In 2006, the vision for Authentic Beauty was born, and this was before I had even opened the doors to our award-winning makeup salon and brow studio. Back then, I began working on creating a team of professional beauty experts in Atlanta who could do makeup on location. One of my most epic opportunities was doing makeup for the performers of A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant And A Prayer, a collection of essays, plays, poems, and short stories performed live about violence against women and girls. This incredible collection of stories was edited by author and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler), a Tony Award-winning playwright, activist, performer, and author of the Obie award-winning theatrical phenomenon The Vagina Monologues, published in over 48 languages, performed in over 140 countries, and heralded by The New York Times as one of the “best American plays” of the past 25 years.
For this event, I would be doing makeup for film icon, activist and author, Jane Fonda, who would be performing a monologue at this live performance. When I got all set up and ready to work, Jane looked at me and said under her breath, “Take Care of Eve.” (She was known as Eve back then but she goes by V now.) So, I looked over at V, and I just had this feeling about her. You know when you meet someone who has the energy of the world inside of them and they just glow from the inside out? That was this woman. That was and is V!
That day, alongside an unbelievable cast of real-life characters, V was presenting this groundbreaking collection of stories on an international tour that brought the issue of violence against women and girls to the forefront of our consciousness. “These diverse voices rise up in a collective roar to break open, expose, and examine the insidiousness of brutality, neglect, a punch, or a put-down. Above all, A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer is a call to the world to demand an end to violence against women.”
Coincidentally, in 1997, the first celebrity I ever took care of was Linda Gray who was in Atlanta to perform The Vagina Monologues and it was there I was introduced to V’s work. The Vagina Monologues is a play written by V that offered the world a piece of art unlike anything else out there. “Based on dozens of interviews V conducted with women, the play addressed women’s sexuality and the social stigma surrounding rape and abuse, creating a new conversation about and with women. After every performance, V found women waiting to share their own stories of survival, leading her to see that The Vagina Monologues could be more than a moving work of art on violence.”
Just a year later, on Valentine’s Day 1998, V, along with a group of women in NYC, established V-Day with a simple mission to demand that violence against all women, girls and the Earth must end. Each year, thousands of V-Day benefit events take place produced by volunteer activists in the U.S. and around the world, educating millions of people about the reality of violence against women and girls.
I didn’t know about the V-Day movement that day I did Jane Fonda’s makeup and I certainly wasn’t informed about what was happening to women in The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC ), devastated by 20 years of violence, in a place often referred to as “the worst place in the world to be a woman.” That said, when I was finished doing makeup on V and Jane Fonda and my artists had finished taking care of the rest of the cast members, I was in the green room when the press came in to interview them about the play and about the situation in DRC.
According to ReliefWeb, a humanitarian information service provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “between 2021 and 2022, the number of reported cases of gender-based violence doubled from 40,000 to over 80,000. In the first three months of 2023, over 31,000 cases were reported.” In addition, “survivors of sexual violence often do not report or seek services there,” according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). Additionally, “health services and post-rape care in DRC are virtually nonexistent, and a lack of infrastructure also affects the ability for survivors to seek justice—there is no working forensic DNA lab in DRC, and the use of forensic DNA evidence has only been successfully used in cases in which an NGO partner provided direct material and logistical support.”
As I heard V, Jane and the other performers talk to the press about the horrific and devastating situation in DRC, tears started streaming down my face. I leaned over to V and said emphatically, “whatever you need, whatever I can do to help, I will be there.” V invited me to come to New Orleans in 2008, and little did I know what I had committed to or how this event would forever change my life.
With 17 Atlanta makeup artists in tow, I traveled to New Orleans for Vday’s 10th anniversary where, along with American fashion designer Donna Karan, we set up healing lounges and proceeded to offer free makeup services and gave makeovers to over 2500 women over those awe-inspiring, emotional and incredible 3 days as we listened to stories from women who had been violated during hurricane Katrina. It was also the largest performance of The Vagina Monologues with Salma Hayek, Oprah Winfrey, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Hudson, Julia Stiles, and Sally Field who were just a few of the celebrities there. There were performances by Common, Eve, and Charmaine Neville as well, and I got to do Jennifer Hudson’s makeup too. Even cooler, at that point, V-Day had “raised more than $50 million and funded more than 5,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses around the world,” in just ten years.
Suffice it to say, that experience forever changed my life and led to a bond between V and I that has remained for 16 years. It also led me to supporting One Billion Rising and the City of Joy. If you haven’t seen the Netflix documentary, City of Joy, please go watch this incredible true story about a devout Congolese doctor, Dr. Denis Mukwege, (2016 Nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize), playwright and activist, V (formerly Eve Ensler), and a charismatic Congolese human rights activist, Christine Schuler Deschryver, and how these incredible souls joined forces to create a safe haven for women in the middle of violence-torn Eastern Congo.
In 2019, I was fortunate enough to travel to Africa and be a part of ROAR Africa’s Women’s Empowerment Safari. Not only were there powerful women there who are change agents in the world, but I also got to meet Christine Schuler Deschryver, V-Day Congo and City of Joy Director. I must admit that when I knew Christine was going to be on this trip I was more than a little intimidated. This woman is a FORCE of nature, and we forged a lifetime bond during that trip. I have hopes that in 2024 I will be able to visit the City of Joy, a transformational leadership community for women survivors of violence, located in Bukavu, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Conceived, owned, and run by local Congolese, the City of Joy has flourished since it first opened its doors in June 2011, healing women from their past trauma through therapy and life skills programming while providing them with the essential ingredients needed to move forward in life – love and community. This is a revolutionary leadership center for women survivors of gender violence!
And this leads me to the entire point of this email and one of the most important causes of my life. I am walking the runway on October 25th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for Best Self Atlanta Magazine’s Fashion Meets Passion fashion show, silent auction, party, and wellness and beauty expo to bring awareness to City of Joy and to Vday.
Last week, Christine spoke at TEDWomen where I was fortunate enough to do her makeup. Christine also brought me a dress that I will be wearing at the Fashion Meets Passion event made for me by the women of the City of Joy. I will be walking for them, in honor of them, and in awe of these beautiful, powerful women as I wear their gorgeous dress on the runway.
Please join me at this incredible giveback and glam event on October 25th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and support me as I walk the runway. I am raising money for the City of Joy and every penny is needed to help these girls and women turn Pain into Power. Get your tickets for Fashion Meets Passion here before they sell out. Attendees of this fun evening of giveback and glam will also enjoy lite bites and beverages and an incredible night dedicated to helping others in our community and around the world.
Whether you can come or not, would you also please consider donating to this incredible cause! The women and girls of the City of Joy need our help more than ever.