In light of International Women’s Day, Grown Brilliance is proud to introduce #BrilliantWomen, a campaign dedicated to brilliant women from all walks of life. With their fire, tenacity, and passion, these women embody what it means to live, love, and be brilliant.
#BrilliantWomen features women who honor diversity, fight for equality, and shine brilliantly. Embrace equity with our #BrilliantWomen who show their commitment to diversity, equality, and empowerment by wearing our embrace equity bracelet, a single diamond centered and hugged by four gold strands, representing the power of one and the sanctity of many.
Just like the self-hug, the signature pose of the Embrace Equity movement, our Embrace Equity Bracelet is a single diamond hugged by gold strands symbolizing the importance and beauty of equity. We stand for equality but we fight for equity.
Each week we will highlight a brilliant woman who inspires us. Read on to join the movement…
Meet Dr. Maliha Ahmad
Dr. Maliha Ahmad, the Director of Liver Disease Services at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in NJ, was drawn to the beauty and grace of anatomy before she ever had the dream of studying medicine. In fact, her first love was one that showed off the power, determination, skill, and health can do when they work together…dance. That all changed after high school.
While her classmates struggled to figure out what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives, something clicked with Maliha. Suddenly she realized there was a way she could combine her love of anatomy and her fascination with all the amazing things it can do. The intricate art of medicine.
From there, it was like all the pieces fell into place, and she knew she’d found her calling.
The Moment She Knew
Three years into her residency, Maliha took the next leap in her journey and started a fellowship in Transplant Hepatology. There she changed lives every day by assisting with life-saving liver transplants.
It was during her eight years at that hospital that Maliha noticed her mindset start to shift. Saving lives is an incredible and humbling experience. Yet she couldn’t help but wonder how many of the men and women she treated could have been spared if they’d been diagnosed sooner.
She realized that, while some patients were able to catch their health issues early, others had no choice but to continue life as usual until they couldn’t ignore them any longer.
Impact Through Action
“There is much inequality present in healthcare for various reasons, including socioeconomic disparity. Thus one of my focuses has been working on closing this gap.”
Weeks of careful thought, trust in herself, and a little bravery led Maliha to come to yet another decision that wouldn’t just change her life but the lives of her patients. She would leave transplant hepatology to pursue early liver disease detection.
Maliha continues to save countless lives. Now by ensuring people of all backgrounds are able to seek out the care they need and by inspiring other bright and brilliant women to pursue their dreams.
Meet Rebekah Jacobs
From a young age, Rebekah Jacobs had an unyielding sense of adventure that compelled her to travel across America and around the world.
Through her years of studying, she’s had the pleasure of finding mentors worldwide who took her under their wings. It’s from these teachers that she learned to cultivate mindfulness, generosity, and the inner strength it takes to fight for a brighter future.
Eventually, her wandering spirit brought her back home to the east coast. There she settled down to open the Sama Yoga Center in Connecticut, a sanctuary of peace, love, and connection.
Unity in Diversity
For over 15 years, Rebekah has fostered a sense of community wherever she goes. In every yoga studio, retreat, or workshop she runs, brilliant humans from all walks of life can come together and find common ground. She believes that through humility, self-reflection, and self-acceptance, there’s no difference too large to overcome.
It’s from that belief that she got the name for her studio, Sama, Sanskrit for “Equal,” to symbolize that while people are all different, they’re also the same. That each and every human is worthy of love, compassion, and connection.
Rebekah strives to ensure her students leave her studio feeling seen and understood.
“I want people to come back to be a part of something. To remember that they are connected to something bigger than themselves so that they don’t feel lonely.”
Embrace yourself, embrace equity
Her proudest moments are when she sees those who look up to her find their inner voices, embrace what makes them unique, and come together to make the world a more open and welcoming place.
Her compassion and dedication to helping people form a better connection with themselves, the earth, and each other, help inspire humans worldwide to be the change they wish to see.
Meet Leslie Rinehardt
Leslie Rinehardt grew up with a thirst for curiosity and was always searching for ways to express herself. The daughter of a psychologist father with a passion for architecture and a mother with an eye for design and style, she was encouraged to follow her interests, no matter where they led her.
With her parents’ patience and joyful willingness to help her express herself, Leslie soon fell in love with design and would often experiment with her family’s decor.
Three states, countless family visits to model homes to foster creativity, and years of developing her craft later, she was able to open her own design firm, Rinehardt Miller Interiors, in New York.
Finding your inner voice
Since 2004, Leslie’s made a splash in the interior design world. Not only is she passionate about creating beautiful, one-of-a-kind spaces, but also about the ways design can truly change lives. She works with her clients to help bring their personalities to life so they can live and work in spaces that truly reflect who they are.
Her most important mission is to use her work to change conversations about social equity. She co-founded the Theory of Place Design consulting firm which uses psychological and neuroscientific research to create safe and trauma-informed spaces to help marginalized communities heal and grow, no matter their background or circumstances.
“To me, equity means having equal access, opportunity, fairness, and justice.”
One voice can change the world
Leslie’s work speaks for itself. She inspires people to follow their interests and curate spaces that encourage comfort, agency, and joy. Her passion and dedication are laying the building blocks for a world of equity. You can follow her work and journey on her Instagram profiles: @rinehardt_miller_interiors and @theoryofplacedesign.
Meet Lisa Rizzo
As a child, Lisa Rizzo had no idea her life was different from that of her peers. After her father’s untimely death when she was just four, her mother stepped up to ensure Lisa and her siblings had everything they needed – all while encouraging them to follow their dreams.
Lisa’s childhood taught her many things, but the most important was this: Life is too short not to do what you love.
Finding your passion
A natural athlete, Lisa took to sports right away and would spend hours practicing her pitching and catching with nothing more than a brick wall and a tennis ball. That passion only grew as she got older, and by the time she finished college, she had an impressive softball career under her belt.
Inspired by her mother’s work ethic and driven to turn her passion for the sport into a living, she started coaching and instantly found her new calling.
Lisa’s unique combination of psychological knowledge and softball technique struck a chord with her students. The young women who trained with her left practice energized, confident, and ready to take on the world to chase their dreams.
Wanting to branch out and reach as many local girls as possible, she opened the women-run Challenge U. Softball clinic, the largest softball training facility in the nation. She also founded The National CUDIT® Hitting Coach Certification to help aspiring and established coaches around the world improve their techniques and truly inspire their teams.
Building each other up
Determined to not just help girls become better athletes but also feel better about themselves, she coined the VBS training system to teach players how to use visualization, confident body language, and positive self-talk to reach their goals. An instant success, VBS has spread to sports teams throughout North America.
By helping young women gain confidence in themselves and each other, Lisa sets the tone for equity to grow. “Equality to me is about RESPECT, no matter gender, race, religion, sexuality, [or] anything.”
Lisa lives with her wife Jamie and their two kids in NJ, where the most important lesson they teach at home is R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Her dedication to the girls who look up to her makes her one of our #brilliantwomen.
Meet Kelly Faetanini
When Kelly Faetanini’s grandmother taught her how to sew when she was just a little girl, no one had any idea that it would lead to a lifelong passion for art and beauty.
Soon, she was designing her own clothes and spending any free moment she had taking classes that fueled her creative spirit.
Eventually, Kelly’s passion for art turned into a full-blown passion for fashion, and she moved to Chicago to study design. It was in the Windy City that she designed and sold her first big project, a wedding gown. Just like that, at the age of 19, she knew she’d found her calling.
Fighting for your dreams
Kelly had the raw talent and the drive to make a splash in fashion, but she knew she needed guidance. So, she turned to the women she looked up to.
Starting as an assistant to a world-renowned designer and pioneer in bridal design, she learned everything about the industry and went above and beyond to prove her skills.
Her hard work paid off, and at 23, Kelly was given the honor and responsibility of being the youngest designer showcased at New York’s Bridal Fashion Week.
It was long after that she branched off and created her own Kelly Faetanini brand. Today, she’s the proud owner of her own boutique in Soho, and her creations are sold in stores around the country.
Kelly’s commitment to her craft doesn’t stop at her designs, though. Every bride-to-be who comes to her becomes part of the #KFBride family. Every day, she puts her heart and soul into her work, so every woman who walks down the aisle in one of her dresses feels confident, supported, and beautiful.
Inspiring future #BrilliantWomen
Kelly’s journey following her dreams hasn’t been easy, but it’s always been worth it.
“Having my daughter be able to see me as a business owner, paving my own way, and fighting for my dreams against any challenges is a constant motivation.”
She believes that supporting women and giving them the opportunity to show their talent is the key to equity.
Follow Kelly’s work and journey as she continues breaking down walls in the bridal industry by following her socials @kellyfaetanini.
Meet Gerry Poirier
After seeing her mother and grandmother do whatever they could to give back to their communities, helping others became innate for Gerry Poirier. In fact, her earliest memories are of helping her grandmother make sure those less fortunate were safe, warm, and supported.
boy’s girl’s club
Gerry’s drive and determination led her to a successful career in the finance and fintech sectors, and through her work, something stuck out…her industry was a veritable boy’s club.
Rather than shrug it off, Gerry did some digging and was shocked by her findings. To this day, there’s a huge gap between the financial responsibilities women have and the resources available to them. She knew the only way that would change was to fight for equity.
Tired of hearing the countless stories of women facing impossible financial choices or being stalled while pursuing their dreams, Gerry knew she wanted to be a part of the change for a brighter future.
Just like that, Gerry’s passions for finance and philanthropy joined forces, and AngeLink was born, the first women-build and powered crowdfunding service in the world.
“To me, equity means that every person, regardless of their background, has the chance to reach their highest potential.”
Helping women help women
Gerry has given women around the world the opportunity to raise the funds they need to do anything from kick-starting their businesses to paying for life-saving medical care. And by offering a safe and secure place to come together and lift each other up, she’s not only given them the ability to find financial support but a community as well.
Gerry’s dedication to inspiring women has already changed hundreds of lives since AngeLink has been operational and will continue to lay the groundwork for a future free of inequality and financial disparity. We’re honored to spotlight her as the brilliant woman she is.
Follow Coach Ellie to see how she embraces equity every day on Instagram @coachellieg.
Connect with Jacki
Support #BrilliantWomen and #EmbraceEquity by connecting with Jacki on Instagram at @Jacki23. Here, you can follow her on her journey as she continues to inspire athletes and revolutionize the field of sports.
Meet Our New #BrilliantWomen — Denise Lee
In a world where fashion meets functionality, one woman has made a significant impact by creating a brand that celebrates women’s strength, style, and empowerment. Meet Denise Lee, the visionary founder behind Alala, a renowned activewear label that has taken the industry by storm. Inspired by her passion for fitness and a desire to bridge the gap between fashion and athletic performance, Denise has revolutionized the activewear scene, redefining what it means to feel confident and empowered in one’s workout attire.
Denise Lee’s Background
At the age of 18, Denise moved from Singapore to New York City, where she began her career as a triathlete and a retail-development associate. This fitness enthusiast was also regarded as one of Well+Good’s 2021 Changemakers.
In the spring of 2014, Denise Lee founded Alala — a company run by 12 women who are dedicated to providing workout attire that is both stylish and comfortable.
Denise Lee’s Inspiration
Denise Lee drew inspiration for the brand from her own experiences and observations within the fashion and fitness industries. She noticed the increasing demand for activewear that seamlessly transitions from the gym to everyday life, catering to individuals seeking stylish and versatile clothing options.
How Denise Lee Embraces Equality
Denise Lee’s personal background as a minority of Asian descent, an immigrant, and a female entrepreneur plays a significant role in shaping her perspective on equity and inclusivity. As an individual who has personally experienced the challenges and barriers associated with these identities, Denise Lee is attuned to the importance of promoting equity and creating opportunities for underrepresented groups.
Denise Lee aspires to serve as a role model for aspiring young women entrepreneurs, just as she was inspired by others during her own entrepreneurial journey. Her goal is to empower and encourage young, aspiring, female entrepreneurs and show them that their dreams and aspirations are indeed attainable.
Connect With Denise Lee
If you want to further your support for #BrilliantWomen and #EmbraceEquity, connect with Denise Lee by giving her a follow on Instagram at @denisexlee.