What better way to describe All About the Girls (AATG) Part 8 than with the pink sparkly conductor hat worn by GreatNews.Life Executive Director Jenny Craig-Brown?
This year’s AATG event at Urschel Pavilion continued the tradition of creating a bigger, better, and more bedazzled gathering for women to celebrate what makes them unique.
AATG began as a small gathering at the back of Industrial Revolution with a rolling desk as a podium and about 50 people in attendance. Now, the event reaches upwards of 400 attendees and includes a much more robust podium.
Through the growth and development of the event, the mission has remained the same: uplift and empower women in the community who are more capable and impressive than they will ever know. Eight years later, the event still speaks volumes about the grit and persistent tenacity that makes women so incredible.
Dr. Vanessa Allen McCloud is no stranger to AATG. As a speaker from last year’s lineup, she knew firsthand the amount of courage needed to be vulnerable in a room full of hundreds of people. For McCloud, however, the experience was unforgettable.
“It was so impactful not just for me but for all the women who spoke. This is really a life-changing experience,” Allen McCloud said.
This year featured five speakers from a variety of backgrounds. Heather McColly and Gloria “GoGo” Morris spoke on their experiences growing up around a family business, while Angie Nelson Deuitch and Kelly Mickey spoke about defining themselves through more than a career. Dena Whaling delivered a heartfelt speech about finding hope in the pain of losing her son, Keegan.
All of these women had stories that mattered, and attendees could all find pieces of themselves woven into each story, no matter how different their lives may have been.
This interlocking of vastly different stories was no coincidence – in fact, it was the theme of the night.
The theme for this year was “This is Me,” which stood as both a bold statement and a quiet reflection. Attendees were challenged to examine who they are when they’re at work, off the clock, at home, or out of their comfort zone. In the eyes of Craig-Brown and the rest of the speakers, getting to know all of the facets of yourself is the first step in knowing who you really are.
“I chose this theme because I, like many women I know, have three or six or even 10 ‘mes.’ While I love all the things that make me ‘me,’ I want to bring them all together. I want Work Jenny to know Saturday Jenny to know Sunday Jenny, because when you bring them all together, that’s the real you,” Craig-Brown said.
As the guest speakers shared their true selves onstage, attendees were invited to do the same, and several shouted and applauded during the moving speeches throughout the night.
Heather McColly, director of career development and new homes division at McColly Real Estate, began her speech with an emphasis on the need for female empowerment in today’s society. As women are often told to stick to where they have always been, McColly challenged the audience to step into those spaces that they may not feel comfortable in.
“20% of American young women would rather win America's Next Top Model than a Nobel Peace Prize, and 23% would rather lose their ability to read than they would their figure. It's safe to say we need more events like this,” McColly said.
Angie Nelson Deuitch, president of Diversity Squared, touched on her experience as a female electrical engineer. While she watched others in her field try to change themselves to fit in, Deuitch never faltered from showing her authentic self.
“I'm in a non-traditional role. We had a lot of women who tried to act or dress like men because that's how they had to fit in, but I never did. I'm too cute for that,” Nelson Deuitch said.
Shouting “this is me” to the world can be a daunting task, but for others, it’s a natural part of their identity. No matter where members of the audience sat on this sliding scale, the words “this is me” surely stirred some internal investigation.
“Some of you may have felt a wave of reassurance as you think about your certainty of who you are, but I'm also pretty sure there are others here tonight who, upon hearing the words ‘this is me,’ perhaps feel a bit of uncertainty,” St. Jude House Director of Development Buffy Adams said.
Dena Whaling, partner at Picked Vintage Valpo, thought she knew who she was. When her son, Keegan, passed away, however, she had to learn how to live again and find herself along the way.
Although Keegan’s passing was traumatic for Whaling and her family, she learned valuable lessons about not looking over present joys. The future may seem certain, but it is never promised.
“I love so much harder and deeper than I ever loved before because I know you can't take those relationships for granted,” said Whaling.
Sergeant Kelly Mickey of the Hammond Police Department also spoke about being present during the good times and bad. She told her story of healing after a car accident left her severely injured years ago.
She also spoke of her own journey to finding the ability to shout “this is me” to the world.
“I would bet that most of you are here for the same reason that I came last year. You want more. You want more happiness, more success, more peace, more something that you just can't put your finger on. I felt like this for most of my life,” Mickey said.
It wasn’t until she found what she was looking for within herself that Mickey could truly start to experience life as her truest self.
Gloria “GoGo” Morris, founder of Float Sixty and client executive for Google Cloud for CPG, spoke of finding herself through watching her family. Morris credited much of her fierce independence to her mother and grandfather, who worked tirelessly to own and operate John Cicco’s Menswear. Morris feels she found her own sense of drive and determination from watching her mother lead by example.
“My mom taught me in her own way to be fiercely independent. It’s something that I’m so grateful that she taught me over the years. She has been such a role model for me, and I don’t even think she knew it until recently,” Morris said.
Whether it was someone’s first time or eighth time attending the event, everyone in attendance arrived with the anticipation of receiving encouragement and support through difficulties that are not uncommon for women to encounter.
"Everyone has something different to say, but they all point to the same thing. I think it's awesome to empower women and to hear how women have gone through what I’m going through and to encourage us to push through,” Michele Gustin, guest on behalf of United Way of Northwest Indiana, said.
To get more encouragement from inspirational women in the Region, check out the All About the Girls Podcast here.