5 Fabulous FEMMES BEAUTIFUL PORTRAITS by Saray Taylor-Roman d

BY KATIE RYMER

Each of these five lovely women bravely steps out of her comfort zone to appear on the first cover of our first issue, without knowing why she was chosen. Together, they model our mission at Knoxville Style—to celebrate the beauty in all women as we inspire and encourage one another. The fabulous femmes you see here exhibit the personal drive to serve others, the strength to overcome obstacles, and the passionate pursuit to live with purpose. They did not know each other before the photo shoot, and they were interviewed separately. We asked seven questions related to style, and discovered they are remarkably similar despite different ages, backgrounds, and experiences. What you see is only a hint of what you get. The following is excerpts of their responses: What brought you to Knoxville, and what keeps you here? Ashley Bell: Whether you are looking for shows, shopping, nightlife, or nature, you’ve got it here in Knoxville. Yet with all its vibrancy, you can still find southern charm and hospitality. Linda Parsons: I moved from Nashville to Knoxville in 1964…Although I’m a native Middle Tennessean, I love East Tennessee—the geography, culture, history, and the vibrant reawakening of the city. Renee Kelly: [I am] born, bred, and fed in Knoxville. Family, friends that are like family, friendly folks around town, an innovative Charter school, and the Vols keep me here. Seema Singh-Perez: When I was two, we moved from India with my father, a Fulbright scholar, to NY and later to Knoxville after he accepted a teaching position at UT… I feel like my roots run really deep here. Even though I was born in a different country, this is home. . . and where I want my daughter to grow up. Wendy Starliper: I moved here in fifth grade when my mom moved us from a smaller town to give us a fresh start. Knoxville has such a sense of community. So many incredible people truly care about each other. It’s a wonderful place to raise a family. It’s large enough to have opportunities for culture and entertainment, but small enough to feel like a hometown. Tell us what you do—for work and for fun. AB: I own Painting with a Twist in downtown Knoxville…It’s a nice way to relax and just enjoy the creative side of life. Outside of work, I enjoy exploring, finding fun ways to keep active, and experimenting with plant-based recipes. I recently started a food blog on Instagram @wfpbv. LP: I’m an editor at the University of Tennessee in the internal audit and compliance department. My heartwork, however, is writing poetry and plays, gardening, meditating and studying Buddhist meditation, and being a grandmother to two beautiful little girls, Eleanor and Vivian. I’m an avid theatre- and moviegoer, and a freelance editor for book and other projects. As a board member of Knoxville’s newest theatre, Flying Anvil, I see all of its productions and write for The Hammer Ensemble. RK: I’m the School Director of Emerald Academy. My work WITH amazing educators FOR scholars and their family is fun! SSP: I wear many hats, and the newest one is City Council. It’s enjoyable and very daunting at times, but I enjoy learning so it’s okay. . .It’s exciting. For fun, I love to garden, I love my animals, and taking care of my children. These are the things I love, and simple time with my chickens. WS: I am a mom to three little people: twin boys who are nine and a little girl who is five. I work with Beautycounter, a non-toxic beauty brand. For fun, my most treasured moments are any time I get to spend with my family or friends. What’s your personal style, and has your style changed over time? AB: My style is fluid. I love experimenting and dressing to my mood. It’s not strange to find me in a wig or with makeup styles from other decades. Style is just another way we can artistically express ourselves, and I choose to have fun with that. LP: I appreciate good style and love consignment shopping and finding unique items to pair. I still mourn the loss of Watson’s downtown! I think of my style as what I choose to do with my time, how I express myself in my writing and with my friends and family, rather than what I wear. RK: My personal style is classic with “swag!” My style has essentially remained the same over time; however, I enjoy adding trendy pieces to my mostly classic closet. SSP: When I was younger, I was very thin and it was easy to look good without really thinking about it. As I got older and gained weight, I just went to sweatpants, and I really lost my sense of style and my self-esteem. I had to realize that I’m perfectly beautiful. It’s all natural, it’s all life. I’m not going to take my style cues from the outside. WS: My personal style is pretty casual, but pulled together. I love feminine details and clean lines. I like things that are effortless, comfortable, and timeless. I tend to wear a lot of neutral colors and add fun accessories or shoes… My style has become less trendy and more practical. I want to collect more timeless pieces and have less, but truly love what I have. What is your signature look or that go-to style when you need that extra oomph? AB: It really depends. I love wigs, though! And some matte lip color. LP: I love boots, shawls, and textured stockings with skirts.
RK: Power pearls and/or red lips. They convey that “I ain’t playin’!” HA! SSP: I felt a real sense of victory wearing Indian clothes to my swearing-in ceremony because it hasn’t been done before. Indian women, all women, have been held back so long that to wear beautiful feminine Indian clothing makes me feel really powerful. WS: I love all things faux fur, fringe, sparkly, or animal print. I tend to go with something black and simple, but add one of [these] styles to give the look some interest and pizazz. What are three can’t-live-without things in your closet? Your bag? Your home? AS: Comfortable shoes; loose-leaf tea; and most importantly, my fur-babies! LP: Books; a good stainless cooker; and my sheltie, Frankie Bear.
RK: Little black dresses; “Gel” lipstick by MAC; and candles. SSP: Boots in winter/dresses in summer; computer/phone; and my Peterson Nature Identification guides. WS: A great pair of jeans; Beautycounter lip gloss; and dark chocolate. What’s your style philosophy?
AB: “Do You!” Wear what makes YOU happy and makes YOU feel comfortable! LP: Eclectic in all things—my clothing, belongings, reading, writing, and movies. Being eclectic means I can appreciate and emulate a wide variety of styles and surroundings for inspiration, confidence, and comfort. RK: “When you look good, you feel good! When you feel good, you play good. When you play good, they pay good.” ~ Deion Sanders SSP: I needed the confidence to find my own style as my body changed, and remember that what matters more is my inner style rather than an outer look. WS: Keep it simple. Your style should be an extension of who you are, not overpower you. There’s truth in the old adage, “Dress for success.” When your style reflects who you are, it gives you confidence. Who has been your greatest influence or inspiration?
AB: Most definitely my mother! She has been my rock through all the ups and downs in life. I wish I had half her grace and poise. LP: I can’t choose between my maternal grandmother and my stepmother, so I must choose both. These women, in their presence alone, were examples of pure kindness and selflessness—and I hope I gleaned some of these qualities from them. RK: My inspiration in the field of education is Dr. Lula Powell, my elementary school principal. She exemplified style, grace, class. . .and wore pantyhose, heels, and a smile every day! SSP: All the women in my family through the generations inspire me. When I was thirteen, I found out during a visit to India that women weren’t noted in the family book of names. Girls don’t go down in history… I didn’t realize that’s just the way it was, so it really affected me and made me start paying attention to all the women that supported all of those men, whose names we’ll never know. WS: My greatest influence/inspiration is my mother. She was a widow at the age of 35 with three children. I am now a widow at 40 with three children. Our stories are oddly similar. I learned from her to put family first always, choose joy, choose adventure, and never quit. Seeing her strength and selfless love has been a beautiful example of how to live well and love well. There’s a lot that we do not get to choose, but we can always choose our reactions and our attitudes. Whom do you aspire to influence or mentor and in what ways? AB: My goals are to sprinkle a little love with everyone I meet. Sometimes that’s easier said than done as we all have bad days. But that’s the point, I suppose. Life is sometimes hard, and we can never truly know what someone else is facing, so the more love you can radiate into the world, the better! LP: I try to pay it forward, especially in the writing community, connecting writers and publishers, writer and writer, friend and friend. My meditation practice is teaching me that the ego isn’t what moves you forward in life—it’s the openheartedness, kindness, and compassion you show others—and yourself. RK: I hope to positively inspire everyone that I encounter in some way! “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.” ~John Wesley SSP: I want to empower all the people who don’t think they can make a difference in this world— ordinary folks. I want to inspire everyone to know that they can be significant in this world by looking outside of themselves to their surroundings and community. Very small things can be huge gestures. WS: I know this sounds pretty lofty, but I hope to influence anyone that crosses my path. I believe we all have a purpose for being here and we are much more alike than different. You don’t need an important title to be kind, to encourage, or to lead. It has always been on my heart to mentor younger women. We receive so many messages about how to be the perfect this or that, but so few are willing to tell us it’s okay to be real. I would actually love to see more of a community of women pouring into other women. I feel we each have a responsibility to share what we have learned along the way and help make each other better. Even if it’s only with one person.