Wednesday, March 15, 2006
It takes only 10 minutes of talking to Dr. Nirupa Mohandas to hear about her love life and dating experiences. As a native of India, Nirupa's open-minded parents still expected their daughter to have a traditional, arranged marriage after she completed medical school. Yet after meeting 30 men and becoming engaged, Nirupa decided she was not ready to commit to marriage. Instead, she moved to New York City and completed her residency at New York University.
"It was really a turning point in my life. I was this shy, timid girl ... the whole
atmosphere of New York is a melting pot—different cultures, religions. It changed me. I think New York gave me confidence, made me outgoing," Nirupa reflects.
While she claims not to call herself a feminist, Nirupa has strong ideas about a woman's right and need to make a living. She disagrees with her parents and "parents the world over" who think their daughters should have a man to take care of them.
"(My parents) still ask me 'When are you getting married?' and I say, 'Oh, yeah, yeah, soon, soon.' But I'm still single, and I'm happy. Hey, if somebody comes along, and they're the right person, great. But if it doesn't happen, I'm not going to sit and cry for the rest of my life. ... I have to stand on my own feet."
— Catherine Schmidt
We are the nurturers of our nation, the hand that rocks the cradle. With the gentle touch of dew kissing a flower before sunrise, we care for the world. We are women.
One such woman is Queen B, 50. She has the voice of one who understands. Giving the comfort of a mother, the support of a sister and the advice of a friend, on-air personality Queen B is our faithful confidant.
Working at a radio station owned by Charles Evers, brother to Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers, Queen hopes to be like a voice crying in the wilderness to other women with aspirations of careers in radio. Though it may be hard, she says, don't quit.
"At times this business is harder on women and slower to come. You have to really want it and be able to look above trials," Queen says.
Gleaning inspiration from Dorothy Moore and female DJ Lady V, Queen B has been in radio for 25 years and at WMPR for the past 12. She can be heard every Friday from 9 p.m.-midnight on WMPR radio.
— Anchee Lofton
ld through her eyes.
One certain Wednesday she became angry enough about a male columnist in a local paper to pen a scathing letter to the editor and forward my writing samples. This is the day my column was born.
For everyone who has ever heard the saying "behind every great man there is a great woman," I say, "For every great woman there is another great woman who taught her everything she knows." So, just this once, and just for her, I'm going to say that she is definitely the "Mary," and I am definitely the "Rhoda."
— Ali Greggs
Walking into Fondren Nails, I always get the immediate feeling that it's OK to relax and let my guard down. The walls are striped very subtly with lavender and carnation pink, and windows are everywhere. I stand in the door and say, "hey guys" to Marlee, her fiancé and daughter (who are usually there when I go). And Marlee, 30, responds in the most eclectic accent I've ever heard, "Hey, girlfriend, y'all been busy at the paper today?"
As other Fondren Corner business owners and local residents walk by and yell greetings, we share bits of personal information with one another. There's her daughter, of course, her loyal clientele and current events in the city. Sometimes, though, I just close my eyes and breathe deeply, or gaze out the window and watch the people passing by. And it's all just as well with her.
No stranger to hard work, Marlee moved to the United States at a young age from Vietnam and has been working ever since, now as the owner of her own business. The strong work ethic that her parents taught her and her siblings have paid off in a major way. She now owns a popular salon in one of the city's hippest neighborhoods.
Hard work, indeed, pays off.
— Natalie A. Collier
Chicago native Kristin Tubb, 24, brought the joys of vintage shopping to Jackson last year with her boutique, the Orange Peel. And, lucky for us, she didn't just bring them for the wealthy or waif-like. "Some stores cater to size zeroes, some stores cater to one style, but I'm trying to get everybody," Kristin says. She wants people to come in and find things they can mix and match with their own wardrobes to complement their own personal styles, not just to come in and spend tons of money on a single outfit.
Kristin's own style has a range of different looks that she says are reflected in the sweeping variety of clothes the Orange Peel carries, all priced to please the college students she had in mind when she opened the store. With a recent expansion of its menswear department and the addition of a furniture section, there's now even more to adore about both this chick we love and her store.
Orange Peel has quickly grown into a sensation in Fondren and in Jackson, with many finding the joys of funky vintage shopping for the first time. We love Kristin the most because of her vision. But those $5 purses don't hurt a bit.
— Margaret Cahoon
Irene Jones, 38, does "a little bit of everything." The independent consultant—who moved here from Indiana when she was 10—has since adopted the city as her hometown, with a dedication to Jackson that may surpass the sense of responsibility felt by some natives.
"I'm really determined to try and stay in Jackson and give back my experiences and energy to make things work," Irene says.
After receiving her MBA from Florida A&M University, Irene moved back to Jackson and started her own consulting business. She is active in the state NAACP. She worked on the re-election campaign for Harvey Johnson, and recently accepted a position as an adjunct professor within Jackson State's College of Public Service. Noticing that many of the students have a limited sense of the world, she encourages them to grasp a sense of the world outside Mississippi, which she knows is important in business, and she also takes their opinions seriously.
Irene meetings monthly with a group of influential women in Jackson—the Bodacious Broads, she calls them—in order to promote a sense of business strength which she sees as faltering in the city. "I haven't run across women who are talking about the things I find in the same conversation I have with men," she says.
— Sophia Halkias
Wendy Shenefelt, 35, had a "'Leave It to Beaver' kind of mom," who quit her job to stay at home and raise her four adopted kids. But she was also the secretary for the National Organization of Women, was once arrested during a rally at a nuclear test site and, at 70, still climbs on the roof to clean out the gutters. "She made her choices, but I didn't have to make those same choices. She would fight for your right to choose—from career choices to educational choices to reproductive choices," Wendy explains.
Wendy taught at a South Jackson public school for five years. But she felt she wasn't making enough of a difference, so she left to begin her own program, Youth Education for the Arts—Elements, she called it—allowed inner-city students to express their talents in the form of dance, drama and writing. After Katrina hit, Wendy went to work at the Jackson branch of the Children's Defense Fund. She works under Oleta Fitzgerald, a leading civil rights figure, a role model like her mother. "My mother always says, 'You have to do your best to make your little part of the world the best it can be. If everyone does that, then the world will be a lot better," she says.
— Sophia Halkias
The first time I met Priscalla Stern, she was dressed in an old Sweet Potato Queen costume—she was a Wannabe, as was I. The difference was that she looked stunning in that outfit—maybe the only one who does. She has the lean body of a dancer—five kids later, mind you—and the presence of a stage actress. We marched and danced along Capitol Street together and had a grand ole time. Then, throughout the day, as we went looking for PJs to wear to the party that night, I got to know Priscilla better. It was when we were waiting in line at Hickory Pit for Hershey Bar pies to take back to the real queens—we Wannabes had our orders— that Priscilla told me her mother, and thus she, is a cousin of Emmett Till. I was dumbfounded that I had danced down Capitol to "Never Wear Panties to a Party" with a member of the family of the young man whose death in 1955 opened the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi.
I would learn over the following months and years that Priscilla is more than the sum of her sequins, as are all the queens. Since she was a victim of on-the-job racism, she has become an activist for change and education in her own community—and loudly speaks out against injustice. I have also shared platforms with her at a lynching forum, bumped into her at the Edgar Ray Killen trial and listened to her speak at a forum about her cousin Emmett when the recent documentary opened. Needless to say, Priscilla is a chick with substance—with something to say. I'm proud to know her.
— Donna Ladd
"Be careful when you meet Edy," yoga student Sarah DeGraaf warned me, "because you're probably going to fall in love with her." So forewarned, I met Edy McConnell, and well, what can I say? No one ever called Sarah DeGraaf a liar.
Edy walked into Cups, fresh from teaching her Hot Yoga class at Butterfly Yoga, and as I reached out a hand to shake hers, she instead put her arms out and hugged me. Despite the perfunctory interview questions waiting on my laptop's screen, 45 minutes passed without my needing to use them. Edy and I had been too engrossed in discussing everything—from "Born Into Brothels" to purse snatchings in Jackson to her failed attempts at repeating Spanish words with the correct inflection.
Later, after getting up for some water, Edy came back and ran into a student who was sitting behind us, whom she also hugged in greeting. She had a charming way of knowing everything about him—checking on the status of his injured knee, updating him on how the yoga class schedule had changed since he'd last been in and comparing marathon-running stories. Part of what is awesome about Edy is that she really listens and seems to care.
At the same time, she is a great talker, telling colorful stories about her yoga classes—"It was really hot in there tonight, and I turned around to the class and I said, 'Am I looking wild? I'm feeling wild!'"—and her ongoing education—"I started my graduate degree in January of '89 and finished in December '05, which is probably the longest master's program ever." Ole Miss got her for 16 years (on and off)—anyone would be lucky to get half that time with this Chick We Love.
— Margaret Cahoon
There are some people I've met who make me want to sit up straighter, speak more properly and make sure I'm putting my most sophisticated, dignified, my-mother-reared-me-right face forward. Some people just have a presence about themselves. Even without speaking, there's an aura of regality that seeps through their pores like they are of ancestors greater than mine. But when they do speak, the wisdom that cradles their words reaches far beyond cognition and makes me want to learn—to hear what more they have to say. This type of people speak genuinely, purely and intently. You can well imagine that there aren't many of these people.
One such person, however, is Okolo Rashid.
Okolo is the executive director and a co-founder of the International Museum of Muslim Cultures. The museum is like none other. As a matter of fact, it is the only one of its kind in the country, dedicated not only to Islam the religion, but also its culture. I'd made plans to go to see the museum long before I actually went, but my experience there was worth the wait. She and I were the only ones in the museum, and it afforded us the opportunity to talk about practically everything under the sun.
Before envisioning the museum, Okolo made significant contributions to Jackson's civil rights sites and history projects, the state's Department of Public Safety-funded Juvenile Justice Project, and she was co-founder and the first president of the Farish Street Historic District Neighborhood Foundation. We here at the JFP aren't the only ones who think that this woman is noteworthy. She is also featured in "The Face Behind the Veil" by Donna Gehrke-White, the first book that looks at American Muslims. Want to know more about this dynamic individual? Read the book. Or even better, go to the museum and meet her yourself.
— Natalie A. Collier
I was honored when I was named one of Mississippi's Leading Businesswomen last year—but frankly, I thought the festivities might be a bit cheesy. Mississippi Business Journal Vice President of Business Development Robbie Bell sent me a packet that explained every detail of how to be featured in the special magazine, attend a "Girls Night Out," get our award at a luncheon. The whole thing turned out to be so special. I made contacts galore, and felt like I had joined a sorority of other businesswomen from around the state who would get my back and give me leads when I needed them. It's already paid off immensely.
Throughout, I loved watching a very efficient Robbie Bell put together busy women, group photos, sponsors, gifts and events that ran like clockwork. And she did it all with such style and grace and respect. She made me feel like I owned Trustmark or something—she makes everyone feel as special as the next one. She made me see that the success of the Business Journal, a paper I enjoy reading as a Mississippi businesswoman, depends in no small part on this lovely woman with the perfect posture and the radiant smile who takes every detail—and every person she encounters—equally seriously.
But she's not always so dignified; this weekend, she'll show her "wild and crazy side," as she calls it, from her perch on the Verde Do Krewe float. And she lets loose when she teaches ballroom classes at the Applause Dance Factory every week in Ridgeland. There are many lessons to be learned from this chick, and I thank her for sharing vital lessons in business and communications.
– Donna Ladd
Wendy and Queen--- glad to see the two of you featured. The work these two ladies do is above and beyond the call of duty. They are unique in their roles and fill a real voice in the world of the arts. I'm surprised Queen didn't mention the show she co-hosts on PEG and Wendy's work with the MAC. There is no stopping them, and I'm glad.
- c a webb
Edy! I love Edy! I'm so glad she made the list. She is a very very cool chick.
Wendy rocks! Her mother is a pretty doggone cool person, too. You know, for a state with such a strangely male culture, we sure do produce a lot of strong women. I wonder if there's a reason for that. Something about the heat required to produce a strong alloy. Cheers, TH
- Tom Head
Call me old-fashioned. I hate the term "chick," as in "chick-flick" or "chicks who are cool." Why can't we be called "women?" After 12 years in "little" school, 4 years in college, 4 years in medical school, 6 years in residency and fellowship, I ain't nobody's "chick." It seems "cute," but it is, in essence, pejoritive. It implies "little," "cute," "sexy," "flirtatious," "tiara-laden," "hip-swaying," "savvy" but not smart. Why can't we "move on?" HDMatthias, MD
- HDMatthias, MD
I think we are moving on by claiming the word and making it smart.