10 Birmingham women who changed my life.
By Javacia Harris Bowser
In 2009, after being away for nearly a decade, I returned to my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. I have since grown in ways I never imagined, mostly because of the amazing women I have encountered. In honor of B-Metro’s annual women’s issue, I have decided to salute 10 Birmingham women who changed my life.
Megan LaRussa Chenoweth, stylist and image consultant of Southern Femme
Last year, through my organization See Jane Write, I hosted the Bloganista Mini-Con, a conference for fashion, fitness, and lifestyle bloggers. Megan, the afternoon keynote speaker, stressed the importance of being more than just a well-dressed blogger. “We have to be smart businesswomen, too,” Megan said. That day I decided to start the transition from blogger to businesswoman. Once I started taking myself seriously as a businesswoman others did, too, and this year I was part of the Birmingham Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40.”
Olivia Affuso, ultra runner
Even though I’ve been active all my life and even taught group fitness classes in college, there was one thing I always swore I could not and would do—run. But today I have two half marathon finisher medals hanging in my bedroom and I’m currently attempting to walk/run 1,200 miles in a year. This all started because of Olivia, who founded the Birmingham chapter of Black Girls RUN, the group that first inspired me to pound the pavement.
Eunice Elliott, news personality, comedienne, and motivational speaker
You may know Eunice as Alabama 13’s traffic reporter or perhaps she’s your favorite local comedienne. But to me, it is Eunice’s motivational speaking that makes her a star. No other speaker I have ever encountered is as genuine, relatable, and inspiring as she is. After listening to her speak, I always stand taller and dream bigger.
Alexis Barton, fashion blogger at SameChicDifferentDay.com
Alexis is the hardest-working woman in fashion blogging, juggling managing her website with freelance writing, television appearances, and speaking engagements. With each blog post or social media update, Alexis inspires me to not only work hard but also to look fabulous while doing so.
Chanda Temple, public relations pro
Chanda is one of my very best friends, but she has also taught me more about personal branding than any business workshop or seminar ever could. “Stay ready so you won’t have to get ready,” Chanda once told me. I now do exactly that by trying to always look my best, by keeping my web content fresh and updated, by making sure I always have business cards on hand, and by ensuring that I can give my elevator pitch anytime, anyplace.
Heather VacLav of Women Business Leaders
I am a church-going gal, but I’m also extremely ambitious—two traits that for years have felt at odds with each other. Then Heather introduced me to Women Business Leaders, a local networking group for professional women who want to thrive in the marketplace and impact their community for Christ. I’ve often been told that, as a woman, I best serve God at home. But Women Business Leaders has shown me that a Christian woman can serve God from her home or from her corner office.
Laura Kate Whitney, TEDxBirmingham 2014 speaker
When I first met Laura Kate, she was introduced to me as Birmingham’s head cheerleader, a title she quickly lived up to. In her 2014 TEDxBirmingham talk, Laura Kate spoke about what she and Birmingham have in common; she is growing as she lives in this city in bloom. This urged me to take a closer a look at my hometown and I soon found my own face staring back at me too. “I am Birmingham” isn’t just a phrase on my favorite T-shirt. It is my mantra.
Dakotah Murphree, emerging artist, writer, and feminist activist
I often say that to become the woman you are meant to be you must remember the girl you used to be. Dakotah, my former student at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, is the young woman who taught me that truth. Her passion for creating reminded me of the days I wrote simply because I couldn’t help myself and being her mentor helped me remember that feminism isn’t about fighting against something you hate but about fighting for people that you love.
Glenny Brock, writer
Glenny is one of the greatest storytellers in the city of Birmingham and during the summer of 2012, she helped me write stories of my own. For two months Glenny and I met regularly at our favorite local coffee shops and simply sat and wrote. At the time, it had been three years since I’d left my reporting job to teach full-time and I had stopped feeling like a writer. That summer, with Glenny by my side, I found my voice again.
Kandis Chatman, clinic director for the University of Montevallo’s Communication Science and Disorders department
As I juggle teaching, writing, and entrepreneurship I sometimes push my loved ones to the backburner. Kandis, who is my first cousin, reminds me to make relationships a priority without saying a word. She’s the only woman I know who comes close to lassoing the unicorn called balance. She is a phenomenal speech language pathologist but is also a wonderful wife and faithful friend. She reminds me that love is the greatest of all things.