So, this isn't a Willie Wednesday post but it is a LONG OVERDUE thank you. At the beginning of October, I was notified that I had been selected as one of the Voice-Tribune's New Voices of Philanthropy. In order to be nominated, the nominees had to be young professionals between 21 and 35 years old who "are making a difference in creative and inclusive ways."
The gracious editor of The Voice-Tribune, Tonya Abeln, contacted me and I was blown away. Though my friend Alisa at the Kentucky Humane Society had nominated me, I had actually been recognized for my work with The Backside Learning Center. My sweet friend Heather of HerKentucky fame had nominated me in secret, knowing I would object. With the honor came an interview, a photoshoot (with hair and makeup included!), an honorary event, AND $1000 FOR THE BACKSIDE LEARNING CENTER!
I arrived at the talented Clay Cook's studio in a bit of a tizzy - the shoot was on the Wednesday of the week when I landed from Orlando Monday evening and took off for Boston Thursday morning. (I know, my life is so incredibly hard. HA!) The insanely talented Ana Perez and Rick Bancroft calmed me down and got me beautified with hair and makeup respectively. While we chatted as they made me over, I got to talk to Tonya about BLC and the organizations I work with a bit. Ana succeeded in making my hair into the relaxed, piecey, beachy waves I always want to have and Rick made my face look better than it ever could!
I brought two options, and Tonya immediately selected the Alexis black lace dress I was secretly hoping to wear but thought I maybe couldn't pull off. I am so glad for professionals!
Clay ever so kindly walked me through posing. I am AWKWARD naturally. I can do behind the camera and tell people what they should be doing, but myself? I see the camera and turn into Chandler from Friends.
Clay was patient and understanding and made me laugh a lot - so I was so excited to see what he came up with! We then moved on to the interview portion with Tonya, which was videoed for the honorary event.
Perhaps its that my emotions are raw from the personal drama of this summer, but I got choked up several times while talking about the Backside Learning Center and what it means to me. I need to do another post on BLC and all of the good it does, but in a nutshell: The Backside Learning Center serves the equine workers and their families of Churchill Downs. BLC serves the hot walkers, the grooms, the BACKBONE of the racing industry in Louisville. I can't imagine working as hard as the BLC students do - and they do it with a smile!
I left the studio feeling a little abashed about getting emotional, but feeling really good. There is something to having relative strangers tell you they admire the work you've been doing AND also make you feel more beautiful than you have in a long time.
I didn't think much else about it until my sweet friend Deanna sent me a picture of the magazine cover. I was floored. Clay - you are a genius. Professional hair, makeup, lighting, and photographer is MAGIC. Like, Harry Potter level magic!
Later that night, a gaggle of of my girlfriends came to support me at the event! Another wonderful friend Maggie and Heather had set about to get as many people as could attend to come! Do I have the best friends or what?
It was a bit surreal, having so many of my friends (and my parents) there to support me and then hear what Tonya had to say about me. I was also empowered by the other nominees and their stories - in fact, Zakiya founder of Mahogany Foster and I have been Facebook messaging! (She needs Thanksgiving donations NOW!).
I finally read the article when I got home, after a lovely night of being toasted and coddled by my friends and family. I sat down and cried. Why is it that other people's words about us are so much more powerful? I couldn't believe that Tonya, this powerhouse woman, had written that I am "one of those people you ask to take the lead when you want to get things done. She has a brain for development, a heart for service and the list of nonprofit organizations for which she has assumed a leadership role could fill a book that might be published by the company she heads, Shircliff Publishing."
Tonya's words. My friends gushing. The professional photos that made me feel like a million bucks. After a couple of months that made me feel low and unsure of myself, this was a nitro boost.
Thank you Heather and Alisa for nominating me. Thank you Tonya for your empowering words and vision for the New Voices of Philanthropy. Thank you to Clay Cook, Ana Perez, and Rick Bancroft for making me feel prettier than I have in months. Thank you to my parents for unabashedly supporting me no matter what crazy thing I rope them into. Thank you to my friends (so many of you to name!!) that came and made me feel so loved.
Most of all, thank you to the other Voices, this giving city of Louisville, and the Backside Learning Center. You all inspire me to give more, be more creative, and see what else I can do!