Millennials are one of the largest generations in history and it seems each time that word is uttered it’s usually along the lines of what the generation is not doing, or how they are not progressing and doomed for failure. Here’s the thing, regardless of how the media may paint the generation of those in their 20s to early thirties, lazy, unmotivated is not who they are and most certainly not these group of young, talented up and coming Leaders Of The New School. These next gen power players are driven, learning from those that have achieved success they strive for, care about the future and not just how they can personally benefit from it; they are raising awareness for just causes, motivated and looking for ways to find that elusive work/life balance. They are probably the last ones to leave the office but its not all work and no play. When it is time to kick back, you’ll find them at Soho House catching up with friends or giving you instagram fomo on some fabulous vacation they are on. SociaLifeChicago relates to these Leaders of the new school, because each day we are climbing that ladder of success, motivated to affect change and constantly learning from those that have paved the way ahead of us.
Some of Chicago’s new guard Ken Griffin, Desiree Rogers, Bill Kurtis, Neal Zucker, John Rogers, Laura Desmond and the who’s who that you read about in the business papers did not become industry leaders overnight. Someone believed in their talents, and they worked very hard way to reach their goals.
This is why we chose them as our Leaders of The New School. What does that mean? They are young professionals that we believe represent the next generation in Chicago. Hailing from different industries including finance, publishing, non-profit, entrepreneurship, hospitality and government. Meet our Leaders of The New School.
MALCOLM LONDON – Artist | Activist | Educator
He’s been called the “Gil Scott-Heron of this generation” by Cornel West and in meeting him you can see the passion and light radiate. He’s given TED talks, performed in front of thousands and continues to advocate as part of BYP100. Though he hails from the west side of Chicago and attended Lincoln Park High School, he’s been vocal about education segregation in the city. You can hear his poem in the voice of Paul Lawrence Dunbar as part of the new Statue Stories Chicago. Get ready you will be hearing and seeing more of Malcolm Xavier London.
Suit & Shirt by Suitsupply
What did you want to be when you were little? I wanted to be a brain surgeon
3 words to describe you? Passionate. Determined. Theatrical
If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself and the future, what would you want to know? I would want to know what kind of father I would be to my daughter.
What keeps you grounded? I suppose having the state to reflect in the form of conversations with my friends, down time and writing poems keeps me focused on not worrying about being balanced but on harmony because of the many hats that I wear.
What is your most treasured memory? A memory that I have is of my aunt Jackie who had many hardships in her life and she is my favorite aunt because no matter how much was going on with her, all of us ate, she was always the aunt that had the kids over at her house. The memory of being young, knowing she had hardships, I felt cared for and she didn’t make me feel those hardships.
A goal you are looking to accomplish before the year is over? Two goals. To publish my book and finish a music project that I am working on.
What are your guilty pleasures? I love anime, japanese film titles; secretly I’m a comic con nerd.
If someone were to write a book on you, what would the title be and what would it be about? Actually I am writing my own book, which is about my journey from the west side of Chicago to discovering the city and wrestling with inequity and my place in changing the dynamics of poverty where I come from. The tentative tile is “Who He Think He Is?”
KEVIN BEARY – General Manager Rural Society at Loews Chicago Hotel.
Though the first thing you may notice about Kevin Beary is his piercing eyes but don’t let the young face or age of this Long Island native fool you. Having being appointed general manager of the newly opened Rural Society at Loews Chicago hotel, he brings a wealth of experience to this role and his career in F&B is just heating up.
What did you want to be when you were little? A race car driver. While I never got my start on the track, working in the restaurant business is definitely a non-stop rush. But if I need an extra boost of adrenaline, I snowboard and ride motorcycles.
What 3 words best describe you? Determined. Persistent. Loyal
Where is your favorite snowboarding spot, and why? The back bowls of Vail, Colorado – the steepest pitch there is known as Genghis Khan, and it will scare the life back into you.
You’re to host an intimate dinner for 10 that would be held @ Rural Society. Who would you invite and which wine selections would you offer to turn it into the kind of party “no one wants to leave”? I’d start the evening with a vertical tasting of vintage champagne, paired with canapés and shellfish, followed by a selection of Grand Cru white Burgundies with off-menu pairings. The main course would consist of fire-grilled proteins and First Growth Bordeaux, and I’d finish the evening with Sherry, Madeira, Port, handmade chocolate, European cheese and cigars.
As far as the invite list, I’d aim for an eclectic mix of food professionals, everyone from somms, chefs, cocktail professionals, wine makers, craft distillers, cheese makers, organic farmers and restaurant entrepreneurs. Guests like Jose Garces would definitely lead to a lively conversation.
Best (professional) advice you’ve been given would be? “There is the easy way and there is the right way. They are seldom the same.”
Who were leaders in F&B (or elsewhere) that have really influenced you? One name really stands out above the rest: Jeff Miller, who was the general manager at Park Hyatt Philadelphia when I worked there (he’s currently the general manager of Andaz San Diego). It was my first hotel job and Jeff pushed me to continue to advance my career by following my passion for fine and craft cocktails – which has helped get me to where I am today.
Complete this sentence: When I’m 45 I hope to have__? When I reach 45, I hope to have completed a fair share of my travel bucket list, achieved my career goals and have started a family.
When you aren’t at work, you can be found kicking back where? You can find me here in Chicago at a rooftop pool with close friends, good music, and – of course – rum cocktails.
MEG MATHIS – Deputy Editor, Michigan Avenue Magazine
Writing for the city’s top luxury lifestyle magazine comes with a lot of responsibility which she’s been able to navigate since joining the Michigan Avenue magazine team as associate editor three years ago. When she’s not interviewing notables such as Tina Brown or attending a top gala, she’s busy meeting deadlines at her dream job.
Up to date tell us one awesome career highlight – I’ve had some incredible experiences thanks to the platform that Michigan Avenue Magazine has given me, from moderating a cover Q&A between Lucy Liu and Idris Elba 10 days on my job, to interviewing Berry Gordy over drinks at Sixteen at the Trump Chicago. Without a doubt, my career highlight will always be working with living legend Bill Kurtis on an as-told-to story about his personal experience in the Marine Corps. Not only was he gracious and eloquent, but after the story came out, he emailed me saying, “Once a journalist, always a journalist, so I know a good writer, reporter when I see one. And YOU are that person.” I printed that message and it’s hanging right beside my computer at work; I’m inspired by his words every day.
Complete this sentence: When I’m 45 I hope to have____? The opportunity to belt “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls in front of thousands of people.
What did you want to be when you were little? A veterinarian and an actress, but at the same time I was writing, editing, and publishing Meg Magazine for my family (circulation: 4), so I think you could say I’ve always wanted to be a magazine editor.
3 words to describe you? Best. Aunt. Ever!
A goal you are looking to accomplish before the year is over? When it comes to work-life balance, I am still a work in progress. I would love to have that art mastered.
Best professional advice you’ve been given? “Keep in touch.” It’s something I heard a lot during my initial job search after graduation, particularly when I was rejected from countless jobs. I began to take those words to heart, though, and I’m glad I did because I’m convinced that it helped me get to where I am today. You never know who can help you–and you never know who you might be able to help down the line, too.
Who are some people that have really influenced you? I’m forever grateful to Elise Hofer, who gave me my start in the industry with an engaging internship that really allowed me to immerse myself in the editorial process; Marissa Conrad, an amazing mentor who showed me by example and who makes me want to pay it forward; Korey Huyler, a true leader whose energy and enthusiasm knows no bounds; and Patty Lamberti, a former editor at Playboy and online producer for Lifetime turned Loyola professor who has been of my biggest cheerleaders, seamlessly straddling the line between warm and fuzzy and no-nonsense.
You’ve been given 5 mins to interview the Rolling Stones, what 3 questions would you ask? 1. In this politically correct day and age, do you think you’d be able to successfully release as controversial an album as Some Girls? Why or why not? 2. What song do you wish that you’d written? (And is there a Rolling Stones song that you wish you could unwrite?) 3. Mick, you’re known for your electric stage presence, but would you be open to having a backup dancer on tour? Because I’ve got moves.
CHRISTINA TALARICO – Senior Manager, Public Relations, Infor
By day she wears the PR hat at a b2b technology company and at night, she’s helping to raise funds and awareness for one of Chicago’s most revered civic institutions-Shedd Aquarium, having recently co-chaired the auxiliary board signature fundraising event that raised $415,000.
What did you want to be when you were little? I really wanted to be a lawyer. Perhaps that is why I am so obsessed with Suits!
3 words to describe you? Loyal, Persistent, Intuitive
A goal you are looking to accomplish before the year is over? Finish learning Italian, and go to Italy. My family is from Italy, so I really have no excuse.
What are some of your favorite books? Cookbooks. I really enjoy flipping through colorful pages of food and coming up with something new and inventive for dinner every night with Jordan (my fiancé!). The ones that have inspired me the most are Thug Kitchen and anything by Jamie Oliver.
Who in your life has influenced you the most and why? So very cliché , but my parents. My dad moved to the U.S. when he was little and he showed me at a young age the importance of hard work, persistence and an entrepreneurial attitude. My mom, on the other hand, was the glue that kept our family moving forward. She put her family first above everything else, and I think that has really shaped how I treat other people.
If you weren’t working in technology, Is there something that you’ve dreamt of doing for a long time? If so, what is it and why haven’t you done it? I really love PR & communications, especially focused on corporate and B2B work, but I think I would make a great event planner. My friends would probably agree that I can go a little overboard when it comes to throwing a party – large or small – but I just love hosting and entertaining and every detail that makes a party unique or special.
Tell us about the organizations you volunteer your time with. I volunteer with the Shedd Aquarium and actually just co-chaired the Auxiliary Board’s biggest fundraiser, BLU, this past July. Growing up in Chicago proper, I’ve had the chance to experience Shedd as a little kid, wide-eyed staring at the fish, as a young adult when I was a camp counselor taking other kids there to experience it for the first time, and as an adult, where I could truly appreciate the Shedd’s mission of connecting people to the living world. The organization is incredible and so are the people who make things tick over there – I’m lucky to be able to give my time to such a great place.
You are about to be whisked off to an unknown location for 1 month. All you know is it will be sunny. What do you pack to fit in a duffle bag. Multiple cans of Supergoop sunscreen (seriously, the best stuff ever), big sunglasses, a flowy maxi dress, Nars lip gloss, a GoPro to capture all the fun, and a preloaded iPad full of reality TV seasons and awful one-star comedies.
CHANEL CONEY – Associate, Business Development GCM Grosvenor
She is paving a path for herself in the professional and civic scene of Chicago despite the fact that she is the daughter of a well known and well connected Chicagoan. The Princeton graduate who most times is on the road for work, understands the value of giving back and her love for the arts is where she volunteers her time when she’s not hanging with friends.
What did you want to be when you were little? I wanted to be a veterinarian for many years as a child.
3 words to describe you? Innovative. Witty. Humble. Though my brother, Javon, describes me as driven, fearless, and compassionate.
A goal you are looking to accomplish before the year is over? Personally, spending more time with my family is a desire of mine by the end of this year. Not only in Chicago but New York and Philadelphia. Professionally, I’ve been given several exciting and entrepreneurial roles and want to continue to grow in those. Especially as a woman in finance, I feel a distinct responsibility to prove and expand our industry value.
You’ve had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places and meet some incredible people. If you could invite 3 people to join you on an adventure of a lifetime what would that adventure be and who would you invite? Nelson Mandela, David author of Psalms, and Dr. Diane Puklin, my UofC Lab history professor, are incredible leaders that I’d appreciate spending more time with. We would make a very interesting group. In regards to travel, it has been a persistent ambition of mine to tour Argentina. I’m an avid snowboarder and would love to board the Andes, travel to wine country, and end with a few relaxing days in Punta del Este, Uruguay.
What was the last non-work phone call you made and who did you call? I’m notorious for not making or answering calls – only for my mother, Dawn, and father, Les.
If you weren’t working in finance, is there something that you’ve dreamt of doing for a long time? If so, what is it and why haven’t you done it? The performing arts has always had a profound impact on my family’s life. My grandmother was a professional dancer and in her spare time would teach acting classes to children in the neighborhood. Since that time I’ve had opportunities to study at Homer Bryant Ballet, Lookingglass Theater under David Kersnar, Stellar Adler in New York, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and Artistic Home in Chicago. I’ve also had incredible opportunities to dance in the Joffrey Nutcracker and work as an actor for ETA Theatre and Congo Square Theatre. I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to continue that passion in the form of a career.
What is the one thing you wish today’s industry leaders did more of? Spend less time performing for the cameras and just do the work others entrusted them to do.
Your favorite places to shop are? Richard Gray Gallery and September Gray Gallery for art. Sprout Home for flowers. For Dog’s Sake for Peanut. Barney’s for fragrances. Space 519, Zadig and Voltaire, Azeeza, and Chanel (of course) for new looks.
Tell us about the organizations you volunteer your time with... Chairman of Congo Square Theatre since early 2015. Congo Square Theatre, a sixteen member ensemble, is dedicated to producing definitive and transformative theatre. Our focus is theatre spawned from the African Diaspora among other world cultures and we have gained a reputation as one of the premier African American theatres in the country. Over the past eleven years, Congo Square has gone on to produce a multitude of plays including August Wilson’s Seven Guitars, which garnered top honors (best ensemble, best direction, and best production) at the 2007 Joseph Jefferson Awards. In 2005, Congo Square established The New Playwright Initiative, which was renamed The August Wilson New Play Initiative. This program is designed to provide opportunities for emerging African American playwrights. Congo Square is the first African American theatre company to receive such accolades since it was co-founded in 1999 by Reginald Nelson and Derrick Sanders, who we are thrilled to be honoring September 14th at our fist annual gala!
I’m also on the Board of 3Arts. We work to sustain and promote Chicago artists. Our focus on women artists, artists of color, and artists with disabilities stems from the need for a diversity of voices and visions to be supported if our city is to prosper and inspire! I’m very excited to be co-hosting this years 3Arts awards ceremony in October with one of my mentors, Cheryl Cooke.
Lastly, I’m involved with Harriet’s Daughters and the Business Leadership Council. Harriet’s Daughters is a group of professional women working collectively with peer organizations to create, implement and support policies/processes securing employment for African-American communities. The mission of the Business Leadership Council is to advocate to Chicago land corporations, non-profits, local, county and state government about the importance of doing significant business with African-American owned firms on a consistent and on-going basis, primarily through organized contacts with the leadership of the entities.
PATRICK VIHTELIC – Founder/CEO Home Chef
The mark of a true entrepreneur is when they first set out to solve a problem they might be having an realize others too can benefit from it. Coming from a finance background in San Francisco, Pat Vihtelic founded HomeChef for those busy professionals that loved to cook but hate to shop for the ingredients. Since launching the service in Chicago two years ago, they have gone on to raise $1 million and servicing 30 states. With investors like Craig Ulliott and GoHealth’s Brandon Cruz-Clint Jones on board, we are sure there’s growth ahead for Pat and his team.
What did you want to be when you were little? At various times throughout my life, I wanted to be a chef, an entrepreneur and a doctor, among many other professions. Home Chef allows me to do two of the three.
What three words best describe you? Resourceful, driven, inquisitive.
What is one goal you are looking to accomplish before the year is over? I would love devote at least one day to downhill skiing.
If you could “draft” five mentors (like in a fantasy draft), who would you pick and why?
Jeff Bezos, an e-commerce pioneer.
Martha Stewart, one of the most successful lifestyle entrepreneurs.
Nate Silver, a genius data-driven analyst.
Alton Brown, who I would love to cook with and talk about the culinary world.
Elon Musk , who is a visionary, in my opinion.
You have the chance to visit any country in the world, where would you go and why? Japan. I have never visited, but I’m a big fan of the cuisine, especially sushi.
If you could try out any job for a day, what would you like to try? Wilderness Survival Guide
The hardest part about founding a company? Prioritizing time and energy.
What would you do with 100 extra hours? I would spend more time with my wife and daughter.
CORINNA STRONG – Co-Founder Goldplaited
There was a time when only those with deep pockets and super fancy engagements went to get their hair and makeup (usually not at the same place) done. Corinna strong, taking on the mantra of nothing to lose everything to gain, opened the finishing salon Goldplaited which combines a blowout bar and makeup application, with sister Mal in 2013. They’ve been beautifying everyone from blogger babes, gala attendees to high school prom queens and everyone in between. When you look good, you feel good and that’s what they want each customer to feel, fabulous!
On Corinna: Faux Leather Quilted Detail Biker Jacket & Plunge V-Neck Cami both TopShop
You have 140 characters to tell us your life story, go… Raised on a farm in upstate NY History major @ Boston University. 3 year hiatus in LA. Co-parent to a beautiful gold beauty baby in Chicago!
What did you want to be when you were little? Is it bad that I have absolutely no recollection? My preschool was in an art gallery so I do recall loving to paint at a very young age. I was also a published poet at 11 years old so I guess something artistic and creative!
If you could raid someone’s wadrobe/closet who would it be and why? The Olsen Twins can do no wrong in my eyes, I love how they layer and wear patterns, they’ve nailed that city chic/bohemian look and yet they can still rock a red carpet with couture pieces.
3 words to describe you? Warm. Social. Sensitive.
A goal you are looking to accomplish before the year is over? Professionally: to grow our amazing instagram (@goldplaited_) to 10k followers. Personally: to start and stick with a hot yoga regimen!
Your longest friendship? My three siblings would take the cake. I am also very blessed to have had the same best friends since grade school; we four-way skype call once a month!
What’s the biggest personal change you’ve ever made? Literally packing my life into one suitcase and driving from California to Chicago to open my business goldplaited. I had only visited Chicago once prior and arrived to FRIGID March weather with only summer clothes to my name, no apartment and no clue. Now two years later, I can’t imagine living a life anywhere else!
What are your guilty pleasures? Bad bad BAD television (currently binge watching Pretty Little Liars) and anything that’s both sweet and salty.
What celeb would you love to see walk into Goldplaited? CHI-lebrity would probably be Kristin Cavalari, I think as a busy and trendy young mom she would love our services. Overall, Blake Lively…THAT. HAIR!
FALLON RYAN – Public Relations Director Lana Jewelry
Most people dream of getting an internship that turns into their dream job and Fallon Ryan went for it. When she started out working for Chicago based Lana Jewelry as a college student sales intern, she took the role so seriously that she was then offered the role of publicist subsequently growing into the role of Director. It’s not everyday you get your product placed in Vogue! or count Jennifer Lopez and countless other influential celebs as fans of the brand.
What did you want to be when you were little? An FBI agent! I was obsessed with crime shows, America’s Most Wanted and even subscribed to an children’s detective magazine that would send little gadgets each month. Now as a publicist, I have to dig up contact information using every imaginable research angle to connect with people, so I still get to live my childhood dream.
3 words to describe you? Outgoing. Caring. Strong.
A goal you are looking to accomplish before the year is over? In 2015 My goal was to place our jewelry on the cover of a magazine. (We’ve had many covers before, but placed by a previous agency we worked with before I was hired in-house.) So far, we have 4 (Chrissy Teigen for Billboard Music, Hilary Duff for Shape, Eva Mendes for Women’s Health, and Miranda Lambert for Country Living). Let’s go for one more!
If you could learn a random skill, what would you learn and why? I asked for a sewing machine for my 21st birthday and it’s still sitting in its box in my closet. I need to learn to sew! It’s a dying skill, and I would love to be able to recreate my old clothes!
Top 5 favorite movie of all time…Goodfellas, The Godfather, The Parent Trap, Lion King, Bridesmaids (that took a twist…)
If you were to be an animal, what would you be and why? A lion. Who doesn’t want to rule the jungle? Plus, I’m a Leo so I think it’s a perfect fit.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? I am most proud of building a media contact list from scratch. I’ve secured a lot of great press. My favorite piece was the two page Kendall Jenner spread in the December issue of Vogue 2014 in our Vista Earrings. Above all, I’m most proud when I browse through the list of editors, stylists, assistants, etc. that I’ve met over the past 4 1/2 years that help us keep consistent press every week. I can’t believe how many amazing people I get to work with!
Favorite restaurant and what’s your go to order? Siena Tavern. Always share with friends. Kale Salad, Coccoli, Burrata, Octopus, Crudo tasting, Truffle Gnocci and pistachio gelato.
XAVIER RAMEY – Senior Assistant Director of Social Innovation and Philanthropy at University of Chicago
A career that began in the financial industry has led Xavier Ramey into the realm of non-profit but still utilizing those skills. When he’s not out in the community teaching organizations that address social justice issues, the former Young Chicago Author, Louder Than A Bomb participant can be seen exploring the city with his camera.
What did you want to be when you were little? When I was younger, I wanted to be a paleontologist. I was completely obsessed with dinosaurs and prehistoric studies. I memorized all the eras, the differing bone structures that defined dinosaurs and supported the theory of evolution, the names of hundreds of dinosaurs, and probably read enough books to put a librarian to sleep. Then Jurassic Park came out and I lost my mind with glee. I picked up a spoon, went into my backyard, and started digging. I found a bone, was overjoyed, then found out it was just a chicken bone. Something about how long it took to find that bone, the heat making the dig uncomfortable, and that it wasn’t the prize I thought, made me realize that paleontology was likely more boring and not as rewarding when done than it was exciting to study.
3 words to describe you? Just three words?
What one area of philanthropy do you wish your peers gave (more of) their time? Thinking about and implementing forms of giving that challenge our social and financial systems to bend more towards justice rather than shallow equality or good feelings. I’ve been a professional fundraiser, a professional funder, volunteer, a board director, small donor, and a major donor over the past ten years. I’ve seen philanthropy and social change from all angles, and in various parts of the world–from America, to Africa, to Haiti and beyond. I’ve learned that there is nothing about “giving back” that will be sufficient to change the scales of human suffering. It would take a radical cultural reorganization of how we (Westerners) look at our collective sentience and what “enough” means. We cannot donate our way into justice. We have to challenge the very fabric of what those of us who are economically, socially, and intellectually privileged call “normal.” The scales are weighted with an invisible hand to promote the least effort of the most endowed. Look at capital gains tax rates versus income tax rates. What is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly.
A goal you are looking to accomplish before the year is over? I’d like to take a roadtrip with my guys to get some hiking, fishing and boating done and to unpack our lives a bit. We’ve been talking about it since we were in college.
Best (professional or otherwise) advice you’ve been given would be? Love.
Who are/were leaders that have really influenced you? Whitney Young (the boardroom maestro of the Civil Rights movement); Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X); Kristiana Rae Colon (Playwright and Executive Director of The #LetUsBreathe Collective); My father, who was a political man with a deep commitment to his community and the struggle for justice that all black people fight for in this country.
Complete this sentence: When I’m 45 I hope to have__? Been known to be a good, just, and humble man who accomplished much by empowering others and focusing on a vision that ensures all boats rise in this city, especially those that are still underwater like my people on the south and west sides of Chicago.
Dream mentor would be? Jesus and my Grandmother, Eudora Ramey…but she’s already my mentor. And Jesus is her mentor.
NEICHELLE GUIDRY – Creator, Shepreaches | Trinity United Church of Christ Associate Pastor to Young Adults
The Rev. Neichelle R. Guidry is one of the most positive and energetic people you will meet. The Associate Pastor to Young Adults at Trinity United Church and founder of ShePreaches wants to help and support black millennial women in ministry. She was named to Time magazine’s “12 New Faces of Black Leadership.” As if she’s not busy enough, she is also pursuing a Ph.D. in liturgical studies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary at Northwestern University.
What did you want to be when you were little? A Grammy-award winning singer. Whitney Houston was, and remains, my muse, so I wanted to be just like her.
3 words to describe you? ambitious, hopeful, resilient.
A goal you are looking to accomplish before the year is over? Establishing the Shepreaches Circle of Influence (our equivalent of a Board), which will be a major part of our transition into a nonprofit professional development organization.
One superpower your wish you had? vulnerability.
When did you know or realize your calling? At age 16, my youth pastor told me that I would be a great leader in the Church. At 21, I finally accepted my calling. at the time, I was in college and started taking courses in Black religion. I applied to divinity schools around the country, started at Yale Divinity in 2007 and the “rest is history.”
What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment to date? I’m especially proud of shepreaches and how it has become an intimate space for young adult black women in ministry to be encouraged and empowered. it’s a reputable platform for our voices. I’m proud of its humble beginnings as a digital publication in 2012, and excited for the new phase of programming, fellowship and mentorship that is on the horizon.
What’s the biggest personal change you’ve ever made? Earlier this year, I had a period of personal “resetting.” By God’s grace and with the support of my friends and family, I was able to rebuild my life and create a life of deep happiness. I’ve become more organized, more purposeful in how I spend my time, cultivated some amazing new relationships and sought joy in all areas of my life. Consequently, I feel that I’m now meeting the fiercest, most confident and most powerful version of myself that I’ve ever witnessed.
TARRAH COOPER – Press Secretary for Mayor Rahm Emanuel at City of Chicago
When you represent one of the powerful people and establishments (City Hall) in Chicago, its easy for those unaware of your talents to cast doubt or event make snide remarks because of your age which was what Cooper dealt with upon being named the Mayor’s press secretary at age 25. She’s navigated the sometimes volatile political climate with ease and as the mayor begins a second term, her career is still flying high.
What did you want to be when you were little? A zoologist. I was fascinated with animals as a child and wanted to go to veterinary school to learn how to care for and treat them.
3 words to describe you? Inquisitive. Loyal. Determined.
A goal you are looking to accomplish before the year is over? Completing a triathlon.
What does a perfect day look like for you? Any day that involves a good workout, chocolate and gossiping with my grandmothers is absolutely perfect.
What is the greatest accomplishment of your life thus far? Immediately upon taking office, Mayor Emanuel made a commitment to lengthen the school day giving children more time for quality instruction in the classroom. As a product of public schools, I felt a direct connection to those children as well as a sense of unfairness that they were not receiving the quality of education they deserved to fulfill their God-given talents and potential. It was a hard fought battle, but in the end we were able to achieve one of the largest increases in classroom time for Chicago’s children. Being even a small part of a giant change like that, one which will shape the future of our city for years to come, profoundly demonstrated the impact and importance of public service. Reflecting on that great success continually renews my energy and enthusiasm for this job, and reminds me of the tremendous privilege I have to serve my city.
In the case of an emergency, after saving your loved ones, you have time to save any one item. What would it be and Why? My iPhone. Siri and Google make everything better.
Best Professional advice you’ve been given and by whom?
· Take criticism seriously, but not personally. – Mayor Emanuel
· Be competent, committed and authentic. – Mellody Hobson
· Take chances. Don’t be afraid to fail. You’ll be knocked down, we all are, but the only way to succeed is to try just one more time. – My parents
· Pay it forward. – My grandparents. My grandfather in particular used to say to me “There are two ways to make a living in America; you can work with your back or work with your brain. You’ve been given the opportunity to work with your brain; use that to ensure that those who are less fortunate than you don’t have to work with their backs.”
Have you ever sky dive or bungee jump or outdoor wall climbed? No. I love adrenaline… but in a controlled setting.
Tell us about the organizations you volunteer your time with…Breakthrough Urban Ministries, Primo Center for Women and Children and Bright Pink.
Ed note: This shoot would not have been possible without the support of some truly incredible people. First major thanks to the Loews Chicago for allowing us to shoot there and the team (Stephanie, Robin, Abby) were beyond ❤️! Emilie Bruyere who took on the lead role for this project. Aramide Esubi on styling. Topshop & Suitsupply; photographers Angela Conners and Holly Max Myrick and videographer Cameron Moore who made a 5 hour shoot into less than 2 minutes look good HERE.
Our hope is to do this yearly, so if there’s someone that we should have on our radar, drop a line in the comments below.
Correction: Ms. Mathis interviewed Tina Brown not Arianna Huffington.