keep on challenging the little girl with glasses from Maine.” (Isn’t that the sweetest?)
Ladies of Delta Delta Delta at Vanderbilt University
Working Toward a Cure
The first time I walked into St. Jude two years ago, I had no idea what to expect. As a new member of the sorority, I had been educated about our ideals, service, and commitment but had not really understood what impact a bunch of girls could have upon a hospital, especially one that I has not previously understood. The hospital was for the sickest of the sick under the worst of circumstances. Children of whom had essentially received a death sentence when their parents had been told of the cancer that coursed through their bodies. From tumors to blood to bones, these small beings that had just started their life were on the fast track to it ending. This I had heard, but I cannot tell you I understood.
Walking through the halls, it all began to make sense. It was one of the most bittersweet places I had ever been. Juxtaposed with the flowery walls lead one to ICU’s where children were closed off from infections. The wagon wheels in lieu of wheelchairs held kids with baldheads. Smiles paired with breathing tubes. How could such happiness coexist with despair, it was truly hard to imagine. The hospital, whose pledge was never to let a family pay for food, transportation, a place to stay and most importantly treatment was a shining glimmer of hope to a family’s world that had been turned upside down. In the worst of times, one could find hope in this place, which is a gift in itself. To begin to describe the amazingness of this hospital is a tall task because in a healthcare industry plagued with problems, this too is a bright spot.
When Danny Thomas founded the hospital 1962 it was with the aim that “No child should die in the dawn of life”. Since then, pediatric cancer has gone from a 20% survival rate to 80%, with aims to reach 90% by 2020. The research component of the hospital contains world-renowned doctors that share information openly throughout the world. Constantly they are striving to find a cure, a task all too complicated.
The reason I talk about so much of the hospital is because as a member of the Delta Gamma chapter of Tri Delta at Vanderbilt University, St. Jude is a huge part of our history. Tri Delta officially partnered with St. Jude in 1999 and since then has made its impact on the hospital. From a special wing to a special teen room and finally to our latest naming rights of Tri Delta place, patients and their families become increasingly familiar and thankful for our sorority the more time they spend there. The housing facility with our namesake provides rooms for patients within a short walking distance of the hospital’s entrance. Every inch is adorned with Tri Delta’s influence. From triangles to pansies (our flower) and pearls (another one of our symbols) everyone who walks in the housing facility is so appreciative of our donations. When I was in there on a tour with other Tri Delta’s, a woman with her child in a stroller came immediately up to us and thanked us for our work. She showed us pictures of her child and I was so touched. As one person, it’s hard to imagine that what I alone do impacts people in such a large way.
Our specific chapter also works with Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, just a five-minute walk from our sorority house, so we get to go throughout the year and make crafts with the patients and volunteer at their fundraisers. It is especially exciting to be supporting their new Growing to New Heights campaign, which will expand the hospital by one million square feet.
We support these charities through two main events: a dance show called Delta Underground in the fall, and a fraternity softball tournament called Frats at Bat in the spring. Our sisters love spending time together while preparing for these fun events, and have bonded over our mutual love of helping children. Our dedication is most clearly seen through our fundraising results. We raised over $100,000 during the past year, coming in first place among all Vanderbilt Greek organizations and more than doubling the amount raised by the second place organization.
However, even with all we do we need so much help. Our latest pledge for St. Jude is 60 million dollars in 10 years, which is quite a task. We rival the biggest corporations in donations and do this mainly with our Sincerely Yours letter campaign. Each member writes fifty letters to friends and family in hopes of returning donations. Sometimes I feel guilty pestering my loved ones for money but then I remember the countless patients I have had the pleasure of meeting who thank me for all of our help. I also solemnly remind myself of all the patients I have never and will never get a chance to meet because their disease and only hope I, along with my sisters, can help find a cure for those lost.
Erica Prosser can slam dunk – whether we’re talking about basketball (she has played professionally in Europe!), her passion for philanthropy (which she has not only made her life but also her career), or her ability to stun on the red carpet (see photo). In short, Erica is one basketball player with all the right moves.
Originally from Pittsburgh, Erica attended Lehigh University on a basketball scholarship. “Playing basketball truly defined me for the first 22 years of my life!” Erica smiles. Basketball is truly in Erica’s blood, as her father played in the NBA, and her older brother played in college. She adds, “I was in the gym either watching games or playing since before I can remember.”
“Basketball opened so many doors for me,” she continues. “It gave me the opportunity to travel the country, make new friends, and teach me invaluable lessons about discipline, teamwork, and sacrifice. One of my biggest accomplishments thus far has been earning an athletic scholarship to college. I am so lucky to have graduated from a top university completely debt free.”
After college graduation, Erica continued pursuing her passion and played professional basketball overseas. “[It’s] an experience that I am so grateful for!” she says. “Not very many women can say they were a professional athlete, so I take a lot of pride in that, and most are really surprised to learn that about me. Living alone in Iceland was challenging and liberating. I had to learn to navigate life in a place where I couldn’t speak the language, it snowed or rained almost everyday for six months, and there were only four hours of sunlight! It was quite an adjustment, but I came home with a newfound sense of independence.”
After returning from Europe and then moving to a brand new city, Erica continues to stay involved in basketball. “Now, I stay involved by coaching a local grade school. It’s so rewarding to be able to watch young girls learn to love the game that did so much for me!” Erica smiles.
When Erica isn’t teaching the sweet girls how to slam-dunk on their own, she continues to give back to her community. She currently works as the Membership Coordinator at the Junior League of Chicago, as well as part time for Peaceable Cities: Evanston, a violence prevention organization.
“I am working on establishing a career in the nonprofit sector, and my goals for the next few years include earning a master’s degree in public policy while working full time. Some people have careers and pursue philanthropic endeavors on the side. My personal and professional journeys have pushed me to make philanthropy and service my life’s work,” she shares.
Whether Erica is coaching girls on the basketball court, helping a Junior League member navigate their way, or working to alleviate poverty, Erica remains positive. “It is so easy to get down on yourself in a world that bombards you with images of perfection, wealth, and status. Social media makes it too easy to compare your life to others’, and I fall victim to it just like everyone else!” she says.
“But, I am learning that what I see on Instagram is just the highlight reel of that person’s life, and the one I’m living might not look as awesome as that filtered photo, but it’s still pretty great! I am surrounded by supportive friends and family who give me unconditional love, I am working hard in a career that I’m passionate about, and I take care of my body while still allowing myself to indulge in the things I enjoy.”
If Erica has a bad day, she knows exactly how to cure it. “I have a piece of paper hanging by my mirror called a Bliss List. It’s a list of all the things that make me happy. It includes things like mac & cheese, ice cream, yoga, bubble baths, roaming a bookstore, etc. If I’m having a bad day, I can look at the list and pick something to do that might cheer me up. If I don’t have time to actually do any of the things, I use it to visualize how I would feel if I were able to. It’s a great reminder to appreciate the little things that bring me bliss, and it’s an easy way to snap myself out of a slump!”
Of course, Erica also credits sports with keeping her positive and healthy. “Whether you play organized sports, practice yoga, or go for runs, I believe being active and challenging yourself to improve is key to a fulfilling life!”
To us, Erica a wonderful classy lady, and we love what being classy means to her. “To me, being classy comes back to a saying that my father has preached to me since I was young. The Golden Rule: treat others how you wish to be treated. I heard it daily growing up, and as a young woman finding her way in a big city, my dad’s advice is always in the back of my mind. I try to recognize that every person I interact with has life experience that may be different than mine, but each of them deserves the utmost respect and understanding.”
Nicole Triebe knows how to cook – from cooking something delicious in the kitchen to cooking up a positive attitude (as she balances a full time job, a full time dessert business, and a full time blog).
“My passion for cooking started early… my mom was an excellent cook, and we always had family dinners around the table. I have two brothers, and all three of us were competitive swimmers, so putting the right foods in our bodies was very important,” Nicole explains. (Nicole wasn’t just a competitive swimmer – she was a state champion in high school!)
After Nicole started cooking and baking with her mom at a young age, she journeyed to culinary school in 2003. She worked in the restaurant for a few years afterwards but turned her passion into Windy City Dinner Fairy (a blog and a site to order food) after starting a desk job.
“I started my blog in 2010 after my brother encouraged me to get back into cooking. He is an excellent photographer, and I would cook, blog and he would take pictures. It was so much fun! I think cooking my family favorite recipes are the most fun, and converting the unhealthy favorites into more healthy ones,” Nicole says with a smile.
She definitely knows a thing or two about balance. “I’m working 9-5 as an insurance underwriter downtown, running my business from 5-9 and weekends, and up until 3 weeks ago, planning a wedding in between! Needless to say, things have been a little hectic. Life hasn’t slowed down since the wedding, actually it’s gotten a little more crazy! Good crazy, though!” she adds.
Her Valentine’s Day wedding has definitely had a positive impact on Nicole’s life, as she married the love of her life (who also knows how to make her laugh!). “I think it’s important to laugh a lot and not take anything too seriously. My wife is great at making me laugh by either singing, or making jokes. Her smile puts a smile on my face,” she says sweetly.
Nicole keeps this smile on her face, no matter what challenges come her way. “Being a member of the LGBT community, I face many challenges in every day life. Fortunately, my workplace is extremely supportive, but occasionally I meet people outside of work that aren’t as supportive. I handle it with a smile and move on. I remind myself that I’m very lucky to have so many people that love me for who I am.”
To Nicole, that’s the very definition of being classy. “[Classy] means treating people with respect, and acting with integrity. It’s pretty simple. Treat people how you would like to be treated.”
Can’t get enough of this classy lady? We can’t, either! The good news is that you can reach out to Nicole through Windy City Dinner Fairy (and try her incredible desserts!). See? Nicole makes life sweeter in many ways.
When we first meet Rees, we immediately thought she reminded us of Reese Witherspoon’s beloved character, Elle Woods. However, meeting Rees was much better than any re-run of Legally Blonde simply because Rees is real. When we first met, Rees hosted a Christmas party for the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago’s Auxiliary Board, and Rees was about six months pregnant. Can you imagine hosting a party during the year’s busiest time, being quite pregnant (while looking fabulous, especially in her iconic blue heels), and still throwing a party with flawless grace? Quickly, we realized that Rees is the quintessential classy lady.
While Rees was born in Mississippi, she spent the majority of her adolescent years in Southern Illinois (around Carbondale). There, her family has owned a farm for generations and believes work ethic and family ties hold the highest importance, she shares.
Rees now lives in Chicago with her husband and her two children (Austin Joseph D’Onofrio was born three weeks ago and is already filling out his three-month-old clothes!). “I continue to embody the values that I grew up with by working hard and spending time with my family,” Rees shares.
While working as a financial advisor, Rees brings expertise to her clients’ financial planning needs (especially since she received her Certified Financial Planning designation through Northwestern University). “I chose the path of a financial advisor because it is deeply satisfying to help people achieve their lifelong dreams through financial success. I am the person that guides them in creating this roadmap,” she says.
When Rees isn’t helping clients reach their dreams or taking care of her sweet babies, you can find her enjoying the ballet.
“Like many, my passion for ballet began as a young girl taking my first ballet class. In fact, I remember dancing to The Little Mermaid’s, Part of Your World at my first ballet recital. I felt like a star on stage! I continued to dance through the end of college. Although I did not pursue ballet as a career, I enjoy being a part of it through my participation on the Joffrey Auxiliary Board,” she adds.
While Rees may have officially stopped dancing, we think she dances through life with such grace and poise. A positive attitude helps her maintain that grace.
“The key to staying positive is keeping a good balance in life,” Rees says. “When I take the time to balance work, quality family time, and time to take care of my body through relaxation and exercise, I am able to keep a positive frame of mind.”
She furthers, “When having a bad day, I think it is important to take a ‘time out.’ Sometimes, that might mean getting a manicure, massage, or just grabbing a cup of my favorite coffee in order to have a few moments to myself.”
For anyone who would like to live life with such ballerina-like poise, Rees can certainly be a classy role model for you.
Brooke Snelten chooses to see the positive side of life. After growing up in a household that didn’t allow the “B” word in the summer (“bored”), Brooke quickly learned to enjoy all that life has to offer. This year, she’s embracing life by traveling to a new place every other month (like Napa, Puerto Rico, and Arizona, among others). Brooke radiates positivity and philanthropy, and like a true classy lady, she pays kindness forward.
After graduating from the University of Kentucky and pursuing a career on the agency side of the marketing and advertising industry, Brooke decided to try something new and enter the client side of the industry. Now, she manages the relationship with her company’s media agency, marketing research & digital media partners. “I am continuing to learn new things every day,” she says.
This fall, you may find Brooke starting in an MBA program and focusing on her dream to launch a successful startup company. Even amongst being busy working on graduate school applications, starting a new job, and balancing everything else life asks us to, Brooke still makes time for being involved in her community.
“Being involved in & outside of work is very important to me. Especially working for a company with over 4,000 people on campus at any given time, being involved is the best way to network while doing good for the community,” Brooke shares.
After immediately starting at Allstate, Brooke became an Allstate Ambassador, which means she became responsible for raising awareness of initiatives like Purple Purse & Teen Safe Driving. Within two months on the job, she was also elected to Young Professional Organization (YPO)’s Core Board, where she works to develop and increase engagement of the company’s field YPO teams. (Clearly, Brooke has been recognized as an accomplished employee early on!)
These work-related volunteer activities are not all that Brooke is involved with, and she credits her college sorority for giving her a passion for giving back. “Tri Delta truly taught me the importance of giving back and helping those who are less fortunate,” she explains. “Specifically, my sorority partnered with St. Jude as our philanthropy, and I made it my mission to be as involved as possible!
“Together, our goal was to raise $10 million in 10 years. Just last year, we surpassed that goal! St. Jude is such a special organization because of the groundbreaking research that is accomplished each year that brings us closer and closer to a cure.”
To Brooke, the cause is a personal one. “When my Mom was just a little girl, her sister was diagnosed with Leukemia. Back then, there was no cure or treatment available to her and she helplessly passed away at age six. If St. Jude was established a few years earlier, she could still be around today, and I would’ve gotten the opportunity to know her.”
Brooke channeled a family heartbreak to make a difference. Not only has she been completely committed to St. Jude, she has also volunteered with the Junior League of Chicago (where she supported charities like the Chicago Children’s Museum, the first Pediatric AIDS Home in the Midwest, First Consultation Clinic for Epilepsy, and more!).
While Brooke excels at her job, volunteers for causes dear to her heart, and visits her precious nieces and nephews in the Chicago suburbs (family is the most important thing to her, she says), you can always find her radiating a positive attitude.
“Being positive is essential in today’s world, especially for a Fox News junkie like myself where every story I hear is about disease, terror or worse. I was raised to always be positive, no matter what the circumstance, because somewhere, someone else has it harder.
“Being positive really stems from surrounding myself with amazingly supportive friends and family & completely eliminating negative people from my life. Life is too beautiful and short to have a negative outlook – or be involved in drama. Although everyone has bad days where it is super difficult to be positive, it’s important to have forward thinking and understand this is all part of God’s greater plan. Knowing a situation is only temporary helps me get through tougher times,” she says.
Brooke definitely knows how to keep it classy (and she’ll turn to her Emily Post’s book on etiquette if ever there’s a doubt!).
“To me, it is important to dress and appear classy but actually ‘having class’ encompasses not the ‘what’ but the ‘how’ – how you act and how you carry yourself. I don’t think that it is something you are born with, but something you develop and have to consciously and continuously work towards,” Brooke shares.
With a positive attitude, an incredible work ethic (talk about someone who is busy!), and through carrying herself with complete class, Brooke exemplifies a true classy lady that would make Audrey Hepburn (and Emily Post!) quite proud.
While growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, Elisabeth Epperson listened to her parents as they encouraged their four children to pursue their dreams. She also spent time watching her wonderful mother and grandmother cook alongside her sisters, where Elisabeth quickly developed an interest in the kitchen. This stirred Elisabeth to start baking in middle school, which led her to even start her own baking business at 16 years old. She’s been in love with baking ever since.
“Unlike most high school students, I spent most of my time baking and selling decorated sugar cookies. I have always enjoyed art, so decorating cookies has been my creative outlet,” Elisabeth shares.
She’s learned so much since starting her business, and it’s led her to major in Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University. Most importantly, this business has encouraged her to pursue her dreams.
“My dream is to live a simple yet beautiful life and bake every single day in order to make others happy. I would love to open a small bakery and sell my decorated sugar cookies and other yummy treats. I also want to write a cookbook and have my own recipes, as well as some of my grandmother’s and mother’s amazing recipes. Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life,” Elisabeth shares.
Through baking, Elisabeth spreads something sweet with the world in more ways than one. You can tell from the pictures we’ve sprinkled across the site that her cookies are completely delicious. You’ll also note that these cookies help Elisabeth spread joy while celebrating life’s sweet occasions.
“My favorite part of making cookies is making someone’s birthday, wedding, or baby shower a little more sweet and happy. I love getting fun orders that let me be creative and make something special for someone!” How sweet is that?
Baking has also taught Elisabeth a lot about life. “I love baking, but that doesn’t mean I never have fails or burned cookies. I’m not perfect, and I’m still learning so much about baking every single day, but I think that’s what makes it so much fun. It’s definitely difficult finding a balance between college and cookie orders, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
It’s not always sweetly easy to manage school and her business, but Elisabeth manages it with such grace. “I usually have cookie orders every week, and when tests come along, I definitely struggle with staying positive,” she admits. “I’ve always loved baking more than school, but I know I’m in college for a reason, and I have to stay positive in order to keep going. I sometimes get really stressed, but I have to take a step back and realize that I am so blessed, and so many worse things could be going on. I have to constantly rely on the Lord and pray for peace and endurance because I cannot do it alone.”
She expands, “I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been in college, and I’ve definitely struggled with discontentment. I think that no matter where you are in life – baker, student, blogger, artist – everyone has feelings of not being good enough. God sends us healing partners in many different forms – whether it be girlfriends, sisters, mothers, teachers – because we aren’t meant to be alone in this world.”
When Elisabeth bakes, she’s certainly not alone. She’s spreading joy with so many through her happy cookies. “Baking is a beautiful, beautiful thing, and it really is so therapeutic for me. When I’m having a bad day, a batch of chocolate chip cookies somehow has a way of making me so happy. I think that baking something for someone else makes me happier than anything because I get to make someone else’s day a little bit better.”
We appreciate that Elisabeth is a classy lady with not only such poise and grace – but she’s also exceptionally honest. While sharing that life can be hard – no matter how picture perfect something may seem – Elisabeth still chooses to stay positive and to spread happiness (she also recommends reading “Carry On, Warrior”).
Not only does Elisabeth spread delicious positivity and make the most amazing cookies we’ve ever seen, she’s also quite philanthropic. “I have a passion for inner city children and have been involved in Project Uplift for 2 years. Project Uplift is an agency whose main goal is to help children develop constructive, happy lives so that the delinquency rate in our county will decrease. I am a ‘big sister’ to a 7-year old named Kalalah, and she blesses me way more than I could ever bless her. I get her once a week, and we spend time doing different activities such as getting our nails done, baking, reading, going on walks, and talking about the hardships of 1st grade,” Elisabeth shares.
When Elisabeth isn’t spending time with Kalalah, she’s enjoying time with her other sisters, too. (Elisabeth and one of her sisters, Sarah, both worked at a four star restaurant where Elisabeth was a pastry chef and Sarah was a hostess. How cute is that!) She credits her mother and her grandmother as true classy ladies who have taught her and her sisters so much.
We can’t get enough of how classy and cute Elisabeth is (and we’re sure you can’t either). The good news is, you can follow Elisabeth and her sweet treats on instagram: @elisabethandbutter, and she shared what being classy means to her.
“I think being classy is expressing yourself in a way that does not compromise your standards and beliefs,” Elisabeth shares. Inside and out, Elisabeth epitomizes what a classy lady should be. As Elisabeth’s grandmother and mother set a classy example for her, Elisabeth sets a classy example for every woman of our generation.
Molly Schreiber is someone who always exudes a sunny disposition and someone who gets things done. She knows how to achieve her goals, and she’ll inspire you to achieve yours, too. In high school, you could find her with a Starbucks and a smile (and maybe some Kairos kids calling, “Hi, Mom!” to her from across the hallway. No, Molly’s not an official mother, but we loved her so much on a high school retreat that we simply had to call her “Mom”). This native Chicagoan is finally back, and we’re absolutely delighted.
After a four-year stint in Pennsylvania at Villanova University, where Molly studied English literature and Spanish, Molly embraced a move to D.C. Molly worked as a crisis communications consultant á la Olivia Pope (Molly will tell you that it wasn’t as glamorous as that, but you get the idea…).
Molly fell in love with the pace of the city and seized every opportunity to make D.C. her own. Of course, it wasn’t easy to land in a new place without her network of friends or family, but Molly believes the challenge proved to be hugely productive.
“I learned to say ‘yes’ to almost any invitation, drink a cup of coffee alone in a small coffee shop, and interact with people of all backgrounds. It was an extraordinary experience, and I’ll forever credit the city with providing me a new sense of accomplishment and confidence,” she smiles.
When Molly returned to Chicago, she was homesick for D.C. Of course, she was so happy to be closer to her parents, siblings (of which she and her twin are tied for the youngest of eight children), nieces and nephews.
Whether or not Molly is in D.C., Chicago, Pennsylvania, or anywhere else, Molly remains committed to achieving her goals. She even keeps a list of goals on her wall, all of which range from personal development (i.e. call Mom more) to professional goals (i.e. earn another degree). Molly adds, “Another item on my list reminds me to remember to live in the moment, too!”
Another goal of Molly’s is to pursue her philanthropic passions. To Molly, that means focusing on access to education. “I’m involved in an organization called Common Hope, which helps support educational infrastructure, resources, and teacher training for children in Guatemala. The organization is expanding to provide medical support for affiliated families, as well as after school programs to help children stay focused on their studies,” Molly explains.
Yet again, Molly puts her words into action (whether she’s writing her goals on the wall or solving a client’s communication crisis). She has visited the organization in Guatemala on two separate occasions, including one last trip in January. “There’s nothing as rewarding as watching the students respond to the world that a good education exposes,” she shares.
She also remains committed to her alma mater, Villanova. “I’m also deeply involved in Villanova University’s fundraising and peer engagement programs. I serve on the board of Villanova’s Midwest Capital Campaign Committee, and I act as a liaison for the Young Alumni Association in the Midwest.”
Molly finds that making a difference contributes to her staying positive. “I dedicate time to focus on causes and organizations that allow me to make a real impact, whether through hands-on volunteering or fiscal support. I think this type of action makes a huge difference in perspective, and it helps humanize the issues that seem too huge to surmount.”
Staying positive certainly requires action, and as you can tell, Molly is a woman of action. “I’ve resolved to stay informed – but not absorbed,” she explains. “This means shutting down the computer when it’s time to eat a meal, turning off the TV when the news is too brutal, and hiding my phone when company comes over.”
When Molly isn’t solving a communications crisis or volunteering, you can find Molly listening to records, going to shows, reading, writing, and traveling. “Of course, these hobbies are becoming more difficult to maintain between a full-time job and a growing list of responsibilities, but I’m challenging myself to make more time for culture in 2015.” (Yet another goal! Aren’t you so inspired by how Molly takes action to achieve her goals?)
For nearly ten years, we’ve been privileged to know Molly and to look up to her example. She is poised, driven, and happy – can you get any better than that?
We’ll leave you with Molly’s feedback on challenges, which we think completely epitomizes a classy lady belief:
“One of my brothers once told me to look at life’s challenges like a bet that can be rigged: no challenge is insurmountable, but it may take some time and effort to overcome it. Plus, as silly as it sounds, the tougher the challenge, the more I want to prove everyone wrong!”
Brittany Chibe can cook you an incredibly delicious recipe (wait until you try her Paleo Scavenger products – yes, Paleo Scavenger is a company she founded). She can also be found cooking for those living at the Lincoln Park Community Shelter. As you can already tell, Brittany Chibe clearly has a wonderful heart and great ambition. Wherever she goes, Brittany cooks up positivity.
Past experiences helped shape Brittany’s future entrepreneurial goals, including working at a global dairy company and pursuing her MBA (where she was even part of a tech startup and competed in a nationwide business plan competition). “I fell in love with the startup world, and upon graduating, I dissolved the startup to follow my passion for food and launch Paleo Scavenger,” she shares. “I left my corporate job in June 2014 to run Paleo Scavenger full time. I knew that if I didn’t leave my job to focus on my company 100%, then it would never be more than a hobby. I didn’t want to have any regrets.”
Paleo Scavenger’s mission is to make clean eating easy and accessible. “This is important to me because this is the very reason that I started Paleo Scavenger. I struggled to find clean, paleo-friendly snacks at the grocery store, and assuming others had this problem, I decided to package and sell my product. Snacks with few, simple, and clean ingredients should be something that is readily available and easy to purchase,” Brittany says.
We absolutely agree that healthy, tasty snacks should be easy to find, and Brittany certainly accomplishes that (we’ve had her snacks, and we promise you, we love them!). In addition to sharing her food with the world, Brittany took a chance and succeeded while following her passion. We admire her for that, especially since it’s not always easy.
“Founding a company has been the scariest but most exhilarating feeling in the world. Everything is resting on your shoulders, which is completely stressful and exhausting, but at the same time, all of the successes are a result of your hard work. It’s an incredible feeling,” she smiles.
Within the last several months, Brittany moved Paleo Scavenger beyond what she calls a “cottage operation” (i.e. manufacturing in her home kitchen and selling only at farmers markets), to moving into a commercial kitchen space, selling in six local grocery stores, appearing on Good Morning America’s Shark Tank Face-off (and winning!), and launching a crowd-funding campaign on Seedkicks. That’s pretty incredible, isn’t it?
She won’t stop there. “My goal for the next year is to find a national retailer and distribution partner to get Paleo Scavenger in stores across the country,” she adds.
You can find Brittany’s tasty snacks here or if in Chicago, you can pick up a bag at: Plum Market, Goddess & Grocer, Green Grocer, Plenty, Treasure Island or True Nature Foods. You can also find Brittany every Sunday at the Logan Square Farmers Market from 10-3.
Cooking is clearly one of Brittany’s passions, and she uses this to give back to her community in a beautiful way. You can find her volunteering at the Lincoln Park Community Shelter and making a difference in someone’s life. She has also coordinated monthly lunches and dinners at the shelter (she even got a standing ovation at the end of one dinner – how dear is that?).
Brittany exudes happiness, kindness, and an incredible drive. She credits the people around her that give her energy and encourage her success. “I tend to feed off of other people’s energy, and there’s nothing worse than being around negativity. It’s important to keep a close group of supportive people around you to help get you through the bad days. When I’m having a rough day, these are the people that I call on to talk through the day’s challenges and get back on track.”
Whether Brittany is volunteering, making delicious Paleo granola (which has even inspired her to make a rap about her granola and then sing it to Barbara Corcoran), running in Chicago, or spending time with her Irish twin, Brittany exudes what all classy ladies should – poise, ambition, grace, and kindness.
Kit Graham is one of those women that you just want to get to know – she’s exceptionally smart (she finished at the top of her class in college), she knows how to cook (wait until we show you her blog), she’s an entrepreneur, and she celebrates people who are kind. Don’t you just want to meet up and have lunch with her?
Originally from Maine, Kit went to undergrad in Massachusetts, grad school in New York City (to get a Masters in American Art), and then moved to Chicago six years ago.
“Immediately after I arrived in Chicago in September 2008, the economy crashed, and I lost the job I moved here for. I want to be honest about things really not working out the way that I thought that they would. Life is funny like that. During that same period of time, I met my husband. Now six years later, I was able to use the tidbit of experience working at a law firm to create a career as a data privacy specialist,” Kit shares.
She clearly values being able to put things into perspective and views difficult life events as an opportunity. “There was a four-month phase of time in 2009 when I was unemployed. It was the dead of winter in Chicago, and I turned to my good old friend, The Food Network, to occupy my time. I got really, really into cooking. It became my thing. Eventually, my husband and friends decided to set up a food blog for me. That is how The Kittchen was born,” Kit explains (catch the cute part of the title?!).
“It changed my life, and I never thought that it would become what it is today. I have been on a reality cooking show, written a cookbook, interviewed famous chefs, and worked with amazing brands,” she furthers.
Kit’s passion for entrepreneurship doesn’t end there. In 2014, Kit and her business partner Erin launched the Windy City Blogger Collective, which is a community for bloggers based on the values of support and encouragement (this site is a proud member!). “We love our members more than words can say, and I have made the most amazing friends through the group,” Kit smiles.
In addition to balancing her extremely successful blog and forming a collective, Kit still works a 9-5 job. “Everyone asks me why. The reason is really simple. I am 31, and my husband is 35, and we put buying a house before my business. It made sense for us. Plus, I got an amazing home office out of the deal. One day, I will save up money, ditch the 9-5, and go out on my own,” she shares.
As you can already tell, Kit is just so real. She’s going to tell you how it is, but she’s going to show you the bright side. We love that! Another great part? The collective she founded (which is lovingly known as the WCBC) helps foster her enthusiasm and her positivity.
“The internet can be a mean place, but through WCBC, I am trying to create a supportive community for bloggers. When I am having a bad day, I focus on the positive. I am lucky to have such a supportive husband and friends,” Kit says.
These family and friends support her and cheer her success. We appreciate what she has to say about this success, though (and for the record, we call Kit a wonderful success!). “The weird thing about ‘success’ (and I certainly think I am far from successful) is that everyone treats everyone else’s success differently. There were close friends who didn’t watch the TV show I did or even seem to care. Then, there were people I hadn’t talked to me in years that reached out to me to say they were proud of me. Focus on the good, and support others. The secret to success is support, and I firmly believe in karma.”
Support comes in many forms – whether it’s a note from a classmate Kit hadn’t talked to in seven years that absolutely made her day (the classmate found Kit’s blog and found her success to be an inspiration!), Kit’s loving husband (who may not always stay up as late as Kit does), or her blog that has become her creative outlet.
Definitely check out Kit’s incredibly delicious blog, and remember that wonderful, classy women like Kit exist in the world.
A big thank you to Kit and her business partner Erin for starting the WCBC, too!
Elizabeth Schmierer proves that New Yorkers are nice, and we can’t wait to tell you why.
Born and bred in New York, Elizabeth has lived in Queens, Long Island, and now, Manhattan. She took a pit stop out of New York when she attended Indiana University, where she graduated with a double major in French and Criminal Justice (and a minor in theater – a passion she has had since middle school).
Since college, Elizabeth has been a buyer – whether its for Bed, Bath, and Beyond or Baby Depot, where she currently works. “I developed my passion for buying and merchandising while working in Bed, Bath, and Beyond stores, which I did from the time I graduated from high school all through college. I am still exploring the retail industry, but I could see myself taking my buying career further or even switching over to the vendor side potentially,” she shares. (You may also find Elizabeth buying shoes, since she considers them her “weakness”!)
When Elizabeth isn’t working or potentially getting back into acting in a recreational way, she’s spending time with those she treasures the most – her family, her friends, and her boyfriend. “I have two wonderful parents and a younger brother, with whom I am very close. I have a widely diverse group of friends from various points in my life (high school, college, work, etc.) with whom I try to spend as much time as possible. My current roommate also happens to be my best friend since we were 13, which has been amazing,” she says. “In addition, for the last year, I have been dating a wonderful man who lives in Nyack, NY with whom I spend most weekends. My life is therefore filled with people, rather than activities, at least at the current moment.”
Elizabeth’s support system has been a rock to her and helps keep this theatrical beauty positive. When in doubt, she calls mom. “My mom is also my best friend, and I call her with any life event, big or small, exciting or challenging. My parents also are an example of a real life love story, having been married for over 30 years and knowing that they were meant to be together from a couple of weeks into dating.”
She expands, “The other place I turned to for positive reinforcement was church. I had attended church regularly until I went away to college. My faith had always been something that helped me through difficult moments. I do not agree with every doctrine of the Catholic Church, but I feel like belief in something greater and being part of a community is definitely helpful during difficult times, and so I found a church near my apartment that I now attend when possible on Sunday mornings.”
Elizabeth clearly represents classy – whether she’s making her commute to New Jersey, volunteering for Dress for Success, embracing her inner actor, or spending time with loved ones. We’ve also been lucky enough to see firsthand how Elizabeth presents herself with strangers.
While doing laundry for the first time in a new apartment, Elizabeth reached out to a stranger who was clearly in need of some help (of course, the laundry card wasn’t exactly working as expected). Through simply the goodness of her heart, she reached out, helped with the situation, and she made our day. To us, this situation truly embodies Elizabeth’s class and kindness.
We hope all classy ladies can learn from Elizabeth’s generosity and warm welcome. She absolutely proves that New Yorkers are nice.
Danielle Slaton is one of the most active, happy people around (she has even won a silver medal in the Olympics!). You should also race to participate in her spin class: she has some impressive motivational skills and isn’t afraid to rock out to New Direction’s “Steal My Girl” (it’ll definitely motivate you to get through some tough hills).
Echoing One Direction, colleges wanted to “steal” Danielle’s “heart away”, thanks to her incredible athletic talent. She ended up playing soccer at Santa Clara University, and her athletic accomplishments don’t end there. She won a silver medal while representing the US in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and earned a bronze model in the 2003 Women’s World Cup. (Insert jaw drop here.)
“Sports, soccer, and fitness have always been a part of my life,” she explains. “After many knee surgeries, I retired from playing and got a job coaching women’s soccer at Northwestern University, which is what brought me to Chicago.”
Currently, you can find Danielle sharing her athletic talent with others at Go Cycle, where Danielle is a spinning and rowing instructor. “I love the way I feel after a good sweat and enjoy getting a solid, restful night sleep after I’ve pushed myself during a workout. I also have a huge sweet tooth, so moving allows me to indulge from time to time!” she smiles.
The teaching element of her job appeals to her the most. “My passion for teaching others about fitness comes from a strong desire to help people achieve their goals – health-related or otherwise. I believe that many of the tools we learn through fitness are useful in our careers and in life. Discipline, teamwork, goal setting, and responding positively to adversity are just a few of the skills I use everyday. I call it, ‘Athleticism as a transferable skill.’”
These transferrable skills certainly apply to Danielle’s philanthropic passions, as well. “Leadership development through sport is a huge passion of mine. I’ve been lucky enough to travel around the world on behalf of the U.S. State Department to coach young girls about the life lessons that sports can teach. So far, I’ve been to South Africa, Paraguay, Malaysia, and Jordan. Every trip has been unique, powerful, and humbling.”
When Danielle isn’t motivating women to reach their goals, teaching young girls around the world how sports can positively influence them, or getting her eyebrows waxed with Mia Hamm (the first time Danielle ever got her eyebrows waxed, it was with this soccer superstar!), you can find Danielle working as a television commentator for the Big Ten Network and for Fox Sports. She will even be covering the Women’s World Cup this June.
Danielle motivates, she inspires, and she celebrates womankind. We’re so honored to know her (and because of her spin classes, we’re in better shape, too!).
Margaux is supremely kind and sweet – she’s one of those iconic French women whom we’ve admired from the other side of the pond and hope to meet in person one day. She’s truly a citizen of the earth, and we can’t wait for you to learn why.
Born in the south of France in a small town called Castelnaudary, Margaux grew up with two brothers that she “adores”, she says. “We are really close, like triplets.” She credits her strong personality to the fact that she grew up with brothers and had to “fight” for her place. While becoming the incredible woman she is now (strong personality and all), Margaux always imagined she would live in a big city, particularly a city outside France. Her dreams definitely came true.
Currently, Margaux is in Russia in a study abroad program, through her business school in Bordeaux (which she will finish at the end of the year). “The next step for me will be to find an internship to finish my studies, and I hope to find one in either France, UK or USA maybe!” (We vote the US, so we can meet this magnifique belle in person!)
Of course, Margaux’s experience in Russia has been fascinating, and we’ve loved learning about her unique experience. “Russia was actually not my first choice. I did, however, want an exchange that would be really different from the one that a lot of students have. I knew that going to Russia would mean lots of work, cold weather, and a more difficult social climate. But I was happy to do it, because I was about to live in St. Petersburg for 5 months – one of the places I’d always wanted to go! I am passionate about history, art and food; I love museums, palaces, and I always wanted to see this city full of these things,” Margaux shares.
Being in Russia was not so easy at first, not only because of a communication barrier. “Some of the Russian cultural clichés are actually true. The administration is worse than in France, people can be rude, and when you don’t understand something, they actually scream at you! (Maybe they think you did not hear well the first time!) Thankfully, the younger generation that I met was open, ready to help, and curious about [my] life.”
She furthers, “I’d really like to go back but as a tourist and in summer! This experience did enhance my desire to live abroad. Ideally, I’d like to spend at least two years living in every continent, to become more than a French woman, but of a citizen of the earth.”
We believe that Margaux is already a citizen of the earth. She’s already accomplished such wonderful things in a short time period, and she does it with such class, grace, and positivity that will warm your heart.
“You know, we just have one life, and we should enjoy it as much as possible. It is more fun to live with a positive thinking person, right?! I am trying to stay positive even if it is not so easy. To stay positive, I always conceptualize a better future, a better tomorrow. I am a really imaginative girl! When I have a bad day, I talk to my family or friends. It is by being close to those you love that you can stay positive! And when I have a really bad day, I just eat ice cream and chocolate (like a true American girl!),” she smiles.
Like any true American girl, Margaux loves iconic girly things, including perfume and jewelry (her parents own perfume shops, so she’s grown up around the luxury industry). “Maybe I am a bit arrogant on this matter, but for me, the best fashion, jewelry and luxury companies are French. For example, Cartier or Chanel are such a huge part of French culture and history. They are major icons, references for the French and world abroad. The French have a big heritage (what we call patrimoine) involving the history of fashion or jewelry that has in influence in everything they do! Just look at the Chanel Fashion Show F/W 14/15, totally crazy! For me, these are not only businesses but artists,” Margaux says.
Just like the French icons that girls across the globe admire, we think Margaux is a major icon, as well. She calls herself a serious student, she works to make her dreams come true (which may involve marrying a British guy, because she loves British accents), she’s moved to a place that put her out of her comfort zone – which only makes her stronger, and she has a passion for being happy. To us, Margaux represents pure class.
We appreciate what being classy means to our classy lady: “Being classy is a way of life, the way you act with people, having integrity in your personal and professional life. You can be a classy lady by being nice to others, smiley, and positive. I can say that you have to have empathy, because you can respect and better understand people.”
Margaux, merci for all your contributions to this world. We believe you will accomplish everything you will set your mind to – whether it’s living abroad again in New York or London, contributing to improve equality around the world, finding a career in fashion, or simply being happy – you will make all your dreams come true. Along the way, you’ll also be a role model for every classy lady.
You will likely find Mary Embry in a classroom, buying local, recycling, on a trip to Ecuador encouraging students to think about product development, and advocating for Free Trade. At six feet tall, Mary is often the tallest female in the room. She also has some of the tallest ambitions, and she works every day to realize them.
We loved hearing how Mary’s childhood likely influenced her current passions. Mary grew up with two brothers, two cousins, and her grandfather on a 100-acre farm in Plainfield, Indiana. “This certainly shaped my connection to the earth but also my tendency to have more male characteristics—I have never been a fan of traditional ‘girly’ constructs like pink bows,” she explains.
After living a few years in Anderson, Indiana and college at Indiana University, in Bloomington, Mary chose a career in fashion, mostly because of the tolerance for creativity in the program. “I took an International Trade class from a Professor that inspired me, and it has shaped my thinking ever since. I became interested in how, where, and why we make clothing. How it empowers and how it exploits,” she shares.
Not only has working in fashion determined the course of her life, it has also encouraged Mary to become an advocate for Fair Trade (which is a set of principles that have the possibility of guaranteeing those that make and sell things are not exploited) and to teach.
“Today, I am a Senior Lecturer in Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design at Indiana University. I teach International Trade, Sustainable Products and an Integrated Design Studio. The relationships between fashion supply chains, trade, and sustainability are issues of wide concern. I look to constantly understand the complex implications of global trade decision making, as well and the discourse of sustainability.”
Mary furthers, “I think all of my courses look to point out that there are people behind products. A world of people. When we made product in our communities, we perhaps knew these people. Like many teachers, I look to widen perspectives and give students to tools do this independently. I also want students to feel [braver] when they leave my class—that they have ideas, positions, viewpoints, and abilities that would allow them to face being uncomfortable in order to learn more. I want them to understand citizenship in a way they perhaps haven’t thought about it before. Like I was by many college teachers, I want them to be inspired.”
There is also a female empowerment component to fair trade. “I support it knowing that it puts money, therefore power, in the hands of women. It is somewhat self-serving of me, in that I find strength in the company of women who rise to significant challenges gracefully on a daily basis. Anyone else’s ability to find a livelihood under complicated circumstances, guides me to appreciate mine appropriately,” she says.
All in all, Mary aspires to be a positive force, and we believe she does it well. “I think it is important to be positive, in terms of it adding optimism, and translating it to a person living a fulfilled life,” she shares.
Clearly, this classy lady has many accomplishments to name, and we’re thankful for all her efforts. Mary makes this world a better place.
Erin Phillips is absolutely a classy lady, and one of her many wonderful characteristics is that she sees happiness through.
After growing up in the Chicago suburbs and attending the University of Iowa, Erin now lives in Chicago and works in media and advertising. She’s been on accounts that range from Cover Girl (“Who doesn’t love being in the know on the latest beauty launches?” she says) to Wrigley gum and Juicy Fruit. (At one point, it was also part of her job to meet with beauty and fashion magazine representatives to learn about their latest capabilities and offerings across all advertising mediums – how fabulously fun is that!)
“As you can imagine, I learned to LOVE the magazine industry. With my education background in journalism and then being able to work in the circle of magazine publishing and advertising, I could not leave this behind,” Erin shares.
Lucky for Erin, her talents will never cause her to leave this behind. Currently, Erin is an Integrated Account Manager at Entertainment Weekly magazine and EW.com. “While I am still getting my feet on the ground, I absolutely love it. I am 100% an entertainment junkie—books, movies, TV shows, music….you name it, and I am sure I can contribute in some way to a conversation surrounding entertainment!” she smiles.
When Erin isn’t exploring her Chicago neighborhood (where her inner foodie absolutely shines) or reading up on the latest in entertainment, Erin is pursuing her passions through her blog: See Happiness Through. It’s a lifestyle blog covering fashion, home décor, travel, food, and Erin’s latest photographs.
“I try to remember that I am not necessarily writing for anyone else…I write for myself, and if people decide to read my stuff and enjoy it, then I have accomplished something worthwhile. Photography gives me purpose, purpose for adventure, and purpose to capture something beautiful,” she shares.
Some of the beauty originates from taking portraits of her sweet nine-month-old nephew (where photos take a lot of practice, she says) and her fashion style. “With my blog, I also post fashion photos of myself showing my personal style—believe it or not, it took me a while to get comfortable being in front of the camera while remaining natural (remember, candid is everything!). I am used to being behind the lens! Let’s just say, it was a nice change up and gave me some confidence.”
We also think the title of Erin’s blog is something quite special, as it’s a motto for what we believe classy ladies do every day – they see happiness through. Erin lives up to her blog’s name and embraces positivity and happiness every day.
“The thing that helps me stay positive is making an impact on someone else…even a smile or a simple hello can brighten someone’s day. I try and keep this mentality day in and day out. As I walk down the street, I try and keep in mind that every single person I pass is dealing with something, so that little thought usually keeps me in check and reminds me how fortunate I am,” she adds.
Not only does Erin know all about the media, how to write a beautifully positive or stylish blog post, and which restaurant to try in Chicago, she also is fluent in American Sign Language. “I am hard of hearing in one of my ears, so I took it upon myself to learn ASL during my college career. Throughout my classes, I developed a deep appreciation and admiration for the Deaf community—it is such a beautiful language.”
We are excited to keep up with Erin’s blog and to celebrate that such a classy lady embodies what every classy lady should do: see happiness through.
Caroline Pyburn is a southern sweetheart. She’s also one of the most beautiful people you will ever meet – inside and out (we’re pretty sure “Sweet Caroline” could have been written for her!).
She was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama (which she says is home to out-of-this-world restaurants and incredibly kind people). After graduating from Auburn University this past year, Caroline and her fiancee are coordianting job searches which may lead them to New York or Atlanta. We can tell that no matter where this sweet Caroline finds herself, she’ll spread joy and goodness wherever she goes.
Now for the especially sweet details: the love story of Caroline and her fiancee, Benjamin! These lovebirds grew up together – same church and same school since the first grade (our hearts are leaping as we write this!). “So, that friendship turned into something more our junior year of high school,” Caroline explains. “Aside from one break up that junior year, we have been laughing and eating and growing together for six years now.”
Benjamin is exactly the man Caroline hoped she would always marry: kind, incredibly intelligent, patient and generous (just like her dad!). “It goes without saying, but I couldn’t dream of spending my life with anyone else,” she says.
Wedding planning has been going extremely well, too, but it’s really Caroline and Benjamin’s deep love that Caroline celebrates the most. “The wedding details are thrilling to coordinate, but my true delight and giddiness comes not from choosing flowers (all white roses, peonies, and calla lilies) or the cake (coconut) but from the thought of sharing space and time with Benjamin. And what I have learned through this planning process and season of engagement is that the ceremony and union of two people is what truly matters, everything else is just so secondary.”
Is your heart thumping extra loud yet? Isn’t this just the sweetest love story? They grew up together! These two high school sweethearts will marry on June 13th.
When Caroline isn’t planning a wedding or figuring out her next career move, Caroline is pursuing her passions. “My passions for fashion extend back to my family, as most of my passions do. My dad owns a small but fabulous men’s clothing shop; my mom is a timeless beauty who has impeccable taste and an affinity for shoes,” she adds.
You can also find Caroline humming to any kind of blues/soul music, along with John Mayer and Van Morrison. She’s also completely into reading and travel. “My perfect vacation is a trip to the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico with my best friends; it’s cozy, familiar and warm. I also loved the summer I spent abroad in Madrid, Spain- nothing beats walks through El Parque Retiro and churros and sangria!” (Ole!)
As you can tell, Caroline is a sweet, happy person. She acknowledges her blessings and embraces life with a positive, classy attitude. “I am constantly laughing at myself. I fully believe that taking things too seriously can dampen not only positivity but one’s ability to appreciate and be grateful for the little things in life. It’s important to have fun!” she smiles.
We also adore her fun facts: “I love breakfast and my silk pillow case. I sleep with an eye mask. And I love people that know who they are.”
Caroline certainly knows who she is, and we love that about her. We’ll leave the last words to our sweet Caroline: “I have been fortunate enough to live a privileged life without any serious challenges, other than messes I make for myself due to my own sinful nature. But I am surrounded by friends and family who make any struggle or challenge seem pale in comparison to the joy of God.”
The Ladies of Delta Gamma at Northwestern University
The Delta Gamma ladies at Northwestern University are over 100 classy ladies strong, and these fabulous DGs embrace sisterhood and classiness every single day.
Emily Glaser believes in the mission, the purpose, and the classy women that comprise their chapter. To her, the “purpose is to create an environment for our members in which we foster high ideals of friendship among college women, promote their educational and cultural interests, create in them a true sense of social responsibility, and develop in them high qualities of character.”
She elaborates, “Our chapter really enjoys the sense of comfort that we feel around each other. DG is not a place where you have to pretend or try to ‘fit in,’ it’s a place that accepts all types of people and encourages them to just be themselves. When I walk in the door of DG, there is always someone there to talk to about my classes or my activities, to laugh with, to lounge on the TV room couch with, or to make a midday snack with just because.”
To us, this absolutely explains what being classy should mean to ladies everywhere – it’s about supporting each other, embracing each other’s differences, and celebrating womankind just because. Emily and the ladies of Delta Gamma find this in their sorority, and it’s given these ladies the best experiences of their lives.
Emily Glaser is one among nearly 140 girls who find DG to be a special place. Emily Ryles shared a personal story that she believes represents how diverse and accepting these DG ladies are of any and all girls.
During an annual member class’ sleepover in 2011 (the first event after the girls joined DG), Emily Ryles came out as gay to 40 girls she barely knew. She took a huge leap of faith and put major trust in this group of girls, and Emily Glaser calls Emily Ryles one of her best friends. These girls embrace each other’s identities and celebrate any differences. “That is sisterhood, and that is DG,” Emily explains.
Senior Laynie Held shares that one month after becoming a new member of DG, her grandfather passed away. As soon as she arrived at home, there was already a bouquet of flowers from DG waiting for her. It may appear to be a small gesture, but the flowers let her know that she was loved and that a house of over 100 women, to which she was so new, was thinking about her in her time of need. In good times or more challenging times, the ladies in the DG house are there to support each other – always.
The girls not only support each other, they also support Service for Site, which promotes sight preservation and assistance to children and adults who are blind or visually impaired. Throughout the year, the ladies hold events that range from a flag-football tournament to a late-night grilled cheese and tator tots event (can you say, yum!), to volleyball on the beach to raise money for Service for Site. Next month, you can find the ladies hosting a “Tactile Valentines” event around Valentine’s Day in which they invite visually impaired families and children to the DG house in order to create cards that the blind can feel instead of see. “At each of our events and throughout the year, we strive to live by Delta Gamma’s motto: ‘Do Good,’” Emily Glaser shares.
These ladies are proud to be a Delta Gamma. They celebrate each other, they participate in other philanthropic events in their community (be it Relay for Life, Cycle for Survival, amongst many others), they do good, and they have fun!
“One of my favorite memories is of a sister letting me know that she knew she wanted to join DG the second I told her a story during Recruitment her freshman year about rolling around on the living room carpet with my friend Sofia, making pterodactyl noises, and singing the soundtrack to Titanic during a rainstorm. She told me that if that’s the kind of night she could expect at DG, and that no one would judge her for belting out Celine Dion, this is the place she needed to be,” Emily laughs.
While the ladies at Delta Gamma are proud to be called DG, we are also proud to know these ladies and to have the honor of featuring them!
Andrea (Annie) Person
Annie Person has lived in several states, she can be found with an orchid growing in her home, she often makes children’s day, and she uses her talents in the practice of law. She’s honest about any challenges and most importantly, she has a grateful, happy spirit.
After living in several areas of the country, including DC, Ohio, Minnesota, and Indiana (where she attended law school), Annie currently lives in Chicago and works as an attorney for Groupon. Why law school? “I wanted to find a career where I could be more substantive and where I could constantly be learning. I’ve found both in the legal field. I think what I love about law is that it is a practice – meaning you have to keep learning and ‘practicing’ to become better.
“Every day, I have an opportunity to do something more proficiently, and I love that challenge. My colleagues are what I love the most about my job now the most. Not only are they wonderful people, but the collaborative spirit each of them has constantly helped to make me a better lawyer,” she shares.
As you can tell, Annie absolutely loves her job, and she also loves Chicago so much that she’s ready to make it home.
“I love exploring Chicago’s many neighborhoods in the city and experiencing the diversity in our city’s architecture and food. I’m always amazed how many people have lived in the city their whole lives but haven’t experienced some of the city’s unique neighborhoods,” she shares.
Annie has definitely experienced these neighborhoods and shares some of her favorite finds: Jan’s Antiques in the West Loop (so much art and many more oddities tucked into a massive warehouse), dulce de leche cake at Kristofe’s Bakery in Pilsen, dim sum in China Town, and the Tiffany Glass domes in the Cultural Center. (She also knows super cute macaroon places in Old Town. Clearly, we need Annie to lead us around these neighborhoods and show us the inside scoop!)
After living in quite a few places, she’s developed a passion for learning what makes a town unique. “Every place I’ve lived has had something special about it, and I’ve loved how experiencing those special things in each community has helped me find my passions and made me who I am today.”
For example, Annie lived in Greenville, Ohio during high school, and Greenville claims to have the largest county fair in the country. To maximize her experience in this town with a very unique claim, Annie showed flowers through the town’s garden club in the county fair in high school. Years later, Annie loves flowers and says it’s rare if she doesn’t have fresh flowers (specifically orchids) growing in her house today.
She was also a college freshman in DC on 9/11, and when she left DC for law school, she was lobbying Congress. “I experienced what it means to be patriotic,” she shares of her DC life. She’s also lived in a county with over 650 lakes, which gave her much appreciation and love for the outdoors and water.
Living in so many communities has offered Annie lessons on people’s perspectives and cultivated her philanthropic interests. “I think I’ve seen that at the end of the day, the needs of people are all really the same. Everyone for the most part is looking for a sense of pride in themselves and their communities and wants to see their families to thrive,” she furthers.
Annie has channeled these life experiences and life lessons into her philanthropic passions. She has the most joy volunteering with children. Through volunteering with the Junior League of Chicago, Annie gets to teach children and their families about healthy foods. “It’s so much fun to see their faces when they try something new for the first time!” she smiles. “A number of the children we work with may have never tried a raspberry or asparagus before, and it’s fun to see them realize the food tastes good and that it’s fun to try new things.”
She’s also a tutor through the Chicago Lights Program at Fourth Presbyterian Church. “It is so much fun for me to see when a child finally grasps a tricky subject. That moment when their eyes light-up and they understand is the best.”
Like the children Annie teaches, we light up when we learn more about this impressive classy lady who works to make the world a brighter, happier place. To Annie, being classy means having a grateful spirit to say thank you for all the moments – happy or sad. Annie certainly lives with a grateful spirit, and she exudes happiness wherever she goes. It’s been such a treat to feature Annie and to learn from her unique perspective.
“Life is fun, so play around, okay?”
This quote is the caption of one of Paige Woods’ amazingly beautiful and absolutely adorable profile pictures (Paige and her boyfriend take the cutest pictures ever). Paige is a Nashville native who loves to write (we can’t wait to tell you about her blog), has a passion for English literature, and who spreads absolute joy with all of those around her.
Even before Paige pursued her English Literature major at Belmont University, she knew she wanted to be a teacher of some kind. “When I was in high school, I fell in love with visual art, film, literature, and blogging. I took an English course where we combined all three and turned it into a educational project. I went into college thinking I would work with younger children in Elementary Ed., but instead, the Lord completely changed my heart towards higher education and high schoolers,” she explains.
In addition to her passion for education, her high school passion for blogging has only flourished since then. Paige now writes for her own blog, “The In Between” (link here).
“My heart for this blog is to draw everyone, wherever they are in life, in between places and spaces, to a moment of togetherness. It combines the things that bring me the most joy in life, such as fashion, food, fellowship, and faith. This extension of this blog will allow me to be continually vulnerable with you about my life while shedding light on some of the wonderful things I feel blessed with.”
How did she come up with this idea? “My blog became an outlet of creative writing amidst the mundane activities that college life had to offer. I knew Jesus wanted to me to form words of encouragement, advice, and giving into the everyday, messy world. Therefore, The In Between is a culmination of my college career thus far and probably beyond.”
When she isn’t changing the world with her blog or learning all she can to change the life of her students one day, Paige is busy working at Anthropologie (where she loves being able to engage with women and engage with her love for fashion). You can also find her coaching a middle school dance team, which is an outlet for her passion for ballet (she danced for 15 years!).
Paige is absolutely classy from the inside out because her soul is so beautiful from the inside out. She’s committed to helping children, serving God, and brightening the world for everyone she encounters. We’re so lucky to know Paige and happy to share what being classy means to her (of course, she encapsulates every word):
“A classy woman to me embodies both graciousness and vulnerability. I think at times it is humbling yourself before others and catering to their needs. At the same time, it is exposing your innermost heart and allowing others to see both weakness and mess. Being classy means being true to yourself through and through,” Paige shares.
All in all, Paige is true to her word. She is true to herself through and through. Life is fun to her. She chooses to see the good, to trust in God’s plan, and to believe that spreading joy and love is always the answer.
Erika Lowe is one of those ladies that you just want to get to know. Whenever you see her, she is bright, bubbly, crafty (she sends the most adorable Christmas cards, knows exactly how to host a lovely party, and she loves snail mail), and she always has the most perfect makeup on (her red lipstick is on the same level as Taylor Swift). Mostly though, whenever you’re with Erika, you simply just want to be her friend because you know she has a wonderful, pure heart.
She was born and raised Iowa girl (where she credits her “Iowa nice” personality) and moved to Illinois for college at Western Illinois University, where she got involved in anything she could get her “paws on” (yes, that’s all Erika). “After college, I moved to Chicago and worked for Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine for a few years before deciding to ditch this cold weather for graduate school at The University of South Carolina,” she explains (Chiberia is definitely worth leaving Chicago).
Even though South Carolina has much warmer winters, Erika couldn’t wait to get back to her favorite city of Chicago. “After graduating with my M.Ed, I took the summer off to relax and then took a position at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago….and I’ve never looked back! I work in fundraising, managing and stewarding the Board.”
Outside of work, Erika is quite involved: she’s a member of the Junior League of Chicago, the Western Illinois University Alumni Association, and a volunteer at an animal shelter. “I’m also a member of a book club, and a dinner club, but usually you can find me hanging around Chicago on some day-adventure with my close group of friends: GoldTown (a hybrid of our neighborhoods!).” (How cute is that?!)
Art is definitely one of Erika’s great passions in life. “Art is so much more than a painting: performance, fashion, writing, music, sculpture, design, architecture. Our lives are surrounded by it. I’ve come to appreciate art because of the complexity and range of it and its ability to draw people together. Our world is constantly inundated with forces that drive us apart or retreat inward, art helps unite. Art Education plants the seeds for the future, of freedom of expression, and I’m honored to contribute to the longevity of that,” she elaborates.
While planting the seeds for art’s future, Erika stays positive and happy. “I’m not from a small town, but the term ‘Iowa Nice’ has stuck with me. I think it’s important to think of ‘nice’ as ‘compassion’. You don’t have to walk around spraying sunshine on everybody, but have a heart. Listen to that voice in your head. My mother always told me, ‘If you’re feeling bad about yourself or in a downer mood, go do something nice for somebody else.’ Time-tested secret: It works great.”
If you need another fail-proof bad-day fix, Erika has one for you: Portillo’s cheese fries. “Trust me. Once I was having a bad day and went to Portillo’s, ordered cheese fries, and then met Jay Leno. Instant upper!”
As you can already tell, though, Erika simply doesn’t let bad days get her down. “I talk it out. They say women live longer because we take care of ourselves, but I believe it’s related to our endless chatter. Women talk about their feelings, what made them happy, sad, frustrated any range of emotions. Listen when somebody wants to talk. I’m so grateful for my friends and family who have talked me through life’s ups and downs,” she furthers.
We are grateful for classy ladies like Erika. To Erika, “Being classy means being confident but not too proud to ask for help when you need it. You can always talk yourself out of anything – but try the reverse. And, being classy means paying it forward. You got where you are today because of the help of a teacher, a co-worker, an old colleague, a friend, or maybe somebody just had a hunch you were a good catch. You WILL have the opportunity to help mentor and foster somebody new, do your best to help out.”
Erika appreciates Martin Luther King’s motto, “If I rest, I rust” and gives her own twist to it: “Keep moving, keep busy, keep in touch!”
Coco Chanel has a motto, too – that women should be two things: classy and fabulous. Erika Lowe, you are definitely classy and fabulous.
You can find Rana Saqer enjoying a hockey game (which is her favorite sport to watch), sharing her wine expertise (as she’s a wine connoisseur), or snuggling with a cute newborn baby (yes, she has one of the most amazing jobs on the planet… read on).
Rana and her family immigrated from the Middle East to the US when she was six years old. She grew up in Illinois, alongside an older sister and two younger brothers, before attending nursing school at Northern Illinois University. “Go Huskies!” she cheers.
She is currently a postpartum nurse while also pursuing her Master’s Degree in Nursing Administration at the University of Illinois-Chicago (yes, Rana is so fabulous).
Healthcare has always been important to her. “My mom got sick at a very young age, and I remember the feeling of helplessness on my part when I couldn’t take care of her because I, myself, was only ten years old. I think that’s when I truly knew that I was going to choose a profession that cared about and for others,” she shares.
Rana takes care of the mothers and newborns shortly after delivery. “Even though I don’t actually see the labor and delivery process, I think postpartum is equally as gratifying. Parents are now looking at me to help educate them on how to take care of their newborns. That alone is a very rewarding feeling to know that others are relying on your expertise when it comes to caring for their newborn child.”
She is the perfect person to work with babies every day, as she is bright, happy, and absolutely loves her job. “I think my favorite part about being nurse that works with babies is really the education that goes into it. As a postpartum nurse, I teach patients how to breastfeed, how to change a baby’s diaper, how to bathe their baby, etc. At the end of the hospital stay, the parents of the newborn are always so appreciative of what you have done and all the help you have given. It makes all my life struggles just melt away in an instant knowing I made an impact in someone’s life. Plus – snuggling with the babies isn’t half bad either!”
Snuggling with babies is certainly something that can help anyone stay positive, but with or without a snuggle, Rana is always positive. “I think it’s important to realize that events in ones life happens for a reason, and I usually know if I have a bad day or something bad has happened that there is always a reason why it’s happening. The world we live in today can be very difficult to navigate, and I think it’s very important for people to try and not let the negative things we see on TV impact their views of the world.”
Whenever Rana feels stressed or has a bad day, she takes it out in the most positive way: she works out. “I think it’s important to just try to be positive no matter what the circumstances are,” she adds. You can also finding her volunteering in women’s shelters and soup kitchens through the Junior League of Chicago.
As you’ve already discovered, Rana is quite the classy lady. She explains what classy means to her: “To me, a person is classy if they value education, treat others well, are kind, have a sense of humor, are modest and humble, and are true to the themselves.”
We think Rana is exactly that. A big thank you to Rana for being featured and for being an example for classy ladies everywhere. We just rave about Rana!
Christina Paget-Woods is always found with a smile. Here’s just one example of how she spreads goodness with the world: on Facebook, Christina said she had seen too many negative posts and that for every person who commented on one of her positive posts, she would send them a flower. Isn’t that lovely?
That’s always how Christina lives her life. From five years in graduate school studying alternative and complementary medicine to volunteering for the Junior League of Chicago to life as a stay-at-home mom, Christina spreads joy and positivity wherever she goes.
Being a mom certainly brings much joy to Christina’s world. “I’m very blessed to be Dylan’s mom. He’s turning three in February. I’m gearing up and getting busy to plan his party, and even bigger, pre-school and Catholic school research. It’s an amazing responsibility to be planning someone’s future,” she shares.
Christina is also very involved in the Junior League of Chicago, a philanthropic organization that seeks to benefit women and children. “The Junior League is an amazing launch point for a lifetime of volunteering and philanthropy!” Christina shares.
While part of a volunteer group that gave a performance to underprivileged families, Christina was inspired. “I was so touched by the women interacting with their children and thought about how much they must be going through, and I knew right then that I wanted to be more involved there in the future. 2015-2016 is going to be an amazing year in the JLC!”
Whether she is being a mother, volunteering, or spreading her positivity, Christina exudes a sunny disposition. “Staying positive is very important to me. We cannot control the circumstances of life, but we can choose our perspective of life. I see everything as a way to grow closer to God (during the good and the bad times) and fulfill wholeness of being-mind, body, spirit. It’s not easy, but well worth the effort and discipline. I’m constantly praying to focus on my blessings,” she says. “Faith and spirituality are a big part of who I am. I want to go where God wants me.”
We think Christina is as classy as they come. She explains what classy means to her: “It’s having authenticity and good character. Authenticity is just being open and honest with yourself and others and good character is a commitment to loving others and growing in the gifts God gave you. With God, there is no fear and being honestly, courageously your true self is beautifully classy!”
Liz Cowle is one of the most positive, inspiring ladies around, and we are thrilled to share her story.
Liz grew up in Dallas, Texas and enjoyed an active childhood (and she remains one of the most active adults around). She participated in nearly every sport imaginable – soccer, track, even fencing. Soon, she made her way to New Orleans to pursue her studies at Tulane University, which she calls one of the best decisions she has ever made.
“Living in New Orleans post-Katrina has allowed me to see first hand the rebirth of an amazing city that now holds a place so near to my heart. New Orleans is arguably one of the most inspiring cities in the United States — New Orleans is no longer the poor city that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina – rather, it a city of rebirth, a city of hope, and a city of promise.”
Liz expands, “Over the last five years, I have seen how the strength and passion of people who are committed to a common cause have the power to create extraordinary change.”
When Liz shares about her passion for her city and for the strength the city has exhibited, we think of Liz. Like New Orleans, Liz offers hope and inspiration to those around her, as she’s about to run 4,000 miles across the United States to fight cancer.
That’s right – she’s going to run across the country to raise money and to raise cancer awareness.
“My passion for fighting cancer is a result of my mother’s four year battle with breast cancer. I look back on pictures and can see the devastating effects of the cancer treatments. Each image serves as a reminder of the ruthless beast. Unfortunately, my story is one that is far too common. Cancer carries with it a very strong ripple effect; when the disease hits, it impacts not only the victims, but their friends, families and communities.”
Liz is taking an extremely negative experience – like Katrina to New Orleans – and is turning it into hope and inspiration for others through her run.
“This summer, I am so excited to participate in the 4K for Cancer because I believe that this cross-country run has the power to make profound improvements in the lives of so many people. Running across the country with a team of individuals who share my passion is how I believe I can create change right now. If I can make just one person smile along the way, I will consider my journey a success. Fighting cancer is horrible, but I believe that the love and support from people like those on my 4K team can help make the fight a little less awful,” she shares.
Even after surviving tough experiences, Liz remains one of the most positive, sunny people (much like the sun in New Orleans!). How does she do it?
“I always try to take a step back and look at my life from a broader perspective. I wake up every day with a healthy body and sound mind. I know I will have food on my plate and a roof over my head. How lucky am I to live a life free of poverty and disease? To live in a place where women are celebrated and actually encouraged to achieve? I really think that attitude is everything— our lives are determined not by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens,” she shares.
Exercise is a huge outlet for Liz, as well, whether it’s Bikram yoga or a long run. “Exercise isn’t just a hobby – it’s a lifestyle. When I run, I feel unstoppable. Every stride I take is a reminder of how fortunate I am to be healthy and able-bodied.”
Liz wants her life to be an adventure – whether she’s running across the country, reading a Harry Potter book (if she could have dinner with anyone, it would be JK Rowling), learning Spanish from Rosetta Stone, going to the World Cup, or serving as a mentor to a high school senior. While on this adventure of life, Liz spreads positivity wherever she goes.
One of Liz’s favorite JK Rowling quotes is, “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already; we have the power to imagine better.”
Liz certainly lives her life that way: spreading magic, imagining better, and running to make a difference.
Jessica Bricker has always been creative. She worked as an Interior Designer for five years at an Indianapolis-based firm. While developing that passion, Jessica watched her brother found People for Urban Progress (PUP for short), an organization that hand makes goods from salvaged materials (even including Super Bowl banners!) and quickly became involved.
“I had little experience with sewing at the time, so I had to teach myself as I went. I really enjoyed the work and the good we were doing for the city so I decided to stick it out. Now I’m the Director of Design and Fabrication. I work closely with our group of 5 designers to create new product and make sure we have inventory to stock our local retailers. Working at PUP has been a great experience,” Jessica adds.
What else makes PUP so great? “I like getting my hands dirty every once in a while. Also, I’m still amazed by the amount of materials that we have saved from going into a landfill. My brother had the simply idea of saving the roof of the RCA dome and made it happen. Now, we are making product out of a material that was considered trash. We have transformed it into something usable which in turn is helping us fund our community projects. Goods for Good. We are supporting local designers, fabricators, and retailers.”
Working at PUP has kept Jessica extra positive, too (in addition to sunshine and being outdoors). “We work with a group of people that have a positive outlook on our city and are constantly making improvements,” Jessica shares. How can you not be positive when your daily work is so positive?
“PUP is constantly trying to come up with ways to give back to the community. I like that we are hiring local designers to make our product. Then, from the funds we make from the product sales, we are able to do community projects.
“The first example of this is making product out of the RCA dome roof. We are then able to create shade structures also with that material. We have also salvaged all the stadium seats from Bush Stadium, also here in Indianapolis. The seats came in orange, yellow, and red. We saved the orange and red to sell to the public and the money we made from those sells helped us install the yellow seats at bus stops around the city.”
Want to read more about the good Jessica and her team put into the world? Check out their stories here.
To Jessica, “classy” can be defined as someone who is very sophisticated, confident, and who garners much respect from those in her city. To Jessica, classy ladies make things happen. We believe Jessica is such a classy lady, as she absolutely makes things happen in a very sophisticated and philanthropic way. We admire her work and can’t wait to read more about the good she and her team put into the world every day.
We will be the first ones to tell you that Lucy First is one of the most positive, joyous, and classy ladies we’ve ever seen.
In fact, we met this Ohio sweetheart in our first week of college at DePauw University (where Lucy went on to major in English Literature and Religious Studies and where she met her fantastic fiancée in the first week of college!). We were able to personally appreciate Lucy’s positive contributions to the world for four years.
After graduation, Lucy returned to Columbus, Ohio to pursue a career in marketing. Now, she works at Bob Evans’ corporate offices, where she handles the day-to-day relationships with agency partners, as well as execution of public relations, media, digital media and sponsorships. The best part of Lucy’s job? She absolutely loves it. “Every day is different, and I get to work with a brand that I believe in,” she shares.
While loving her job, Lucy opens up about what every classy woman thinks about every day – the future. “I’m not 100% what the future holds for me. I know there is an expectation for women to have ambitious, future goals, but I’m still figuring out my career. In the short term, I want to be promoted to a manager position. In the long term, I struggle as to whether or not I want to continue working a traditional job. I struggle to balance life and work, often sacrificing personal time to cross-off another item on my to-do list. I want to enjoy the life ahead of me and that may mean taking a different career path in the future,” says Lucy.
Perhaps, that path may take her to working or more volunteering with Kappa Kappa Gamma, the sorority that Lucy was a part of in college and still contributes to. “The organization has been with me while I’ve grown up but also helped me grow up. Kappa gave me a family while I was away at college and gave me opportunities to lead and learn. I am proof that Greek life makes a positive impact on women’s lives.”
You will likely find Lucy advancing Kappa’s mission and supporting its women, since she wants “others to have these same experiences and become better women because of Greek life. This is why I continue to give my time and money to Kappa Kappa Gamma. I hope that by mentoring other Kappas and working with other Greek women, together we can dispel the negative stereotypes of Greek life and encourage more people to join this sisterhood.”
Kappa helped foster something Lucy is definitely known for: her enthusiastic, positive attitude. “Staying positive is not easy, especially with today’s 24 hour news cycle. We are always hearing about negative things happening in our world, and I think this adversely impacts our outlook and attitude. Staying positive is a choice. You have to consciously make the effort every single day. If you do not make the commitment, you are going to miss out on a lot in life. You’re going to miss out on the moments, the people, the pleasures that matter most,” Lucy shares.
She furthers, “I am someone who gets stressed out easily. Knowing this about myself, I work even harder to stay positive. One way I stay positive is by surrounding myself with positive people. They pick me up when I need it most. This starts with my family. My father is a very positive person. He never gives up hope. If the outcome doesn’t go the way he would like, he doesn’t dwell on it. Instead, he talks about how things will get better or how things will turn out differently the next time.
“That being said, bad days do happen. They are just part of life and exist to make us stronger. When I’m having a bad day, my first call is normally my fiancée, Kyle. Like my father, he is a very positive person. He always listens and reassures me everything will be okay. He’s always so confident when he says that, and it instantly makes me feel better. Those are the kind of people you want around you, to help you achieve that goal of staying positive.”
As Lucy says, people are key to helping us stay positive, and Lucy certainly surrounds herself with positive, loved ones – whether they are part of her family that owns the oldest stone company in the country (it’s a fifth generation business!) or whether they are helping her plan her spring 2016 wedding.
Let’s gush about this – Lucy and her fiancée Kyle (pictured!) have been together for six years! “We met when we were freshmen at DePauw. We have long talked about the next chapter of our relationship, but we wanted to make we were ready. It’s a big decision, and we wanted to be prepared. With my career in a good spot and Kyle in his final year of law school, the time was right.”
Sweetly, Kyle proposed on Lucy’s annual family vacation on Emerald Isle in North Carolina. “My dad’s family has been going to the island for over 20 years. It holds a very special place in my heart and now even more so! We are planning a spring 2016 wedding in Columbus – the city we now both call home!”
You can be certain that this sweetie will have the loveliest, classiest wedding, because these words truly define Lucy. We also appreciate how Lucy defines classy herself:
“Classy is not about what brands you wear, what sorority you belong to or what clubs your family associates with. Classy is an attitude and a state of mind. Classy is about being polite, respectful and above all, kind.”
Lucy calls herself blessed, as she had two of the classiest role models growing up. “Both of my grandmothers exemplified what it means to be a classy lady. They welcomed everyone in to their home with open arms and open hearts. Everyone was treated like family. They were generous with their time and their love. But what made them classy is that they did not flaunt these traits nor did they ask for recognition. They were just loving, warm hearted and generous because that’s who they were. These interpersonal traits came out in their physical appearance, too. They felt good and loved and that showed on the outside. They always talked with confidence and carried themselves with such grace. Being around them inspired me to be the same way. I try to live by their example every day. Therefore, it’s a honor when someone describes me as ‘classy.’”
Lucy, it’s an honor to feature you! All the best wishes to our lovely classy lady.
Caroline Schaberg is a fabulous, classy lady who can tell you all about current events, living abroad, her favorite MoMA exhibit, and how to beautifully live life with a bit of humor, too!
Originally from St. Louis, Caroline currently lives in New York City working for Bloomberg News. As a Social Media Monitoring reporter, Caroline’s job is to capture the news that breaks on Twitter and put it on the Bloomberg terminal to ensure it reaches the Bloomberg audience.
“Many of the things that break on Twitter are market-moving, meaning that we need to get it out as quickly as possible so that people can trade stocks based on this information. There are also stories that involve politics, various international affairs, and even sports that we are interested in. Basically, we do a little bit of everything, which is great because it’s made me much more well-rounded when it comes to my knowledge of what’s going on in the world,” Caroline shares.
If classy ladies are looking to better understand the news (in addition to reading CFN™, of course!), Caroline believes Twitter is a great tool for anyone to use to get a better understanding of current events and varying perspectives on those events. “In fact, I use [Twitter] more than I use Google to look things up (even when I am not at work), as it is much more timely for finding information on situations that are currently unfolding,” she explains.
While looking for market-moving news, the day can probably seem a bit stressful, at times. Even so, Caroline lives life with a smile and a positive attitude. “There’s enough stress in the world as it is, so I think it’s important to have a sense of humor about things. When something goes wrong, it always helps to be able to laugh about it. Also, NYC is a great place to walk around, so I try to take advantage of that when I am stressed.”
Not only is New York a great place to walk around, Caroline finds that the city is a wonderful place to call home. “It’s unlike anywhere else, and the opportunities here are endless. It’s one of the few places in the world where anything can happen at any time, and I’m trying to take full advantage of that – whether that means getting free tickets to view the taping of a new game show, spending a rainy afternoon exploring the MoMA, or just ordering cookies to be delivered at 2:30am because, hey, why not?”
In addition to living in New York, Caroline has lived abroad. She studied in both London and at Oxford, which she calls “amazing”. She elaborates, “I spent the weeks studying classic English literature (which in all honesty, I hadn’t been extremely interested in before, but learning about Shakespeare in the places where he actually lived and worked was an awesome experience), and I had the opportunity to travel to different cities, including Paris and Barcelona, on the weekends.”
While abroad, in college at UNC-Chapel Hill, in New York, at home in St. Louis, or anywhere the world will take this classy lady sensation, you can find our classy lady staying true to herself and her classy nature. To Caroline, “Being classy means being the type of person that I would be proud to introduce to my 8-year old self. It means being kind, thoughtful, respectable and ambitious. However, it also means going out and having fun, and, again, taking advantage of every opportunity. It’s all about having a healthy balance in life.”
We totally agree, Caroline! Thank you so much for setting an example for classy ladies everywhere.
You can always find Ameerah styling with a smile. She’s a philanthropist at heart, she has a passion for travel (she loved her trip to Mexico this year), and she works very hard.
Ameerah is originally from Youngstown, Ohio and moved to DC for college at Howard University. While in college, she enjoyed interning and Abbott Labs. Of course, Abbott recognized Ameerah’s talents and hired her full time into a professional development program when she graduated. This year, Ameerah started working for Johnson & Johnson as a senior analyst.
Besides working for fantastic companies, Ameerah has a focus on giving back. “Voluntarism and community service have always been a very important part of my life. Growing up, we volunteered as a family. My mom, my sister, and I would volunteer at a local food bank or homeless shelter. We were always encouraged to give our time, energy, and effort to those who were less fortunate,” she shares.
She has volunteered at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, the Alameda County local library in Northern California, and the domestic abuse helpline for men and women. You can also find Ameerah supporting the Junior League of Chicago, which she believes allows her to make a much larger impact on the community and many people.
“One of my favorite projects as a [Junior League member] was participating in the Kaboom playground build. It was amazing to witness the impact a small but determined group of people can make on the lives of a group of children. After the Kaboom event, I knew that I had made the correct choice in joining the league. The league represents all of the values I am passionate about: leadership, professionalism, voluntarism, and community.”
While working hard and working to give back in her community, Ameerah remains positive. “It is important to stay positive in today’s world because there is quite a lot of negativity in the news and on social media. I remain positive by finding the good in everyday. I also stay positive by spending time with close friends and family.”
When Ameerah takes a break from it all, you can find her cuddling up with her newly adopted kitten, Olivia (whom she calls adorable, beautiful, and “quite rambunctious”!). She will also likely be found with one of the latest Outlander books in her hand or relaxing with a show on Netflix (BBC’s Sherlock and Friday Night Lights are her favorite).
Ameerah is quite the classy lady, and we are certainly quite lucky to feature her.
Nicole Zhang knows how to swing a golf club, to start her own business (and make yoga bags extra chic), to create a philanthropically focused app, and to remain the positive, talented classy lady we all can admire.
She’s a self-described proud Canadian, born and raised in beautiful Calgary, Alberta (fun memory from childhood: her older brother, Dustin, used to dress Nicole up in his goalie gear and shoot pucks at her in their basement). After moving to the States for college at Notre Dame, Nicole is currently pursuing her dream of playing golf in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). In addition to spending 6-10 hours on the golf course a day, Nicole is busy working on her two businesses (Yogapeople and an app she is founding).
“Next year, I will play full time on the Symetra Ladies Tour and will launch my app that is currently in development! It will be a challenge managing full time businesses and being on the road for months at a time for golf, but at least I won’t be bored!” Nicole shares.
She certainly won’t be bored, and Nicole’s incredible accomplishments certainly don’t bore us. She’s well on her way to becoming a professional golfer, which she says she would love. In addition to her golf goals, though, Nicole believes, “No matter what I do, I will always strive to improve the lives of as many people as I can.”
Speaking of helping people, Nicole’s app will do exactly that. “To do my part to give back in this world, I’m launching an app that has a social mission. Without giving away too many details away, my app is going to help people, like you and me, give back to charities in our local communities with the help of corporate sponsors. My hope is that the app will get people more involved with charitable work and also provide much needed funding to many of the smaller charities in our communities.”
Nicole’s entrepreneurship mindset has grown, thanks to her golf game. “The golf course is almost an oasis for me, because I’m surrounded by the beauty of nature and can get lost in my thoughts. Most of my ideas for inventions and businesses were formulated on the golf course. Because I grew up playing competitive golf, I understand the importance of hard work, patience, and resilience. Luckily, these are also the traits that you need to be a successful entrepreneur.”
Another trait that we believe entrepreneurs should have is optimism, and Nicole certainly has that, too. “I’ve definitely fallen into ruts when I’m negative, but I’ve learned that nothing good comes from this. Being positive doesn’t necessarily mean that good things will follow, but it will help you try your best. As long as you try your best and have good intentions, then you should be proud of yourself, no matter what the outcome is.”
One more trait all entrepreneurs should have? Resiliency. “Fortunately, playing golf competitively has taught me the importance of being resilient. I’ve had so many heartbreaks on the golf course, from losing tournaments that I was leading to not qualifying for the Ladies Professional Golf Tour this year. But, after every heartbreak, I would always pick myself up and keep on playing. I’d give myself some time to heal and reflect, and then start working hard on my game so that I’d be ready for the next tournament.
“Just like in golf, in life, we often have to overcome challenges. But just like in golf, in life, what may seem like a defeat or failure is actually a new opportunity in disguise. By being resilient, we give ourselves the ability to uncloak and explore this new opportunity.”
You can find Nicole on the golf course, cheering at a Notre Dame game, enjoying a 10-20 minute power nap, or exploring a grocery store (which she finds relaxing and even therapeutic to just walk around and create new dishes and recipes in her mind). We are honored that you can also find Nicole on CFN™.
Christine Allen’s list of accomplishments is incredible. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, pursued an MBA at the University of Michigan, rocked the consulting world for four years at Accenture, spent 10 years marketing for Frito Lay, found the man of her dreams, started a charity, and now spends time with her kids (whom she calls “adorable”). Most importantly, Christine feels passionately about making the world a better place. Yes, to us, that is exactly what success looks like.
“I’m a gift giver by nature,” Christine explains. This passion and instinct has helped Christine grow both personally and professionally. “I was drawn to Marketing in the Consumer Packaged Goods industry because if you do it well, you create gifts that improve people’s lives everyday.” She also encouraged Frito-Lay to promote healthier snacks.
Christine continued sharing her God-given gifts not only with consumers and her family, but also people in India. In 2009, Christine took a sabbatical and moved to India for three months. “I felt at that time that I had a spiritual calling to go learn more about poverty and to live in the midst of it,” she explains.
During those months in India, Christine volunteered with an organization that fights human trafficking. “They were doing incredible work, raiding brothels to rescue underage girls who had been kidnapped or tricked into being sex slaves. But it was also so disheartening, because often times the pimps weren’t prosecuted, and they would find new girls the next day. We weren’t solving the problem.”
When Christine returned to the US, she and her husband discussed the root cause of all of the darkness, which essentially all boiled down to poverty. “We were determined to make a dent in the cause – and to give these people a way out of poverty – with an education,” Christine furthers.
This determination led Christine and her husband to form Ark of the Rainbow in 2012. Two years later, the charity has a four-room schoolhouse in a slum in Bangalore, India and over 60 slum children attending the school. “There is a wait list of more who want to come, but we are currently out of space. Today, we offer four classes for preschoolers and kindergarteners. Starting in June, we plan to add 1st grade, and God willing, a new grade each year after that. Students in the school receive health care, nutritious meals and Christmas presents – all things we take for granted here, but that they would not otherwise be receiving,” Christine shares.
In addition to this incredible work, Ark of Rainbow has an afterschool club, sponsors college scholarships for girls, offers Vacation Bible School, and even programs for parents.
Founding this charity has absolutely changed Christine’s life. “I feel passionately about making the world a better place. [Working on our charity] has made me thrive. It just feels so rewarding to see the impact on the poorest of the poor,” says Christine.
Why India? “It was perfect because my husband’s father grew up there, and his grandfather was a medical missionary there. He had other family members who started churches there, as well. The long line of history there made it even more special to us,” Christine explains.
Not only does Christine continue to make a lasting impact in India, she makes a difference wherever she is. She used to be a Make-A-Wish grantor. Christine started Pepsico’s first ever cause marketing program (SunChips + Susan G Komen). It was so successful that the many brands later went on to choose causes to support, and they raised millions of dollars for charity. Just last week, she was with her children and found a homeless couple on the street, and she promptly took the couple to dinner.
How does she do it all?! “I try to always keep things in perspective. My worst day is better than most of the world’s best day. There are always people out there who need our help. The Bible says: ‘To whom much has been given, much will be required.’ Whenever I feel the tendency to feel down or complain, my husband reminds me that we have ‘high class problems’. This is a good gut check to shut up and put others first,” Christine shares.
She also has an “amazing community of women” that she surrounds herself with. “I’ve been part of a church community group for almost 10 years, and I live life deeply and authentically with some amazing women who keep me focused on what’s important.”
Christine certainly stays focused on what is important, and we are incredibly impressed with her accomplishments and her contributions to our world. Christine lives life with such beauty, class, and kindness, we are honored to call her a classy lady.
Anne Dwyer is a lovely, wonderful person who can not only bake you the most perfectly frosted cake in the world (that involved baking with lots of pretty bowls), she can also help you find a happy home.
Anne has a passion for real estate and has worked in residential leasing for over 10 years.
She is the Leasing Director for a 740-unit property in the Gold Coast, and a lot of her time is spent working with residents, resolving problems, and renewing leases. “Being an art and design lover, I enjoy helping clients envision the possibilities for their new home,” Anne says.
Working in residential management is a different experience from working in a regular office. Issues can be more sensitive when you work where people live. “Successful relationships develop when you show warmth and professionalism in this type of job,” Anne explains. “It’s very gratifying to find someone a new home they love. There is nothing better than checking in with a new resident and hearing how happy they are.”
While residents can learn from Anne how to find a happy home, Anne loves learning from her residents, too. “I’m insatiably curious about people’s design ideas, so I love it when residents tell me unique ways they’ve set up their apartments. I’m always thinking of ways to revise my own apartment, especially after a particularly inspiring trip to West Elm. I have serious DIY streak though, so it’s hard for me to buy art, decorations, or pillows in shops. I just want to make them myself.”
Our real estate expert definitely knows a thing or two about apartment hunting, and she’s here to offer you some tips (for starters: don’t see 20 apartments). “Beginning to apartment hunt is like putting together a mini research project. You need to set up personal search parameters. What are you comfortable spending on rent? What neighborhoods are the best fit for you? How long will it take to get to work from your new neighborhood? What features (or lack of features) are a deal-breaker for you?”
When Anne isn’t helping others find a happy, perfect home, she’s trying something new, which she dedicates herself to every year. Last year, it was horseback riding lessons. This year, it’s taking an improv class. Even though the idea of it scares her, Anne is rocking it!
You can also find Anne in the kitchen. “Part of why I love cooking is the organization of ingredients. Seeing them all lined up makes me happy. For a while, there was an embargo on small bowls coming into my apartment because I had so many darling little ingredient prep bowls, they were beginning to take over.”
She’s also a dessert connoisseur. “For the third year in a row now, my friend and I will bake our annual Yule Log cake, which is a very labor-intensive all day project. We are both frosting perfectionists, so the end result is competition-level quality. And if we didn’t end up eating it first, we would totally enter in a competition!” (Will there be any left over for some classy ladies?!)
In addition to horseback riding, baking a perfectly frosted cake, and taking risks (improv can definitely be intimidating), Anne knows how to stay positive. “I maintain my positivity by following a mantra I learned years ago: ‘Do the hard stuff first’. It works. Having to do something you are dreading can poison your whole day. So get it over with. I also am a strong believer that no one else gets to determine your mood. If there’s a distressing situation and I find I’m discouraged or frustrated afterward, I tell myself that a negative person does not get to choose my mood for me.”
We admire Anne’s attitude and think she is spot on. Anne is absolutely a classy lady.
Ali Killam has a passion for telling stories, and she’s pursued this passion with such dedication that can inspire all of us. Even if chasing her dream involves moving to a city where she knows absolutely no one, working in sub-zero temperatures (which has given Ali a new appreciation for winterwear — hand and foot warmers are a MUST if you are in the Upper Midwest!), and leaving her beloved snake, Caesar, while Ali reports on the world, Ali will do more than just what it takes. And more importantly, Ali sees all these challenges as an opportunity to grow.
After earning a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin, Ali was hired for her first job as a reporter/multimedia journalist at KTTC-TV in Rochester, MN. She reports Monday through Friday and even anchors on Fridays. “Ultimately, I would love to work as an investigative reporter or (gasp) foreign correspondent for network or public television,” Ali says.
Ali’s passion for stories has been with her ever since she can remember. She has always loved to write. “Putting pen to paper was something that was both an adventure and therapeutic for me while growing up. It was not until high school that I knew I wanted to pursue storytelling as a career in news. In college, I realized I loved photography and providing imagery to events and stories that matter. Combine those interests with my infatuation with news, you wind up with me as a broadcast reporter.”
Being a reporter can definitely be very stressful, but the favorite parts of the job keep Ali going. Ali’s favorite parts are the editing process and meeting new people. “After a day of arduous work, I love being able to craft the story and watch how it all intermixes on air. I also love picking people’s brains, hearing their stories and finding out what makes them tick,” she says.
In her time as a reporter, Ali has even covered Ebola. “One of my favorite stories was actually a recent one on a local man from Liberia who is desperately trying to get his wife and children to the United States after Ebola struck their town. It was inspiring to talk with a person who remains optimistic and resilient in a moment of terrible stress and fear.”
Being a reporter isn’t always glamorous, but Ali takes it in stride. “You’re expected to do it all–report, write, edit, and film all of your own reports, and the compensation is probably not ideal for most. Also, it was hard for me at first to watch all of my friends either going back to Chicago together, or exploring other large cities. Rochester, MN has proven to be a great place for me, but I have to admit, after four years of college constantly surrounded by my closest friends, it was tough to transition to a studio apartment in a city where I knew no one. It was challenging at first, but you have to see it as an opportunity to grow–and it most certainly is.”
Clearly, Ali knows how to stay positive. “I am an honest believer in believing in yourself. That is something I have struggled to do over the years, but at the end of the day, if you know you’re resilient and are self-motivated to see challenges as an opportunity for growth rather than an obstacle, I trust that I will stay positive. Also, I know this sounds like an echo, but running and working out absolutely help me maintain a positive mind. I also keep in contact with all of my family and friends who may be hundreds of miles away just to bring me back down to earth from time to time when I’m having a bad day!” she says.
One day, you can find Ali focused on investigative journalism or a field producer for Frontline or PBS. You may even find her working for National Geographic (remember Caesar?). “If you know me from childhood, you know I have a serious affection for animals and wildlife/conservation. The stories and photography that come from that publication are where I get inspiration from time to time,” Ali shares.
We can’t wait to one day report on Ali’s continued success as a reporter, as our dazzling, fearless classy lady can certainly accomplish anything she chooses.
When you read about how fabulous Cassie Green is, you’ll turn green. Not green with envy, but greenly eager to eat fresh produce at her Green Grocer store, and you’ll cheer for Team Cassie Green!
Originally from Kansas City, Cassie went to college in Missouri at Truman State University, and she spent a couple of years in St. Louis before moving to Chicago in 2001. “The past two years, I’ve been living between Chicago and Dallas because of our businesses! My husband Gary Stephens and I opened Green Grocer Chicago in 2008 and then got an opportunity to open a Green Grocer in Dallas.”
Talk about impressive. “Owning your own business has its challenges of course, but I can’t imagine having it any other way. In the future, I would definitely like to do more travelling with my husband – making sure we eat and drink our way through many cities and countries!” Cassie says.
Before opening her first store, Cassie worked for a variety of companies, including Aldi, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and (our personal favorite) Cartier. “My time with all of these companies helped me with different aspects of our business. And yes, Cartier was an amazing company to work for. They truly treated us like gold, and I poured my heart and soul into my work with them. But I believe everyone has to follow their personal passion, regardless of how wonderful a job might seem.”
Cassie elaborates, “I knew if I was willing to leave a place like Cartier, then I must really love food and in particular, sustainable food. It was realizing my passion for food and also that I wanted to run my own business that led to the store. My favorite part of our business is connecting with people over food. I have always desired to make the world a little better and by offering such quality food and getting to hopefully be a positive moment in someone’s day. I actually feel like I’m able to do that.”
She’s about to make your day in a moment, too – here are her healthy eating tips. “Well, common sense is a big one for me. Less chemicals, less poison, quality over quantity. More plants (organic), less meat, very little crap food. If there is an ad for it on TV or a billboard, you probably shouldn’t eat it – this often means money going into advertising instead of quality ingredients.” Good point.
When Cassie isn’t traveling to and from Chicago to make her businesses grow, you can find Cassie advocating for the environment, sustainable education, and finding homes for animals that need them. She also does what she can to stay positive.
“I definitely believe it is important for all of us to own the energy and ‘vibe’ that we put out into the world. If we put out negativity through our thoughts, words or deeds, it’s just like dumping poison into a river. Maybe a little bit of negativity doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it adds up and it can certainly pollute our world. If I’m having a bad day or moment, I find that singing Broadway show tunes or watching funny animal videos on YouTube cheers me right up. It’s not very sophisticated, but it makes me smile and usually allows me to let my frustration pass!”
You can also potentially find Cassie in a dancing flash mob. “I just recently participated in my first flash mob – to ‘Thriller’ the weekend before Halloween. It was one of the most fun experiences ever! The people who were flashed – by our dancing, not actually flashed – were so excited and happy and cheered when we were done. I felt like a little bit of a celeb.”
We feel like a celeb for being able to feature the fabulous Cassie Green. She’s compassionate, gracious, warm and loving to other living beings – everything she says a classy woman is. To Cassie, classy has less to do with how you dress or what you drive and more about what you have in your heart and how you express that.
She clearly only has good in her heart, and we’re so lucky that we get to benefit from not only Cassie’s example but also her passion for great food.
Anna Butterbaugh is a Granger, Indiana girl (which has encouraged her to be a Notre Dame football fan, alongside her dad and granddad) with a big heart and a big mind (she graduated Cum Laude in college). Now, our favorite Hoosier (who is now in Indianapolis) lives every day in support of a cause she admires.
Now, Anna works with Timmy Global Health in Indianapolis as their Finance & Operations Manager. She has been with the company for five and a half years, and she absolutely loves it. Anna explains, “Timmy Global Health has this way of changing the way you view certain aspects of your life – your humility, generosity, cultural respect – while educating you about real issues faced in the world of global and public health.”
Timmy’s mission is two-fold: expand access to healthcare in resource-poor regions of Latin America and the Caribbean, while empowering student and medical professional volunteers to tackle global health challenges. Through this model, Timmy has about 45 chapters at universities across the US, all led by student volunteers. “We match each chapter with a partner organization (a clinic or hospital) in Ecuador, Guatemala, or the Dominican Republic. Our chapters fundraise for their partner, and every 2-3 months, we send a team of students and medical professionals to each of our sites to set up mobile primary care clinics in communities that otherwise do not have access to healthcare,” Anna shares.
A huge benefit of Timmy’s is that their own staff live on-site throughout the year. Timmy finances follow-up consults and surgeries for thousands of patients a year, and the constant presence of our staff and local partner facilitate this. Timmy also focuses on a variety of public health projects that help address the larger issues faced by the communities that compliment the work on medical service trips.
Anna first became involved with Timmy’s organization as a student at Butler University. “I had the opportunity to volunteer on campus, and then to travel to Guatemala for a week to assist with the medical service trip immediately after I graduated. This was my first experience volunteering in a developing country, and one that I will never forget. It was such an eye opener – one of those situations where you return home and everything you thought that mattered, doesn’t. It was a call to action to learn more about health disparities, and try to alleviate them no matter how small or large the scale,” Anna explains.
She was at the right place at the right time, because a week after that trip, she interviewed for a position at Timmy and has grown there ever since. “My passion for Timmy is not just ‘doing-good’ but actually seeing first hand the mission of the organization, creating change, and taking on the responsibility and due diligence everyday at work to make sure we are most effectively and efficiently using resources for change – whether it’s supporting a patient, partner, volunteer, etc. An added bonus is that one of my sisters is a pharmacist, so she has volunteered on about 5 Timmy trips when I travel for work. It’s unbelievable to share these experiences with family.”
When Anna isn’t working, visiting her lovely family (that is probably cheering for the Fighting Irish), or planning her next camping trip (yes, she absolutely adores camping and “roughing it”), Anna is supporting any health outreach program or any dear friends’ philanthropic passions. “If I can support [friends and family] while they support their cause, I can do more. Whether it’s a walk for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, a women’s football game to fight Alzheimer’s, you name it—I’ll try and support as best I can. I find that when family and friends support Timmy Global Health, I want to support their passions just as much in return.”
You can also find Anna working on freelance graphic design work (she has created wedding invitations!) or traveling the world (she studied abroad in Rome and thinks you could live there your whole life and not be able to take in all that the city has to offer).
No matter where you are, you can find Anna making the world a better place.
Michelle Gannon knows herself unapologetically, and to her, that’s classy. We agree, and we have even more words that come to mind when we describe today’s classy lady: fiercely strong, philanthropically focused, yogi, experienced traveler, and role model.
Michelle grew up around the world (she lived in six countries, including Singapore, Russia, and Mexico) before settling north of Chicago with her dear family. After attending Boston College, Michelle is back in Chicago – which will always be her home – and reverse commuting to her marketing job at Beam Suntory.
“I see my 20’s & 30’s as my years to stretch for my career. I would love to have a family someday too, but we’ll see. It’s in my nature to plan, so I challenge myself to think presently,” Michelle says.
When asked about her passions, Michelle sweetly says, “Can people be passions? My family and friends mean everything to me. My parents are the strongest, most caring people I know, and I love spending time with them. And Penny, our dog. She’s the best. But if I only have a little bit of free time, I definitely get on my mat and do yoga. If I can sit for a second and have a latte too, then all is good in my world.”
While Michelle sips her latte after some fabulous time on the yoga mat, she is probably thinking about how important it is to stay positive. “To be honest, I believe staying positive is a choice. Every day when we wake up, we choose to see the world in light or darkness. If you’re self-aware enough to realize your negativity, that’s half the battle. I’m not saying that every day needs to be butterflies and rainbows. Just choose to see the positive one more time than you choose the dwell on the negative.”
(That’s our belief at CFN™, too! Can you tell one of the many reasons why Michelle was chosen to be a Classy Lady?)
Michelle adds, “If that’s not working, then back to my friends, family, coffee, yoga, and Penny.”
She also sees the big picture, and a story with her dad comes to mind. “One semester in college, I was having a hard time. I was home for the weekend to try and re-boot, and I remember my dad asking me what I was so stressed about. As I listed off all of my worries, he said, ‘Most of that is just fly shit.’ I gave him a blank stare. He continued, ‘Can you imagine how small fly shit is?’
“So, I try to identify the fly shit in life and move on. Then there’s space and time for the big, worthwhile parts of life. Not all good, just worth it.”
Instead of dwelling on any fly residue that is in her way, Michelle focuses on the positives and her philanthropic pursuits. She works to build confidence in young adults (because too often, we are eager to tear each other down, Michelle says), to work with people with disabilities (“Spread the word, end the word,” she says), and to make the world a better place (by simply by saying “hi” to a homeless person).
We believe Michelle is beautiful from the inside out, and we’re thankful for the classy example she sets for women everywhere.
Ladies of Kappa Alpha Theta at Miami of Ohio
The ladies of Kappa Alpha Theta at Miami of Ohio (known as the Gamma Upsilon chapter) know how to make memories and build friendships that will last a lifetime. “Theta helps us become the best women we can be, not only in college, but for the rest of our lives. We all have the ability to create positive change, not only for ourselves, but our sorority, our fraternity, and the world we live in,” says Theta Colleen Reilly.
These Thetas also know how to count their blessings. “The relationships formed throughout Theta are truly remarkable. Having shoulders to cry on, surprise birthday celebrations and knowing you have your future bridesmaids are a few things our sisters continue to be thankful for. It is valuable knowing we can talk to anyone in our sorority, not only our pledge classes, about problems we may be having or news that deserve a celebration. It is a blessing to know we share connections with each and everyone of our 156 sisters.”
Kappa Alpha Theta members are not only involved in their sorority but also all over campus. Members are actively involved in philanthropies, fundraising and other organizations on campus. For 25 years, Theta has supported the “CASA Foundation” (Court Appointed Special Advocates), as well as the Theta Foundation. These ladies work to support CASA’s goal: protect a child’s right to be safe in the court system, by providing them with a credentialed, sympathetic adult. They also work to support the Theta Foundation, which supports Theta’s mission statements and encourages its members reach their full potential.
In addition to their Theta-focused volunteer work, the Gamma Upsilon members are also a part of organizations such as: PRSAA, UNICEF, Rotaract Club, Eco Reps, Genetics Club, China America Business Organization, club sports teams and many more. Most organizations or clubs support specific charities, as well. This fall, the girls even planned a fashion show, where many sororities participated. So, these girls clearly know how to be inclusive and how to give back to their communities.
When they’re not planning their next volunteer event or studying, these ladies enjoy time together. Unlike a typical sorority, these Thetas don’t have a sorority house. Colleen says, “This gives members the opportunity in making an effort to get together. Chapter members will plan weekly breakfasts, dinners and lunches in order to all meet and catch up. Sophomore year, members live together in the ‘corridor’, which is in a second year dorm. Here, members have fifty different closets to choose from, 20 doors to knock on if you need to talk and endless amounts of dance parties held in the hallways. Junior and senior year, members will live off campus in a house or apartment, where many members will choose to live with all Thetas.”
These classy ladies are proud to be a part of their sorority, and we’re proud to know these ladies. As Sydney Stevens says, the best part is that these bonds aren’t just for four years – they are for life.
(More of our favorite quotes by these classy ladies are featured in today’s “Celebrate” section. Read on!)
Katie Tangri is one of the happiest, loveliest people you will ever meet. Did we also mention she’s one of the kindest?
Katie grew up outside of Chicago in Homewood, Illinois before attending DePauw University. After college, Katie returned to the Chicagoland area to work at Starcom Mediavest Group. “3.5 years later, I am with the same company and loving it! Currently, I am a Luxury Communications Strategist for Proctor & Gamble Prestige (Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci),” Katie shares. (How fun does that sound?)
“Simplified, I strategically plan when and how the client should allocate their budget towards media (think seeing a TV spot on E! or Bravo). I enjoy my job because it allows me to be creative and innovative. Also, it pushes me to continue to learn. Every client, campaign, deadline, represents its own challenges. One major work perk is that my job requires me to stay on top of beauty/fashion trends/blogs – who doesn’t love that!” Katie says.
Her fantastic job keeps her incredibly busy, but it doesn’t stop her from looking ahead. The next stop along Katie’s career to-do list: her MBA. She’s currently in the application process, so stay tuned! (Katie will definitely be a CEO one day.)
After a long day at work and grad school applications, Katie regains balance by turning to yoga. Katie explains, “Yoga is based on harmonizing and connecting the body, mind, and spirit. Yoga is actually scientifically proven to reduce the physical effects of stress on the body by encouraging relaxation and lowering the levels of the stress hormone (cortisol).”
Something else that’s scientifically proven to make someone happy: smiles. Katie is very good at smiling, and she’s never without one (I’ve had the blessing of knowing Katie for nearly six years and can definitely attest to this fact). “I try and always smile. Smiling is my number one accessory!”
While smiling, you can find Katie exploring the world, which she believes is paramount to her growth. Recently, Katie was in San Diego (where she is in her adorable picture), and her favorite two cities are Paris and Amsterdam.
Nothing can quite beat sweet home Chicago, though, as Katie loves to explore Chicago neighborhoods and their hidden gems (including Ravenswood, which Katie recently visited). Another hidden gem in Chicago? Donuts. “My goal is to try all the best ones in the city! Currently, I am loving the sprinkled donut at Glazed and Infused – such a classic!” she smiles.
Not only does Katie always wear a smile, know how to place Gucci ads, and where the best donut is in Chicago, Katie also pursues her philanthropic passions in life. “Recently, I have been focusing my efforts to support One Tail at a Time (OTAT). OTAT is a no-kill rescue committed to lowering euthanasia rates in the greater Chicagoland area.
“OTAT rescues animals from animal control and kill shelters. OTAT then places animals in foster homes until they can find their forever home. Foster homes offer stability for animals who lives have been anything but stable. Foster homes help provide a routine and give the animal someone to trust.”
Katie even fostered a puppy this year – a beautiful lab named Lucy. “During this time, Lucy found the perfect forever home. OTAT also hosts events to fundraise for the organization. The next one is the upcoming Houndstooth ball in December!”
Katie Tangri is certainly an exceptional classy woman, and the world is lucky to be graced with Katie’s grace and class. To Katie, a classy woman is free to be herself. “She knows how to enjoy and embraces life with a positive outlook. She has an ambition about her and continuously strives to achieve her goals,” Katie adds.
To us, Katie Tangri certainly epitomizes a classy woman. We also believe this because we have looked up to her for nearly six years and admired her incredible work ethic, her positive attitude, and her kind, sweet heart.
Jackie O’Reilly has a sweet heart, knows how to run her heart out (she just ran her third Chicago Marathon, which was her fourth marathon overall), and how to take care of those in the hospital. Also, have you noticed, her name is Jackie O?
Our favorite modern Jackie O grew up, for most of her life, in Green Bay, WI. Following high school, she attended the University of Valparaiso for her Bachelors in the Science of Nursing. “While at VU, I also competed on the women’s D1 tennis team, and was nominated captain for both my junior and senior year. After graduation, I accepted my first job at Northwestern Medicine, and have been in Chicago ever since,” Jackie says.
Jackie’s first job was in surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “From there, I worked as a clinical RN for three years, and just recently I was selected to work as the quality improvement clinical RN for Northwestern HealthCare. This move came at a perfect time in my career since I am now attending the University of Loyola for my Master’s in Business Administration and Master’s in Health Care Management. Together, they complement each other because I get to practice at my job what I am learning in the classroom.”
When she isn’t in the hospital or in her masters’ classes, Jackie is tutoring students and giving back to her community. “I started tutoring students in high school and continued throughout college since education is such an important part of today’s society and my family’s life (most of my family are actual teachers!). Since then, I joined the Women’s Junior League of Chicago and have worked on a variety of charity events that the organization has put together.”
Each day, Jackie works to find the good in every situation and to take each moment at a time. “I find one of the best things for me, during challenging situations, is to take a step back and go for a run, since it helps me clear my mind,” she shares.
Jackie is inspired by the classy women around her and by the women who embody true classiness. “When I think of classy, I think about women who embody the word. Women like Maya Angelu, Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis and my mother, Terry. Not only do I look up to these women, but I also try to mimic them, with the hopes to bring about the same positive change they have in our world.”
We have our own Jackie O in our midst! She’s another modern example of a classy woman to admire and to appreciate.
Megan Smith knows how to light up a room – and she knows how to fill it up with people to see an amazing show, too (at her own theater company, by the way).
First thing’s first – Megan grew up on the East Coast in Norristown, PA, just outside of Philadelphia. She went to school in Washington, DC at the Catholic University of America where she met her now husband, who she married just three weeks ago. “After 10 years of dating!” she adds. “I wanted to know exactly what I was getting into.”
Right now, Megan calls herself “a few things”. “I’m the Director of Corporate Relations at Steppenwolf Theatre, which keeps me busy and connected to this city I love. I volunteer my time as the Executive Director for Sideshow Theatre Company, an 8-year-old nonprofit theater that’s a resident company at Victory Gardens, and is very much my passion project. I’m also a newlywed attempting to plan a honeymoon.”
Megan expands, “Physically, I’d love to go on that honeymoon in Japan and Hawaii. Professionally, I’d like to see if I can build Sideshow Theatre Company into one of the great theaters in Chicago, much like the inspirational Steppenwolf that I get to work at each day. It’d be great to have it be my day job one day also! Personally, I’d like to enjoy marriage, brunch more, and stay connected with friends and family.”
Megan loves theater and always has. “And I know I was a total theater geek in high school, and I’m ok with that.” While identifying a love of theater is easy for Megan, she says, “I find it challenging to articulate why I do this art form, which is both transcendent at times and also transient – you work on a play for months, it runs 6-11 weeks, then it’s gone forever! It’s a dying art form and I love an underdog. Theater can be so intimate and unpredictable, which is exciting. It’s challenging to tell a story that make someone stay seated and 100% focused for 90 minutes to even over two hours, and that’s a fun to tackle.
“I am especially drawn to the ritual and community aspect of theater. People gather in a dark room, rustling next to each other, putting their phones away (hopefully) and open themselves up to experience a story right in front of them. There’s no pause button, no way to skip forward, you just have to focus. I love that.”
Need Megan’s opinion on the next show to see? Check out Slideshow Theater, which is hosting Antigonick. “It’s Sophocles’ Greek tragedy Antigone but not in the way you would expect. I’m really looking forward to it!”
While maintaining a busy lifestyle, Megan believes it’s so important to stay positive. “It’s hard to stay positive in this information age, right? So I tend to only look at Facebook once a day, for maybe about five minutes. It helps. And I like the photos of my friends’ kids! I also make a conscious effort to not look at my phone much. I don’t have it out when I’m with friends or family, so I don’t check my messages or flip through apps. I don’t pull it out during dinner, or even keep it on the table. When someone texts me, I don’t jump to the message right away. I don’t want to be a slave to that thing. It feels good! Don’t get me wrong – I love having my email accessible and playing Candy Crush!”
In addition to enjoying Candy Crush, we have learned several lovely fun facts about Megan. One, you can find her on a run, especially if she’s having a bad day. “Running frees me up. I don’t listen to music, I don’t track how far I’m traveling. I just run until my thoughts are organized.”
This Anchorage, Alaska native also wrestles at The Cutting Edge for the Chicago League of Lady Arm Wrestlers, Sideshow’s multi-year fundraising event. “We have a match on Nov. 15, 10pm at the Logan Square Auditorium, only $10, come see me wrestle!”
This classy lady not only can wrestle, she can also celebrate the world around her and all things classy. To Megan, being classy means a few things:
“Audrey Hepburn. Cary Grant. Old school Hollywood glamour. Writing thank you cards. Hospitality. Generosity. Not making a big fuss when splitting the bill. Thinking outside of the box. Not making assumptions about other people. Valuing family. Making time for yourself. Taking up your own space when you walk down the street. Dressing the way you want because you want to. Not caring what other people think, but also caring of other people.”
Megan certainly cares about other people, and we care about this newlywed, funny, kind, classy lady!
Today’s Classy Lady has inspired us from our early childhood. She always wears a smile, she is one of the absolute cutest people you will ever meet (and the most stylish), and she has devoted her life to contributing to a wonderful cause. We are so delighted to feature the stunning Maeve Sheahan as today’s Classy Lady. Maeve is absolutely beautiful from the inside out.
Maeve grew up in Lake Forest, went to school out east at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, and ended up coming back to Chicago to be close to friends and family. She now works at Lurie Children’s Foundation in fundraising for the hospital.
“Originally, I had planned on going into broadcast journalism, but the thought of setting in a small town market the first several years out of school completely overwhelmed me. I thought of alternative career paths; I wondered how I might be able to tie something I am passionate about with my skills and strengths. When I set my mind on Lurie Children’s, I did anything and everything I could to get my foot in the door. I even took an unpaid internship the summer after graduating – my parents thought I was crazy! At the end of my internship, a position opened up on the Events’ team, and the rest is history. I currently work on our Major Gifts team, serving as a hospital liaison to individual donors,” Maeve explains.
Her position seems to fit her perfectly – anyone who meets the joyous Maeve would want to donate to the hospital, not only to help the incredible cause but also because Maeve’s kindness and inner beauty simply radiate.
Maeve has truly enjoyed working for Lurie Children’s. “I have had the remarkable opportunity to meet some of the strongest people I will ever encounter these past three years; parents who have lost their child, siblings who have lost their brother or sister, and children who have fought a battle more difficult than I can even imagine. It is a very special place, and I am reminded of that every day.”
While Maeve is reminded of how special Lurie Children’s is, she also takes time every day to remind herself of her blessings. “At the suggestion of my mom, I recently started writing down one thing I am grateful for each day. It has absolutely changed my perspective on life. I find myself thinking, ‘Oh, I could use that as something I’m grateful for!’ all throughout the day. They range from big to small – last week, I was grateful for a special afternoon shared with my parents, and yesterday, I was grateful for my Crockpot! I try to challenge myself by not repeating the same thing. It has been 30 seconds of my day that has completely shifted my attitude and outlook on life.”
Yes, we told you – Maeve is beautiful from the inside out.
While counting her blessings, Maeve has also learned from any challenges that have come her way. “Being in my 20s and starting to realize that the definition of a ‘challenge’ changes with age, I have found that I’ve relied on my faith, family and friends to overcome bumps in the road. One of the most challenging things I’ve realized recently is that we need to throw our plan out the window, because we can never predict or schedule what our future will look like. Accepting that our future is out of our own control is part of finding happiness and overcoming challenges.
“I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and that has helped me get through so much. When I was living with my cousins in Ireland one summer, one of my family members shared an old Irish quote that has stuck with me for several years. ‘If it’s for you, it won’t pass you.’ I have found these words to ring true in a variety of facets in my life. From love to jobs, we need to trust that the people, significant others, jobs, colleges, and everything in between will find us; we can’t find them,” Maeve shares.
And speaking of things that are for Maeve – Maeve absolutely adores Paris, especially when she visits with her loving mom (whom she calls a constant example of classy woman). “I have traveled to Paris with my mom since I was little, and it is absolutely heaven on earth. I’ve promised myself I will live there one day – I blame it on watching Audrey Hepburn’s ‘Sabrina’ too many times as a child,” Maeve smiles.
“Each time I visited France, my mom and I would bring back a suitcase full of our favorite French fabrics. With all that fabric sitting in a closet for too long, I always tried to figure out how to use it. After making my own duvet cover and pillows for my room, it finally came to me: I could bring a little bit of Paris to other people’s homes. With that, I found an amazing upholsterer, and I have started a little pillow business. I’ve expanded it into French prints too. I’ve opened a little Etsy store, and I also sell them offline to friends and family. I wish I could say I have one favorite fabric, but each day it changes!
“My first sale was to someone in Australia, which was so exciting! I find it fascinating how different each fabric is, yet there is still something common about all of them. It’s kind of fun to know that in a fabric district with tons of stores and thousands of fabrics to chose from, these are the ones that traveled over 4,000 miles home with me,” Maeve shares. “Even if this little business enables me to travel back and forth to Paris once a year, I would be content. It’s been an outlet for creative energy.”
Maeve is a philanthropist, an entrepreneur (check out her absolutely amazing Etsy site – how cute that it is called “Maison de Maeve”), and a loving role model for classy women everywhere (for as far back as I can possibly remember, Maeve has always been the sweetest and most joyous person around). She absolutely exudes classiness, and we are thrilled to hear Maeve’s perspective on being classy.
“I believe classiness is the perfect combination of self-confidence and humility. In my opinion, a classy woman can find inspiration in the Serenity Prayer.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
“We can strive to be classy in the way we accept ourselves, accept our journey and our hardships with grace. When we recognize there are social injustices or philanthropic causes that need a voice, we hope for class and strength to stand up for what is right,” Maeve says.
A big merci to Maeve Sheahan for being such an outstanding and magnifique classy lady.
Kappa Alpha Theta Ladies at the University of Illinois
For the Kappa Alpha Theta ladies at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign (Delta Chapter), the Theta house is not only a home to over 200 amazing women, it’s also a place to celebrate sisterhood and service.
The mission at Kappa Alpha Theta is “to nurture each member throughout her college and alumnae experience and to offer a lifelong opportunity for social, intellectual, and moral growth as she meets the higher and broader demands of mature life,” and these girls truly live life with this mission in mind.
President Jane Steinhoff kindly speaks to CFN™ about why Theta is so special. “After discussing with a few girls, the general consensus about the best part of being in a sorority is feeling like you belong somewhere and that we’re all a part of something a little bigger than ourselves. Because U of I is so big, it’s nice to have a place to call a home filled with girls that will always be there for you. While things like movie nights on the couch, eating Chipotle, and social events with fun themes have made for some of the best memories, the greatest thing is to know that even after college is over, we will still all be connected and that those memories and friendships will last a lifetime.”
In addition to the fun social events and to the focus on sisterhood, Kappa Alpha Theta is strongly committed to service. Theta’s national philanthropy is Court Appointed Special Advocates, known as CASA. The ladies host three big service events per year including Theta Hoops, which is a 3-on-3 basketball tournament held on the street in front of the Theta house (which looks like an absolutely lovely home).
The ladies host Theta Grilled Cheese in the spring (which is the house favorite – it’s for lunch every Friday at the house), where the ladies make thousands of grilled cheeses for anyone in the area looking for a great meal. In addition, the Thetas co-host a Broomball tournament in the spring with another fraternity, which raises money for CASA and the fraternity’s charity organization.
“While we put a lot of effort into helping CASA, many of the girls are involved in supporting other important causes. We make an effort to do Theta service events a few times every semester to support those other causes as a large group,” says Jane.
The U of I chapter is the fourth oldest chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta, and the house was the first women’s sorority on campus (founded in 1895). Talk about a special house!
Jane is an incredible president and has committed to serving the mission of Theta and the classy Theta ladies. “I’m proud to be a member of Kappa Alpha Theta because of how amazing each and everyone of the girls is in the chapter. I’m so happy to be able to represent these girls because they’re smart, driven, make me cry from laughing so hard, and I know they’ll always have my back, as well as be there for anyone who needs help, regardless of whether they’re a Theta or not. Kappa Alpha Theta represents powerful, leading women across the nation, and I am so blessed to be a part of that. I have personally grown so much as a person just over the past two years of my college experience and am so excited for whatever else is in store for me in the future,” Jane says.
A special thank you to Libby Melvin for coordinating this article and to the ladies of the house that have already liked the CFN™ page on Facebook. Each like, share, follow – you name it – will generate a donation to CASA!
Our classy lady is one poised, worldly, and klug woman (that’s smart in German, by the way).
Linda grew up in Dortmund, Germany, an industrial city in the Northwest of the country. After receiving a M.Sc. in Biotechnology from University of Muenster in Germany, Linda moved to the US to pursue her PhD in molecular genetics at University of Michigan. “I quickly fell in love with the cultural diversity and the openness of the people in the US, and at some point, I just did not want to leave anymore,” she says.
The US is certainly lucky Linda has enjoyed the last eight years in the US, since Linda is not only a lovely classy lady, she is currently conducting research on nanotechnology-based cancer treatments at Northwestern University (so, in short, Linda’s work may contribute to saving your life one day).
Education is clearly exceptionally important to Linda. “It is my personal experience that education, combined with life-long learning, is the key to becoming a better person and member of society. Through education, one becomes more curious, thinks more independently, has better judgment, develops new view points, makes more informed decisions at the ballot box, can better follow current events and has a more realistic picture of ones position in the global network of human interaction,” she explains.
To Linda, a desire to further her education comes naturally, since “being a scientist comes with being extremely curious – about anything,” she adds. “I have always been very passionate about science – the world becomes increasingly more fascinating the more closely one looks.”
When looking for which science avenue to pursue, Linda wanted to learn how one could utilize existing knowledge about biological processes to create something new. So, she pursued biotechnology. “I liked the idea of completely submerging in a scientific problem for an extended period of time, studying it, and finding a solution. Most importantly, I find the work I do extremely satisfying. If somebody asks me what I did today, I can say: ‘I am working on making the world a better place.’ That is worth a lot to me.”
You can imagine that some days may be difficult, as they are certainly long and challenging in Linda’s line of work. If that happens, Linda suggests a quick fact check. “When objectively (and objectively is the key here) looking at your life from outside perspective, you will most likely see an intelligent, educated, healthy, attractive woman that lives in a vibrant city of her choice, with food in her fridge and a roof over her head. A woman that dates who she wants and who has the opportunity of going to college and pursuing her own career ambitions. A woman that has friends and family that love her. There are many, many people who do not have that. So, if you step back for one second and think about it, your life is pretty awesome. The next step is to imagine the worst possible scenario related to your bad day. You had a terrible experience at work? The absolute worst thing that could probably happen is that you get fired. You still have your health, your friends, your family and your wits. And because you are smart and hardworking, you know you will find a new and even better job. So overall, even in the worst-case scenario, your life will still be pretty awesome. Gratitude is one of the best pick-me-ups.”
In addition to reminding classy ladies about gratitude’s important role in our lives, Linda leaves us with more advice. First, move abroad. “It builds ones character, deepens ones understanding of different cultures, and aids in learning how to communicate (and that is not limited to being able to speak a foreign language),” she says. “Also, it helps with developing an attitude of ‘Well, now that I have done that, I can do anything.’”
And we love that attitude!
Second, when addressing if she should take up a major challenge, Linda suggests ladies remind themselves of past achievements and focus on the “Well, now that I have done that, I can do anything” attitude. “What is also helpful is to map out the worst-case scenario. Ironically, in most cases, the worst-case scenario is the status quo. You have literally nothing to lose. So if in doubt: Just do it,” Linda cheers.
Linda has crossed an ocean to embrace a new life, to pursue biotechnology (and now to focus on commercializing inventions rather than generating them), and to set an educated, positive influence on classy ladies everywhere.
Holly Willis is someone who always wears a smile on her face, who has an amazing voice, who knows how to throw a fantastic party (think 90s throwback parties, caramel apple-making parties, painting parties, and more), and who knows how to celebrate life. (She also just may set you up with the love of your life, but more to come on that…)
Holly is native to the Chicago suburbs and currently working in advertising. “At my core, I’m a: daughter; friend; student of life; music enthusiast; amateur sailor; culturephile; fashion lover; ever-evolving, work-in-progress; champion for kindness. I’m still figuring out where I want to go, but I finally understand that my prime focus is being happy and making a difference to others in whatever way I can,” Holly says.
After graduating from high school (and absolutely rocking the school’s competitive speech and acting team [can you say forensics?]), Holly jetsetted to LA for college, where she planned on being an opera singer or working in foreign policy. After hearing about her dear friend Claire’s experiences in PR, though, Holly made a change. “I then wanted to take advantage of the industry in LA and worked in marketing for a TV studio, which I loved. When I moved back to Chicago, advertising seemed like a natural transition.”
Now, you can find Holly eagerly working to celebrate companies’ brands and loving the balance of creativity and business acumen in her job. “I love the fast-paced, intense nature of the industry and the emphasis to think outside of the box,” she adds. And ever-true to herself, you can still find Holly singing around her apartment and embracing her inner-singer.
In addition to Holly’s passion for her career, Holly has a deep passion for travel, especially her beloved cities of LA, Chicago, New York, and London. “I was blessed to grow up in a small, safe town where everyone knew each other and shared experiences. But I knew from an early age that most people aren’t that lucky, and I wanted to know more about the world outside of that place. While I would love to travel more, I’ve been able to see a lot of cultures and meet a lot of people different than myself and my hometown. Travel is such an important part of the journey to find out the type of person you want to be.”
In LA, Holly started to really find her voice and developed a crush on the glamour of the city (how cute is that?). While in college in LA, Holly started to feel the freedom to try new things, make mistakes, and expand her horizons. “I don’t know if this was because of the philosophical self-discovery intrinsically tied to the college years, or if it was because I was finally out on my own for the first time. Either way, I tie LA to dreaming big and shooting for the stars – metaphorically and literally,” Holly says.
New York is another great love of Holly’s (cue Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York”). “Every time I go to New York, I’m refilled with a refreshed level of enthusiasm and passion. Plus, it’s pretty cool that you can order Chinese food at 2AM, and it’ll be at your door in under 10 minutes.”
London will always be Holly’s home away from home. “London is so dignified and cosmopolitan. It has this wonderful dichotomy of modern and historical – on the same street, you can get high tea and hit up a local pub for a cheap pint. I also love the focus on culture and learning – all the museums are free!”
The winner, though, is probably Chicago (can anything really beat home?). “The people are lovely. The architecture is beautiful. And the food…oh, the food. Need I say more?”
In Chicago, Holly is busy throwing classy parties that bring people together. “I’m lucky to know so many amazing, smart, fun, talented people and it brings me such joy to watch them share their gifts with each other. If you start with a great guest list, you’ll always have a good time.”
Holly’s other classy party tips? “Food, good drinks, and fun music are key. Personally, I like to add a theme or activity, whether it’s making personalized caramel apples or a photo booth. This helps avoid any awkward silences or lulls,” she adds.
As with the rest of her life, Holly’s doesn’t sweat the small stuff in party planning, either. “If the dish I had spent days planning didn’t quite turn out (I’m definitely not the Martha Stewart of my friend group), as long as there’s a good bottle of wine and fun conversation, my guests are still going to have a good time. And that’s what’s most important,” she smiles.
At these parties, though, you may just find the love of your life. Holly calls herself an “amateur matchmaker,” but who else do you know has matched a couple and seen them walk down the aisle and promise forever? Holly, we think that makes you an expert matchmaker. (Note: Holly has also set her friends up with people outside her home, meaning she doesn’t have to know both people before they get setup. Yes, Holly can find you the love of your life at a bar one evening. Call this girl stat.)
Holly is certainly a classy lady, and we absolutely love her definition of what classy means to her. “Being classy has nothing to do with where you come from, what you wear, or how much you make. Being classy means two things to me: 1. Taking yourself seriously without taking life too seriously; and 2. Treating everyone you encounter with dignity and respect, especially when they don’t have the capacity to do the same.”
Holly is an exceptional woman, and our world is lucky to be graced with Holly’s inner and outer beauty.
Sallie Krawcheck knows a thing or two about business. She also knows (more than) a few things about encouraging and empowering women to reach their potential and their dreams.
A Southern Belle, Sallie grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. After graduating from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Sallie headed to the Big Apple. And goodness, did she take a big bite!
After working as an equity analyst covering financial firms, Sallie rose to become Chariman and CEO of Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Through hard work, staying true to her southern values, and her relentless honesty (her honesty has been so appreciated that many reporters called her a “rare, honest voice” on Wall Street), Sallie continued to rise to become CEO of Citigroup’s Smith Barney business, then Citi’s CFO, and even more.
During the financial crisis, Sallie decided to leave financial services and essentially officially become an advocate for women. She writes for The Huffington Post, appears on CNBC, and owns the Ellevate Network, which empowers and inspires women (PS: you can join! Check out the website).
What are some of Sallie’s tips in business? Don’t be a part of the pack, find a sponsor, know that everyone fails, work hard, nurture your network, don’t work for jerks, and have fun. (Need more? Click here.)
Like Carrie Bradshaw, Sallie embraced her poetry. She has found her passion and never apologized for being exactly who she is. Sallie’s example and her fearless sense of self are definitely worth celebrating.
Christina Vottero can always be found with a smile on her face. She’s one of the happiest, most positive people you will ever meet. By the way, she is also one of the smartest.
Today’s Classy Lady is currently in her second year at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, where Christina is earning her MBA. After she graduates next summer, Christina will move to Boston to work for a consulting firm (yes, Christina is that fabulous, she already has a job lined up for next year).
“Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to get my MBA, which is weird because no one in my family is in business! However, I loved business and knew I would need an MBA to move ahead in my career. So, for me, it was an obvious next step,” Christina explains.
She also offers guidance for any classy lady who is thinking about pursuing their MBA. “I would say, find the school that fits you best. Tuck is one of my favorite places in the world, but there are a lot of people that would not like it here and therefore not be happy and do well. Once you find schools that you want to spend two years at, just put forth a really honest and genuine application. Having a good GMAT is certainly helpful though!”
Before Christina journeyed to New Hampshire to begin her exciting MBA adventure, she was President of Junior Council, a junior board that raises money for the pediatric HIV/AIDS wing of Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.
“What consistently amazed me and kept me involved during this time was the great people I got to work with on a weekly basis. They had such passion and energy for the cause, and seeing them work hard made me want to work harder. Plus, they were an exceptionally smart and funny group of people.”
Christina expands, “In terms of how this experience influenced me, I think it made me realize that there are a lot of talented people out there that have a lot of different things to offer. It also made me realize that leading a group, especially a group of peers, isn’t easy, and it takes a lot of practice. I was also lucky to be on the Junior Council board during the time the new hospital was being built, which was a really cool experience. The amount of effort and love that was put into creating such a great place for kids was astounding, and I was so happy to be contributing to such a great place.”
When Christina isn’t rocking her MBA courses or giving back to her community, she shares her positivity with others. “My mom is a huge inspiration when it comes to staying positive. Like her, I try to see the good in people and events and believe everything will work out in the end. However, that’s easier said than done, and I certainly have my bad days, which people can attest to. Working out, specifically Flywheel classes, is my go-to stress reliever. When that’s not an option, I rely heavily on my close friends and family to vent and for encouragement. Talking negative feelings out always helps me put things in perspective,” she says.
Christina continues to pursue her dreams, which even include starting her own fashion line or retail store. “I still have a lot of learning to do before then!” Christina adds.
We can all learn a little something from Christina, though. She is truly “Tina fab” – one classy, fabulous Christina.
Elizabeth (Liz) Roney
You can find Liz Roney with a chic, trendsetting outfit (Liz only wears comfortable pieces), teaching piano lessons, jetting to a new country (she’s already been to 30), helping at her family’s orchard in the fall (she grew up on an apple orchard with four brothers), or designing a piece you will absolutely love. Liz Roney can do it all!
Yes, you read that right. Liz is a fantastic clothing designer for Liz Alig, a fair trade line of clothing that is produced by 10 fair trade groups around the world and made from recycled, organic, or handwoven fabrics. “I started this line about five years ago because I was passionate about fair trade and interested in the origin of our clothes,” Liz explains. “After having trouble finding clothing that I liked but was made ethically, I decided to design some of my own – clothing that I wanted to wear because of its design AND could be assured the production was not only ethical, but actually made the lives of the producers better.”
Since middle school, Liz has been sewing her own clothes because she had the talent to knock-off something in the store for much cheaper. “From there, I realized I really love putting fabrics together and designing patterns – the art and design part of fashion is what I appreciate the most.”
To the people who make Liz’s designs a reality, fair trade is huge, Liz says. “My experiences in developing countries and visiting factories initially motivated my interest in fair trade. I have found time and again that it is a way for women who do not have the opportunities that we have in the Western world to feed their family well, have insurance, have job security, educate their children, send their kids to college, and the list goes on and on. These things are unheard of for women who work in other factories – that is why fair trade is so important.”
Liz’s passion for fashion and fair trade certainly oozes out of her. She has an “obsession” with textiles and calls herself a bit of a fabric snob, but when you’re as talented as Liz is, we think that’s alright! Liz has also worked for Manuel, the man that put Elvis in the jump suit (pretty iconic, isn’t it?).
We have no doubt that Liz will soon be an icon herself (but she already is one to us). She commits to spreading the good in the world and aligning her passions. “After traveling and living in several developing countries, I feel very connected to the women who live there. I have seen a lot. I have learned that poor people have as much to teach us as we have to teach them. I think I am more passionate about stepping back and first becoming friends to see how we can work together. I think this applies really anywhere.”
While Liz says she doesn’t have a background in business, she’s accomplished amazing things. She’s learned to take things in very small steps and to ask a lot of questions. “Also, a little humor seems to solve most problems!” she adds.
To Liz, being classy means being aware that there are other people in the world besides ourselves. “Giving dignity to others is always classy,” she shares.
We think she is one classy lady (who has a self-described “thing” for taking people’s junk and making it beautiful. We are not surprised!). As Liz worked with Manuel who made Elvis’ jumpsuit iconic, we expect Liz’s designs and philanthropic passions to make her an icon herself.
No matter what time period our classy ladies live, they always follow their dreams. Beloved impressionist painter Mary Cassatt – born in the 19th century – is no exception to this rule.
Mary was born in America and developed a passion for art at a very early age. By 15, Mary was determined to make a career as an artist in an era when women simply weren’t artists. Neither the society standards of the time nor her father’s continued disapproval of her chosen profession would stop Mary. After learning all she could in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Mary left for Europe to paint.
It was 1866, and women weren’t allowed in any of the esteemed art schools. Even so, Mary didn’t give up. She began to work with a private tutor and painted copies of Louvre art every day. 1866 was also transformational, as the impressionist movement was just born. Painters were veering away from traditional painting methods and turning toward paintings that celebrated everyday life.
While Mary didn’t quickly adopt impressionist painting, famed painter Edgar Degas invited Mary to show her works with the impressionists. Upon Edgar’s invitation, a great friendship between the two was born, along with Mary’s shift to impressionist painting. She said, “I used to go and flatten my nose against that window [of Degas’ paintings] and absorb all that I could of his art. It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it.” Degas and Mary debuted works at the Impressionist Exhibit of 1879 to both harsh criticism from the famed French Salon and a profit.
Mary continued to paint throughout her life, most notably works involving women and children (which before were quite rare). She supported the women’s suffrage movement in the United States and spent the rest of her life living in Paris. She paved the way for women artists, though she is quick to not want to only be noticed for her gender. It is not a surprise that Mary’s classic paintings by a classy woman live on and are celebrated by impressionists adorers all over the world.
Marisa Novello is a New England girl at heart. Marisa drinks iced coffee year round (never hot), and you may hear “wicked” slip into her vocabulary every now and then. “Though, I’m noticing I’m picking up a slight New York/New Jersey accent,” Marisa adds. Marisa is from a small town next to Portsmouth, NH (fun fact: this city is the part of NH that touches the ocean), but she came to New York City in 2011 where she always thought she would live.
After a couple of years of unemployment, underemployment, and a few odd jobs, Marisa is ever-so-grateful she took the leap to come to New York and to pursue a career in publishing. Even so, pursuing her dream hasn’t always been a walk in Central Park.
“I graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2009, and while everyone knows now how hard coming out of school was in 2008 and after, at the time I can remember adults and even my parents not fully understanding why it was so difficult,” Marisa explains
Her first post-grad job (and the only interview she was ever offered) was working as a bank teller at a local NH bank. After time there, Marisa was a receptionist for a high-end spa. “Even though career-wise I felt very stalled, I really learned a lot from the mature women I worked with there about love, friendships, and a good work ethic. I was there for a year and a half, but to this day, I stay in contact with many of the women I worked with then—they’re like a second family to me. It was there that I shared my interest in moving to NYC, and while some encouraged me, there was one stylist in particular, Kari Jo, who told me, ‘So do it, already! Just go!’ So I did.”
After applying to many jobs, Marisa landed an unpaid internship at a small independent New York magazine and moved to the big city with little money. “It was still a struggle after moving here, because I had a hard time finding any kind of paid work. I applied to everything,” she adds.
“I had to ask for help from my parents when my plan had failed me. It was incredibly embarrassing and I felt guilty for it, as I came to New York to find my independence and ended up having to depend on people for support and help. I even thought it made me less of a good person, because not everyone that moves here has that kind of help available to them, and I felt I didn’t deserve it.”
Accepting help in whatever form has taught Marisa valuable insights. “I really had to learn to accept help from people offering it and to ask for it when I needed it. It was a really hard mindset to change, but I’m lucky my parents were able to be so emotionally and financially supportive at the time. I had many wonderful people, such as classmates and teachers at my MFA program that I was studying at while I was trying to find work, asking around for me and trying what they could to connect me to any of their publishing contacts.”
Marisa never gave up and pursued every connection’s connection, which is how she landed an internship with Woman’s Day magazine, a Hearst entity. After that, “I finally landed a paid (trumpet sounds!) temp position at a PR company in Midtown and was on my own from then on.”
All of those jobs were hard work—a lot of it even involving physical labor. “I remember ruining the nice office clothes I attempted to wear at my temp job because I would be in their product storage room organizing, packing, and lifting heavy boxes and items and I pulled a lot of sweaters and tops, but all that didn’t matter because I’m still here!”
Eight months into Marisa’s temp job, she landed her current position as a Sales Assistant in the Trade Paperback Sales department of Penguin (Penguin Random House). By the way, book publishing is really hard to get into (yes, Marisa is that talented!). “I have loved working here, but I’m really at a crossroads as to where I’m looking to go next. I would still like to stay in publishing, but I consider moving from sales into editorial often. And eventually, I would like to build a career writing more and maybe teach writing at a college level.”
No matter where Marisa’s career leads, we’re sure it will involve books. Marisa loves books. Her favorite books are Zeitoun by Dave Eggers and Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (really anything David Sedaris writes). “That’s why I love books, because they can bring healing or ignite passion in us. Stories have the power to change things, in my eyes. For me, fiction is for the heart, and nonfiction is for the mind and an exceptional book of either can serve both!”
Like her reading choices, Marisa’s life has fulfilled both her heart and her mind. She has found a fulfilling career and made her NYC dreams come true. Marisa has also stood up against, faced, and conquered every challenge she has seen. All the while, she has remained positive. “I try to remember perspective. There are many times I look at conflict in my life, and I am too close to the issue that I can’t see the solution. And, I’m learning not to take life too seriously all the time,” she shares.
Even when New York life can seem a bit too much, Marisa continues to see the positive and to choose the good. “I’ve only been here three years, but the close proximity to all these people and sometimes their daily concerns and lack of concern for strangers can be really maddening, but I want to be the person who still says sorry even if someone bumps into me, and even if it’s more of a pleasantry than an apology. I want to look back at each stage of my life, even the crazy confusion that has been my twenties, and truly believe I did the best I could at the time.”
We think that is quite classy, but we aren’t surprised that this is how our classy lady lives her life. To Marisa, classy means kindness and compassion. “It’s treating yourself and others with respect. Sometimes, I think we forget to treat ourselves kindly. I know I tend to criticize myself and where I am in life. I thought I would be so much farther along, but there really is truth to that saying ‘life’s a journey, not a destination.’ I have to remind myself that all the time. The money, the fashion, the perfect job can all go in an instant, but you build character so it can’t be taken away from you.”
Marisa has certainly taught us a thing or two about character, and we are honored to have her as a classy lady! She has taught us to never give up on your dreams, to work as hard as you possibly can, and to always be kind to others.
On Sunday night, Miss New York Kira Kazantsev was crowned Miss America. Kira speaks three languages (Russian, Spanish, and English) and is a survivor of abuse in a romantic relationship. Before heading off to Fordham Law School in 2016, Kira will represent classy women across the United States.
Kira is also brave. Not only did she wow the crowd when she sat cross-legged on the floor to sing “Happy” by Pharrell Williams (we love her positive spirit!), she has spoken out for women everywhere. Kira has even defended Janay Rice (the wife of Ray Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens’ player who was fired for physically abusing Janay before they were married), saying that every woman is “an expert in her situation.”
According to Kira’s Miss New York mission, she wants to empower women to know that regardless of what has happened in the past, women have the power to control the outcome of their future. We think that is quite classy.
If you have ever been interested in learning about financial news, you know the name Maria Bartiromo. She has been in the news industry for a quarter of a decade, has two won Emmys for her work, has set records within the industry, and has set an example for all – especially women – to appreciate.
Maria grew up in Brooklyn, graduated from New York University, and pursued her passion for news. Quickly, Maria emerged as a leader in the newsroom and in her talent for spotting top stories. In 1995, she became the first journalist ever to report live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, a feat she regularly repeated throughout her career at CNBC.
At CNBC, Maria founded Squawk Box, a morning television program that still airs and is one of CNBC’s greatest hits. She was also the face of The Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo, where she interviewed the top names of Wall Street. From CNN to CNBC to Fox News Channel, Maria has been a financial news icon everywhere she has worked. Of her success, Maria says, “I think that my biggest attribute to any success that I have had is hard work. There really is no substitute for working hard.”
Maria takes financial terms and makes them easier to understand. For example, she has said, “A lot of people love Oreos. So, their manufacturer is making money. That means more dividends for the shareholders.” Somehow, having oreos and dividends in the same sentence is a little more manageable.
She is also an author, a loving wife, and a trailblazer for ladies everywhere. Of course, Maria has been a classy lady throughout every interview, every job transition, and really, every day.
Bonjour. Caroline Carter est tellement fantastique, courageux, et adore toutes les choses françaises. Nous l’adorons aussi!
According to Google Translate, that should say: Caroline Carter is so fantastic, brave, and she adores all things French. We adore her, too!
Caroline is originally a Hoosier from Indianapolis, but now she is “winging it full time as a Parisian,” she says. “I moved abroad after college to teach English in France and then started working for a concierge company in Paris managing their website, social media, and communications.” Looks like Caroline has continued to follow her heart and her talents in the City of Lights.
Travel has always been the biggest game changer in Caroline’s life. “When I first realized how much there was to experience outside of my current world, I knew that I had to find ways to continue traveling, so I made Paris my home base,” she explains. “Traveling opens my heart up to a more curious perspective after meeting so many different people and experiencing so many different cultures. I’ve become a sponge of the museums I visit, the books I read, the conversations I have with people.”
Did we mention Caroline has been fluent in French for years? So, oui – those conversations she is having with people are in French. (We know, we wish we were Caroline, too!)
In her time in France, Caroline has identified that while it is a very western country, things are very different from America. “Long lunches, lots of smoking, and bureaucratic mountains are some of the things that come to mind. French people, and I think Europeans in general, also have a very different outlook on life. They really value spending time with their families, traveling, savoring good food (and wine!), and cultural learning. I often think that we miss the mark on these priorities in the U.S.
“However, I do think that Americans are some of the hardest working, most competitive, entrepreneurial people I’ve ever met. France sometimes lacks that competitive edge and optimism that it takes to be as innovative as the U.S. This is something that I increasingly value in America – if you want something badly enough and work hard enough for it, you can get it! Americans are hustlers that know how to get things done.”
Caroline has the best of both worlds, as she brings the American mentality and positive spirit to Paris (and lives out every girl’s dream. Our inner Blair Waldorf’s and Audrey Hepburn’s are ooh la la-ing over all of this!). While abroad, though, Caroline has also learned about herself.
“The most important thing I’ve learned is that you should always follow your heart. I’ve also learned that you have to believe in yourself and push yourself out of your comfort zone. As you grow up you think that certain paths are written in stone – and they’re not. People always tell me, ‘You’re living in Paris, you’re life is unreal!’ And l respond, ‘But my life is real. I’m living it aren’t I?’
“Me moving to Paris and staying as long as I have is the product of a lot of hard work and seizing opportunities. If you work towards your dreams and are always open to new possibilities and developments things fall into place. I’ll stay in France as long as can forge my career and as long as I can continue to travel. But I do think at some point I will come back to work in the U.S. for awhile!”
Caroline has absolutely done a magnifique job of seizing opportunities and learning all that she can about herself. She’s tested her comfort zone and rocked it – she recently took a coding class with all men (in a foreign country, no less), and she aced it.
Of course, all the while, Caroline has remained the classy lady we have always known and love (she’s also a classy lady that is never without a smile and a laugh close by). To Caroline, it’s important to be classy because it shows you have a sense of self worth and that you’re confident in who you are.
“When you are true to yourself and project authenticity to others, people gravitate towards you. There’s a lot to be said for genuineness and women who aren’t afraid to project their individuality. My advice for young women is to be always be open minded and never judge a book by its cover. Find people that can act as mentors and find people that you can look up to for advice and guidance.
“It’s never ceases to amaze me that people are almost always willing to help you – you just have to ask. I stay positive by traveling, exercising, breathing in fresh air, setting goals for myself, and learning new things whenever I can. I also make sure I surround myself with people that excite, inspire and push me to be my best self. Oh and laughing – a laughing is super important! Make sure you have people in your life that make your stomach hurt from laughing. I think French women are primarily like us….just with a few extra cigarettes and a little more rouge a levre.”
(That’s red lip – merci to Google Translate.)
Caroline is beau (beautiful) from the inside out, and she is one classy lady we hope makes it back to the US soon (and maybe we’ll just have to make it to Paris!).
Kat Rothstein is so cool (and très chic – oui, she is fluent in French). You will absolutely adore this girl who gets things done, who follows her personal and professional passions with relentless determination, and who is absolutely unwilling to compromise. “If I do something, I only do it with everything that I have. This is true in every facet of my life which is, of course, a strength and a curse,” she says.
In Kat’s last semester of college in 2008, the economy had effectively taken a nose-dive, but that didn’t stop Kat from working hard to achieve her dreams. “Thankfully, I had coupled my last classes at DePaul with an internship at a post-production house that offered me a freelance position once I graduated. After working hard on set and shaking enough hands, my career in production was born,” Kat shares.
“It was then that I learned how to assemble a crew and be a part of creating something amazing from nothing. To my mind, photo shoots and film were the equivalence of spinning straw into gold,” Kat elaborates. “I learned to overcome tight deadlines, budgetary constraints and anything Murphy’s Law threw in my wake.”
Her involvement in production allows Kat to translate ideas into reality, which she absolutely enjoys. Her execution skills have also translated into the account side of digital advertising, which involves translating those same great ideas into online executions. As you probably guessed, Kat is already working with household names like Google, Nike, The Second City, and so much more (that’s right, in less than ten years out of college, Kat is already rocking it!). “I have been blessed in my career and brought up in a generation that learned tenacity, resilience and gratitude gets you everywhere you want to be. This has been my professional credo ever since.”
Talk about a good credo (you can bet we are taking good notes about this at CFN™).
In conjunction with her work passions, Kat pursues her personal passions, as well. “Execution and the ability to mobilize have been the skill sets that have paid my bills – but art direction and photography has my heart. I have many personal projects that revolve around these passions, including introducing photography into the Steppenwolf Auxiliary Council’s communications, a cartoon called Hapless that features 3 of the Disney Princesses post-nuptials (spoiler, they’re all divorced and under one roof) and a coffee table book working to expose what I believe to be America’s best kept secret: that women like to eat.”
Wow, Kat is certainly a busy woman (and can you please sign us up for the premiere of Hapless? And PS – you’re right. Women do love to eat!).
Throughout balancing her many projects and being able to separate her work from her personal passions, Kat has remained positive. “Staying positive is an incredibly simple equation that can take a lifetime to master. For me, it is having the ability to appreciate what you have in life and expressing it through gratitude. The three things that help me keep positive and grounded is a dedication and absolute pursuit of happiness; running like a crazy woman and eliminating multi-tasking whenever possible.”
Kat further explains: “When I was younger, I thought the ability to split my attentions and juggle a million things at once was a good thing – what I now know is that it’s just the ability to do things exponentially worse than you would have, had you given them your full attention. Work, experiences and relationships deserve far more than that.”
You guessed it – Kat knows how to balance everything and really focus her attention, especially when it comes to her philanthropic passions. “Philanthropic passions really come back to making sure younger generations had the things that I had as a kid – and the things I wish I had as a kid. For instance, keeping Arts Education in our schools despite budget cuts (which is why I support Steppenwolf for Young Adults with the Steppenwolf Auxiliary Council). That is something I had that I want to make sure younger generations have the ability to explore.” (Shout out to Steppenwolf!)
“Similarly, I believe in working hard to create a positive body image for women. That isn’t something I had when I was younger, I don’t think any generation of women can say that since (likely) the beginning of time – and that needs to change,” Kat adds.
Kat is simply an all-around classy woman. To Kat, being classy means “being appreciative and gracious for what you have. Expressing and being true to your convictions. Lobbying for others, especially when they cannot lobby for themselves. Being cultured and polished while enjoying guilty pleasures – and overall never taking yourself too seriously.”
She not only gets things done, she’s an achiever. Look out for Kat and the amazing successes that are definitely in front of her.
You grew up adoring Tyra Banks. Whether or not you watched her on the fashion runway, obsessed over marathons of America’s Next Top Model (and, of course, Tyra’s opinion of every picture), or admired Tyra’s success at Harvard Business School (while maybe watching Life Size), you adore the lovely Tyra Banks.
To say Tyra’s 25-year-career has been successful is certainly an understatement. She began to model at only 15 years old. At 16, she faced rejection from four modeling agencies but never gave up. She quickly emerged as a star on runways all over Europe (including Paris Fashion Week) and landed magazine covers all over the world.
Her fame only grew as she branched in television, including our favorite realty show: America’s Next Top Model. In a show where women aspire to model in front of their role model that is Tyra Banks, Tyra coaches women in their modeling career and determines if they have what it takes to move forward.
America’s Next Top Model hasn’t been Tyra’s only adventure on TV (did you know she starred in Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” music video?). She’s currently in talks to develop another talk show (she’s already had a successful one) that will launch in 2015. From hosting her own television show, to writing her own book, to recording her own music, to landing at Harvard Law School and more – Tyra Banks can do it all.
Tyra lives her life with a classy, positive outlook. Even when she was in an emotionally abusive relationship, Tyra channels periods of difficulty into an opportunity to help other women. Tyra Banks is not only a model – she is certainly a role model for classy women everywhere.
Bailey Madden is a fun, loving, and funny fashionista who will warm your heart. She also just may be the most caring, chic friend you will ever have.
Bailey is a self-described Midwestern girl who hails from Cleveland and is now living in one of the best cities in the world – Chicago. She currently works in wealth management on a specialty lending team (which is a very hard job to get, for the record. Bailey wow-ed the crowd, as always).
You can find Bailey running the streets of Chicago as she prepares for her half-marathon this weekend. Bailey explains her motivation for the race: “The ability to Instagram the fact that I ran a half-marathon is a huge motivator. Just kidding. I subjected (yes, subjected) myself to train for and run the Chicago half-marathon both as a health goal and in order to raise money for a cause that I hold very near and dear to my heart – breast cancer awareness.”
She is running for Bright Pink, the only national non-profit organization that focuses on prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women. “Please check out the Bright Pink web site for awesome tools to use to be proactive about your own health. Knowledge is power,” Bailey adds. “For those who want to run a half-marathon or engage in another fitness event, just sign up. The best motivator is to actually have the event on the calendar (this probably goes for anything in life, yes?).”
Running 13.1 miles is certainly a challenge for anyone, but Bailey’s positive attitude keeps her going. “Easier said than done, but it helps to take challenges one day at a time. To achieve something you want, it’s a good idea to think big picture and then map out the steps to reach your end goal. Make a larger feat into a bunch of smaller feats, and then tackle them.” And let us tell you, Bailey is certainly going to tackle that half this weekend!
Throughout her training, Bailey has continued to stay her classy, fabulous, and positive self. “Staying positive can be difficult. It’s best to remember that tomorrow is always a new day with new opportunities. What I’ve found that helps most is exercise – nothing clears the head and creates happy endorphins like a solid workout. If I’m having a bad day, you can find me with pinot noir and Bravo on the couch (that’s probably any night, actually…but still!),” she says (did we or did we not tell you that we love Bailey’s humor and loving insights?).
When Bailey is off the training course, you can find her rocking a chic black outfit. “I do love fashion! I find the color black to be very classy and polished. I also have a cheetah print obsession,” Bailey shares.
As a regular reader of fashion blogs, Bailey recommends Refinery29 fashion articles, www.theyallhateus.com, and following her favorite designers and bloggers on Instagram (check out the @thenativefox). “Of course, Pinterest is one giant inspirational mood board – anything and everything is on there.”
Bailey also has fashion tips of her own (if Bailey starts a fashion blog, we’ll be the first to let our readers know!). “In the way of fashion, I think having a signature scent is really polished, as is dressing up in fur and having a killer pair of shades. And the color black. Having fabulous eyebrows is also VIP.”
If she sees something she really cannot live without, she’ll find a way to have it. “I prefer having one really nice piece over having a lot of pieces that aren’t as well made. ‘Buy the best, and you’ll only cry once,’” Bailey adds.
With her chic outfit, her rocking runner attitude, and her warm heart, Bailey is a fierce, classy woman. To Bailey, being classy is, “Treating all humans with respect is undeniably classy. A truly happy person is classy because it is reflected in how she treats others.”
We certainly think Bailey is undeniably classy and fabulous!
Katie Knell has the most beautiful, pure soul. She will inspire you to be positive, embrace your style, and to follow your faith.
After spending eleven years in Pittsburgh and then moving to Nashville, Katie calls Nashville home. Now, though, Katie is currently a student at Auburn University where she is pursuing a degree in Apparel Merchandising with both a minor in Business and International Studies.
“It was not until a few years ago that the Lord revealed to me my calling in the fashion industry,” Katie shares. “From then on, I have hit the ground running serving as a sales associate, brand ambassador and now blogger aiming to maximize my learning potential as a student.”
She has certainly hit the ground running (in a fabulous outfit, no less), and she enjoys sharing her passion for fashion with the world. “One of my favorite parts of being involved in the industry is the ability to re-create yourself season after season. This, at times, serves as a double-edged sword as it can often times become exhausting trying to keep up, but I am encouraged nonetheless that I am not defined by my apparel but only enhanced.”
Do you know fashion and faith can be combined? Katie does. “In my free time, I work to keep consistent content on my fashion blog Lady K to further develop my skill set and grow as both a person and professional. My ideal goal in the coming years would be to develop a greater audience for the blog as it carries an undertone that is unique for the industry – I combine both my passions for my faith and fashion,” Katie says.
At CFN™, we have definitely bookmarked Katie’s blog, and we are already gushing over her posts. Every outfit is chic, beautiful, and classy – just like Katie. Katie has her own definition of classy, which we think accurately sums Katie up. “Classy can be encompassed by many definitions but for me, I define classy, and more specifically a classy lady, as someone who is unapologetically themselves, remaining poised, humbled, and willing to serve others before herself. She has high standards, seeking the best in every situation but also realizing that no one is perfect and we all fall short, she extends grace more times than not.”
Katie certainly encapsulates her definition of classy. She is a beautiful woman from the inside out who finds joy in her faith. “I find my deepest, most soul-satisfying joy by spending time in the Word. Without it, my life proves stagnant, and all other aspects of my life tend to be shallow and withering,” she shares.
Need further prove of how amazing Katie is? When we emailed her for a picture to feature on the site, she immediately asked if we could feature the photographer’s name in the article. Elizabeth Bacon snapped this lovely photo of Katie, and if you’d like to see more of Elizabeth’s photos, click here. (Our classy ladies certainly have some Internet browsing to do!) Did we also mention that Katie has gone skydiving over the Swiss Alps? Wow!
Classy women like Katie prove that women can celebrate their faith and combine their faith with their passions. We are both humbled and inspired by Katie (not to mention, impressed by her fantastic Lady K blog). A big thank you to Katie for being such a lovely inspiration! She is certainly a blessing.
Anna Claire Howard
Anna Claire Freeman is a southern sweetheart. She grew up in a very small town in southern Georgia, one so small that her sweet grandmother was able to name a street for Anna Claire – it’s called Anna Lane. (Anna Claire jokes it was her claim to fame in high school).
On Anna Lane or anywhere, really – you can find Anna Claire telling stories. Growing up, Anna Claire stayed in the world of books and has continued to stay there. This passion for stories sprouted through watching her loving family interact. She says, “I graduated from Auburn with a degree in English Literature, only knowing that somehow, in some medium, I wanted tell stories and try to make sense of the world.”
Anna Claire’s passion for storytelling is now fueled through photography. She has even created a photography and styling startup called Anna Howard Studios (you can find some of her amazing photographs and styles here). The Atlanta, Georgia community has certainly encouraged Anna Claire, especially in a photography workshop called The Photography Intensive.
Because the two lead photographers were so incredibly encouraging to the “newcomers,” Anna Claire found that their encouragement shown through in her photographs during that day’s photography session. She already wants to pay their kindness forward.
“That is something I hope to give in return someday – encouragement to those just entering into a career in the arts. Encouragement to those that feel they are entering into a giant sea of professionals and perhaps feel slightly overwhelmed by the magnitude or underdeveloped in their talents. One day, I would like to use photography, writing and experience in design to contribute to a lifestyle print or journal of my own,” Anna Claire shares.
Some days, though, being a freelancer isn’t the easiest. “Luckily, I have the privilege of being married to the most insightful and courageous man – Clayton. He understands, oftentimes before I do, when I need a boost of encouragement and is honest enough to let me know when I’m simply being over-dramatic. I can’t thank him enough for the two. And more often than not – the latter.”
It can be easy to compare artists to one another. Nonetheless, Anna Claire takes the positive approach. “I believe, in today’s world, it is important to appreciate others’ work as their work, and completely separate yourself from comparison. I try to set my own weekly mini-goals and a weekly plan-of-action so that I do not feel minimal or sparse in comparison to others’ achievements. The truths of faith and God’s perfect timing has never been more evident in my life, either. I find myself speechless at His arrangements. That, in itself, is all the encouragement I need at the end of the day.”
Isn’t that one of the most beautiful quotes you have ever heard?
Whenever there is a challenge, Anna Claire has found how important it is to admit that we can’t always do it alone. “I am a huge advocate for independent women, but knowing and admitting to ourselves that we are still merely human, I believe, grounds us. And in my experience, staying grounded and humble is key to overcoming most challenges.”
It’s easy to tell where Anna Claire got her inner and outer beauty – her family (and it sounds like her adoring husband Clayton continues to make both her inner and outer beauty shine, too). Anna Claire has a younger brother named Justin, who she says teaches her daily what true kindness and encouragement really mean. “He is one of the gentlest souls I’ve met to date,” she adds. Anna Claire’s parents are entirely generous and full of grace – and polar opposites. “My father, a mysterious musician at heart and my mother, a nurturer with a love for cooking,” she says.
Anna Claire lives her life in such a classy, kind, and beautiful way. “As simple and cliché as it sounds, the most admirable and classy people, I feel, are the most caring. Those who show kindness, daily, towards others.”
As further evidence of Anna Claire’s beautiful soul, she has recently been working with children with disabilities at a local horse park. Could Anna Claire be any more talented or kind?
Can’t get enough of Anna Claire? We can’t either. Remember to check out her website. Look out for Anna Claire’s photography and styling studio to impress you and absolutely brighten and beautify your day, just as Anna Claire brightens and beautifies the world.
Lauren Huefner is one of the most incredible, poised, and truly graceful women you will ever meet. Her inner ballerina and yogi are not only seen on a ballet barre or yoga mat – her inner poise shines in absolutely everything she does.
She grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and started dancing around age four. After enrolling in the School of Cleveland Ballet, Lauren was soon “obsessed.” When the Cleveland Ballet folded in 2000 due to funding issues, Lauren moved to Philadelphia at age 16 where she finished high school at a pre-professional ballet academy. (Yes, Lauren is that good of a dancer!)
“It was a lot like the movie Center Stage,” she explains. “I spent my weekends taking the train to New York City for auditions and spent my summers dancing at the American Ballet Theatre School in lower Manhattan. I guess you could say I grew up fast.
“After high school, I danced as a trainee with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for two years, working through a bad foot injury and struggling to stay as thin as possible. I accepted those challenges head on with physical therapy, extreme diets… you name it.”
Ultimately, Lauren decided to quit ballet, which was the hardest decision she ever made. Nonetheless, she knew it was the right choice. “I finished on a high note with a lead role in Concerto Barocco, a Balanchine ballet. After I hung up the pointe shoes, I decided to pursue my undergraduate degree and to major in finance. To me, that was the next challenge. The business world was so foreign and enticing, and I knew nothing about it. I had to prove to myself that I could do it.”
And she did it! Like Lauren impressed the critical ballerina judges, Lauren gracefully impressed the business world. To date, she works in finance and is considering pursuing her MBA.
Dance has never completely left Lauren’s heart. To channel her passion, Lauren is pursuing a yoga teaching certificate. “Yoga is a natural fit for me and allows me to connect with myself for an hour to unwind and de-stress. I recently completed my Level 1 yoga teacher training course, which was a 200 hour program with a studio called YogaView. It was such an incredible training program. Not only did I learn the basics of yoga postures, meditation, anatomy, and philosophy, I learned a huge deal about myself.”
Lauren has continued to pursue her passions and remain true to herself. “In so many ways, I feel lucky that I found my passion for dance at a very young age,” Lauren shares. “My passion gave me the intense discipline that I have now. It gave me to the courage to fearlessly chase down my dreams. Sometimes the dream changes, and that’s OK. Just get out there, stay positive, and never give up.”
Lauren looks on the bright side, lives with a cute tuxedo cat named Gianni Versace, and lives her life with poise and grace. Lauren is the epitome of a classy lady, and we are grateful to have women like Lauren setting her example in the world.
As Lauren says, “You have to get up every day and choose happiness, choose to keep going, choose to smile. Optimism is the first cousin of love…it shows up where you least expect it.”
Elissa Dactelides will inspire you to be the best version of yourself, to accomplish everything on your to-do list (wait until you see how much she has achieved), to have faith, and to be fearless in reaching for your dreams.
Elissa was born to a Greek-immigrant father and white-American mother (“who was quite a bit younger…go dad!” she says). “I am 1 of 7 children, so you can imagine the stories I could share…I am 1 of 26 cousins on my mother’s side, who have 40+ children and growing…family parties are a bit chaotic, but we love it!”
While spending summers growing up either at the beach club in rural southern Illinois or working on her cousin’s hog farm in North Carolina, Elissa grew up in a south suburb of Chicago and went to less-than-desirable schools (with a rating of 3 on a 10 scale). “I bought my own first car when I was 16 and was determined to succeed,” she explains.
When Elissa was 17, her father was shot in the chest in an attempted robbery at his jewelry store that almost cost him his life. She spent one month praying in the Intensive Care Unit for her father to come out of his coma. “This was one of the most difficult things I’ve endured in my life. When he awakened, I stayed local to help in the family business and went to a local community college in the evenings.”
In relentless pursuit of her dreams and education, Elissa packed her bags after two years and headed to “the big city” of Chicago to finish her bachelor in finance degree. After her undergraduate career, she pursued a career in financial services for a very reputable firm in Chicago (where she would spend the next 10 years).
As an identified top performer in her organization from early on, Elissa was chosen as 1 of 16 high-potential employees to join a leadership-development program that would last two years (and no big deal, Elissa also worked on her MBA at this time). “Over my 10 years with the firm, I had the most amazing work experiences, traveled abroad and learned who I was as a person. I had always had a heightened sense of responsibility since I was a child, but these were really my formative adult years – working two jobs, putting myself through graduate school, buying my first home, volunteering and working abroad over 3 continents…it seems that 10 years truly passed me by without noticing.”
Elissa has since moved to a new firm, with a new challenge for personal and professional growth. “I am learning new things every day, which keeps things interesting!” she says.
She is certainly a learner by nature. With her MBA under her belt, Elissa’s passion for education didn’t stop there. She is an adjunct professor, and she is one of 20 people to have been accepted into a Ph.D. Program (again – Elissa is recognized as a top performer). “Eventually, I would like to write whitepapers, perhaps a book, continue to teach in my (limited) spare time, and continue to learn and grow!”
You may have guessed, Elissa knows a thing or two about balance, but she still calls balance a “tricky thing.” She explains, “I think the key to managing everything that happens in a day is to: 1) Follow your passion – because it won’t feel like work. Figure out what you love to do and get someone to pay you for that work. You will be surprised at what you can accomplish when you follow your passion and knowing you are doing the right thing.
“2) In terms of prioritization – it is extremely helpful to keep a running to-do list on paper because our brains can’t hold all the information we have flowing through it each day in our short-term memory. If the task takes less than 3 minutes, like writing an email or sending a message, then do it in the moment (because it will take longer to write it down on your to-do list than just getting it done). The other key is to be able to set reminders for yourself on your calendar, whether that is in your smartphone or work email, so you don’t miss important dates or time-sensitive actions. Review your to-do list weekly to make sure you’ve covered key priorities, and it sure feels darn good when you can check items off the list and give yourself the reinforcement that you are being productive!”
She adds, “Don’t get too busy trying to make a living that you forget to have a life – be sure to relax and have fun! Work hard and play hard!”
Elissa also has advice for the women who know a thing or two about priorities and want to become leaders. “As young woman seeking leadership advice, the first step is to listen and observe. LISTEN to those around you and for thoughts and ideas that might inspire you with a unique idea. ASK for feedback regularly, from your manager, peers, friends, coaches, teachers – anyone who will give it to you – feedback is a gift, and we should know our strengths and how we can get better.
“OBSERVE other Classy Ladies when you see them, or hear them speak – what are they doing that you would like to do in the future? How do they handle a stressful situation? SEEK mentors and coaches, both men and women – of different levels, that have strengths in the areas that you would like to develop.
“READ books, articles and LEARN as much as you can about the world, your company, the work you do, your family, your friends – and most importantly LEARN about yourself! You can’t begin to lead others until you have a strong sense of who you are, where you are, where you’d like to be, and how you plan to get there! Self-awareness is the most powerful skill to have…because from there, you can go anywhere!”
When Elissa isn’t wow-ing her work world, she is volunteering for organizations that are so dear to her heart. “Generally, my passion for volunteerism is focused on children and education (which is why I am an adjunct professor), as there are so many needs in these areas of our world. Earlier this year, I traveled on a mission trip to Honduras to volunteer at an orphanage through an organization called “All God’s Children”. This was a truly amazing experience to see the joy on the children’s faces to think that a complete stranger would do something so special for them…it was truly a gift to see.”
The American Red Cross for Disaster Relief is also special to Elissa. “I have experienced severe flooding that destroyed my home, and I understand what residents must go through to regain some sense of normalcy.”
She is likewise committed to Alzheimer’s Association, because she lost her grandmother to Alzheimer’s and Dementia. “Every year, my family and I fundraise and do ‘The Walk to End Alzheimer’s” in September/October in memory of my grandmother, Elizabeth Hawley-Smith.”
Elissa has worked abroad and volunteered abroad. She kept her faith while her dad was in a coma and stayed at home for two years to be with her family. Elissa has been identified as a top performer in every aspect of her life. Lucky for us, she has shared her insights and worldly advice. In sum, Elissa is amazing.
In addition to her incredible accomplishments, Elissa is fun. She has climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, eaten tarantulas in Cambodia, and bottle-fed milk to baby tigers in Thailand. (Fun fact: Elissa sneezes when she’s eaten too much.)
You know it, everyone at CFN™ knows it – Elissa wows everyone she meets (we’re in the process of printing Elissa’s advice so we ensure we follow it every day!). Thanks to Elissa for being such an inspiration to classy ladies everywhere.
Chelsea Cooper is a sunshine everyday, outdoor hiking, ocean playing, brunch loving kind of girl. She is so in love with California, and we so love her!
After starting a career in corporate finance after graduating from the University of Michigan, Chelsea realized it just wasn’t for her. After supporting supporting a friend open a barre studio, this friend (who happened to be a Lululemon ambassador at the time) encouraged Chelsea to work for the sportswear empire. She is now the Assistant Manager of the Glendale, CA location (by the way, she made it to assistant manager in only six months!).
“Best decision I ever made! I do a lot of work building community programming for lululemon in LA and really love that side of the company. Building strong brand presence and community within the fitness world is my greatest passion, and that’s what I want to continue doing, hopefully in a larger scale!” Chelsea shares.
Chelsea has found a true passion in her life. “Lululemon…I don’t even know where to begin! The company as a whole is truly a trailblazer in all aspects of the word. From the way we provide design feedback from the stores directly to our designers in Vancouver, to our culture of goal setting, to the way we handle all of our marketing through grassroots initiatives. It’s an incredible place to be an entrepreneur, women or man. If you can dream it and create an action plan, you can make it a reality!”
When Chelsea isn’t inspiring women to be the best version of themselves at Lululemon, you can probably find her in a hot power yoga or SoulCycle class (according to Chelsea, she has a “borderline unhealthy addiction” to these classes). Chelsea also focuses on gaps in the law that make sex trafficking of Eastern European women into Western countries possible. To put it simply, Chelsea is an advocate for women.
“Classy is believing in our power as women to make anything we want possible and our ability to articulate as such. There’s a beautiful class in a strong communication presence, publicly and personally. I believe the world is changed by those blazing new paths (couldn’t escape that one…both of my parents are entrepreneurs) and enrolling those around them in the possibility of what they are creating,” she says.
Chelsea is always game for a good activity and seeing the positives in life. She even believes that nothing is necessarily failure – that it’s just a small bump in the road. “And guess what? You probably learned something about yourself through those bumps. It’s all about your perspective.”
From our perspective, Chelsea Cooper is one fantastic and empowering lady.
Allison English is one of those kind, hilarious women that not only makes you want to race to her class (to make sure you can get a spot because she is such an awesome teacher that her class is often full to capacity) but also makes you have a brighter, yogi-delicious day.
As a Forrest Yoga teacher, Allison teaches private clients, corporate groups, special events, and group classes all over Chicagoland. Not to mention, she just may lead you and your yogi friends on a yoga retreat abroad. “I love teaching yoga and my job as a teacher keeps me constantly growing, learning and on my toes. I get to incorporate everything I love: travel, languages, movement of the body, studying the mind, human nature, healing, and science as they all intersect,” Allison shares. (She also studied the sciences in school. I know what you’re wondering – can Allison do it all? The answer is yes!)
Yoga has been Allison’s passion since her teens. “I started practicing because of a back injury and severe pain – the yoga worked when nothing else seemed to help. Yoga got me out of pain and back into my true Self. I have been practicing ever since.”
The funny part is, Allison never wanted to be a yoga teacher – even when she took teacher training. “I was very curious about learning about why Forrest Yoga felt so healing to me and to get to know my healing journey even further. Taking the month long Forrest Yoga Foundation Teacher Training and them completing over a year of homework was a huge accomplishment for me. It took a lot of intense self-inquiry and discipline to get through all the homework on my own!”
To Allison, the most compelling accomplishment of her practice was learning to breathe deeply and take care of her own energy. She explains, “That is a gift that is still unwinding for me. After teacher training certification, I felt a call to help others experience the empowerment and healing affects of a yoga practice. That is still a call to me every day when I wake up in the morning.”
Now, Allison teaches yoga nearly every day and even leads yoga retreats around the world. In the retreats, yogis can blend travel, yoga, good food, good company, and culture into one experience. And trust me, with Allison, these yogis will have the most fantastic and peaceful time (with at least a few laughs!).
“Another aspect of yoga that I love is that anyone can do it. If you think you can’t, you just haven’t found the teacher or style of practice that works best for you. Keep trying until you resonate with a teacher or a particular type of practice. It’s not about right or wrong ways of practicing – it’s about finding YOUR way of practicing – that’s why there are so many options. Especially if you feel inflexible – yoga is for you!” says Allison.
Of course, Allison runs her life with a wonderfully positive attitude and classy demeanor. “For me, the word classy really relates to the choices we make about how exist in our world. Personally, that means taking care of my body, mind and Spirit while also building community, inspiring others, helping to be a healer of sorts in my community, and caring for the environment around me (whether that is in my product choices or picking up litter in my neighborhood).
“I think it is important for every woman, any age, to go inside and ask the question, ‘What does my Spirit most desire in this moment/life/instance?’ and then to take the risk to go after that. Sometimes out inner wisest self tells us to be an artist and we are a banker – so how do you incorporate artistry into your life if you still need to be a banker so that you can honor the part of you that wants to be an artist?
“These are powerful expressions of Self in action. I stay positive through surrounding myself with great people, through making choices that make my happy, through admitting when something is not working and choosing a different path even if it is hard. I eat well, I move my body a lot, I play with my animals at home, I talk to my neighbors, I breathe deeply, I remind myself every day what a gift my life is even on the hardest of days. All of these little things keep me positive!”
As a yoga expert, a language aficionado, and a chocolate adorer (to Allison, chocolate should be its own food group!), and a lovely, bright (and let’s admit it – super flexible!) woman, Allison English is a woman classy woman that our classy ladies look up to. We look up to her whether we are practicing a yoga move we just don’t know if we can do (and we do the move with Allison’s help), and we look up to her for her beautiful spirit.
Kadie Smith loves to visually share stories (and you just may find her with a cup of coffee while she’s telling them). You will also certainly want Kadie to feature your wedding, and after reading this article, you will want to find a cup of coffee so you can meet Kadie and really get to know what lovely is.
She is a graphic designer and illustrator with deep roots in Alabama and a current home in Texas. She grew up in a “house of brothers” with almost every activity being outdoors. “It’s a wonder that I made the time to spend creating, but drawing and writing have both been therapeutic for me, and design has been a way of making that accessible to others,” Kadie shares.
Family has influenced Kadie in so many ways. Growing up, she was most influenced career-wise by her dad. “[He] continues even now to find new things that he is passionate about and has the drive and determination to follow them through. He has taught me so much about the value of hard work and the importance of being a person of action, rather than just talking about the things you will one day do,” says Kadie.
In her design work with weddings, Kadie has been inspired most by her sweet mom and her commitment to hospitality. “My mom loved all of the details of hosting and making our house warm and welcoming, but I think what’s left the most lasting impression is her investment in people and hearing their stories. She has a way of making people feel at home when maybe they aren’t – which is such a gift.”
Kadie uses her mom’s warm hospitality as an influence in her career. “I like to bring that attitude of hospitality into wedding design – fully investing in the stories and finding ways to anticipate and relieve stress before it happens. So that the process feels natural and exciting and easy.”
In weddings, Kadie finds so much joy in finding ways to tell a couple’s story through design from beginning to end. What is so beautiful is that her parents have inspired her, and this influence has greatly impacted Kadie’s life and career.
When Kadie isn’t designing within the wedding space, she works on a lot of promotional and marketing pieces for some nonprofits and ministries in her area. “To me, this is one of the most rewarding areas of design. I think in part it is because I am a visual communicator, and coming alongside a cause produces the kind of story and impact that makes the design process so much easier, but also because I am able to see the impact of good design on these organizations. I love coming alongside and working to improve their reach and see how exciting visual storytelling can be.”
Kadie lives her life with such a positive and wonderful demeanor, and she makes the choice to stay positive. “I think being positive is such an intentional decision. Much of creating involves self-expression, and it can become draining and discouraging in a way that really makes you question your reason for putting yourself out there every day. One of the biggest ways I stay positive is by investing in the community of creatives around me. We are all going on this journey that can sometimes feel like a dead end, but it’s people that bring me back to my reason for creating.”
She elaborates, “I also think surrounding yourself with truth is key to maintaining your message. It’s so easy to start comparing yourself to others with the amazingly talented people out there and the easy access we have through social media, but I have never felt more affirmation from the Lord than in this season walking on this path. And I constantly remind myself of that.”
One day, Kadie may pick up and move whenever the mood strikes – “over and over again, until I’ve seen much of the world,” she says.
Of course, this would probably entail getting on a plane, which has brought Kadie a great love. “I met my boyfriend of three years on a plane. True story, we were seated next to each other coming back from different parts of the world and connected over our love of travel and music and the dreams we had for life. We left with nothing but a first name, but thanks to Facebook and my conservative Southern grandmother, we went on our first date 4 months later, and now are doing life in Texas!”
While Kadie sees weddings, a loving home, and her grandparents’ goat farm in Alabama (where they care for many, many animals “that have really just become pets”), Kadie has also learned about different journeys people face. “The world is full of people who are battling the same kind of issues you are. That the woman who is struggling to provide for her family in a third world country still battles the same feelings of frustration and restlessness and loneliness and love. The circumstances may look different, but the battles are the same,” she believes.
Kadie intentionally chooses to be happy, authentic, and classy. She’s absolutely darling (I mean seriously, look at the picture she sent), and we thank Kadie for setting such a fantastic example for classy ladies everywhere.
Cristina De Guia
Cristina De Guia is a first generation American that was born and raised in Illinois. She is a self-described blissful resident of Lincoln Park in Chicago, with global interests and a heart in the Midwest.
Art and storytelling have always been staple nutrients in Cristina’s life. She developed a deep passion of drawing and retelling stories at an early age. “This developed into a deeper obsession, one sanctioned by society, known as a college major,” Cristina shares. “Leading creative writing lessons in the mountains of New Mexico. Check. Curating shows at civic centers. Check. Guiding tours through museums. Check. Certification to teach art in Illinois schools. Check!”
After college, Cristina found the best place for her to channel her passion for arts, creativity, and beauty at The Joffrey Ballet. “It is a truly fulfilling experience. Being in an environment of breathtaking dance performances, impactful community and educational programming, and remarkable people who commit to a growing vision provides much meaning to the work that I do,” says Cristina.
Cristina believes that it is a privilege to be at an organization that makes storytelling so easy and so fun! (She believes in Aristotle’s quote: “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.” Cristina’s response? “So, where was Aristotle when I was frantically applying for jobs right out of college, trying to find my place in life?” It looks like he was right near her!)
While Cristina has a beautiful passion for her job and the arts, she acknowledges that some days, it can be difficult to roll out of bed, but these days help define who you are. “Character is defined by your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything. I like to remind myself of this. Every day.”
Cristina elaborates: “Some days, I pop out of bed with glittering eyes, ready to embrace the world. Those are just some days. Many other days, a little self-coaching is required. My unbeatable morning pep talk usually entails counting my blessings, deep breaths on repeat, and some permutation of reciting Kelly Clarkson lyrics (Carol King, on days I need to really dig deep). Laughing (many times, at myself!) has certainly proven to be my most treasured feel-good ritual. Sharing a good laugh – a really superb laugh that equally works my abs and my tear ducts – is essential to my survival.”
When our classy ladies face challenges bigger than getting out of bed, Cristina believes we need to remind ourselves that every moment in your life, no matter how seemingly insignificant or monumental, has prepared us for this challenge. “When facing adversity, don’t compromise yourself or your standards. You are you. You are tough. At the end of this challenge, there will be another obstacle waiting for you. Take this experience and put it in your bag of tricks. You will still be you, but a better you. No pressure. No diamonds,” Cristina says.
Classy ladies, you are tough! Take Cristina’s words to heart, keep Aristotle in your back pocket, and know you can get through anything. A big thank you to Cristina for always seeing the beauty in the world and for being such a classy lady!
Lauren Fondriest’s philosophy is to make others feel better after spending time with her and to approach life with a positive spirit. Lauren is also quite positive about her love for her city – Chicago.
After growing up in the Chicago suburbs and moving to Nashville for college (“If you haven’t visited yet, you must get to Nashville!” Lauren says), Lauren returned to Chicago after graduation to be near friends and family.
“I love living in Chicago, having resided in Lincoln Park, Gold Coast and River North. My perfect day involves getting outside and exploring the city – a passion that I turned into something more when I decided to share that excitement for Chicago through a website,” Lauren shares.
In January 2014, Lauren launched The Chicago Lifestyle as a website to ignite a passion for Chicago in locals and visitors alike. To Lauren, The Chicago Lifestyle is an inside source to the fun, unique and novel things to do in Chicago.
“The idea is to bring like-minded people together online and someday in person. I would love to have an event that draws in the readers of The Chicago Lifestyle to a party where they can experience a great Chicago venue, make new connections, learn more about the city and possibly support a charity at the same time!”
Readers of The Chicago Lifestyle can find experiences of events, concerts, restaurants, and other businesses. Featuring food, drinks, fitness, entertainment, volunteering and more, The Chicago Lifestyle provides a view into all the fun things that make up a great lifestyle for those lucky enough to live in (or visit!) Chicago.
Lauren absolutely loves her city. “Chicago offers an incredible array of food, culture, music and more that keeps you coming back for yet another great experience. It’s important to me to share that passion with not only my network but also an ever growing following on the website,” she says.
Starting the website has encouraged Lauren to dream bigger than she ever did before. “I am overwhelmed at the possibilities, the opportunities and the cool things that have come into my life since I started The Chicago Lifestyle. From joining a community of amazing bloggers in the Windy City Blogger Collective to meeting Chicago’s young influencers in Glappitnova, I’m realizing that Chicago has so many incredible people that I need to meet,” says Lauren.
“With ambition comes hard work, and it’s important to stay positive (and stay true to my personal philosophies)! Life is about creating good things for yourself. They may not always come to you, so go out and find them. When life gets me down, I focus on the good things that surround me.”
When she is not sharing good with others in her personal life, Lauren is sharing good with others at work. She works in the Change Management field, which helps employees adjust to transformations in the workplace. “I love working with teams that inspire everyone’s growth and development and have fun doing it,” adds Lauren.
Of course, while Lauren is exploring Chicago, participating in the blogging community, and improving employees’ lives, Lauren is classy the entire way. To Lauren, “Staying classy means taking a positive outlook on life, respecting those around you and putting your best foot forward to approach what you love. Remember those good things that surround you? Take care of them and grow them stronger. Find the things to celebrate about, and celebrate often! Don’t forget the champagne!”
Cheers to that, Lauren!
Chelsea Stevenson is one of the loveliest people you will ever meet (whenever I am lucky enough to catch up with her, I instantly conjure up images of Lily Pulitzer and happiness). Chelsea is bright in all the ways bright means – she is happy, positive, and she is smart!
After graduating last summer from Washington and Lee University, Chelsea has pursued a career in financial journalism in New York City. After working for a year writing about the private equity market in North America and Latin America, Chelsea is now the editor of a news website that focuses on the secondaries market of private equity, real estate and infrastructure. “It’s okay if you don’t know what the secondaries market is!” she says.
“Both jobs have been with a London-based media company called PEI, which I joined with the hopes of covering international business. Someday, I hope to work as a foreign correspondent and use my French language skills to report on international economies and affairs.”
The best part is, Chelsea started her job last year not knowing anything about private equity. “During the past 15 months, I have learned more than I could have imagined. A lot of what I’ve learned has come from people who have worked in the private equity market for 20 or 30 plus years. I spend a lot of time on the phone or in meetings with people in private equity all over the world,” Chelsea explains.
Chelsea proves that if classy ladies put their mind to something, they can achieve anything. “I never would have expected to be running a website one year out of school, but I’m so grateful for the opportunity. I’m also very grateful to be working in New York City where I have developed a network of other financial journalists and am open to an endless number of other journalism opportunities,” Chelsea shares.
She is also one of the bravest ladies out there. Chelsea ventured to NYC, arguably one of the toughest cities in the world, she writes with such expertise on an area she began to learn about 15 months ago, and she even traveled to Bogotá, Colombia for five days by herself last fall!
Chelsea is always open to opportunity and is fearless while pursuing her dreams. Her confidence and class are only two of Chelsea’s amazing characteristics, and the best part is, she wants to share this insight with you.
“The best advice I can give is to be confident in yourself and to be independent. I moved to New York with a lot of friends and realized it’s easy to get caught up in the crowd and what everyone else is doing. Be confident in your decisions, and don’t be afraid to try new things,” Chelsea advises.
For those ladies interest in pursuing a career in journalism, Chelsea has thoughts on that, too. “I advise you to not be afraid to try something new. As mentioned, I couldn’t define private equity last year, so don’t hesitate to report on a new subject-area. You can teach someone about a specific subject, but teaching someone to write is much harder.”
While accomplishing her dreams, Chelsea lives life with a positive attitude, an impressive determination to learn, and a love of New York. “I find myself trying a lot of restaurants (always happy to give suggestions!) and seeing new art exhibits, whenever I can. During the summer, I’ve spent my time at a house in the Hamptons with my friends, which has of course made me miss the city but has given me a nice escape!”
On top of all of this, Chelsea says, “I always miss my family who still lives in Chicago, my sister in upstate New York and of course my boyfriend, who actually lives three hours away! I’m not sure how long I’ll stay in New York, I would love to work abroad or live in another city with more outdoor running space (Central Park isn’t enough!) but I’m open to opportunities.”
Chelsea is a talented writer, an opportunity seizer, and an absolutely wonderful classy lady.
Korina Kushnir is one of those lovely, fabulous ladies you meet that you instantly want to get to know so you can be fabulous with her.
Korina was born in Russia, but her parents came to New York with her when she was only eight months old. “So, I consider myself a New Yorker at heart,” she says. “I went to NYU and am now currently living in NYC where I work in business development for a start up called Manicube. I see myself staying in New York and plan on applying to Law School at some point in the foreseeable future.”
To Korina, her family has never really been “rooted” in the traditional sense. From living in Russia to New York to Paris, Korina has been exposed to different experiences and cultures from a very young age. She wouldn’t have it any other way. “Everywhere I have lived, traveled, or studied has shaped me into the person I am today. I believe that travel is one of the most important things that you can do in life, and I definitely encourage others to do it,” she says.
Travel has allowed Korina to meet the most amazing people from many different cultures, see some pretty amazing sights, taste some of the most delicious food, and experience the sense of thrill from encountering and doing things that are completely new to her. “Travel makes you appreciate change and diversity. Travel makes you feel alive and makes you more open minded, not to just people but your surroundings and environment. One of my favorite traveling memories is hiking up the mountains of Madeira, an island off of Portugal. My family and I were caught in a heavy rainstorm amid large eucalyptus trees in a local village, and it was just breathtaking, and admittedly pretty hilarious,” she says.
Taking Korina’s advice, I traveled and briefly moved to New York. While there, Korina was always wonderfully welcoming. She introduced me to her friends, invited me to her (amazing) birthday party, and helped me feel very included.
At CFN™, we truly think Korina embodies a classy woman. “I like to think that being classy is all about having confidence in yourself – something that I believe you build over time in many different ways.”
Women everywhere can look up to Korina and appreciate her ballerina-like grace, her effortless poise, and her zest for travel and self-improvement. “The advice I have for young women is to try and better yourself everyday, whatever that may mean to you. Be truly interested and engaged. I also encourage young women to be humble, polite, and considerate. It’s not out of style to be lady-like and feminine! Be comfortable spending time alone, and learn to enjoy your own company. Finally, take time for your family and close ones, they are the most important people in your life and generally help you stay grounded!”
Korina has also found sports to be influential in her life. She played competitive tennis in high school, which taught her discipline and how to organize herself. She adds, “I think that tennis also taught me how to push through when things get tough, but it also gave me a healthy dose of reality. I realized that I was not always going to be the best at everything, and sometimes there are people who are just better than you. It also obviously helped me stay in shape and gave me a competitive edge!”
Korina is a fabulous, stylish, classy woman who embodies a positive attitude and eagerness to live life to the fullest that we so admire.
Becky Hammon has just become the first female assistant and full-time coach on the NBA’s payroll. But just because coaches watch from the sidelines doesn’t mean Becky has been on the sidelines all her life – she is a star player in her own right.
The 5-foot-6 point guard developed a passion for basketball early. In high school, college coaches told her she would never make it to the next level. She proved them all wrong after playing on Colorado State’s women’s basketball team. She is known as a “prolific scorer”, and she set many Colorado State all-time records (including scoring over 2,740 points in her career).
Still not impressed? Becky kept going. She even coached in the Beijing Olympics on Russia’s team (as she is a naturalized Russian citizen). She also ended up playing basketball on the San Antonio Stars’ WNBA team, where she currently still plays and will play until her coaching job starts.
Becky is further propelling women’s name in basketball. Becky has achieved this through always working exceptionally hard and never giving up. She doesn’t attribute her new job to the fact that she’s a woman – just hard work.
“As cool as it is, this is just the fact that this is basketball,” she said. “There are women that have trail-blazed much bigger paths. And really, trail-blazed the path for things like this to happen. There are a lot more important things going on in the bigger (picture),” Becky says.
We think that is quite classy.
Serena Sparacino is a self-described “sunshine kind of gal” because she has spent most of her life in sunny states. We think she’s a sunshine kind of gal because she has one of the sunniest personalities you will ever meet. Serena Sparacino is just like sunshine.
Serena was born into an Italian family in South Carolina, but they soon moved to Arizona, where Serena has spent most of her life. “We are all very close,” she says. “My siblings are my best friends.” Despite one sibling in Virgina, and two in Tuscon, “I make it a priority to see my family as much as possible,” Serena says.
After looking to further her career in banking, Serena took a brave step and moved from sunny Arizona to the Windy City of Chicago. “It’s strange because looking back, it was almost like I was pointed in this destined direction. The decision never felt daunting or overwhelming – it just felt like a natural fit. It was more of an intuitive feeling and knowing that the move was right for me and was meant to be in the next chapter of my life.”
The move taught Serena that it is essential to be flexible in today’s world and to be open to other opportunities. It also taught this family-loving girl about living outside her comfort zone. “It forced me to become even more independent and self-reliant; however, I also quickly made many amazing friends that have become like family to me,” Serena smiles.
Serena believes happiness is a choice. “I try to surround myself with positive, inspirational people. A mentor of mine once shared with me the following advice (likely more eloquently), which is to think about life as a game of tennis and always choose partners that are better than you, because how else do you improve and grow? It seems very simple, but I think who you surround yourself with has such a profound impact on your life and outlook.”
Our classy lady takes steps each day to choose happiness. “I started practicing meditation this spring which has helped me practice awareness, gratitude, and being fully present in the moment. I also am a big fan of most positive, motivational books, including anything written by Joel Osteen or Wayne Dyer. I am also currently reading the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.”
What else makes Serena happy? Travel! When Serena’s close friend from high school came into town, they recalled their six-week backpacking trip through Europe. “It was the most amazing, eye opening experience. It definitely sparked my passion for travel and for exploring the world.” Serena’s all-time favorite trip was a trip she took with her two sisters and mom to the Amalfi Coast. “We had such a fantastic time eating and drinking our way through Italy. I have always preferred to spend my discretionary income on experiences as it is a gift that lasts a lifetime,” Serena adds.
Truly, Serena is one of the classiest people you will ever meet. She chooses happiness every day. You can always find Serena with a smile on her face, emulating sunshine like the sunny city she came from.
Lindsay Miller-Jones Anderson
Lindsay has started her own company, has lived abroad, and has matched over 100 couples (you could be next!).
After growing up all over (with stints in Maryland, London, Atlanta, St. Louis, NYC, and more!), Lindsay returned to Chicago. After taking a scuba diving certification class, Lindsay met her amazing husband. “He’s the ying to my yang, my chief supporter, true partner in everything and, in my line of work, I think it’s important to be in a happy and healthy relationship since that’s what I teach to my clients!” Lindsay says.
Lindsay’s work is all about relationships and helping people. While she completely fell into matchmaking by accident (she called It’s Just Lunch, and the owner was so impressed with Lindsay that Lindsay was immediately hired as a Director!), Lindsay has successfully matched over 100 couples. One woman sent Lindsay a note saying she’s been happily married for ten years thanks to Lindsay’s matchmaking skills (talk about a rewarding career).
In addition to matching, Lindsay has been drawn to coaching women after working with a Life Coach. “What appealed to me the most about coaching is that it’s really about making good choices that help move you forward in life. There is limited focus on the past, which you can’t change, and it’s all about thinking positively and setting goals to achieve your dreams.” We love that Lindsay helps women stay positive.
After obtaining her Life Coach certification, Lindsay started her own company to empower women to attract the right relationship. Soon after she joined forces with Bela Gandhi, the founder of Smart Dating Academy, and the two became an unstoppable combination.
At Smart Dating Academy, clients are taught how to date smart so they can find love and get married (sign me up, please!). “When you think about it, no one is taught how to date. In school, there were no classes that taught you how to pick the right partner or what really makes you happy. So many, many singles view dating with the wrong set of glasses/lenses,” Lindsay says. Smart Dating Academy helps clients put the right set of glasses on so ladies everywhere can find their Mr. Right.
Need some dating tips? More are highlighted in today’s Column, but Lindsay shares her first bit of advice: “If he seems like a good guy, but you aren’t sure if the attraction is there or if you have anything in common, go out with him again! He will come to you in a very unexpected package so give things a chance to grow.”
When Lindsay isn’t working, she’s a mom to three beautiful children, the VP of Membership for the Junior League of Chicago, and she’s on the host committee that is launching the 606 (Chicago’s version of NYC’s Highline). She’s also an active tennis player, obsessed with Shred Fitness, and enjoys yoga to keep her centered.
We love Lindsay’s active lifestyle and her positive approach on dating and on life. “Successful dating begins and ends in your mind. Stay positive and hopeful above anything else! I believe in love. I believe there is someone out there for everyone. I believe you will find love. It’s just a matter of being open and making room in your life for the right person. Let go of the guys who are bad for you because they are taking up space!” Lindsay advises.
At CFN™, we believe in love, too. We also believe in women like Lindsay who rock the world with their bravery (go Lindsay for starting her own business!), their kindness, and their belief in true love.
Sanjana Das may audit your company one day, but she also might drop off something sweet on your doorstep “just because”.
Sanjana was born in India and has spent most of her life in the US. She’s lived in North Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, but she doesn’t call herself a southern belle. After living in Chicago, Sanjana turned to the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University (where she majored in accounting and finance). She now works as an auditor for Ernst & Young (talk about a numbers girl!) in Chicago.
As much as Sanjana loves audit, she wants to pursue something entrepreneurial. She would love to open a store (which she calls “A Touch of Sweetness”, which would be written in pink, cursive letters, of course!) that specializes in small, hand-made, inexpensive “just because” gift deliveries. “I just hope I can do something that makes people smile – something I don’t get to see a lot as an auditor!”
While there may not be too many smiles while auditing (but who could not smile at Sanjana, even while she is auditing?), Sanjana makes people smile in her life. She is a huge fan of “just because” gifts and is still known to drop off small gifts at her friends’ apartments to brighten their day. She has been a giver her whole life – at three years old, she was already giving away Barney CDs and Barbies’ to other children “without my mom’s consent,” Sanjana adds.
Sanjana’s special way of treating her friends and celebrating life has led her to very strong relationships with everyone around her. There is one special friendship that Sanjana highlights:
“It all began with the most classless of incidents. My current roommate, fellow class lady Elina Feldman, and I watched as a girl pour an entire milkshake on the head of one of the infamous, popular seventh grade girls. We bonded over that incident and are still the best friends to this day. There are times find ourselves strolling down Michigan Avenue, laughing at the strange, but fabulous path life has brought us down since that day.”
As Sanjana says, life certainly can be strange but fabulous, and Sanjana makes the most of it. She’s a self-described “nerd” who speaks Bengali, English, and conversational Spanish. Growing up, you may have found her on the ice rink, as she was an avid figure skater. On top of that, she can cook you anything from cookies to crepes to fish in papillote (Sanjana, those crepes sound especially delicious on this Friday morning…)!
Our classy lady goes through life living by the golden rule. “That’s what class is to me, being considerate and respectful of others and keeping others’ feelings and needs in mind, regardless of what the easy path is or what others tell you to do,” she says. “I’m a firm believer that kindness can change the world!”
Whenever Sanjana sees a challenge, she approaches it with kindness and a positive attitude. “I’m an anxious perfectionist, so I always need to remind myself to focus on the present, forget the past, and look forward to the future, instead of trying to analyze everything. Life can seem daunting if you try to plan out every second of the next fifty years, although, ideally, I would love to do that. I just try to lead life in the corniest way possible and love all of those cheesy, inspirational quotes!”
This approach makes her appreciate life (that is both strange and fabulous) and especially her family. “My mom, dad, and sister are the only family members I have in the U.S. I get the chance to see the rest of my family about once every three years. When I do get to see them, I try to get the most of the experience. It’s really taught me how important friends and family are and how precious time is. I’m going to India this October, and I’m super excited to see my whole family after so long!”
Sanjana, you are lovely from the inside out. Thank you for being an inspiration to classy ladies everywhere, and we look forward to the launch of your “just because” store!
Colleen Sprague has a beautiful view on life, and we can’t wait to share it with you.
Colleen was born in Edina, Minnesota, and while still very young, her family (which includes an older sister and two older brothers) moved to Bloomington, Illinois. When the college decision came around, Colleen chose the University of Kansas and, as she says, “I became a proud and loyal Jayhawk!”
After college graduation and moving to Chicago, Colleen explored several career opportunities from working in sales at Groupon and in recruiting. “I believe in today’s job market for young professionals, it takes a few jobs to find the one you will call your ‘career.’ I am so grateful for the other two jobs I had because it landed me at my current job, and I couldn’t be happier. By working in these jobs, it made me realize my true passion was to work in a non-profit organization. I was so fortunate to become part of one of these companies!”
Colleen now works for the Big Shoulders Fund, an organization that provides support to Catholic schools in the neediest areas of inner city Chicago. “People ask me all the time why I would leave corporate America to work for a non-profit and all I tell them, ‘I wanted to be able to give back the way people gave to me my entire life.’”
To Colleen, there is a sense of family is small nonprofits, which is rarity in today workplace. “I was told upon interviewing for my position that ‘to wake up each morning and go to a job you love is such a gift’. I have been given that gift at Big Shoulders.”
Big Shoulders certainly benefits from Colleen’s positive attitude and determination to give back. The city of Chicago also benefits from Colleen’s positive attitude, as she absolutely loves the city. “I have met wonderful people, made countless new friends, am only a couple of hours from my family, and I love my job. Chicago is a perfect place for people my age who are looking for challenging job opportunities, friendly, decent people, amazing restaurants, exciting sports teams, unparalleled nightlife, countless outdoor activities, and of course, great shopping!”
While Chicago is the place Colleen calls home right now, she is eager to travel and experience all that she can. “However, in the midst of all my plans, I do want to get married one day and have children. For now, I love the fact that I can enjoy myself and have a great time with friends, work at a job that inspires me daily and live by the motto, ‘Live each day to the fullest!’”
In addition to living life to the fullest, Colleen has a wonderful reminder for ladies everywhere:
“I believe to be classy in today’s world, you have to be true to yourself and always treat other people the way you want to be treated. It seems like such a simple concept, but you have to be aware of every word you say, how you handle yourself in certain situations, and put yourself in others shoes before you pass judgment. All these lessons have come to me through difficult and wonderful life experiences I have had. I grew up hearing ‘kindness kills’, and I have realized how kindness can take the sting out of most bad situations. Even when kindness is not reciprocated, I try to remember it does not matter. That is not what is important.
“We all know that the world is filled with suffering and hurt. Tough times can test our patience, our faith, and take us to places that are so very difficult. But what I have realized is getting through these times only makes us stronger, more grateful and empathic to others. When I was 16, my world completely turned upside down due to a family illness. I try to choose hope instead of despair, love instead of unkindness, and live each day so grateful for all the blessings I have been given. It’s amazing how much more obvious all your blessings become when you are faced with tough times. I am one very lucky lady!”
Colleen, we are lucky to have you on CFN™!
Marian Trella knows how to work a room, how to live abroad, and how to be a classy lady while knowing how to be “one of the guys”. In sum, Marian is amazing.
After being born in raised in the suburbs of Chicago and living in Milwaukee after college, Marian has returned to Chicago. However, her life in consulting has led her to travel weekly for work, and she currently is in DC for a project, where she likely will be for the rest of the year. “I feel I am very blessed to have landed the job I have and have worked with such amazing people so far – work doesn’t even feel like work and that is what I love about it!” Marian says.
In the future, Marian hopes to do an expatriate assignment abroad because she feels it is important to have a global view in today’s business world. Marian has already begun learning about international business, as she has spent time abroad in Beijing, China and Helsinki, Finland.
“Beijing intrigued me as China’s economy was growing at a rapid pace and becoming an international leader in business. I knew it would be important and valuable to study in a country like this. I had amazing experiences indulging myself in their culture and learned a lot about the opportunities and challenges of doing business in China,” Marian says.
Marian also took an Economics of Innovation course in Helsinki, Finland. “It was another unforgettable experience living in their culture, learning about what drives innovation, and touring companies like Nokia to learn how they were staying competitive in the market.”
Marian’s global experiences have educated her on international business and have helped her become a more well rounded person. She believes these experiences have certainly positively impacted her work-life.
Marian makes every effort to set herself apart and to succeed in business. In her years in the business world, though, she believes that are still struggles for women in business. “As I work in a male predominant industry and career, I notice some of the struggles women go through. I believe women need to be strong and show confidence in the work place. I feel sometimes women are too afraid to be powerful and outspoken as the norm for women is to be sweet and delicate.”
Marian’s advice to women on this? “I believe more often than not, men appreciate women who are confident and who are not afraid to speak what is on their mind. I believe it is very important to establish yourself as a powerful woman, who is not afraid to speak-up, and who is creditable.”
While being a confident, fearless woman, Marian reminds us to not take everything so seriously, either. “You need to have a balance of seriousness but also a balance of having fun and showing your character. I think this has helped me to establish myself in my teams as they have been almost all men and my clients have been predominantly men. You need to know how to be ‘one of the guys’ by letting lose sometimes but also maintaining your composure and confidence.”
When Marian isn’t traveling abroad, working across the country, or sharing her career advice, Marian is an active volunteer. “As I am someone who went through the Foster Care System for 5 years and was very lucky to have been adopted by a loving and caring family when I was 10 years old, the Foster Care System and Adoption System are very dear to my heart. I volunteer with many agencies that help to put on afterschool programs or weekend mentor programs for kids in these situations.
“I feel that since I have gone through this myself, I can relate to them better than anyone. This is my responsibility to remember where I came from, where I am now, and how I can give back knowing my past and the struggles kids face in these systems. The best feeling in the world is knowing you made a difference in a kid’s life who doesn’t have much control over it now but you gave them hope and love in which they probably don’t receive much of in their everyday lives,” Marian says.
Marian’s powerful story, impressive attitude, and self-confidence inspire women to be the best version of their classy selves.
“Being classy to me is being a strong confident person who is not following the crowd but leading it. I believe being classy is being confident in yourself and not being afraid of doing things on your own. You aren’t afraid of change but you know your own personal limits. You don’t have to be worried about what others are thinking of you and you are living life to your fullest with no fears or regrets. You understand things happen for a reason and have an understanding of what others may be going through. Putting all of this together, you make a lasting impression on the people around you and the people you meet each day.”
Marian has certainly made a lasting impression on us, and we are thrilled Marian is today’s Classy Lady.
Gaby is a stunning entrepreneur and photographer who will capture your most precious moments. Not only will her pictures make you smile, but she will, too!
As an Indianapolis native, Gaby “jumped” into starting her own photography business when she moved back to Indianapolis after earning her BFA. “Since then, I have had the honor of photographing for beautiful families (new and familiar), volunteering and photographing for Indianapolis’ fashion organization/magazine, Pattern, and photographing Timmy Global Health in action in Ecuador,” Gaby says.
You heard right – Gaby does just about everything from volunteering to capturing moments, and she even bought a home last year. “I am so excited to grow with our city,” she says.
Gaby’s photographic passions have been with her for her entire life. “Even when I was very young, I would spend my weekends making clothes for my barbies out of my frilly socks. As soon as I was old enough, I always had a camera.”
When Gaby debated which career path to pursue, her volunteer work inspired her. Through her work with Timmy Global Health, she went on a volunteer trip in high school and realized photography was what she needed to do. “From there, I realized that photography was a means to tell all sorts of stories, big and small. I absolutely fell in love with the idea of pausing emotion,” she says.
Gaby has been capturing the emotion with Timmy Global Health since she was nine years old. She hosted fundraisers through her Girl Scout troop and collected donations before she had even lived a decade. “When I finally got the opportunity to take a trip to Ecuador with Timmy, I knew that I was forever dedicated. At Indiana University, (which already had a very strong Timmy chapter in place), I immediately jumped in as the fundraising chair and organized the first Timmypalooza.”
This philanthropic passion has continued to stay with Gaby. Since college, “I happened to move right down the street from the Timmy headquarters and have documented Timmy events, our partners in Ecuador, and much more. Timmy and the incredible people that I have met through participating in it have completely shaped my life as it is today.”
In addition to Gaby’s many talents, she runs her own business, which she calls “quite an adventure.” While still finishing her degree, Gaby would take freelance jobs (weddings, family portraits, etc) here and there, so when her time was finally freed up, she was able to “jump right in” from her previous client referrals. “I feel VERY fortunate for this. The first couple of years weren’t easy. I don’t think I could have just jumped in the way I did without returning to Indy – it is such a fantastic place to start a business because everyone here is so supportive.”
There are many days that Gaby doesn’t stop working from 7am to 11pm but, most days, Gaby says it’s worth it. “I will say, for those of you thinking of starting your own business, it is not as glamorous as it looks. You are EVERYTHING. I am still really working on how to separate my life from my business…when to work and when to relax. It is really difficult, but the return is totally worth it.”
Gaby has followed her passions and her heart. “I have found that my love really lies in capturing moments that mean a lot to people and their families. I feel very lucky that I get to photograph so many types of shoots to keep things fresh and interesting but even more honored that people put their faith in my to save their most special moments in time for them. There is nothing like being able to share the excitement about special moments with my clients.”
Gaby is a self-described Spice Girls fan and a “total cat lady” (but she has a puppy now, too!). She has accomplished so much in her life, and we are absolutely thrilled to feature such a wonderful woman as today’s Classy Lady.
Alexandra (Alex) Maurer
Alex Maurer loves books.
After majoring in English Literature, Alex is now in New York City working at Penguin Group, a division of Penguin Random House. She has been in publishing in some form or another since she was 18. “I love books, so clearly that is what is consuming my life, and I can’t see that changing in the immediate future. I love learning, talking about new books about to be published, what author I’m binge reading or getting ready to meet at a publicity event or book fair. I would love to take this love international and live/work abroad. That would be in my five year plan for sure.”
Books have always been an integral part of Alex’s life. “My mom tells me I would sit in my little rocking chair and read to myself aimlessly choosing random words or remembering a book she had read the night before. She said I could occupy myself for hours just mumbling the words and flipping pages. Not much has changed, and much to my sister (and roommate’s!) chagrin, I still tell her we need to play the silent game so I can have a few hours peace and get lost in a book.”
Need a book tip? Alex can get that for you. “I read almost anything and everything. I read it all: young adult, children’s picture books, big best-selling crime writers, thrillers, paranormal, romance, urban fantasy, non-fiction, you name it. You will honestly never catch me without a book or my Kindle. I still prefer the physical weight of a ‘real’ book in my hands, but I am currently obsessed with the Outlander series and Diana Gabaldon’s books are around 800+ pages so a Kindle comes in handy.
“Books have always been an escape for me. There is a quote from C.S. Lewis I have framed in my bedroom that says, ‘We read to know we are not alone.’ I love it. Reading relaxes me, calms my thoughts, and it takes me anywhere I want to go. And it has become a community for me. My love of reading has translated well to working in a publishing company and finding people who love it just as much as I do.
“With books, the topics of conversation are endless. Did you read the Sheryl Sandberg book called LEAN IN? How are you responding to it as a female in the workplace? Or have you read the Sookie Stackhouse books, the final season of True Blood just started. Or what about THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green? It is a young adult book dealing with teenagers with serious health issues, but it is about love and being content with who you are and what you will leave behind. Maybe the new Hillary Clinton book is up your alley or Tana French’s Irish thrillers? You can talk to the politico, the romantic, the young at heart, or the more introverted soul. You can be sitting on a crowded subway train at 8:00 AM, but someone asks if you are liking GONE GIRL as you finish the last chapter. In a city where people are so isolated, I have had so many conversations and new friendships over what book I am currently reading or plan on reading. It is amazing.”
To make these literary dreams come true, Alex had to make a tough decision. She moved from Indiana to New York City. “I had always wanted to live in New York and work in publishing so it was just a matter of ‘when.’ It was a daunting task and I was lucky to have my family support me all of the way. My little sister was in NYC for an exchange abroad year at FIT and she looked at my apartment for me and met my future roommate on my behalf. I said yes to a tiny, expensive apartment from 800+ miles away without ever stepping foot in it.”
The move certainly didn’t come without challenges. “In the process, they lost my truck, and I was stuck in the city without furniture or clothes for almost a week. I got to where the same few outfits to my new job for the first few days and wondering if my things would ever be found again! It finally came, but that was an extremely hard week. New job, new apartment, new roommate, no family, and none of my stuff that came from my ‘old’ life. But everything worked out, and I’ve been in the same apartment since. And talking to anyone who lives here, you will know being in the same apartment for almost 3 years straight is rare.
“My sister moved in with me last summer, and we have really made the place great. I won’t leave until I leave the city. NYC in general is an amazing, daunting, exciting, terrifying place. It is the definition of dichotomy. And that is what is so great and so hard about it. I think everyone in their lives should live here for at least a year. It teaches you so much about work-life balance, humanity as a whole, and most importantly yourself.”
Alex believes she is very different after these three years, and to Alex, it’s good. “I know what I like to do and what I don’t like to do. I know where I want to go and where I don’t. I’ve discovered who I want in my life and who doesn’t work anymore. NYC gives you confidence and independence. It builds your backbone even if it breaks it down at the first. You meet so many kinds of people, but you also meet your best self. After this move, nothing seems scary and that has opened up so many more possibilities for me than staying at home could have done.”
Living in New York has definitely taught Alex about challenges and how to conquer them. “My advice to everyone (myself included) is to not internalize it too much. If the challenge is work-related, remember it is just a job. While the paycheck is amazing and it allows us to live the lives we have outside of the office, there is another one somewhere and your co-workers, title, and manager do not define you. If it is personal, make sure you take care of yourself mentally so you can handle those challenges be it significant other or friends.
“But I tell myself to breathe, try to look at the issue from every angle and vantage point. What could go wrong? But most importantly, what could go right if I am able to jump this hurdle? Boiling it all down, my advice is to always maintain your cool even if someone upsets you. Emotional responses tend to lead to more problems than necessary so try to come at the challenge analytically. And talk to someone. Don’t carry every burden by yourself, because even Atlas got tired. Or so I like to think. And do yoga!”
As you can probably guess, we think Alex is one of the classiest girls around. Alex shares what being classy means to her – “I think many girls misinterpret classy as being a great set of pearls, the perfect dress, feminine power suit, or structured handbag. When I think of the word classy, I believe it to mean the young girl working at an office, saving every penny to go and travel and experience the world with a zest for knowledge and growth. I see it as my yoga instructor going to Nairobi to teach and pass on the fundamental principles of the practice. I believe it to mean being kind, polite, fair, honest, humble, and gracious.”
Classy in NYC? “In New York City especially, you can see someone walking down the street in a fantastic outfit, with a great bag, and getting out of a town car, but this does not mean she is classy. More often than not the ones I have found who embody this sentiment in totality are the ones in jeans and a sweater, riding the train or bus with everyone else, and giving up their seat for someone elderly or infirm. It is my mother who raised four children and is now raising a stepson with great patience and love. It is my sister Gabby who juggles being newly graduated with a budding career, cross fit, and adjusting to city life. Or my sister Gracie who spends hours at nursing school and taking care of my grandmother before she passed. It is my boss here in NYC who has taught me everything I know about business, being a good manager, and owning what you do. These people are my constant teachers and mirrors and who I strive to make proud.
“For me, classy has evolved in to so much more than looking the part. We are so multi-faceted now. We are literally doing it all. And how we handle all of that responsibility in such a tough world determines if we are classy or not (at least in my opinion, but I am certainly not the authority).”
Alex is one of the truly good ones. She is kind, loving, vivacious, and classy (Alex’s definition of classy). We are thrilled that she is loving life in NYC and that she is an inspiration for ladies (especially readers) everywhere.
Sommer Braun’s cheery personality may just remind you of summer – when everyone is happy and especially enjoying life.
After studying studio art with an emphasis in photography, this self-described “small town Indiana girl” found herself in the Windy City. She began her career as a Promo Production Manager and found herself living by the saying: “How do you eat an elephant?…One bite at a time.”
Sommer isn’t literally eating an elephant. She describes this motto, “I am tackling large lists of tasks, projects, demands and requests that are overwhelming when viewed as a whole. The only way to get through and manage such tasks is by isolating and complete individual tasks – ‘bites’ – that make up the bigger picture.”
This motto has served Sommer well in her career, as she has received two title changes in her two years at her company. Beyond looking at life in little bites, Sommer has another huge asset: her smile.
“I think it is an admirable quality to bring a positive outlook into every situation. This positivity is not to be confused with being naive or not genuine, but it is often times more of a challenge to be positive in difficult situations than it is to be negative. My smile is my determination to make the best out of every situation, my search for a solution,” Sommer says.
Starting life every day with a smile is just as classy as you can possibly get. To Sommer, being classy is important. “Not just the physical aspect of ‘class’, though being polished isn’t a bad thing, but being poised in your actions, communication and manners. These traits are applicable in all scenarios and help demonstrate respect, both for oneself and for others,” she explains.
On top of her fast-moving career and her bright, summer-like view on life, Sommer is an active volunteer in Lurie Children’s Junior Council. She has even more plans on volunteering for the American Heart Association, which her sorority – Alpha Phi – supports.
Women like Sommer prove that summer-like happiness can last all year round.
Anyone will tell you that Blake Lively is both lively and lovely.
You’ve probably grown up with Blake, in a sense. You watched her as Bee in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and laughed with her when she said “Oopa!” in Greece and cried with her when she cried on the beach after that one evening with the boy at camp.
Then, you watched her emerge as the free-spirited and beautiful Serena Van Der Woodsen on Gossip Girl (I mean, didn’t you and your friends dress up as Gossip Girl characters in high school when GG aired? Weren’t you and your friends even photographed in the yearbook doing that? No…?). She warmed your hearts then as Serena, and the world got to know the loveliness that is Blake Lively.
She calls herself a “California Girl” because that’s where she was raised, and she’s channeled that free-loving spirit to her acting roles in New York. She started acting at eleven and quickly achieved high-profile roles that launched her to the superstardom status she has earned now.
This week, our Classy Lady has launched her new site: Preserve. According to Blake, “The function of Preserve is part magazine, part e-commerce hub, part philanthropic endeavor and above all, a place to showcase the power of imagination, ingenuity, quality, and above all, people.” It looks like there are some delicious recipes in there, too.
We celebrate Blake’s entrepreneurial side and that she follows her passions. We look forward to more amazing things from Miss Lively.
Meghan is one of those talented, beautiful-from-the-inside-out, classy ladies who will warm your heart on this summer Tuesday.
Meghan grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and was interested in studying forensics psychology. “Over time, I realized I was much more driven to help people, animals, and support the arts,” Meghan says.
Meghan has certainly done that – and she’s done it well and with such grace. “Professionally, I am a fundraiser. I just left my job at an academic medical center for a position with an organization that serves homeless youth in Chicago. I start my new job in two weeks, and I am really excited!”
Meghan believes her new role will be an eye-opening experience. “It’s a population I have not worked with before but, from what I know, I expect to see an unbelievable level of personal strength and resilience among the people who are benefiting from the organization’s services. I feel really lucky to play a role.”
Meghan beautifully says, “In a civilized society, we are obligated to help each other. There are so many important, needy causes out there. I feel dedicated to finding resources for those organizations and the people they serve.”
In addition to helping the homeless or academic medical centers, she spends as much time as she can with her husband and their adorable eight-month old daughter. “Being a mother has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I thought it was a cliché that people told one another. But, it’s absolutely true! Becoming a mom changed my perspective and priorities in ways I never could have imagined. I am so grateful that I have Vivienne in my life.”
Oh, and did we mention, Meghan makes beautiful jewelry? “I am also big into metalsmithing. I have been taking metalsmithing/jewelry classes for over five years. It is such a great release and, at times, a gigantic frustration. Especially, when I melt a piece of jewelry or drive a deep scratch into it. Another favorite past time is traveling, but I have not been abroad (or even out of state) since the arrival of my daughter. I don’t know where the future will lead me, but I hope to one day dedicate all of my time to running a creative business.”
Meghan has a true passion for art. “I love that art is a personal expression from the artist. It need not be pretty (though I do love pretty), but it should be thought-provoking. I think art is a window into the artist’s thoughts and perspective.”
What’s also wonderful is that Meghan can create art through her jewelry. “I really enjoy taking a flat sheet of metal and turning into something organic-looking and wearable. The process has many steps but sometimes sawing, hammering or applying a blowtorch to a piece of metal is just what I need to let go of the day’s frustrations. Oh, and I love the community of women I create jewelry with. There is a small group of us who have been taking classes together for years. Everyone is creative, smart and funny.”
Want to take a peak of Meghan’s work? Click here.
Of course, Meghan approaches everything she does with poise, grace, and a classy demeanor. “I think there is so much violence in our world. The news shows us examples on a daily basis. I think being classy is a way to balance the negativity, albeit on a small scale. To me, being classy is treating others with respect and kindness. It’s valuing our differences and celebrating how those differences make the world a more interesting place. Essentially, it’s living life by treating others the way you want to be treated.”
Thanks to Meghan for supporting classy women and for being a wonderful friend. Meghan absolutely exemplifies classy women everywhere.
You may find the lovely, beautiful, talented, and strong Lisa Payne teaching a spin class, writing an article for Today’s Chicago Woman magazine, on television in an episode with Judy Greer, taking a solo vacation (which she has been doing since she was 19 and may encourage you to do, too!), and empowering classy women everywhere to find their inner strength.
To Lisa, life has always been about exploring, learning, and growing. “I love trying new things and also encouraging others to do the same,” Lisa says.
This passion has been with Lisa since she was a kid. “I wasn’t just glued to the TV as a kid, I was writing scripts and putting on plays for my family. I would carry a notepad and a pen with me everywhere I went. I’d eavesdrop on conversations and write, word-for-word, what I overheard. This natural curiosity feeds everything I do!”
Lisa’s list of talents will amaze you. She is a Health and Wellness Expert working as a personal trainer, fitness writer, group fitness instructor and TV spokesperson. “My education background is in broadcast journalism, TV/film production and writing, (plays, short fiction). I came into fitness while finishing graduate school and am very lucky to now have a thriving career helping others achieve their fitness goals!”
Oh, Lisa isn’t done yet. Next up, she’s looking to get back into TV with a few workout videos that will be released this winter. “Think easy-to-do workouts, training tips and where to get the best workouts in town!” Sign us up!
“For me, fitness has always been as easy as brushing my teeth. For this reason, I think I was meant to have a career educating and motivating people on creating healthier lives. I was an active kid and teen – running, biking, dancing, and then lifting weights by age 16. But it wasn’t until 2002 that I was introduced to indoor cycling. Our instructor taught a brutal 75-minute long class that had no breaks. You took your own breaks. I had never felt so fatigued! But rather than be defeated, I felt challenged. I soon added kickboxing and other cross-training workouts to my week. And three years later I was teaching both cycle and kickboxing.”
If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Lisa’s class, you will run to get yourself to the gym. Several CFN™ writers have attended Lisa’s classes and left every workout feeling empowered and eager to sign up for her next spin class.
Lisa recognizes, though, that every person’s physical fitness journey is unique to everyone. “Once people find that internal permanent commitment to it, there’s an immediate change. Finding people who inspire that change and fan the flame is vital. My life improves every day that I try harder. Every time I try harder, I get stronger. Even if it’s a small turn of resistance on the spin bike, it means you are still trying. And trying means opening yourself up to opportunity and advancement in more ways that just physical fitness.”
Lisa’s class not only has Lisa to get you pumped up – her class also has the best tunes! “I take music with me everywhere. It lifts me up and gets me going! So, I am always searching for music that will motivate my class to work hard and have a good time doing it. My top five songs to play are: Miss Jackson by Panic! At the Disco, Memories by David Guetta, My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark by Fall Out Boy, Animals by Martin Garrix and Where Have You Been? by Rihanna.” Classy ladies are probably adding those tunes to their running playlist right now.
“I’m so lucky to be able to combine all of my passions in fitness, writing and as a TV spokesperson. I had the fortune of working with actress Judy Greer in a few episodes of her Yahoo! Show, Reluctantly Healthy. Both shows accumulated nearly a half million hits! I was honored and humbled to have had such a thrilling opportunity. I also have a TV pilot called The Fit Wire and am working on launching several videos this winter.”
When Lisa isn’t working for TV or teaching a spin class, she is writing for Today’s Chicago Woman magazine, ActivMotion Bar, Kate Hudson’s athletic company Fabletics and CheekyChicago.com. “I also freelance for companies like Livestrong.com. It’s so much fun meeting other fitness professionals and hearing how they are working to inspire others! I feel like the more we can work together as a community to get the fit word out, the more people’s lives we can change!”
To put it simply, Lisa works every day to inspire classy women to become stronger, healthier, and happier. I can personally attest to leaving Lisa’s classes feeling that way.
And even with Lisa’s healthy lifestyle, she knows how to add just the right amount of sweets to her diet. “My favorite indulgences are chocolate from The Fudge Pot or Blommer Chocolate Factory. I also steal French fries off friends’ plates…”
In her spare time, Lisa volunteers with the Step Up Women’s Network in their monthly mentor workshop program. “I’m excited to see how I can be apart of such an amazing program!” Lisa says.
This summer, Lisa will be partnering with Hannette Staack, an 11-time world champion competitor in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. “We will be hosting a workshop dedicated to women who want to learn about self-defense, fitness and nutrition. We want to inspire women to get strong from the inside out!”
And if ladies find themselves in a fitness funk this summer, Lisa has the answer for you – “Scan Gilt, Groupon or Living Social deals. It’s a great way to sample new workouts for a reasonable price,” she advises.
Your jaw has probably dropped while reading this. You’ve found a woman who empowers women every day, gives back to her community, and is strong in every way. Even more than that, Lisa is classy. To Lisa, “Being classy means having a certain awareness and respect for others. It also means having poise in your actions and giving back to others. The classiest women that I know display a sense of confidence that isn’t about ego. Their confidence comes from within and from knowing who they are and where they want to go in life.”
Lisa’s classes give women the confidence to reach for their dreams – fitness, lifestyle, personal, or whatever they may be. Thank you to Lisa Payne to encouraging women to chase their dreams, to be brave, and to find their inner strength.
Meet the woman behind the lovely Olivia Pope: Kerry Washington. (Hope you’re reading this with a glass of wine and a big bowl of popcorn, á lá Olivia Pope.)
Kerry Washington developed a passion for acting very early in her life. Before she was twenty, Kerry landed a role in a movie for television. After landing roles in Save the Last Dance and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Kerry starred on Broadway. As you probably know, though, what really launched Kerry’s career is portraying Olivia Pope on Scandal.
You have rooted for her and Fitz (Fitz really needs to make up his mind, though. Don’t you want them to have a house in Vermont and make jam together?). You’ve admired how classy and composed she remains amidst the many scandals on Scandal. Your jaw has dropped whenever you’ve seen Olivia wear white (she’s a vision). Mostly, you have probably decided you want to be just like Kerry Washington and the lovely Olivia Pope (minus any B6-13 involvement).
Kerry says, “I come from theater, and I plan to always do theater. So, I don’t really see myself not being able to act, even if people don’t think I’m sexy enough to film at 40, I’ll still be acting.”
While we’re proud of Olivia, we’re more proud of the woman who portrays her. Kerry is the first black woman to lead a network drama. She overcame a serious eating disorder in college. She is also a new mother; Kerry and her NFL-playing husband welcomed Isabelle in April of this year.
Kerry is also an avid philanthropist. She is a member of V-Day, a group that spreads awareness about violence against women. She also supports women’s cancer programs.
Look for Kerry (and Olivia!) back on the set of Scandal for season four. We’ll have a glass of wine and popcorn in hand, and eagerly await the beauty that is Kerry Washington.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
When you think of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the first words that probably come to your mind are “classy lady”. To Jackie, as she is most affectionately known, she called herself “a woman above all else.”
Jackie practically defined class, elegance, and style in the 60s. To this day, what girl doesn’t want a pillbox hat to call her own? More importantly, what girl today doesn’t admire Jackie’s class?
Jackie’s outer beauty was certainly channeled from her inner beauty. Even while in her very early years, Jackie was recognized as a special lady (a columnist even called her “Debutante of the Year”). She spent a year in France before graduating from George Washington University in DC. To celebrate her college graduation, Jackie spent the summer touring Europe with her sister who had just graduated from high school.
Jackie met the handsome John F. Kennedy while he was a US Representative running for US Senate. It seemed love at first sight – they were married about a year after they met.
As many know, their relationship and her life weren’t always roses. John (or “Jack”, as she adoringly called him) was unfaithful to Jackie, Jackie’s newborn baby died only days after birth in the White House, and of course – Jack was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. Even so, Jackie looks on the White House years as her happiest.
“I was so happy for Jack, especially now that it was only three years together, that he could be proud of me then. Because it made him so happy–it made me so happy. So, those were our happiest years,” Jackie said.
Amidst much heartache, Jackie revitalized the White House, impressed foreign dignitaries, and remained an icon throughout the rest of her life. As Jackie said, “One must not let oneself be overwhelmed by sadness.” After Jack’s death, Jackie married Aristotle Onassis, a wealthy Greek shipping tycoon. She pursued a career in editing during their marriage, as Jackie had grown up with a love of books – “everything from Colette to Kerouac,” she said.
Jackie reminds us that a classy lady in the White House is similar to a classy lady on Main Street. All ladies are lovely, and to this day, Jackie reminds ladies to let lovely shine.
Not only is Sashé Taylor two of the things Coco Chanel said every woman should be – classy and fabulous – Sashé Taylor can sing. She’ll dance for you, too.
Sashé Taylor has been in the music industry since she was ten years old. She continued to sing and dance throughout high school on her own. Her passion for music and performance only continued to grow as time went on. In college, she continued working with a producer in Detroit, developing her voice and niche, and “living a gypsy lifestyle”.
“After college, I came back to Chicago in search of a new start and beginning as an adult singer. However, doing it on your own can be hard, and managing yourself can be even more difficult,” Sashé Taylor says. Even admist the difficulty, Sashé Taylor found a way to make her dreams come true. “I met a new producer from Atlantic and Warner Chapel, and we made the stellar EP ‘Dare You To Love Me.’”
Upon completion of the EP, Sashé Taylor went on a 15-city, two month two across China, performed at private events, some of the top nightclubs in Chicago, made a music video – and more. “I am back in the recording studio doing my first contemporary blues record, ‘Gypsy Queen.’ I also just landed my first role in a Broadway Musical called Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas, coming to the playhouse theater this fall and winter. I hope one day, I can keep growing, developing into the best entertainer I can be, and inspire, excite the world around me.”
Sashé Taylor certainly inspires us. Even as a five year old, Sashé Taylor knew she had a passion and talent she wanted to share with the world (yes, she began her training at five and was in the industry at ten!). “I would watch every Gene Kelly and Judy Garland film. As I got older, I was hooked on musicals like The Wiz and anything with lots of soul.”
Sashé Taylor says, “I didn’t just want to be a singer, I wanted to be able to do it all and entertain to the best of my ability. There is also something about bringing people together and giving them an escape to make them happy. I also love bringing music to life, by creating stories!”
She admits it has been hard, but she wouldn’t change it for the world. “The more you get older, the more difficult it gets. And I am only in my mid 20’s saying that. It is a gypsy lifestyle. You work during the day, and then go where the wind/opportunity takes you – a especially, if you are your own manager, agent, and booker!
“However, I have been so blessed with people around me who believe in me, and want to be apart of this journey with me. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. My biggest goal is to bring all these talented people together on my journey with me. I want to keep creating amazing stories and visions to life with music and entertainment. I hope one day I will be able to do this on a bigger scale.”
Classy ladies, let’s make the bigger scale happen for Sashé Taylor! You can buy her amazing EP that she wrote with producer “Oh Hush”. You can find one of Sashé Taylor’s biggest hits – “Dare You To Love Me” – on the album. “That song was actually written about my experience with all the people in this industry. I currently have a music video being released to this song as well! We definitely took my sultry sound and tried to transfer it into a theatrical, pop rendition.”
To Sashé Taylor, all the songs are amazing on the EP, (she doesn’t have a favorite, she loves them all). “They are so different and tell a story about my experiences. I am a very energetic and a soulful person. I wanted to combine that in this EP. It turned out great, now I just need to get so many people to hear it!”
With a World Tour in China, an upcoming show in a Broadway Musical, an incredible EP, and performances all around Chicago, Sashé Taylor continues to showcase her incredible talent. And no way is she slowing down. “I am currently working on my first record as we speak. However, this time I went deep into my soulful, European-inspired roots and am co-writing a contemporary blues record. It is so neat and very different. I can’t wait for the finished product!”
Of course, all along the way, Sashé Taylor has been a beautiful, classy inspiration for us all. “It is so important to be classy! My whole life, I grew up with a model for a mother. One piece of advice she always gave us was ‘You can be sexy, but classy, sexy.’ Haha. And how true it is.”
Sashé Taylor’s brand is about empowering women to feel comfortable in their own skin and confidently own it. “That is the saucy side of me. We become concerned about the way we look, or have our insecurities (which everyone does and is allowed to). However, insecurities can hurt us. When you are confident and comfortable in your own skin, when you have elegance and hold yourself to a good standard, people respect you times a thousand.
“What I would say to young women, is don’t be afraid to be you, have your opinions and be kind, outgoing, and driven. I think a lot of young girls are afraid and more affected by their surroundings and people. I was always the girl that beat to my own drum, and I don’t regret that. Believe in yourself, be confident and know you are beautiful inside and out, and it’s time for people to see that beauty shines from within. You can and will achieve anything you want if you work hard and have good morals and visions set for yourself.
“I stay positive through God and the amazing people around me. It is so important to remind yourself of all your blessings in life. It is important to keep those good people around you to lift you up, and tell you how it is, when you need to be told (staying grounded). That is how I stay positive.”
Sashé Taylor is a fantastic role model to classy ladies everywhere (especially to those of you who have dreams you would like to reach!).
“For young women that want to get in this industry I would say… STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF and BE BRAVE. I have been in so many situations, where I have felt so used, or taken advantage of. I have felt that people wanted me to be someone I am not, and told me in the same breath I didn’t know who I was. It is just because those were not the right and good people to surround myself with.
“Surround yourself with positive people. No one is always going to tell you what you want to hear, but you want people in your life that believe in you and your craft. DREAM BIG, and don’t give up when the going gets tough. Remind yourself ‘What do I have to lose?’, and just let go, and be fearless. If it is your dream, and your passion, if you truly love to do this, then you will never fail, because you already succeed by stepping out of your comfort zone and trying. You succeed when you continue to do what you love xoxo.”
Eager to see Sashé Taylor? So are we! She is releasing a music video on Thursday, July 17 at Public Hotel in Chicago at 7:30pm. Come see Sashé Taylor!
Can’t wait to see Sashé Taylor’s name in lights!
In the spirit of Bastille Day, we are delighted to celebrate an American-born, classy woman, who is a self-described Francophile. Her job is any fashion lover’s dream: CEO of Chanel.
Maureen Chiquet was born in St. Louis, Missouri and graduated from Yale University. Like most girls after college, Maureen wasn’t 100% sure of her path, and she found herself taking the LSAT exam because she “didn’t know what else to do.”
Maureen soon made a decision that changed her life and every Chanel-admirer everywhere. She chose to follow her heart and follow a career in fashion. After finding an internship in Paris at L’Oreal, Maureen said, “That job was the beginning of my career and love affair with the world of beauty and fashion.”
She soon found herself in roles in Gap and Banana Republic (ever heard of Old Navy? Maureen helped build that from a $0 business to $5 billion business). In 2003, Maureen joined Chanel and became President of the Parisian company’s US division. It didn’t take long before Maureen became CEO of the entire company and an icon for the couture fashion house.
As CEO, Maureen takes great strides in listening to her employees and calls listening the best advice she ever received. “Listening has its drawbacks because sometimes you realize that people are just telling you what they want you to hear. Yet, ultimately, what’s good for this business—surrounding myself with talented teams and relying on their expertise—is good for me personally, too. If I hadn’t taken [this] advice, put a piece of tape over my mouth, and really listened to people when I got to Chanel, I wouldn’t have been successful for very long,” Maureen says.
Maureen has had a passion for French (she was fluent at 16), France, and fashion. She has channeled these passions to become CEO of an iconic, legendary brand. She is the epitome of an American in Paris, and we celebrate women like Maureen who have the courage to follow their heart.
When asked to tell you, the reader, a little bit about myself, the easiest thing to start with, of course, is my name: Emily Friedman. No middle name. My mother almost named me Emily Dionne Friedman, for Dionne Warwick, but that could easily have caused an identity crisis for a Jewish girl from Redwood City, CA who could only kind of sing, and anyways, it would have ruined the alphabetical order of my initials.
I’ve spent the past two years working for an integrated marketing and communications agency, since graduating with a degree in Spanish and a minor in Communications & Media Studies from Tufts. My firm does 360 degree communications and marketing work for clients like Warner Brothers, Hewlett Packard, Medtronic, and so on and so forth. We will build your website, create a killer content strategy, place stories singing your praises in top digital and print publications, develop an ogle-worthy advertising campaign and more.
Where would I like to go? Now that’s an interesting question. While I don’t know exactly what my dream job looks like, I know that it involves international travel, using Spanish, interacting and collaborating with colleagues constantly, and most importantly a sense of personal empowerment and growth. Grad school is somewhere on the horizon of my 20s. Degree TBD.
Wherever I go, I hope to always meet new people. A lot of extraverts will talk about being “people” people, but there’s this feeling that goes beyond that description: it’s the deep feeling of fulfillment that you get (or rather I get) when I connect with people, listening to their stories, and sharing my own. Language and the ability to connect are two of the characteristics that distinguish human beings from animals and it’s my belief that they are fundamental to happiness in life.
I affectionately describe my high school in the Bay Area as ghettofabulous. I really loved it. I think I had the opposite experience of many of my peers: most teens go to college and their exposure to diversity expands. The diversity I was exposed to in college narrowed, in comparison with my high school experience. Demographically, Sequoia High School was 75% Latino. I heard Spanish in the halls more often than English. Even before I got to high school, I was interested in other languages. I attended summer immersion camps for French and Spanish in the middle of nowhere in Minnesota (read: hot, sticky and buggy).
Growing up with cousins who spoke Hebrew and English, and classmates who spoke Spanish, I never wanted to be the person who they had to speak English to – I wanted to be able to communicate with them in their first languages. I was lucky – Spanish came easily to me, and I tended to remember vocabulary and conjugations even after long summer breaks.
At Tufts, a Spanish major and communications minor became the natural path for me after two years of exploring international relations, English and anthropology majors. I was grateful to be at a school that had such an appreciation for language and culture, two of my passions.
Studying abroad in Madrid was simultaneously one of the best and most challenging experiences of my 20s. I assumed that like me, all of the program participants would be highly motivated to speak Spanish regularly. As is the case with most American programs, students quickly reverted to English between classes and outside of school. I found it hard to make friends with Spanish young adults, who I often felt perceived me as just another American student, and didn’t know that I was highly capable of communicating in Spanish.
But there were several things that made my time in Madrid wholly worthwhile: first, was the people I met and bonded with on my program, including the lovely editor of this site. The second was the incredible family that I lived with on the outskirts of barrio Salamanca, la familia Irureta-Goyena, and its matriarch, Pilar. I still think of them as family. They would affectionately refer to me as Emiliana Zapata, buy me books for my birthday, and offered to create an ad in the periodicals for me to find a Spanish boyfriend: Emily, la guapa con credibilidad que busca novio que tiene casa en Madrid, San Francisco, Londres y Malibu y barco (Emily, the beauty with credibility who is looking for a boyfriend with houses in Madrid, San Francisco, London and Malibu, and a boat). I visited Madrid again for the first time since study abroad last November, and was overwhelmed with emotion when I saw my Spanish family again. We picked up like no time had passed, and I can’t wait to plan the next trip to visit.
I haven’t even mentioned yet what living in Spain did to my Spanish. Beyond endowing me with a thick-ish Castellano accent, spending those 5 months in Spain elevated my Spanish to a level of fluidity and fluency that I was incredibly proud of. I wish I had more opportunities to practice these days – I’m still actively searching for a way to maintain the language, but I feel like I’m losing bits and pieces as time wanders on. I do read Sender and Vargas Llosa out loud to myself at night a few times a week. That helps!
I also host a trivia night on Tuesday nights at a bar in the San Francisco Marina. It’s a great opportunity to meet people in the city, plus as an intellectually-minded gal, it keeps me feeling like I’m learning. I also play in a volleyball league in the city.
It upsets me that women are still demeaned in today’s society so frequently. I think confidence is key to being classy – be confident in your skills, your knowledge, your sense of self. Be your own spirit guide. Trust yourself to make decisions and force yourself to make the hard ones. Be classy for your own personal fulfillment, not for someone else’s or society’s. And read books. For goodness sake, what happened to reading books? Keep learning. Even the classiest of ladies makes mistakes – what’s important is not to obsess over those mistakes, but to pick your head up, dust off your skirt and meet life head on.
I think as women it’s very easy to be our own worst critics. I’m guilty of this myself. I can’t say that I’ve overcome it entirely, but it’s something I’m aware of, and constantly striving to overcome. Society’s tendency to encourage self-deprecation doesn’t help, but I think it’s on us to form a strong community of women who can celebrate accomplishments, class acts, and even failure.
My name is Morgan Mekertichian, I am 22 years old, and I just graduated from Marquette University with a degree in International Economic Relations. I grew up in Winnetka, IL but my family has not always lived here. In fact, I wasn’t even born here! I was born in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. My father was born in Tehran, Iran and my mother was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. I am 50% Scottish and 50% Armenian, and I think my multicultural background is one of the biggest reasons that I am so interested in global politics and cultural relations. I have two sisters, one older and one younger.
Right now, I am preparing for the next chapter of my life, which will begin in September in The Hague, The Netherlands. I am moving to The Hague to work for an arts-based organization that develops art projects to promote peace and justice in collaboration with various international institutions. I am very excited! The mission of the organization that I will be working for is that “art has the ability to incite reflection, empathy, and eventually peace”, and I think that this is very true and extraordinarily inspiring.
It is sad and confusing to graduate college, but I am a better person because of my Marquette education and experience, and now, I am excited for what is to come next. I eventually want to go to graduate school to pursue my master’s in International Peace Studies, but until then, I simply want to learn more about myself and the world around me.
Education is one of the most important things in my life, and wherever I end up in life, I want to always support the education of all people. I am an empowered and motivated young woman because of my education, and I now see it as one of my most important responsibilities to educate and empower other people. I feel a great desire and responsibility to work to make this world a more peaceful and happy place.
I always laugh that freshman year Morgan would never believe how happy senior year Morgan ended up being. College, like all things in life, will not always be perfect or easy. And that is okay, because it is through lulls and challenges that college makes students grow. My advice to all college freshmen would be to appreciate each moment for what it is and to always be open to new experiences. Things will come into your life when they are supposed to, so it is important to not feel a need to push yourself too hard. Simply enjoy your time and commit yourself to bettering yourself each day…good things will come.
I am fortunate to come from a family that has always prioritized travel. Growing up, I was always told the importance of traveling the world and meeting new people, and now as a young adult I have realized how true those words are. To me, traveling and interacting with new people creates moments of intense clarity. I am most reflective when I am out of my comfort zone, and I have found that it is in these moments that I learn most about myself.
I studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa for 6 months when I was a junior in college, and I had an absolutely incredible experience. It was fascinating to learn about a new culture, and to immerse myself within that culture. I learned so much about the world and about myself while in South Africa, and I will forever cherish the lessons that I learned and the memories that I made during those months abroad.
After graduation, I went to Ethiopia on a fellowship with the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking. On this trip, I accompanied university professors and we led programs for Ethiopian educators focused on English literacy and female empowerment. My responsibilities in Ethiopia prompted me to do a lot of self-reflection and overall my experience in Ethiopia positively altered and expanded the lens through with I see the world.
Traveling has made me realize the importance of seeing myself and all people as global citizens. I encourage all people to travel the world and be open to every new community that they enter because it is only through other people that we can best understand ourselves. Like I said, immense clarity comes from traveling and meeting new people.
My advice to all young women is simply to admire the world. As Bob Marley said, “Smile with the risin’ sun.” There is so much to see, appreciate, and do in this world, so don’t let a day go to waste. Enjoy your life, and do your part to make the world a better place. I stay positive by practicing yoga, spending time with my friends and family, journaling, and at the end of the day, always remembering that my life is and always will be determined by my thoughts and my attitude.
Mela Dailey is dazzling from the inside out – from her amazing soprano voice, to her philanthropic passions, to her encouragement that women follow their own voice. Mela Dailey will dazzle you.
Mela grew up in a small town in east Texas and was always driven by music. She sang solos in church and looked for every opportunity possible to share her voice. In one audition she was accepted to Dallas’ Booker T. Washington Performing Arts High School, and her whole family moved so she could launch her career. “Starting in college, my performing career and opportunities took off. I’ve been so, so lucky to have incredible teachers and motivators all around me.” Mela says.
From that high school audition to performances at Carnegie Hall, to winning New York University’s talent scholarship, to singing all over the world in multiple languages and being nominated for two Grammys, Mela has achieved absolutely stunning success. Her most recent accomplishments? “I’m a new faculty member at the University of Texas in the Department of Theatre and Dance. It’s exciting to continue my full time performing career in addition to teaching incredible students,” she says. In addition, Mela is the artistic director of a new United Methodist Church called Life in the City, which is an arts-based church that meets at The Long Center for the Performing Arts.
“There are so many exciting things all happening at the same time. I am thrilled that all of my loves – a progressive and inclusive church, my love for the arts, and my love for really high quality teaching are all coming together. I have so much gratitude.”
Being an artist is not always easy. As Mela says, “The success part is out of your hands. When you make friends with that, and you show up, and you prepare, you allow the outcome to be what it will be. That’s when you’re able to enjoy what you’re doing and have the freedom to communicate.”
To Mela, music is spiritual. “It’s healing, it’s a way of connecting with people, and it’s a way of finding commonality with humanity even when you’re in a situation where you’re extremely lonely. I think we need it because it fills in the gaps where words fail every time.”
Words certainly can fail, but Mela beautifully articulates what classy means to her. “Classy can mean a lot of things to different people. I think there’s something about being authentic and not trying to become something for someone else but staying true to your highest self. It comes from a place of security and self-confidence. We can do a better job empowering each other and acknowledging the beauty and intelligence all around us.”
Mela encourages everyone to follow his or her own inner voice and to have the courage to have that voice be heard. “It’s challenging to trust it when you don’t have a lot of proof to assure you it’ll all work out. I’ve had tons of people along the way give me many, many examples of how it was going to impossible to do everything I’m doing now. Their limitations and negativity had nothing to do with me. It was challenging to understand that at the time. The more I didn’t take it personally and was able to just hear that these were their own inner thoughts about their own fear, the more it was easier to bless them and go on my way.”
Mela’s positive view on the world doesn’t cease at sharing her song. Mela is an incredible philanthropic activist, as there are so many organizations that are very near to her heart. From Life in the City (Mela’s church) to My Healing Place (that helps families who have lost a child), Mela contributes her talents in many ways and shares her voice.
“It is a strong focus of mine to help those in the GLBTQ community and especially teens. Our message of love and admiration has to be heard over those who are actively trying to alienate and ostracize an entire community. GLBTQ teenagers are twice as likely to commit suicide and I feel like it’s my calling to do what I can to change that. Part of that plan is for Life and the City and the Long Center to partner together for the Austin Pride Festival and Parade on September 20th. We hope that seeing people from every possible demographic joining together to celebrate our GLBTQ brothers and sisters will help to instill some self worth for those needing it the most.”
Mela is a headliner for My Healing Place’s gala on October 2, and one month later, Life in the City church will begin at 11am at the Long Center. For more information please visit www.lifeinthecityaustin.org or www.meladailey.com
Mela encourages everyone to share their voice – both literally and through music. Recently, Mela shared that a teacher in high school sexually abused her. She has proven she is unafraid to share her voice and uses her voice to encourage others to be unafraid to share theirs. Her talents inspire classy women everywhere to follow their dreams, to give back to the community, and to share their voice.
“Through whatever has happened, through difficulties, music is always there,” Mela says. “I take my job very seriously and I am committed to bringing the composers’ wishes to life. Sometimes, it’s an Olympic feat. That’s when my technique kicks in so I can get out of the way of the music. My job is not to distract, but to be a conduit for the message.”
Mela is not only a conduit for music’s message, for several charities’ message, and for her church’s message, she is also a conduit for the message classy ladies bring everywhere. Hopefully, Mela’s story inspires our ladies to be a conduit for causes they care about too.
Didn’t Mela Dailey dazzle you? We knew she would!
Kaitlyn has been eager to explore the world around her since she was born. She was born in Manhattan, lived in Jackson Hole, and then moved to the suburbs of Chicago. “There is a deep sense of exploration and travel that’s been ingrained into my life since I was a baby. My parents both followed their passions in life and really used their heart as guidance. That method of following your instincts and leading by intuition is the very reason I am where I am today,” Kaitlyn says.
“Since I was a little kid I wanted to create. I loved writing, taking pictures, putting on plays, and filming little skits of my friends on my family’s handy cam,” she says.
Kaitlyn’s passion for creating has led her to pursue a career as a filmmaker. “I have written my first feature-length film, which will go into production in August. I will be producing and directing it. I am very excited for this project, as it is something I’ve wanted to create for a while now.”
Kaitlyn’s film is called “The Immediate Unknown”. The story is about a freshman girl in college transitioning from teen-hood to adulthood and along the way experiences love and loss simultaneously. “There are many parallels to my life, as I lost my dad a month into a new relationship, but Chloe’s story is entirely her own. The concept of the film is about the unknown. I think when you lose someone suddenly, life feels very scary because you realize how ephemeral life is. We always want to know what’s next and the not knowing makes us uncomfortable,” Kaitlyn explains.
“The Immediate Unknown” currently has a Kickstarter Campaign in place in order to raise funds for the project. You can help! Click here.
“I am looking for pledges right now in order to meet our $20,000 goal by August 1. It’s very stressful asking for people to put their hard-earned money into the project, but it must be done in order for the film to be funded. Even though asking is stressful, I think it’s really cool that creative projects can be accomplished because enough people cared about someone making art. I am reminded of the phrase, ‘It takes a village…’”
In addition to believing in pursuing your dreams, Kaitlyn believes in being kind. “I think kindness is the best trait someone can have. When someone can make you feel welcomed and comfortable just by their energy, that’s a very special person. I really believe that no matter what happens to you in life, you can always be nice.”
Kaitlyn elaborates, “I also think that being a positive person has a rebound effect and helps the people around you become more positive too. I really believe we’re all in this together, and we need to care for one another.”
What is Kaitlyn’s advice to young women? “Stay true to yourself, and believe in life’s possibilities! Life is too short to play it safe and not chase after your dreams. I really believe that anything is possible if you actively pursue your dream. I also think it’s important to let go of the desire to control what happens. Embrace the unknowns because sometimes they are better than what you imagined!”
As Kaitlyn says, “Whatever you want to do there’s a way to make it happen. Figure out how, and go for it!”
We wish Kaitlyn all the best of luck with her Kickstarter Campaign. We know we will see her director’s name in lights!
Amy is a classy and fabulous blogger (Cupcakes & Couture is one of our favorite blogs), dancer, world traveler (she can speak three languages), and all around beautiful person.
Amy grew up in Auburn, MA and started dancing at age three. She competed in all styles, including jazz, tap, ballet, modern and more. “Dance definitely shaped who I am as a person, making me super attentive to detail, disciplined and a bit of a perfectionist even now at age 28,” Amy says.
She went to Wheaton College, a small liberal arts school in Norton, MA where she studied Spanish, French and Italian. “I’ve always been intrigued by different languages and cultures and I really love to read, so it was a natural fit for me. I moved to Boston after I graduated college and live in Back Bay, which I love!”
Amy is a self-proclaimed “lover of all things whimsical and magical,” and she still believes in fairytales. “I think my love of whimsy and magic began when I learned how to read in kindergarten. Books have been an important and fascinating part of my life for as long as I can remember. I was one of those kids who actually enjoyed the show ‘Reading Rainbow’ and begged my mother to take me to the library on the weekends!” How cute is that?
“For me, books were an escape from real life, and I loved how they opened my imagination up to new ideas and possibilities. Alice in Wonderland was always one of my favorites – I’ve read it more times than I can count!”
Books not only opened Amy’s imagination, they also taught her to appreciate the small things in life. “I try to notice the small things that occur in daily life that others may overlook – seeing my cat Phoebe snuggle up with my new kitten Oliver, hearing my favorite song come on at a cafe when I’m in a bad mood, watching baby ducks follow their mum in the river…little things like this can be magical if you just open your eyes up to them!”
Amy’s ability to celebrate the small things in life and the whimsical led her to start her incredible blog: Cupcakes & Couture. “I decided to start a blog to share all of my recipes, and it’s kind of evolved into a lifestyle site as I began to write about my other passions and interests, like shopping, interior design, style, travel and more. I recently started doing outfit posts to share my personal style with my readers, and it’s been so much more rewarding than I expected! I think what I’m most proud of about Cupcakes & Couture is how accurately it represents me – both as a person and my aesthetic. Aside from being a bit more sarcastic in ‘real life,’ the voice and tone you get from the blog is very authentic to who I am!”
Throughout her life, Amy has gracefully remained true to who she is. Even with immense success on her blog (Amy has been featured on Lucky and Lauren Conrad’s site, to name a few), Amy has remained classy and beautiful from the inside out (she’d also never wear something her late grandmother wouldn’t want to see her in!). “To me, being classy doesn’t mean owning all of the latest high-end designer fashions (although let’s be real: I’m dying for a Chanel bag) or attending only the most exclusive events. My definition of classy is being smart, thoughtful, elegant and sophisticated in all situations and always treating others as well as you’d expect to be treated – or better!” Amy says.
“To put it simply, I want to be proud of myself and my behavior, so I always try to be true to myself and live an authentic life. It’s easy to get down on myself every now and again, so to stay positive, I treat myself to little things that make me happy – a bouquet of peonies, French macaroons, a new candle for my apartment, a day trip to the beach… you can’t always count on others to lift your mood, so you need to be able to do it for yourself!”
Amy certainly teaches fellow classy ladies to lift themselves up and to see the positives (just take one look around her site – you can’t help but feel happy while reading it). Even more so, Amy’s zest for life teaches others simply how fun and beautiful life can be. Amy drives a 2004 Mustang with racing stripes (how fun is that) and recently visited Paris (she rented an apartment with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Can you say fantastique!). And not only is Amy a talented dancer, she’s also a huge hockey fan.
After planning her next travel adventure (which may be the Greek Islands or Fiji), reading a great book, blogging for her site, and more – Amy gives back to her community. She is a “big animal lover” and is on the young professionals board for the Animal Rescue League of Boston. She also volunteers for the Miss Boston Pageant.
We can’t wait to watch Amy find even more success with her blog not only because her blog is so lovely but also because Amy is the loveliest.
Kiki Burke is classy and fabulous. She also may just save your life.
Originally from the Chicago area, Kiki spent the last year living in DC getting her masters degree in human physiology. Recently, she was accepted to Georgetown Medical School. Amazing!
“I don’t think I had one specific event that made me want to become a doctor. I was always good at science and math and throughout college I got involved in various experiences that really led me towards that career. I volunteered at a medical clinic in Haiti, researched neurological disorders, and shadowed a lot of different doctors across the country, to name a few,” Kiki says.
“The application process is tough; there are a lot of applicants for a small amount of spots…I think having unique and diverse experiences helped me stand out from the masses! Throughout all those experiences I really became fascinated by the interaction and special relationship that doctors have with their patients – it’s a unique and rewarding relationship that you can’t find in any other career.”
Where can you find Kiki saving patients’ lives? “Right now, I am interested in all types of medicine. I used to think I wanted to go into neurology, but now I am thinking dermatology…. I am just excited to start medical school and gain exposure to all of the different fields! It is definitely a long process to become a doctor, but I feel lucky that I discovered a passion for something early on in my life. Even though it will take a long time to get to the point where I am practicing on my own, along the way I will still be doing something that I am genuinely interested in!”
Along the way, Kiki does it all with class and by setting a positive example.
“In today’s world, we are constantly bombarded with the media’s representation of reality stars and celebrities, and it is important to recognize that they may not be setting the best examples. My advice for young women would be to stick to what you love to do.”
Chris Paloian can teach you a thing or two about finding success and having the courage to change careers. Chris is fearless and fabulous.
After a few years working in technology, she decided it was the perfect time to change careers and get involved in real estate. “The real estate market in Chicago has always intrigued me, but there was too much uncertainty there when I graduated college to take it on full time.” After working in technology for a few years, Chris was motivated by some family members to make the move. “I definitely could not have done it with the support of my family and boyfriend. I love that I get to work with so many different people. From investors, developers to end users, I am constantly on the move and no two days are ever the same!”
Chris keeps her goals in mind as she progresses through the real estate world. “I would love to be a successful realtor in the Chicagoland area for many years to come. It is important to me that I grow my business strategically and to continuously educate myself as a realtor. Success is important, but I want to make sure that I do it the right way: great client experience and referrals.”
Are you looking to get involved in the real estate market? Chris has insights for you. “Have a strategy prior to taking it on full time. Be patient and keep your focus. It is very easy to get distracted with the lack of structure, so make sure you are making the most of every hour of your day. The biggest challenge in the beginning of my career has been getting my name out there and gaining trust from potential clients. There are so many fabulous realtors in the Chicagoland area, sometimes, it’s hard to stand out!”
Nonetheless, Chris does stand out. She had the courage to change careers and is now fearlessly looking to achieve her goals in real estate. All along the way, Chris has maintained her integrity, and she encourages women everywhere to do the same.
“My advice for young women is to always maintain your integrity. It is very important to always conduct yourself in a professional and kind manner. It is important when people think of your name, that they can say, “Oh so & so, she’s a great girl!” In order to stay positive, I believe it is important to take care of yourself. Wake up early, exercise and eat right and take the day on!”
Kayla Inserra is a classy, positive, PR professional who is able to not only effortlessly weave clients out of any PR crisis, she can do it with a smile.
Growing up in an Italian family in Long Island and then in the south, Kayla always knew she wanted to return to New York to pursue her dream of working in public relations. She now works for a boutique public relations firm in Manhattan called SpecOps Communications. “I currently manage both the strategic and day-to-day duties for all of our tech, lifestyle, health and wellness and beauty clients. I also handle some of the firms social media, along with numerous of our clients social media accounts. I was the first hire while also working part-time for the New York Mets at CitiField.” How cool is that?
PR in Manhattan is certainly fast paced, which is what Kayla enjoys about the job. “Public relations is different everyday. From hosting events for clients to setting them up on television shows or interviews with newspapers and magazines to pitching new business, there is always something different happening. I have always been the type of person who is more successful when I have multiple things to do on my plate and PR does just that for me.”
Not only does Kayla enjoy balancing many things on her plate, she is also quite the foodie. “I am a HUGE foodie coming from an Italian family, and I love that the amount of restaurants and placed to try in New York are never ending!” It must run in her family since her brother is a chef at a popular gourmet grilled cheese food truck in North Carolina. “Coming from a very Italian family, food always played a large role in my life. If I could combine PR, social media, food and travel I think I’d be set for life,” Kayla giggles.
Kayla’s other passion is travel. “I have always been interested in seeing as much of the world as possible, but on top of that, I was a triple major in college with one of them being Spanish.” So, it was a “no brainer” for her to end up in Madrid, Spain for a semester. “It is also where I met my current boyfriend, who I have been dating since we met in our study abroad program three years ago!” How cute is that?
“If you have the opportunity to study abroad, I think everyone should do it. Don’t let the position in your sorority or a class you may have to take later hold you back,” Kayla recommends.
While she loves traveling, Kayla very much enjoys living in New York. “New York is where you learn how to be tough…if you can handle living in New York, I think you can probably handle living anywhere,” she says.
Even while living in a tough city, Kayla remains classy and positive. “There is nothing stronger than a woman with beauty, grace, and class. Being classy is not just about the way you dress or act. By respecting yourself, you know that you don’t need to gain attention through provocative behavior or stupid decisions. You seek intelligence and beauty for your own growth and personal representation. It’s important to know who you are and what you want; it’s about being secure when life around you can be crazy.”
Kayla’s advice to young women? “We need to recognize that not every life has the same challenges or starts out with the same opportunities, and so our obligations to ourselves are equal to our obligations to our community to share and help where we can, speak out where we must, fight for rights when we have to and live each day with thankfulness and hope. My mother told me that,” Kayla says.
Kayla lives life to the fullest and stays positive by surrounding herself with positive and supportive people. You may find her at SoulCycle, running her first half marathon next year, or working with clients, but no matter where you find her, she will be classy, poised, and feliz (happy).
Hola, bonjour, ciao, hello – these are just the few languages that Katie Cook can say “hello” in.
Katie was born in Tokyo and grew up in LA. Given that her parents were working overseas when she was born, she believes this is where her passion for traveling began. “I’m always searching for the next adventure, near and far from home,” Katie says.
Now, Katie lives in Santa Moncia and works as a marketing manager at a small start-up company called Skywell that develops and distributes air water machines. “It’s just like it sounds, our machine can make water from thin air! If you don’t believe me, you can check out our website. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be part of a developing company and have learned so much in the last year. For the time being, I’m focusing on my career at Skywell.”
When Katie isn’t hard at work, she is probably traveling. “It’s hard to describe the various ways that travel has impacted my life…I guess one way to sum it up is that it has helped me discover my true self by pushing me out of my comfort zone.”
Katie has had much experience getting out of her comfort zone. When she was 16, she spent two months living in a rural village with one other American teen in Northern Nicaragua (“Think dirt roads and rainforest”), volunteering for an organization called Amigos. “I really can’t believe my 16 year old self was able to make it so long without running water and limited Spanish, but somehow I was able to adapt to my environment, connect with the people and come out with several amusing stories ranging from tarantula-eating chickens to and Nicaraguan ‘guacamole’.” ¡Olé!
Katie’s itch to spend time abroad only continued after spending time in Nicaragua – think Chile, Madrid, and Paris. “That summer inspired me to take a gap year after high school to intern for an educational foundation in Chile, as well as to spend a semester abroad in Madrid and subsequently Paris on study-abroad programs while at University of Michigan.”
“I was always taking a leap of faith when I embarked upon these adventures. I learned how to make every moment count and how to accept and deal with small problems as they arise with composure,” Katie explains.
“The cliché ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ is easy to say but not always easy to follow, especially when you are traveling, when there are many small changes but nothing is permanent. The latrine, the strange food, the heat…it challenges you, but it’s all about your mindset. Do you want to learn about this culture? Are you ready to give up your preconceived notions on the best way to do something? Can you stop comparing everything in this new place to what you have at home?”
Not only has Katie lived abroad, but she is amazing at speaking foreign languages (I’ve heard her in the Spanish classroom and was always so impressed). “I’m pretty tone deaf and a horrendous speller, so I just thought that language wasn’t in the cards for me. When I arrived in Chile, I thought I was well prepared because I had taken an AP course my senior year.
“Much to my surprise, I was a real train wreck. I will never forget my first day in Spanish class when I read a passage from a story, and my Brazilian classmate said he couldn’t understand a thing I had just said because my accent was so strong. That hurt. But it made me realize that I needed to start from the bottom and really put in the effort to learn and practice the language. I spent all day speaking in Spanish. I lived with a Chilean family. I made Chilean and international friends. All of these things forced me to find the words in Spanish and express myself in Spanish. I couldn’t have asked for a more humbling and rewarding experience. It’s so empowering for me to be able to converse in Spanish at work and it definitely keeps my mind in shape.”
Not only can she beautifully speak in Spanish (and French and some Italian), Katie is classy. “Yes, stay classy! For me, class is about staying true to yourself, working hard and creating positive self-confidence. As cheesy as it might sound, maintaining a positive attitude not only helps you stay motivated, but it benefits everyone around you. That’s the funny thing about optimism – it’s contagious. As a seasoned yogi and yoga instructor, I believe you need to cultivate light from within before you let it shine on the rest of the world,” Katie says.
Katie is a fantastic, fantastique, fantástica mujer con clase.
(Katie is a fantastic woman with class!)
At the risk of sounding mundane, my name is Kelsey Kleinert. Born in Switzerland, raised in Lake Forest, IL, I recently graduated from Miami University in Ohio. Proud to admit that I’m recently employed, which is proof that having a degree in English is not a dead end; I can finally exhale from the inevitable post-grad unemployment slump. I’ve been working at an Employee Assistance Program called ComPsych in Chicago’s NBC tower and have settled into the lunch hour routine of waving back at passengers on sightseeing boats along the river walk.
I’d like to see myself moving to San Francisco, where I had spent my final term in college, and maybe there, I’ll finally become a yogi or have a hanging garden of succulents. But seriously, there is a tutoring center in the Mission District called 826 Valencia (which doubles as a pirate supply store), which was founded by Lake Forest High School alum, Dave Eggers, where I would love to volunteer someday. Other than that, SF is a writer’s paradise – remember the Beat Movement – and the fog rolling in doesn’t seem to wear. The possibilities are endless in the cool, grey, city by the bay.
As a kid, my parents were always admittedly opposed to me riding horses, fearing for my safety on the cusp of Christopher Reeves public struggles with paralysis resulting from riding accident. In 5th grade, we had planned a trip to a Dude Ranch in Durango, Co., and they had agreed to let me take lessons leading up to the trip. It soon became the preeminent focus of my time and energy, and I began competitively showing my own horses in Junior Hunter divisions throughout the county in such places as Wellington, FL, Atlanta, GA, and Lexington, KY.
The show ring became more of a permanent fixture than the classroom, as my mom and I traveled (with mom, always and absolutely) for most weeks during summer and winter months. And then, in college, when riding became a club sport for me, my mom still drove to each Miami Equestrian Team competition throughout the Midwest, Texas, Delaware, and California.
What I’m pressing is that riding is a shared experience as much as it is autonomous. It taught me to love each horse. Its flaws, strengths, unpredictable temperaments, the lunge and kick you feel when it bucks unpredictably. Each 5am morning before a show when your horse lays the first prints in a sealed, sand ring, whilst my mother, awake and instructive yells some insignificant advice ringside. It was always the support of the team that kept me riding horses.
I feel as though I’m recalling the mindset of a former self in preaching why it is good to remain active. Regardless, riding was always an outlet for me to liquefy personal or scholarly issues. It kept my drive in check, always pushing me to stay competitive while maintaining goals.
My definition of a classy woman is one who stays informed, conscious of the self and how it relates to the world. Class is a term that is often hastily used, and mistakenly denotes someone’s monetary wealth. In my opinion, social ranking pertaining to wealth is irrelevant and tacky. A well-rounded individual who can sympathize or educate themselves with other’s social and personal matters is a true classy lady.
Author David Foster Wallace delivered a commencement speech at Kenyon College about what it means to truly be aware. It began with a parable about two fish swimming around, when an older fish asks them, ‘How’s the water?’ The two younger fish look at each other and remark, ‘What the hell is water?’ Most basically, Wallace argues that we are programmed with an inherent self-centeredness, and that in order to really live, we need to start observing the world around us.
To maintain the theme…. “You’ve always got to get back on the horse.”
Not sure what lovely is? You need to meet Meg Opel.
Meg is a fundraising expert, Ivy League educated, an incredible chef, and one of the loveliest, classiest ladies around.
Meg has spent much of her career in fundraising, and even fundraises in her spare time (she raised over $30,000 in an auction for Lurie Children’s Hospital last winter. This year, she partnered with The Eventful Life to donate a dinner party to the silent auction of the Lydia Home Association, which provides foster care and pre-school services throughout Illinois.). Not only will Meg’s charity work warm your heart, but Meg’s blog will also have you literally eating out of the palm of her hand.
“Peaches & Cake was conceived as a way for me to share crowd-pleasing recipes and entertaining tips that I learned from my mom’s dinner parties growing up,” she says. “’Peaches and Cake’ is actually a reference to a poem I wrote when I was five, though I don’t eat much cake anymore!”
Meg finds joy in cooking for other people and shares this joy with the rest of us. “What I love most about cooking is feeding other people! I feel that inviting people into your home is the most intimate act of kindness. People ALWAYS remember when you invite them into your home for a dinner party, but no one really remembers those dinners you ate at a restaurant years down the line, now do they?”
Meg believes cooking is such an important skill for modern young women to know because by doing so, women can avoid “a plethora of unhealthy ingredients, such as hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are almost always used to cook restaurant food. What’s more, cooking and entertaining for dinner parties is hands down the most classy way to network with friends and business colleagues. I believe all real business connections are made over the dinner table!”
Need some ideas? “I adore Mexican food, so one of my favorite spreads to make for friends is my spice-rubbed steak, a homemade Mexican rice (recipe forthcoming!), a green salad, and grilled bell peppers. If I’m doing something more intimate and elegant and using my wedding china, I like to make a roasted salmon with fresh herb or pistachio topping served with roasted sweet potatoes and asparagus. And if I have my A-game on, I like to prepare a homemade ice cream ahead of time for dessert. My husband’s favorite is butter pecan!”
Meg accomplishes everything in her life with joy and class. To Meg, it’s very important to be classy in today’s world. “Just look at Kate Middleton. Do you ever see her wearing skimpy clothing or holding her head down? She exudes confidence and class and the world adores her! What I have learned from her is to hold my head high and to rock those panty hose. Modesty is in, and it’s sexy.”
Besides celebrating classy women everywhere, good food, and charities dear to her, Meg is celebrating something else in her life: a new baby! “I am thrilled to become a mother to a baby boy in August and am currently knee deep in nesting! Prenatal appointments, pediatrician interviews, nursery decorating, installing car seats, baby product research, oh my! Plus I’ve been napping and succumbing to eating a lot of ice cream.”
Meg, the ice cream probably isn’t as sweet as you! Congrats to Meg!
Hannah Scroggins knows a thing or two about sweet Southern style, how to live a healthy life, and how to celebrate it.
Originally from the Chicago area, Hannah quickly acquired a liking to Southern culture in college. “It was hard not to adjust to the friendly people she encountered and the love for tradition, SEC football rivals, and southern food,” she says. Currently, she resides in Birmingham, AL with her newly wed husband Jesse, who is quite the southern gentleman (you can see the adorable picture of them in today’s Celebrate).
Hannah not only has a passion for the south, she also gives back to the community. She graduated with a BSN in nursing from Auburn and now works as a lead nurse for Advent Episcopal School (how cute is that?).
When Hannah isn’t helping children get healthy, she is helping the rest of us get healthy. She has a strong passion for educating individuals about the power of nutrition and health. She currently shares her passion and education through her own Juice Plus+ business.
Hannah calls Juice plus+ “The Next Best Thing to Fruits and Vegetables.” It is 25 fruits, vegetables, and berries juiced at a low temperature and put in capsule form, making getting your fruits and veggies very convenient. “It is clinically proven to be absorbed by the body, reduce oxidative stress, reduce key biomarkers of systemic inflammation, support a healthy immune system, helps protect DNA, supports cardiovascular wellness, supports healthy gums and skin,” Hannah confirms. You can visit her website for more information on the product or email her.
Hannah lives by one of Mother Teresa’s beautiful quotes: “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” Hannah has found this quote to be inspirational in her life, and she aspires to be a woman who cares about others before herself. “It goes a long way to bring the best out of people. The best part about this whole exchange is when you encourage others; you yourself are encouraged, which brings a joy to life!” says Hannah cheerfully.
Hannah finds joy in giving back to the community, through educating adults (and even children!) on how to eat healthy, and being married to the man of her dreams. “It is beautiful to see when you have a strong mutual respect for one another with a goal to out serve one another; there is a beautiful harmony that comes to doing life with a spouse. Marriage certainly does expose weaknesses and selfishness, however, it takes a daily commitment to humble oneself and love their spouse no matter what.”
Hannah lives life with such amazing grace. She’s the epitome of a southern sweetheart, and we are so thrilled to know women like Hannah grace the world.
Michelle Wie is a major golf champion, which is further secured by her US Women’s Open victory on Sunday. At only 24 years old, Michelle has won four major championships, has been professional for eight years, and is a Stanford University graduate.
Born in Hawaii to South Korean immigrant parents, Michelle quickly developed a passion and talent for golf. By the time she was 10 years old, she qualified for the US Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, making her the youngest player to qualify for the tournament. One week before her 16th birthday, Michelle officially turned pro.
She has set records and continues to set records. She’s only 24, and she has more golf accomplishments than even pros will earn in their lifetime.
It’s not only her athletic ability that keeps her going. She loves to draw, be with her dog, Lola, and calls herself a “serial tweeter”. What makes her a Classy Lady, though?
Michelle has faced doubt, just like any of us have. She faced doubt on the course yesterday when she was tied with a fellow championship. The people around her kept her going. “I had so many people surrounding me. They never lost faith in me. That’s pushed me forward,” Michelle says.
Michelle is classy, funny, and nice (just check out her site). Congratulations on your win!
Queen Letizia of Spain
Today, Princess Letizia becomes Queen of Spain.
In Spain, she’s known as “Kate 2.0”, which affectionately compares Letizia to the adored Kate Middleton in England. Like Kate, Letizia is not of royal birth. Letizia grew up in a very middle class Spanish family and worked her way up to become a news anchor. Her career was so impressive: she even covered the 9/11 attacks from Ground Zero and covered the US invasion of Iraq from Iraq.
Letizia’s life hasn’t always been glamorous. She was married before her current marriage to King Felipe VI, which caused quite a stir in Spain (she is the only queen to have been previously married). Letizia’s sister also committed suicide in 2007, which was obviously an exceptionally difficult time for her. In addition, Spanish media criticize her and even say her birth as a middle class woman makes the royal family “lose its mystique”.
There’s no mystery about it: Letizia has helped improve her husband’s message and public speaking (a husband who known to be frugal, which Spaniards approve of). Essentially, if you’re considered “Kate 2.0”, that’s a pretty good sign in our book (PS: she’s super fashionable, and we love her hat). Not only is she fashionable, she’s philanthropic, as she is an active supporter of researching rare diseases in order to find cures.
Letizia and her husband have two daughters – Leonor (8) and Sofia (7). These sweet girls are now princesses and look forward to the rein of their parents, that begins today.
Abby Wood is one of the most courageous, classy ladies out there, and we are honored to share her story with you. Abby is a survivor, a fighter, and a beautiful person.
Abby was born in Chicago and returned to Chicago after living in Sarasota, Florida before high school and then Princeton for college.
At only 21 years old, Abby was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. “Not only did I have to fight the disease with all the strength I had within me, but I also had to deal with leaving Princeton and watching all my family and friends suffer with me,” says Abby.
A Stage IV cancer diagnosis didn’t hold Abby back – she began to fight. “I faced my disease like I did any research paper at Princeton. I tackled it like a science. I changed my exercise regiment, my diet, my behavior. I gave up alcohol, caffeine, red meat, and sushi. Even on my sickest and darkest days, I made myself at least walk around our block in NYC just because my oncologist told me regular exercise is proven to help the chemo be more effective.”
Abby is one of the most strongest, classy, and fearless fighters out there (and was one of the most organized patients her doctors had ever seen). Even with her exceptional organization and attitude, Abby recognizes she didn’t overcome the disease on her own. “I conquered my cancer because of the medical expertise of my amazing oncologist, and the poisonous chemotherapy cocktail she concocted for me. I also had the amazing support of my mom, dad and twin sister. They followed me around with hand-sanitizer, while also giving me the emotional love and support I needed to stay strong and continue fighting. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for my family and my doctor.”
This is how inspiring Abby’s attitude is – she recognizes the lessons the diagnosis and her battle have taught her. “Of course, [it’s taught me] to appreciate life – to be grateful to have a second chance at life, to not take the little things too seriously. You might have a bad day or a bad week or a bad month, but that doesn’t compare to the possibility of losing your life and leaving your loved ones behind. I’m not saying I’m the happiest or most care-free person out there – in fact I am far from it – but as I continue to deal with my post-cancer battles, I remember that I am very lucky, and that not everyone is as lucky as I am. That’s enough to get me from one day to the next.”
Abby has still had ups and downs since her diagnosis – including not being able to walk for 9 months – but Abby’s amazing positive attitude keeps her going. “I always remind myself how lucky I am to have a second chance at life, and I let my family and friends inspire me. None of them have had the curveballs thrown their way that I have, and their successes and happiness keep me positive. They give me hope.”
When Abby needs inspiration, she turns to her family that has been with her every step of the way. “My twin sister recently got engaged to an amazing guy, and that inspires me. My mom, who has had many health issues as well, inspires me. My dad and his huge heart inspire me. Going back to Princeton reunions and seeing all my best friends again inspires me. All the moments and the people that remind me how wonderful life is inspire me – and that’s how I stay positive. My dog also helps me stay happy and positive. He’s a classy little guy, and I try to stay classy just to keep up with him!” (Teddy is adorable!)
Abby’s cute puppy Teddy may be classy, but his owner is pretty classy, too. There’s an even better word to describe Abby, though – it’s survivor.
“Being a survivor is the greatest title I give myself. It is more important than any title I will receive in the business world. It is the sole title I will be sure to carry with me for the rest of my life. I stopped being angry and scared, and instead I just started thinking like a survivor. If I was going to beat this cancer and end up on top, I had to believe I could. And I will always carry that with me.”
Last year, Abby had hip surgery, and doctors told her she wouldn’t be able to walk for almost a year. “This was a huge blow to my otherwise now-healthy life. But I shook off that disappointment and put my survivor-cap back on. I stopped dwelling on how much it stunk to not walk, and started thinking about all the wonderful things I would do when I could walk again. Like move to New York – and now I am! or travel to Paris – Daisy and I are going in July! and walk my dog again – we love the park!”
Abby continues to see the positive and continues to be an inspiration not only for classy ladies everywhere – but also for survivors and fighters. Abby, thank you for sharing your story with us and for being such a beautiful role model.
“I will never forget my experience with cancer. And my fight didn’t end when chemo and radiation ended. I’m still fighting. I will have to have a hip replacement in the near future, but that’s ok. Because I am alive, and that’s really all that matters at the end of the day. Eventually I will put all this behind me and find my dream job and a husband and a family, but right now I’m just living and that’s all I can ask for.
“So, what is it like to be a survivor? It’s amazing because I’m alive. The chemo and its side effects were horrible, as was the radiation. Giving up alcohol and sushi, changing my bed time to 8pm, having to take a year off from Princeton – all of this was horrible. But it was all worth it because I am alive, and, there are many, many others who did not win their battle. I stay classy for those people.”
Danielle Boyd’s smile is contagious, and guess what – I’ve only ever seen her with a huge smile on her face.
Danielle is a self-described “easy going, Midwestern girl” who loves to travel and has a “special hankering for spontaneous car rides, especially to visit friends or for ice cream – it’s just better at an ice cream shop,” she laughs.
While from Indiana, Danielle now lives in St. Louis, where she is pursuing her Masters in Public Health. She is interested in many areas of health communication, which includes helping patients better understand “scary medical concepts” and helping train clinical staff to more effectively interact with their patients.
“I used to strategically plan and stress about making sure I made ‘perfect’ professional choices and had a map of where I wanted to be and how I planned to get there. While making smart professional choices is key, I’m slowly learning that wonderful things need to happen organically. Landing the perfect internship or starting position is just as likely to arise from a formal interview as an unexpected conversation in coffee shop or in the ladies room!”
Since Danielle was a toddler, she wanted to learn how everything worked and why. Growing up, she only became more interested in science (especially thanks to her parents who are wonderful science role models) and majored in biology.
“I liked learning and talking about biological mechanisms (I know, true nerd status), but I never ever saw myself working in a lab. I’m a talker and a people person. I love working with people in health care settings, talking about medicine and doing research. I have always been attracted to health care related careers because they allowed me to apply science to people in a very tangible way,” Danielle says.
Danielle is one of the few women in her field, and she advocates for women to pursue the sciences. “I think the lack of women in those fields is hurting the growth of those fields and hindering innovation. However, I’m afraid that focusing on attracting women to sciences misses the larger problem. When most people hear science they think of mad scientists with crazy potions in a lab somewhere. Some science does occur in labs, but it also occurs in forests, oceans, communities and with people. Science is everywhere. You don’t have to be a ‘genius’ to work in science. You just have to be led by questions and be willing to explore.”
Not only is Danielle eager to explore and to help others, but she also does it all with a classy demeanor and positive attitude. To Danielle, “…being classy is more than just dressing well. It is an attitude and an understanding of oneself. We live in a busy world where showing true authentic concern and interest is sadly lacking. For me, the classiest thing I do is making the conscious choice to take a genuine interest in the people around me.”
What if Danielle has a challenge? “I often know when something is going to prove a challenge before I ever begin. In these cases, I make a small promise to myself that I won’t give up and that I will keep persevering. I don’t think there is a magic formula, just a trust in yourself and the plan God has for your life.”
And, in case you need even more inspiration for the day after reading Danielle’s exceptionally positive and motivating story, heed Danielle’s beautiful words of advice:
“Be brave! You are not a mistake, and you are not misguided. Your dreams are just that: yours. Own them, protect them, grow them and let them run wild.
“You are beautiful and worthy of love. You are capable of so much more than you can ever imagine. You are your worst critic. At some point you need to give yourself permission to try. Try something new, something hard, something out of character. With that willingness to try, allow yourself to a beginner or even to fail.”
Danielle enjoys CFN because she leaves feeling proud of fellow women’s successes. Danielle, today, readers will leave CFN feeling so proud of you!
Ashley Fehr Hajjar
Ashley Fehr Hajjar loves to see the sparkle in life. She makes a conscious choice to celebrate and to “be aware of all the pretty, fancy, and sparkly things life gives us.”
Ashley’s sparkly attitude has been with her since growing up in Cincinnati, to college in Indiana, Chicago, Hoboken, and Manhattan; in Ashley’s words, she’s been “here, there, and everywhere since I graduated.”
Being here, there, and everywhere hasn’t stopped Ashley from seeking the sparkle in life. In fact, it’s only encouraged her to see it more so. To celebrate all things sparkle, Ashley launched the sweetest (and chicest) blog: Sparkle Sense (also, her loving husband, Richard, is a huge supporter of her blog. Isn’t that adorable?).
So, why Sparkle Sense? “To ‘sense’ is to be aware that something is the case without being able to define exactly how one knows. My blog is my conscious choice to celebrate and be aware of all the pretty, fancy & sparkly things life gives us,” Ashley says.
The blog has been an outlet for her, especially when her now-husband was in medical school in Grenada, and Ashley was still in Chicago. “I wanted an outlet for sharing the things I love: fashion, interior design, travel & food. I hope my blog inspires women to try something new: to shop, to decorate, to travel, to eat, to cook, or simply to smile.”
To sum it up, Sparkle Sense is really about finding joy in the little things. “It’s about finding that sparkle inside yourself in your everyday life, even when things aren’t going your way. I’ve learned that having a good attitude can truly change your mood, your perception of the world around you & in turn, your life.”
In Ashley’s adult life thus far, she’s lived in many places, with many new people, in many situations, and she has learned to embrace change. “I truly believe you make your own happiness. I think finding joy in the little things and finding a way to share that with those around you can really make a difference in your day & theirs. To be kind for being kinds sake. To not want anything in return. That will bring you joy, it will help you make your own happiness.”
Ashley’s sparkle is contagious. Through her positive views on life, her classy demeanor, and Sparkle Sense, Ashley encourages women to see the sparkle in their lives – even when it’s a challenge. “We can’t always do it all, but we can carry ourselves with confidence in our abilities, in what we can do & what we are good at. Keeping a classy composure through it all is also absolutely essential (which is why I just love CFN!!) We as women need to keep level heads, to strive for what we want & to work hard for it –in a classy and confident manner. If you are confident in yourself, you will pave your own way.”
If you are looking for more things to celebrate, take a peak at Ashley’s wedding photos. Her wedding is something out of a dream. Of her wedding, Ashley says, “We had the absolute best day. I got to marry my best friend last July in a sea of friends, family and pink.” Her wedding was so fabulous, it was even featured in Style Me Pretty.
Can’t get enough French-inspired weddings (can you say LaDuree macaroons?), happiness, and all things monogrammed, check out Ashley’s blog on Wednesday’s for her “Wedding Wednesdays” feature (and really, check out the blog every day).
“Everything about [weddings] makes me happy – the love, the flowers, the happiness. Personal touches are what really make weddings special. My favorite personal touch from our wedding was the photos we had hanging in the ladies bathroom. They were photos of our moms and grandmothers on their own wedding day. It was a our tribute to the beautiful, strong, classy and confident women that made us who we are and have taught us what love truly is.”
Growing up, Tory’s ambitions started early. Tory was an avid tennis player, horse-riding enthusiast, and art historian. After graduating from college, Tory immediately moved to New York City to pursue another kind of art: a career in fashion and public relations (have you seen her ode to New York? Click here). As she says, “Ambition is not a four-letter word, and women have to embrace that.”
Embrace that she did. In 2004, Tory launched her brand: Tory Burch (and my shoe-buying habit intensified). She developed a lifestyle brand and became a classy icon with her pretty preppy and bohemian-chic style. She turned a fashion idea into over one billion dollars, and she’s only just begun.
She’s encountered her share of difficulties, with a divorce behind her – but none of this stops Tory. Girls flock to the T-logos found on most of Tory Burch’s items, wearing her name as a symbol of class and comfortable chic.
In addition to feeling classy and comfortably chic in Tory’s fashions, women feel positive because Tory is so positive. She thinks of negativity as “noise” and encourages women to “always believe in what you’re doing”.
Tory’s also made it her mission to empower women everywhere. Through the Tory Burch foundation, she connects women to micro financing opportunities, so women everywhere can hopefully achieve their dreams. In Tory’s words, “One of my greatest talents is recognizing talent in others and giving them the forum to shine.”
Jennifer Peacock is an exceptionally talented lady who continues to pursue her dreams. Her love of music has been with her since she began playing the piano as a toddler. “Music has been a part of my life ever since,” she says. She is from a small town and fell in love with New York City after spending a semester interning there for a nonprofit, multicultural theatre company. Jennifer moved to New York to pursue her dreams.
“One second, I’d fill in as a rehearsal pianist, the next I’d peel rehearsal tape off the floor or run errands across Manhattan.” Even more exciting, Jennifer found herself assisting with Broadway shows. A famous costume designer, Dustin Cross, ended up “stealing” Jennifer away for a week to help with a Broadway show (“And I don’t even sew!” Jennifer laughs).
New York allowed Jennifer to pursue her dreams. She met a famous pianist who happens to sub-conduct for The Book of Mormon. One Saturday, he texted her and asked if she’d like to sit in the pit .”Is that even a question?!” she asked. The Broadway pianist even let Jennifer play a couple notes during the show.
“I’ve always known what I want to do with my life… sometimes I wonder if I’m trying to do something completely unattainable (music major? In this economy?!). This Howard Thurman quote quiets all of my doubts: ‘Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.’”
New York has also greatly inspired Jennifer. She loves its quieter charms and the support she received from people in the music business. Instead of telling her she isn’t good enough, “people encouraged my goals and dreams and took the time to offer indispensable advice.”
Jennifer is a classy lady who is absolutely determined to make her dreams come true. She’ll move back to New York after graduation and visit the man at the local deli who knew her order as soon as he saw her, remember when a street gardener gave her a pot of flowers for no reason, and when she saw her most cherished friends in the city. “New York City was a major adjustment, but it was always the kindness and love of other people that made me feel at home,” Jennifer says.
What is Jennifer’s advice to women? “Simply, be kind to one another. I try my hardest to root for the happiness and success of other women, rather than harboring jealousy or resentment. We can’t control how we are treated by society today, but we can control how we treat each other; if we empower one another to live up to our potential, our possibilities are limitless.”
Jennifer, your possibilities are certainly limitless. We can’t wait to look out for your name in lights on the big stage!
Sanah is one of the happiest people ever. She loves to smile, to be happy, and to celebrate the positives in life. We are honored to feature Sanah as today’s Classy Lady.
Sanah is a self-described PR girl and beauty blogger. While from Texas (#hookem), she moved straight to the PR Mecca of the world after college – New York City. In New York, Sanah started working in financial PR. Even with very long days, Sanah always kept a big smile and straight posture, too!
Soon, though, Texas called Sanah back (“Texas was always my calling. I guess you could call me a brand ambassador for the state!” she cheers). During the move, a lot of changes were happening very quickly in her life. In order to always make the best of everything, Sanah decided to start the 100 Happy Days in order to find her rhythm again.
“It helped me break old habits that needed to be let go of, and I discovered how many things can make me smile or make my heart skip a beat and find love within myself for myself,” Sanah says. “I think everyone needs to take time out of their day to just reflect on better things, the silver lining and their blessings to live a more positive life.”
Some of Sanah’s 100 Happy Days are documented in her fabulous beauty blog, Beauty and the Pitch. “Over the years, the blog has become a creative outlet for me. It records my adventures in PR and everything beautiful in life from fashion to events and beauty,” Sanah says. In true Sanah fashion (since she inspires everyone with her smile and sunny disposition), she even has two or three male readers out there!
Sanah’s wonderful and lovely personality draws so many people to her. Even so, Sanah remains humble, kind, and classy. “I definitely think God has been on my side through my trials and tribulations, and that has made me a stronger and independent lady. I am proud of my successes, and I hope to keep making great strides in the future.”
Sanah’s #1 rule of life? “Stay classy!!!” (She probably would add several smiley emoticons here, too.)
Sanah, you are fabulous, classy, and beautiful from the inside out. Thank you for being such a Classy Lady!
Miss USA: Nia Sanchez
Every year, ladies everywhere admire the beauty queens who walk the pageant stage. Miss Sanchez is not only a beauty from Nevada – she has brains and strengths to back it all up.
On Sunday evening, Nia was crowned Miss USA after sharing her belief that women need to know how to defend themselves. Growing up, Nia spent time living in a women’s shelter with her mother, which encouraged her to learn self-defense. Nia is now a fourth degree black belt in taekwondo and plans on sharing this passion with others in her new role as Miss USA.
Nia is the first ever winner to represent the state of Nevada as Miss USA. Later this year, Nia will compete in the Miss Universe competition.
We appreciate women like Nia, who share their story and how their struggles were channeled into something positive. Because of Nia, women may learn more about self defense and how to overcome any challenges in their past.
Alexa von Tobel
Alexa von Tobel is an entrepreneur who has accomplished much before even hitting the big 3-0 (which includes going to Harvard. Twice.)
After seeing the way her friends treated money (spending it when it was in the bank and complaining when it wasn’t), Alexa founded LearnVest. LearnVest offers both free and fee-based advice on how to best manage your finances. As Alexa says, “We help you devise a livable budget (who says you have to cut out the daily latte?), unload your student loans, and build a realistic financial plan that will allow you to splurge without remorse. That’s worth a fortune, if you ask me.”
Alexa empowers women to take control of their finances in order to realistically achieve their dreams. Taking control of your finances helps makes your dreams a reality. Alexa was unafraid to start her own company, which is now a huge success. She is often quoted in top-tier media publications for her financial wisdom. More importantly, she empowers women everywhere to take control.
As Alexa notes, sometimes asking a girlfriend about their finances is like asking how it’s going losing those five extra pounds. You just don’t go there. But Alexa is changing the way women look at our finances, as she encourages us to be more financially fit.
Check out Alexa’s site for more information.
A big thanks to Danielle for submitting Alexa as a recommendation!
We feature powerful female CEOs who are making their mark on the world. We feature singers like Taylor Swift who have been singing about every emotion you have ever felt since you were a teenager. We feature women who have inspired you to be unafraid of who you are, like Katherine Straus. Women like Kaitlin Hillary are featured — Kaitlin moved across the country to make her dream of living in New York come true.
Who haven’t we featured? YOU. You have a story to tell. We want to hear it. You deserve to celebrate your accomplishments, anything you have overcome, and why you think being classy and confident is fundamental in today’s world.
Who graduated in your family this weekend? Who graduated from a situation? We are ready to be inspired by you. Write us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today, the Classy Lady is you.
Virginia (Ginni) Rometty
Ginni Rometty is Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of IBM. Not only is IBM a technology and consulting business, it is also one of the largest companies in the world. Ginni is the first woman Chairman and CEO of IBM.
Ginni began her career with IBM in over thirty years ago, and she quickly emerged as a leader. In her varied career, she oversaw business results in 170 global markets and led IBM’s expansion into emerging market economies. She also oversaw the largest acquisition in history, when IBM and PWC’s (another consulting & accounting firm) consulting business merged.
Ginni has become the classy leader that ladies everywhere can admire. She not only leads in her words but by example. After IBM missed earnings results for a few quarters, Ginni didn’t accept a bonus. Especially in a technology company, this move has been called very rare.
To motivate her over 400,000 employees, Ginni launched Think Academy, an online education program. She begins each course by explaining her view of the topic and how IBM is addressing the topic. As Ginni says, “You can engineer [positive] change.”
We admire her for being the first female CEO of such a major corporation (fellow executives cheer that she didn’t get the job because she’s female but because she’s a star). We look forward to seeing how she will transform IBM even more under her leadership.
Kaitlin Hillary exemplifies everything a classy woman should be, and she is willing to go the distance – literally – to make her dreams come true.
Born and raised in California, Kaitlin made a cross-country leap to attend school in Philadelphia. Her passion for travel and getting out of her comfort zone didn’t stop there. Junior year, she studied abroad in Madrid, Spain and then moved to New York for an internship that summer. After college graduation, Kaitlin returned to New York full time.
While planning her next traveling adventure, Kaitlin works as a CPA for a large accounting firm. She is not only a number genius, she also has a creative side. To explore her creative outlet, she started her own blog. To Kaitlin, “Having a blog gives me the chance to do something else I love, connect with friends and share what inspires me. My blog gives me a chance to share my favorite recipes, give updates on my life and travels, and hopefully the blog will continue to grow as I do.”
Kaitlin sees the good in each day by appreciating the small things. “Small things like a great cup of coffee or a day with nice weather are things that make me happy. When walking around the bustling city of New York, I try to stop for a moment to really look around and appreciate the life I have and be thankful that I am able to make my dream of living here a reality.”
To Kaitlin, it’s also important to be classy, especially because it has become somewhat of a rarity. “Although this generation has been blessed with so many new opportunities, all due to the hard work of great women and men (we can give them some credit) before us, we are consistently faced with new challenges that didn’t exist before. I think women who are able to stay confident and true to themselves in this ever changing society really are inspirational. I hope we can continue to present ourselves so that we can become role models for future generations to come.”
With examples like Kaitlin, who goes for her dreams and appreciates the good in life, we can become the role models for future generations. “I am a firm believer in it is never too late to change and that people shouldn’t allow themselves to be typecast into a role. Be willing to take the risk and do what you love. It is your life, and no one will fight for your happiness more than you.”
Kaitlin, you are absolutely lovely, and we thank you for being a role model to classy women everywhere!
Valeria Aguilar is talented beyond imagination. She is beautiful, smart (she managed to major in both economics and piano performance), and a musical sensation. Valeria has played piano since she was four years old in her native country of Ecuador, and she’s barely left the piano bench since.
“For me, playing the piano is about sharing beautiful sounds with other people, as well as sharing knowledge through teaching,” Valeria says.
Valeria is such a classy lady who not only practices her talent and pursues her passion, she also helps underprivileged students receive piano lessons from world-renowned instructors. With the help of her husband, she fundraises throughout the year. She also teaches these graceful piano talents to others (see today’s Celebrate story for the impact Valeria has through teaching).
Valeria wholeheartedly believes that playing an instrument is important to women in today’s society. “Musicians learn to deliver on the spot. Acquiring this characteristic can be very inspiring for women in leadership positions who need to be alert and ready to lead regardless of the situation. Playing an instrument can also inspire women by soothing their thoughts and motivating their creative neurons.”
Valeria has certainly motivated our creative neurons since she moved to the United States when she was 17. She calls moving to the U.S. one of the best decisions she has ever made. Both in the U.S. and abroad, Valeria encourages women to be confident and classy.
“A confident and classy woman is able to stand by her beliefs, knows how to be a leader, and has a generous heart. It is important to be classy because we will build the next generation of women, and we need to start by being exceptional role models. My advice for women is: always work towards becoming a better version of yourself.”
Ladies, let’s work to be like Valeria and always work toward the best version ourselves. As Valeria demonstrates, it is certainly possible.
We’re spinning like a girl in a brand new dress to bring you the sensational Taylor Swift. Would we save the first 13th of the month of CFN™’s existence for anybody else?
I don’t know about you, but I am feeling 22 (I’m 23). Loving Taylor is red (loving him was red, too). And baby, just say yes.
Taylor connects with you. She sings about things you have actually experienced, whether it’s wondering whether or not to call a boy (“I Almost Do”), wanting to tell a boy you love him (“You Belong With Me”), dealing with mean girls (“Mean”), or thinking about a love you wish you didn’t lose (“All Too Well”, “Holy Ground”, “Red”), Taylor swift writes about it all.
While some singers sing about the club and all of that, it’s not something every woman can relate to. I don’t take men to clubs (I once took a boyfriend to my grandma’s house on a farm for fun – no club there). Taylor doesn’t have to take her clothes off in magazines, she says, because singing about her life is just as bare as you can possibly get.
You look up to Taylor for going for her dreams when she was a teen and encouraged her family to move to Nashville so she could pursue music. You look up to her for being so classy. You look up to her for visiting sick children in the hospital. You look up to her because she is like you, and you want to be like her.
At 24, Taylor has won seven Grammy awards and has sold over 75 million single downloads. Her career is just getting started.
With lyrics like, “‘Cause here we are again in the middle of the night, we dance around the kitchen in the refrigerator light” (What is it about the kitchen? She is so right about that one), Taylor will continue to be the Classy Lady superstar we all know and love.
Here’s to Taylor – the first 13 on CFN™ (Taylor is all about the number thirteen)! We love you!
Kelly Nicastro is one of those special women whose warmth and kindness is obvious the moment you meet her. Not only is Kelly kind and classy, she is pursuing her dream of working in journalism and will work very hard to get there.
“Before I even knew what, ‘And here’s your weather in your neck of the woods’ meant,” Kelly says, “I was drawn to the news. Playing ‘house’ turned into playing ‘news,’ which consisted of me sitting Indian style in front of the television watching the anchors intently, pretending to take notes and interviewing my dog.”
Kelly quickly graduated from interviewing her pup to working as a production assistant for Fox Chicago News after college. Even though her shift began at 4am, Kelly would wait for her alarm clock to go off. To Kelly, “The chaotic setting of the newsroom was much more comfortable than my bed – it’s where I belonged.”
Through both print and broadcast journalism (which she is now studying at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism), Kelly knows she can make a positive impact on the world. “As a journalist, you’re able to connect with people across the world, and I think it’s so empowering. As a woman in journalism, it’s important to use that platform to show the world how strong we are and to encourage other women to find their strength.”
Kelly encourages women to find their strength and to go for their dreams. While you go for your dreams, Kelly says, “Stay true to yourself, and don’t let anybody tell you that you need to be anything different. Find what you’re most passionate about, and go after it. There’s no better time than now to do it.”
To Kelly, it’s important to stay true to yourself, to go for your dreams, and to become the classy role model the world needs. “Now, more than ever, we need role models to set an example of how to treat others, to show compassion, and to love each other. Being classy doesn’t mean you need to wear the perfect outfit or lead a perfect life – it’s about appreciating everything you have and everyone you come in contact with.”
Kelly, you are a role model for women everywhere!
Colbie Caillat is one of those special songwriters and singers that you turn on in your car when the sun is out, you’re feeling “bubbly” and blissful, and you can’t get enough of the lovely day around you. She’s a kind of California sweet whose calmness is absolutely refreshing.
Colbie realized she wanted to be a singer early, and not making it in the pre-auditions twice (even once singing her famous “Bubbly” song) for American Idol didn’t stop her. Coco took to MySpace, which was a hub for unknown yet aspiring artists. Colbie’s precious “Bubbly” quickly rose to such popularity on MySpace, that Colbie was listed as the best unsigned artist in her genre for four months.
Colbie never gave up on her dream of being a singer. When American Idol didn’t work out, she found another way. Her determination has led her to win two Grammys and to become one of the most adorable, classy singers around.
When Colbie sings about a first love in “Bubbly”, she says, “It starts in my toes, and I crinkle my nose…” Whenever we hear Colbie’s songs, our excitement starts in our toes, too!
Katherine Straus is one of the most beautiful people, both inside and out. She began her career as a model for Ford Models (one of the world’s premier model agencies). While she may have left formal modeling, Katherine continues to be the best example of a young, female role model I have ever seen.
Katherine has given her life to service and to empowering women across the globe. She volunteered in a women’s prison in Peru, has researched forced eugenic procedures in South Africa (where she lived for over four months), and has worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago, amongst many other service projects. Until recently, Katherine worked for DIGDEEP WATER, a non-profit organization in Los Angeles that defends water access as a human right. Katherine is now working as the Director of Mission Advancement for Endow, a faith-based organization that engages women to better understand their faith.
The lovely Katherine Straus has worked with women from all walks of life, and she believes the best way women can empower themselves is through education. To Katherine, this means not only studying to increase their general knowledge of the world but also of a woman’s “purpose and dignity”. As Katherine beautifully writes, “If only every woman in each corner of society understood how valuable she is as a woman and the unique impact she can make in fully living out her feminine genius, our families and communities would be strengthened, joy-filled, and transformative to the greater culture.”
Katherine empowers women everywhere to be the best version of themselves. Katherine accomplishes this through living by example. She reminds us just how powerful women are and just how much we are capable of accomplishing. Katherine is actively working to encourage women to see what they are capable of through her new role. Katherine sees joy in the world, especially in the people around her (which includes her loving fiancée, Matt, and her dear friends in L.A., a city she loves).
Katherine is unafraid to share about her strong faith and to encourage women to feel strong in their lives, too. She says, “There is nothing more beautiful and classy than a compassionate, confident woman.” As we discussed, it can be difficult to remain classy in a sometimes un-classy world, with all kinds of temptations and empty love. To Katherine, she advises finding an “authentic confidence” through prayer, surrounding ourselves with loved ones, and to remember to “choose love” every day.
As Katherine says, “If we can feel comfortable in our own skin, then that freedom is going to shine, and it will be hard not to throw on your favorite dress, walk out your door, and radiate for the world to see.”
Katherine, you once told me there are friends of the heart and friends of the road. Friends of the heart are in your heart forever. You are certainly a friend of the heart, and your beauty (inside and out) is truly inspirational. Thank you for being such a role model for classy women everywhere.
Mindy Kaling is a jack-of-all-trades. From her work as a hilarious sitcom writer and portrayal of Kelly Kapoor in The Office, to starring in The Mindy Project, and writing her own book (“Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)”, Mindy Kaling is absolutely fantastic inside and out.
Mindy went for her dreams. Growing up, she loved comedy. She would watch comedy shows on hours with her (secret) friend, according to her book. This love didn’t fade in college, so Mindy joined the traveling comedy group to further practice and develop her comedy. Clearly, college was a great time for her, as she says – “You know that saying, ‘big fish in a small pond?’ At Dartmouth College, I was freakin’ Jaws in a community swimming pool.”
The swimming pool got a little bigger when Mindy moved to New York after college graduation and gained critical success after co-writing and starring in a play, Matt & Ben (a parody of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s friendship). Yes, Mindy wrote this play when she was only 23 years old and then landed her job at The Office only one year later at 24. She became the only female writer in The Office’s writing staff. Talk about talent!
Even with her immense fame, Mindy is humble and represents what women everywhere can aspire to be. She knew she had a talent and wanted to pursue it. She reminds us to pursue our dreams and to have some laughs along the way.
Mindy, everyone is not hanging out without you.
Katie Simmons is beautiful both inside and out. She is a woman of many talents, from being a professional chef, a believer that “plants rule” (check out her website), and an exercise guru. She’s the only exercise coach ever that has inspired me to get up on Tuesdays at 5am in order to make her fun and powerful strength class (while I walk into class with my glasses on and barely able to talk, Katie always has a huge smile on her face and so much energy – yes, at 5am!). Katie helps women everywhere find the key to both inner and outer beauty: plants & squats.
To Katie, “plants rule because they are amazing… Go to any produce section or farmers’ market, and the mere rainbow of color will blow you away.” Katie sees the benefits of a plant-based diet and reminds us just how important it is to eat healthy. Katie makes it seem effortless, though – she plays with plants and ingredients to make them into beautiful salads and has fun with it. The best part? Katie caters to clients with special diets, families that have any food allergies, and busy professionals who need the convenience of healthy eating (sign me up).
After plants, I bet Katie would tell you that “squats rule”, too. Katie sees that women who continue to work out “gain pride as they get stronger, gain increased energy, and generally feel better about themselves.” As an instructor, Katie truly inspires confidence through her workouts (I can personally attest to this). She makes women feel that they can accomplish whatever they set their mind to in their workouts (yes, even lifting those weights for 4 minutes). Katie makes women everywhere feel empowered. (How many women can inspire other women to make a 6:30 strength class? Not even new Lululemon could get me to a strength class that early – only Katie!)
Katie’s view on exercise is that is should be your “play time”. Whether it’s going for a long walk every day, taking a dance class, or joining a botocamp group, “find what motivates you, and HAVE FUN!” Katie’s positive view on life is absolutely encouraging – she knows exactly how to motivate you to eat healthier, to do a few squats (and feel good about it!), and how to always see the positives.
It is such a treat that Katie is today’s Classy Lady. From being a chef, to knowing why plants rule, and to celebrating positive women, Katie is someone to truly admire. She also shares these words that every woman should live by:
“You are worth your well-being. I think women feel a particular pressure to exceed expectations and surpass even the standards that men face. It’s easy to get caught up in what other people want from you — from bosses, coworkers, family, friends, boyfriends, children. But you deserve your time and energy, too. You deserve to eat healthy, delicious food. You deserve an hour of day to go for a run, phone off. When you take care of yourself and make your own health a priority, you become so powerful that you can spread that energy with everyone you touch.”
You are the best, Katie!
Can’t get enough? Follow Katie:
Recipes, nutrition info, videos, plus sign up for newsletter: www.chefkatiesimmons.com
Share this article: