A Celebration of Cincinnati Moms: 2019


One of my favorite things that we do here at Women of Cincy is ask all of our interviewees the same question: Can you tell us about an influential woman in your life? I love seeing the threads and stories of women impacting other women – and men, too. And of course, so many respond with odes and adages to their moms, and I love getting the chance to compile those answers every year. Motherhood – like womanhood, like life – is the best combination of messy and beautiful; let’s celebrate it.

Introduction + compilation by Kiersten Wones.


Sandra Combs

Interview by Kiersten Wones. Photography provided.

I don’t know how she did it. Paid the bills, and loved us and made us feel valued and told us you can’t have all the charismas.

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Emily Combs

Interview by Kiersten Wones. Photography provided.

My mom is one of my biggest inspirations and one of my biggest heroes, and we tell her all the time. I hope she knows that where she holds her mom is where we hold her. We hold Grandma to that very high level of respect, and Mom is right up there with her. I don’t think Mom realizes that, and I don’t think she ever will.


Lindsay Combs

Interview by Kiersten Wones. Photography provided.

She’s taught us that her imperfections are okay. I think that’s a really hard thing – I’m 100 percent a perfectionist on almost every level of my life, and learning that my imperfections... They’re okay. They’re allowed to be there. I can’t fix every situation. I can’t fix myself to have every human love me and like me the way that I want them to. That’s okay.

She has very much instilled that, ’cause she’s like, “I’m not perfect. I know that.” This is not an easy life, and we go through shit, and we go through hell and back, and that’s fine, but that’s one of the things that molds us into who we are. She’s like, “I am not the best human in the world” – even though she is.


Nia Baucke

Interview by Ellen Huggins. Photography by Briana Davis.

I'll tell you about my mom, which is very cliche, but I have to. She passed away when I was 21. She was probably one of the most incredible human beings that I've ever interacted with, and I think many people would say that who knew my mom. I’m an introvert, and she was not. She had the ability to make anyone feel at ease and feel comfortable. She was a very confident woman; she did not care what people thought about her. She always wore red lipstick and had a sense of pride. Her focus and dedication to being a mother, being an amazing person, being a kind person, was always at the forefront. That showed because so many people were attracted to her energy.

That theme is coming up again, but the idea that she wasn't defined by her degree or the work that she did – she was just defined by being kind to people. When she became sick and couldn't leave the house, pretty much everywhere we would go as kids someone would ask how she was. I remember going to the dollar store and the clerk at the dollar store asked me where my mom was. That's the kind of person she was. She cared about everyone and they knew it. That care and nurturing was returned. I aspire to be that person, I am not as a nice as her [Laughs]. I wish that I was, but I really try to be a good person. At the end of the day, at the funeral, no one talked about the work that she did; they talked about her being a wonderful human being. She taught me a lot about life and her passing taught me a lot about what's important in life.


Suzy DeYoung

Interview by Kyle Schott. Photography by Dyah Miller.

The most influential woman in my life is undoubtedly my mom, Joan Adrian. My mom was the daughter of a chef, Albert Schmidt, the Executive Chef of the Union Club N.Y.C. She married her high school sweetheart, Bob Kieffer, who was cooking at the Sherry Netherland. After their first son was born, Bob lost his battle with leukemia before he was 25. My mom was navigating life as a single young widow when she met my father, Pierre Adrian. They fell in love, married, and had three girls. My mom was the best mom, attending every swim meet, helping with school projects, and all our sports events. When I was just 13 years old, my father Pierre Adrian died of cancer. Mom, widowed twice before the age of 50, now had four children to raise. She had an amazing strength, and was always “the cool mom,” with my friends hanging out at our breakfast table. She walked me down the aisle (or the grass, as I was married outdoors) and willingly and lovingly babysat my boys, as well as my nieces, creating a bond that lasted until last September when she went to heaven. The love, strength, and fortitude my mom possessed is something I always will admire, and I hope that today she is smiling down at the work we are doing.

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Debbie Smith

Interview by Tracy Van Wagner. Photography by Angie Lipscomb.

It's going to sound kind of hokey, but truly a woman that has changed my life has been my grandmother. My grandma came to Dayton from Minnesota with her brother. She met my grandfather, a little Irishman who, at that time, was a widow. He had eight children and, at that time, men were not allowed to raise their children on their own. The children were put in orphanages. My grandma was much younger than my grandfather. She married him. Her whole focus was to buy a house and get all his kids back. She devoted her life to those children that weren't her own for the man that she loved; she gave so much to those children. The whole family always came together on Sundays; her faith was so strong. She was the most loving and beautiful woman.

That's my mom, too. My mom always challenged me. Irish women are strong. I have this little quote that sits on my desk: “I'm not afraid of you. I was raised by an Irish mother.” There is little fear that you have when you have an Irish mother.

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Danielle Gentry-Barth

Interview by Tracy Van Wagner. Photography by Angie Lipscomb.

I’m totally surrounded by strong awesome women. It’s no doubt my mom is the strongest woman I’ve ever known. She’s definitely my influential female.

When I was growing up, I was really close to my dad, more so than my mom. Then over time, I realized that this woman is a badass: “What am I doing trying to fight this? I need to be more like her!” She is awesome. She was a business owner. She came from a family and a community that didn’t appreciate education, but my mom did it anyway. My mom was self-sufficient. She made her girls strong and powerful. She didn’t expect us to hold ourselves back. If you have something to say, you say it. It was in a different age. My mom and my dad were divorced. My mom loved my dad, but she wasn’t happy. My mom was like, “My life is too short!”

My husband’s parents have been married for almost 50 years. We approach marriage so differently. We’re happily married; I love him to death. He’s my best friend. But I tell him all the time, “If you weren’t, I’d leave! Life is too short.” That totally comes from my mom. Why would you sit here and be miserable because the culture tells you that you need to be a good wife? So, I think all of my sisters would say that my mom was unbelievable. Half heart and sensitive and tender, and then half badass. You didn’t cross her. My mom and my stepdad owned several restaurants. My stepdad would always refer to my mom as his bouncer. Somebody acts crazy, he’d be like, “I’m going to go get my bouncer!” My mom did not put up with anything. It was awesome. 

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Lily Turner

Interview by Teri Heist. Photography by Jennifer Mahuet.

I love my mother, but I would say, my grandmother. My Yiayia. She was very strong and always sharp, even in her older age. She is very fair. She doesn’t say things because she wants control, but because she wants what is best.


Anh Tran

Interview by Teri Heist. Photography by Jennifer Mahuet.

I feel like it is my mom. I didn’t know this until much later in my life – the fortitude she had to have to get through so many different things without complaining. And dealing with coming to a new country, a new marriage, and how a marriage can change over time, and being patient with someone, and being steadfast.

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Amy Vann

Interview by Kristyn Bridges. Photography by Stacy Wegley.

My grandma is undeniably the most giving. She is that person who loves kids and wants them around all the time. She always had foster kids and she would babysit at any time. She just loves to be around kids. She taught Bible and Sunday school, and just loved to teach and help kids, and people in general. And her faith in God was so unshakeable. She went through a lot of adversity in her life, but it never got her down. She would hit her knees and take her glasses off – she would always take her glasses off when she prayed. That meant she was getting serious. My husband and I joke that if we ever need anything to be prayed for, we should choose the closest person to God that’s on earth, so we always joke like, “Okay, let’s tell my grandma.”

And then my mom is this unbelievable, strong woman. She always taught us that we can do anything. People say that, but like, I really thought I could do anything that I wanted to do and I could be anybody that I wanted to be. As an adult, and now a mother, I appreciate that so much more. You hope you teach that to your kids, but you’re not sure if that’s going to make it through, you know. And she had so many things that happened in her life that she just powered through and I just always remember her saying, “You need to be able to support yourself. You are strong and you can do anything that you want.”


Dora Anim

Interview by Ellen Huggins. Photography by Yashira Afanador.

I have to start with my mom. She's no longer with us, but she was a strong influence. She had a balance between compassion and strength that I have not seen in anyone else. That's what I aspire to be. She was very kind and generous, but a strong businesswoman who knew how to take care of business and raise six children.


Toilynn O’Neal

Interview by Heather Churchman. Photography by Gayle Rothmeeler.

I’m going to cling to the main one, which is my mother. And she’s right there! [Laughs and points to her mom across the room.] She’s the main woman, for sure. Her sacrifices to provide for me, to allow my dad to be an artist and an activist… That’s a big sacrifice. She was the bacon, sometimes, and she had to fry it, too. He was out there being a leader, and leaders don’t cook. [Laughs.] She’s it. A little person – she’s about 4’11’’ – but mighty. Her faith is strong; her convictions are strong. And the things she placed me in, I needed all those things. Growing up in the inner-city community where many of my friends went on different paths – not by their choice but by circumstance – and her ability to say, “This is where you’re from, and you should respect it and love it, but you need to also see this world and be a part of these things…” You need to be in different environments; you need to be diverse; you need to see different cultures. You need to dance, sing, and try everything. Let me try all that stuff, and that’s the most powerful piece. My dad was more the stay-at-home parent, and she was the working parent. She was the spark behind both of us. Without her, who knows where both of us would be.

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Heather Britt

Interview by Kyle Schott. Photography by Dyah Miller.

The obvious one for me is my mom. From a very young age my mom made me believe that I could do anything. Really, anything, as long as I worked hard. And I believed her.

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Samira Jaweed

Interview by Tracy Van Wagner. Photography by Yashira Afanador.

Without a shadow of a doubt, my mom. She sacrificed so much for us. I guess all mothers do. I'm not even half the mom she was. Not only did she empower us as girls; she never differentiated culturally, religiously, in any way. She allowed us to grow. She was, at the same time, extremely strict. But a friend and a parent is a combination that, if you are a mom, you know doesn't come easily. You have to work at it. We could be scared to do something, but at the same time, she would be our go-to person for everything, and we would talk to her. That kind of respect, she earned it. It wasn't like she was asking for anything. That kind of personality, I don't know how it comes to you. I think over time and experience. I wish and hope that my son looks up to me one day – based on his experiences and how I've nurtured him and helped him grow as a person – and at the same time, I'm his best friend.

A lot of people ask me, “If you have some test in your life, how do you keep smiling?” I saw my mom go through stuff. She led by example, and she had that spiritual aspect of faith. There is the other aspect where you perform rituals and do whatever you have to do. But truly believing that God is there? Not a lot of people do that. I'm at peace with a lot of things because she was a role model in that sense.

All of that stuff – the struggles, always having a smile on her face, never giving up, and loving us unconditionally – I hope and pray every child gets to experience that kind of environment growing up. We take things for granted when it comes to our parents. When you lose them is when you realize, “That's the impact that they had on us.”


Siri Imani

Interview by Kristyn Bridges. Photography by Cassidy Brage.

I gotta write a book about my life but I gotta write a book about my mama’s life, 'cause she is so special. She was an activist and poet [stage name, Black Budda’fly]. I'm like the biggest biter in the world because everything that Triiibe is is what my mom was doing back in Cincinnati in like, 2004, 2005. So, the Ra Poet Society is dead-on what Triiibe is now. They did enrichment programs; they put all their messages through music – specifically through poetry. My mom was a part of that and when I grew up, I was surrounded by all types of poets in the city, some amazing poets that are still here: Duwaup, Floetic Flo, Hakiym, Olufemy, Watusi Tribe – all of them were really influential. They were the first people I saw being unapologetic with their message. They did not hold their tongue, and they were way more radical than we are. We're a little privileged now, but they were in the thick of it. They were doing necessary work that was even more necessary then, just 'cause no one had the balls to do it, honestly. And they ended up getting separated after the riots (first in '94, then again in 2004/2005). Some of them got arrested; some of them got threatened; it was too much for them at that time.

So, I watched my mom be in the thick of that. My mom is like the second coming of Assata. She is a firecracker. And my mom's a Cancer, so she's just always been that person. You know how it is for women who are really opinionated: She don't chill. Rightfully so. My mom is one of those people who, if she sees something going down that's not okay, she’s about to use her voice. And she's so resourceful. She taught me that early. She taught me how to speak to people, not taking all of yourself into a conversation when you're with somebody, and allowing yourself to meet them halfway. My mom showed me how to do that well.

And then poetry. Me and my mom, we used to set aside time for writing. Take a book; close my eyes; put it down. Whatever word I hit, I had to write about. Even if it was “The” or “A,” she made me write about it. Thinking like that early helped me to be able to express myself in ways that people around me did not have at all. My mom, she did poetry here for years and was dominating here. I still got an old City Beat article right above my bed; it was when she was doing Catskeller at U.C. She started a poetry slam, and it was amazing. I used to sneak in there when I was young.

Around 2014, when I first came home, my mom got diagnosed with sarcoidosis and at that time, it wasn't really bad, but it was starting to make it hard for her to breathe. Her lung had a hole in it, so she was going through it, bad. And I had just got back from college, was in the thick of my stuff, too. So that's why I'm saying, she was amazing. She stopped performing; she wasn't able to do it, with her lungs and the breath support. And then she really took care of me, while also hiding everything that was going on with her. But it was pretty obvious. She started losing weight and stuff like that. So once I got better, our roles completely reversed. Now I'm taking care of her, and she is trying to get better. And that was the story for the past three years, until last year when she started really getting better.

I started performing heavy. She loved it. She started writing again. I couldn't wait for her to get back on the stage 'cause I hadn't heard her in years. And finally this month [August], at the Price Hill Community Fest, Eddy Kwon – and I thank him so much – gave her the opportunity to express herself for about 45 minutes, and she got paid for her performance. It was so good to see her do that again. That's my baby. I really, really love her. I really do. She's the truth.


Jamie Beringer

Interview by Kelsey Johnson. Photography by Dawn Borntrager.

It was my grandma. So my mom was divorced when I was one, and she pretty much raised me because my mom had to work. She had seven kids, and I was the oldest grandchild. Basically, I had her to myself. Her and my grandpa would always give me little one-liners of, you know, "Be nice and smile." I try to do that to them [gestures to her sons] in the hopes that one day they'll remember it [laughs]. 'Cause they're like, "Oh god, here you go trying to teach us a life lesson again."

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Chrissie McGaffigan

Interview by Sandra Okot-Kotber. Photography by Laura Kinney.

My grandmother. She was in a Japanese internment camp and she went on after that to go to college and graduate with honors, and not for a second will you ever hear her complain or feel sorry for herself or look back at that past in a negative manner. I just have so much respect for her.

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Molly Wellmann

Interview by Suzanne Wilder. Photography by Chelsie Walter.

My mom, she's the nicest woman. I get sweetness from her, but also that rage, that sassiness.

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Andrea Miller

Interview by Lindsay Combs. Photography by Cassidy Brage.

I'd have to say my mom. I think because, you know, she kind of built the foundation in me of optimism, of looking for opportunities. Turning things into positive and looking for the positive in all that we do… She laid the foundation of my faith, which has played a really big role in coping and working through a terminal illness when your spouse is told that they're gonna die. Just as much as my kids can see that as a teenager you can have your parent pass away and you can still have a great, happy life, I can see that when your spouse dies at a young age, you can still have a happy and fulfilled life.

She’s amazing. She's here all the time. She will rub Tom’s head and rub his feet and take care of him and just love on him. She's a doer and a giver. I don't ask for her to do much. She just goes and does.

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Lauren Beatty

Interview by Tracy Van Wagner. Photography provided.

It’s my mom and my grandmas. All three of them are very different, but are very strong, outspoken, and loving women. If I had to pick one of the three, it would probably be my dad's mom. She amazes me. She moved to Cincinnati from rural southern Kentucky at 16 years old all by herself. She stayed at her aunt's boarding house and got a job so she could mail money back to her parents and her younger siblings. Looking back on that is just mind boggling! I can't imagine moving somewhere at 16, alone, to a new city – especially from a rural area to a big bustling city like Cincinnati – and sending money back like that and being responsible for helping take care of your family in that way. That just blows my mind that she was brave enough at that time to do that. Not a typical role for a 16-year-old girl to play during that time or this time.

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Rhonda Craig

Interview by Madeleine Meeks. Photography by Maggie Heath-Bourne.

My grandmother is definitely the person that has impacted my life the most. My grandmother – my mom’s mom – who never drove a car, who was very spiritual, always wore skirts…  She’s the love of my life.

When I saw how much my grandmother made all her life, I don’t understand how she did it. She had more than enough somehow. She told me, “Rhonda, I have more than enough because I gave. And because I gave, I was blessed.” And that’s so real. I’d hear stories about my grandmother helping kids because when she grew up, her mother was in the hospital all her life and my grandmother had to go door to door to beg for food with her sister.

She ended up getting her G.E.D. She was on the welfare system and she would tell us, “That’s not a system you’re supposed to stay on. That’s a system you’re supposed to get on, and then get help, and get out.” She prided herself on doing that.

This lady transformed my life, kind of saying education was the way out.


Ryan Adcock

Interview by Abbey Bruce for our first-ever Good (Man)ners article spotlighting male-identifying folks who are all about allyship. Photography provided.

I think that is almost certainly my mom. So, um, I get a chance to talk about my dad a lot because, in part, he died very young, and people tend to be interested when someone dies very young. I was in my mid 20s when my dad died, and you aren’t fully grown yet in your 20s, so the parenting that was left to do pretty much relied on one individual, which was my mom. Throughout that period, she became my best friend and travel companion and somebody who helped me think through career decisions and life decisions. She is brilliant and one of the smartest people that I know. She is also incredibly compassionate, incredibly kind, and incredibly generous. I just remember it being hardwired into me that you must be good to other people.

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Ryan Santos

Interview by Kristyn Bridges. Photography by Aurore Fournier.

The first is obviously my mom. Like I said, I didn't cook a lot with her; I baked with her and my grandma, but a big part of what I think stuck with me is we gardened a lot together when I was growing up. She started with flowers, and I was interested in vegetables when I wasn’t even a teenager yet. We spent every year planting the garden and tending to it together. As a teenager, son-mom relationships can be tough, so it was a great way for us to spend time talking in the garden and also working on something together. I think that really shaped who I am, both in appreciation for local farms and local produce and stuff like that, but also, it was really great to know every summer we were going to spend an hour every day in the garden together and be able to talk and open up to her.

So that really inspired me. And just her work ethic, too. She was always so supportive and very creative and open-minded, and instilling that in me was great. To have the most important woman in your life as a kid to tell you that you can… It's not like, “Oh, art school, maybe you should find something where you can get a real job.” She was always just so, so supportive of any idea that I had, anything that I wanted to do, and her support and openness really, really stuck with me and led me down a very creative path in my life, but also kind of instilled that nature of just saying, “If someone comes to you with something, supporting that idea and doing everything you can to help kind of grow that and help that…” That's shaped who I am.

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