Everyone has a story.
This week: Meet Grecia.
Meet Grecia Chasteen, author of Because of Yesterday, aspiring life coach. and believer in self-love, healing, and creating positive forces for women and all who have survived abuse and trauma.
New feature stories launch every Monday and are 100% driven by your nominations. Celebrate the bright individuals in your community here.
“Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself: ‘Grecia, you are beautiful.’”
Grecia met us on a snowy Cincinnati day at the public library downtown. We found a table on the top floor where we could chat without disrupting other readers. Her smile and calming demeanor made it feel like we were old friends catching up at the dining room table. She’s kind; she’s strong; she’s humble; and she makes you feel at home.
We sat down recently with Em Joy, the self-proclaimed “super-sexy nerd,” to hear their story. A Cincinnati native, graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) program, and fierce advocate for social justice, Em found a way to bring their passion and talents together to make our city a safer and more equitable place.
Tikkun Farm is a place: an old dairy barn, a renovated farmhouse, fields full of community-grown crops. But its heart and soul is Mary Laymon, an ordained minister who has studied trauma, led pilgrimages in the United Kingdom, and raised an adult son.
Ryan Adcock is on the frontlines of a tough fight to make Cincinnati a better place for women and infants. As the executive director of Cradle Cincinnati, his job revolves around listening to women and families to help reduce infant mortality in the tristate area.
Rhonda Craig is more than just a coach. She’s a mother of two; she’s the founder of a nonprofit called Sisterhood 360; she’s embarking on a personal battle with multiple sclerosis; and she’s a devoted leader to young women who need it the most.
We sat down with Rosemary Oglesby-Henry on a chilly day in January. After some confusion on our meeting location, I rushed across town from Withrow High School to Mount St. Joseph, but I was quickly brought to calm with her presence. She has a peaceful demeanor about her and can make you laugh in a moment with a simple story about her Bible and her son, Qua'Ron.
We met with Lauren Beatty, conservation education coordinator for the Wave Foundation for the Newport Aquarium, at the picturesque Carew Tower Arcade. She’s had a fascination with the tower since she was a child, and this day was no exception.
Sylvia Brownlee has been working in the beauty industry for more than two decades, and over time, she found skincare to be her passion. After clearing her own skin and finding unstoppable self-confidence, she knew she wanted to use her expertise to help others do the same. That’s why she opened Pure Beauty Skin Bar in Silverton and established her own skincare line: to serve a community in need of quality care and that ever-coveted healthy glow.
On a gray morning downtown, Vine Street’s ancient brick giants look over the city as if to say, “I’ve been here longer than you.” Inside one of these beautiful edifices is the spacious but quaint office of Margo Warminski, preservation director at the Cincinnati Preservation Association. Peering into the distance, Margo identifies iconic landmarks with a passion most people reserve for sports statistics or “The Bachelor.” She marvels in the use of slate, repurposing of schools for offices, and the view of the church spires in the distance. A longtime advocate for preservation, Margo started at the organization as a volunteer in 1977 and has since worked her way up to the top position at the small but mighty nonprofit company. We sat down at her office to discuss her reverence for the past and her hope for how the history of the city will influence its future.
The first time I walked into the Miller household was seven or eight years ago. Andrea Miller would soon become my mom’s best friend; a woman who’s walked alongside us through some hard times, always with a voice of reason and love. She has become a second mom, a cool aunt, and a woman that I admire beyond belief.
We spent an afternoon with author, researcher, and teacher Kristen Iversen in her historic home off the idyllic Ludlow Ave. We sat between two stacked bookcases filled with photographs from the past and pages of words written by famous authors – one of them being herself.
When Sara Al-Zubi saw what was happening to women and children in Syria and around the world, like so many of us, she was astonished and appalled. She couldn’t sit idly by, so – at just 20 years old – Sara crashed full-on into the world of refugee activism. From Truman Scholar to youth ambassador to founder of multiple nonprofits, her accomplishments are impressive, but Sara’s just getting started.
There are people who come into our lives when we need them the most. I met Kathy Kugler on a day when I felt overwhelmed by the world’s problems and helpless to do anything about them. I knew very little about Kathy’s background, except that she was nominated to be interviewed by us because of her ability to act and help others.
I met Aprina Johnson outside of a warehouse. “You ready?” she asked. I said yes, although I wasn’t sure. I put my Subaru into drive and followed her sedan through a quick series of back alleys. We parked in a secluded area near an abandoned truck yard, and out of Aprina’s car tumbled four children plus herself. We scuttled across a road and past patches of overgrown weeds and large cement blocks, eventually making it to a highway overpass.
At just 18, Rasleen Krupp is already a political activist with an impressive list of accomplishments. She has spoken in front of thousands at Cincinnati’s Women’s March. She organized the walkout at her high school, joining thousands of other schools as they raised their collective voices to memorialize those killed in Parkland and protest for stricter gun control legislation. And she formed The Young Activists Coalition to offer a place for young people to get involved. That coalition organized the March for Our Lives and continues to hold events to educate and give a voice to teens.
If you spend any time in bars in Cincinnati, you’ve probably heard of Molly Wellmann. The proud Cincinnatian, bartender, business owner, and former punk-rock girl has a wide smile and a lot of tattoos. She currently owns two bars, Japp’s and Myrtle’s Punch House, but she’s been a fixture on the local cocktail scene for roughly a decade.
As the new owner of the specialty food store in Findlay Market, Kate continues the legacy of a business her father, a Lebanese immigrant, started over 30 years ago. With respect for the wisdom and success of her father and the thoughtful confidence to lead the business with new ideas, new products, and new branches of business, Kate combines people, food, culture, and personal principles to create an exceptional niche in the local food world. And while navigating her new role as a young woman business owner, she’s discovering that she just might have a knack for all that leadership stuff, too.
Chrissie McGaffigan teaches people of all ages and backgrounds about tennis through lessons at her very own High 5 Tennis. After meeting her, I quickly realized she had valuable teachings to share, not only with tennis players and athletes, but every human trying to make it through everyday life.
When we sat down with Tyra, she projected nothing but rays of positivity and beams of happiness. Outside, torrential rain and wind pounded the city, but it didn’t seem to faze her. I didn’t consider it at the time, but it occurs to me now that it’s synonymous with how she spent her sentence: gloomy circumstances, but an optimistic spirit.
Jamie Beringer co-founded Bicycle Recycle with Dave Lodder while sitting in her driveway one day. Four years later, the service nonprofit is still going strong, repairing donated bikes and gifting them to children in need through partnerships with organizations including Butler County Children Services and Family Promise.
Allyson Clifton is a practicing music therapist who currently provides services to the Cincinnati and southeastern Indiana areas with a private practice called Keys for Success. There, she works with children and adolescents with developmental disabilities, helping them to set and accomplish goals and improve their quality of life through the art of music.
Siri Imani is a powerhouse. She and her group Triiibe aspire to change the world for the better, strategically taking on one problem at a time and providing positive representations of urban culture through music and enrichment programs.
We Olive Cincinnati is destined to be a local neighborhood spot where you can dine, drink, shop, and have a full culinary experience — and that includes enjoying cocktails made with balsamic vinegar. Leah Jones, who owns the shop with her husband Coby, chatted with Women of Cincy about her love for Cincinnati, the We Olive franchise, cocktails, and turning passions and inspirations into careers.
We drove out to the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati (I.C.G.C.) to meet with Samira Jaweed, operations manager for Rahma Community Services. We had never visited the I.C.G.C. before. Our excitement grew as the beautiful gold domes appeared in the distance. Despite being just on time for our appointment, after we parked, we paused to admire the beautiful architecture and the gold domes against the blue sky. We would later tour the I.C.G.C. with Samira and encounter many kind people and beautiful spaces, including the mosque. First, we sat with Samira in her office and talked about her journey, her experiences as an immigrant, the I.C.G.C., Pakistan, and the local Muslim community. Her kind smile, warm personality, and fascinating conversation made us happy to have her as a neighbor.
I met Amy, managing creative director at Epipheo and city champion for the Cincinnati chapter of Women in Digital, at her office in Longworth Hall. She wasted no time introducing me to her friendly, easygoing team who immediately made me feel at home. It felt right to lounge on the big leather couch in the airy office space and dive deep into what drove Amy to where she is today. It was easy to sense how much her colleagues admired her as they passed by and smiled.
We sat down with Heather Britt on a hot afternoon in July. Heather Britt is an entrepreneur and artist with a knack for bringing people together. As a professional dancer, dance educator, and choreographer, she connects communities through dance. Nowhere is this better illustrated than through DANCEFIX, a high energy dance workout that is, hands down, my favorite place to sweat away stress. Aptly named, DANCEFIX is known by students as both a drug you crave and a therapy you need.
I love people who cut to the chase: This is who I am; take it or leave it. Yelitsa Jean-Charles is one such woman. In the few months I’ve known her, I’ve grown to love our short-and-sweet exchanges at Union Hall: two tired-but-happy entrepreneurs with big dreams, high expectations, and serious sweet tooths. We finally got a chance to sit down for an interview, and the artist-turned-entrepreneur was everything I knew she’d be: snarky (her words), unapologetic, honest. Read on to meet the founder of Healthy Roots Dolls, a budding company dedicated to bringing diversity and empowerment straight to the toy aisles of America.
Toilynn O’Neal is fully invested in the city of Cincinnati. She’s worked at St. Ursula Academy in Walnut Hills for the past 20 years and currently serves as their director of diversity. She works for the Cincinnati Visitors Bureau, helping to develop multicultural entertainment for Fountain Square in the summer. She’s the interim executive director of the Queen City Foundation, an organization devoted to helping young people succeed. Toilynn herself benefited from QCF, and she says it’s one of the reasons she is who she is today, doing what she’s doing to elevate young women in Cincinnati and inspire them to become leaders and community change agents.
We huddled around a table at Fountain Square amid the usual noise to find out what has driven Dora, chief operating officer at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, to all that she has accomplished. As a vibrant guitarist played and groups of friends chatted nearby, we carried on a lively conversation surrounding our communities and the strategies for addressing those that need more attention. Dora is oftentimes at the center of the community both in her professional role and personal growth experiences, but that doesn’t stop her from taking a step back to the behind the scenes action of it all.
KellyAnn Nelson believes in empowering people and helping them to access their superpowers through music. She is the founder and artistic director of Young Professionals’ Choral Collective of Cincinnati (YPCC), an open access nonprofit choir. YPCC has a roster of 1,100 young professionals (YPs) who sign up to sing in any or all of the organization’s three arms: 1. Non-auditioned cycles which run 6-8 weeks each; 2. Community singing, which takes place around town upon request, whether at breweries or on the steps of Music Hall; and 3. The auditioned chamber choir. KellyAnn is also the managing artistic director of the Cincinnati Boychoir. Through these dual roles, she is helping to create a community of inclusion in Cincinnati.