Editor's Note: Due to inclement weather, the date and times of the events have changed. On Jan. 23 at the Crown Expo, Unstoppable Little Ladies will begin at 2 p.m. Young Women and Women of Power will start at 7 p.m. with doors opening at 6 p.m.
The “I’m Unstoppable” Runway fashion show, hosted by An Affair to Remember for young women and Women of Power, will be held Jan. 23 at the Crown Expo.
The fashion show, which had been an annual tradition highlighting the latest trends in formal wear and prom fashions, morphed into a showcase for Women of Power in 2018 when Kathy Jensen, owner of An Affair To Remember, recognized the need to further elevate the women in high positions around her and allow them to lead on the runway – as well as in the boardroom.
As the dress store owner, and also as the City of Fayetteville Mayor Pro Tem, Jensen realized that the event she already hosted could be used for a greater platform.
“I had an annual fashion show; however, four years ago, I started looking around at our county and the high-profile positions being held by women. We have our police chief along with judges, attorneys, executive directors and board members who are all women. We have local women doing amazing things.”
According to Jensen, the impulse to walk the runway is not at the forefront of most women’s minds; however, the greater community, especially the young women already walking in the fashion show, needed to see the women who held powerful roles in our city and county.
“These are women who are getting up every day, going to work and taking care of their families, but are also at the table making a difference,” said Jensen, “We started in 2018 with the theme ‘Women Run the World,’ and it has continued.”
The themes “You Are More Than A Pretty Face” (2019), “You Should See Me In A Crown” (2020), and “I Am The Champion” (2021), serve to remind the community that women are the quiet leaders who would be missed if they stopped and needed to be shown as Women of Power.
“As women, we are doing things so quietly that if we walked away, you would see the difference. The wheel is turning by women oiling it and a lot of people don’t realize it. Things are just moving along, but if women stopped, it would be noticed,” said Jensen.
Ronna Garrett, vice chair of the PWC board with a 34-year career working for the Department of Defense in senior executive roles, joined the Women of Power group in 2018.
“I had never been in a pageant,” said Garrett, “We were not the typical models you’d see. We owned businesses or had established careers, but it was a very positive experience.”
“This was the intent to bring women in high positions, put on a pretty dress and let them shine,” said Jensen, “It’s more than the beautiful dress. It’s talking about their successes and careers. These are women who have a positive impact on our community.”
One of the most impactful moments for Garrett though was not the local appreciation, but within her own family. It was the reaction from her daughters and granddaughter, Olivia Grace Hyatt, who is now 7 and a second-grade student at Northwood Temple Academy.
“It had a positive impact to my own family. My daughters were proud and my granddaughter at age five wanted to be on the stage after seeing me walk,” said Garrett, “When she went on, she had such confidence. She’s going to walk again this year.”
“Any time you get a young girl on a stage, her confidence goes off the roof. We are raising strong women and showing them examples,” said Jensen, “We are out to develop heroes.”
There are also around 80 young women who join the Women of Power on the runway.
“Our customers walk in the show. A lot of the girls are juniors and seniors in high school and they want to be a doctor, a judge or an elected official,” said Jensen, “Women need to learn how to support women. Every woman who walks in our fashion show automatically becomes a Woman of Power.”
The Women of Power participants in the 2022 I’m Unstoppable Runway Extravaganza are sponsored with levels ranging from $1,200 to $10,000. W portion of net proceeds are donated to the Women’s Business Fund at CEED. The chosen class will receive an evening gown from An Affair to Remember to model in the Women of Power Fashion Show as well as the annual membership to the Women of Power Society.
“This year we are starting the endowment fun with CEED for women to help them get started or expand their business,” said Jensen, “Their executive director, Suzy Hrabovsky, was one of our models last year and saw what we were doing. It went from there. CEED did a phenomenal job during the pandemic with helping businesses.”
Jensen credits her family for her strong approach to recognizing and promoting the women in leadership positions around her.
“My parents taught me to be the CEO that everyone said I should marry. I was fortunate in the time and culture that I grew up in,” said Jensen, “I also live by the saying ‘Be the person you needed when you were younger.’ If everyone would be like that, our children would be in a better place.”
The success of the Women of Power addition to the fashion show led Jensen to think outside of her business and start a nonprofit.
“It just came to me that somebody has to do this,” said Jensen, “It was not my intention to start a nonprofit, but we were at a power breakfast when the conversation started about how women can support each other. I started the Women of Power Society of NC this year, which is a celebration of women who have demonstrated leadership by contributing to the community through volunteerism, entrepreneurship or public service.”
Future plans for the Women of Power Society include quarterly luncheons with speakers and memberships outside of the 22 spots for the Women of Power in the fashion show.
“If a woman does not want to walk the runway, we will have opportunities for women to become a member of the Women of Power Society of NC,” said Jensen, mentioning that option was in development.
Due to inclement weather, the date and times of the events have changed. On Jan. 23 at the Crown Expo, Unstoppable Little Ladies will begin at 2 p.m. Young Women and Women of Power will start at 7 p.m. with doors opening at 6 p.m.
For more information on how to nominate or sponsor a Women of Power, or to buy tickets for either fashion show, visit www.aatrnc.com.
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