City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

The 2024 Women of Westport

Thirteen women who are doing incredible things, right here at home.

The women of this town– if you haven’t already noticed— are unbelievable. From impactful small business owners to generous volunteers to unyielding supporters of the arts to all-around empathetic human beings, your nominations fueled this incredible list of women who embody so many of the values we hold precious here. We are honored to share with you the 2024 Women of Westport, a phenomenal group of women who— whether you’ve known it or not– have almost certainly had a positive impact on your experience living, working, and thriving in this amazing community. 

1. Cathy Castiblanco
Owner, Westport Cut and Shave

Cathy came to Connecticut from Colombia when she was 12 years old. After graduating from cosmetology school in 2009—at the peak of a recession when folks were cutting back on beauty expenses—she found a job at a barber shop. To her surprise, it turned out to be a perfect fit. As it turns out, “I love barbering!” she says.
A special origin: “I was working [at what was then Ryan John barbershop], and the previous owner asked if I wanted to buy the shop. I had just had a baby. I didn’t have any money. But one of my clients asked me to partner up with them. I took a leap of faith. Six years later, here we are!”
The salon is like a home: “When you come here you feel comfortable, no matter who you are. We offer beer and whiskey—it’s relaxing.  I get a lot of praise for having a diverse staff, but it is so nice to have. It’s a group of people with talent, who are willing to work hard, and love what they do.” 
The power of hair care: “Recently, we went to a men's shelter and donated haircuts. That felt so good—being able to give the customer service and the experience of a salon to someone that, probably, doesn’t ever get it. A good conversation and a good haircut can make anybody's day.” 

2. Stacie Curran, Sharuna Mahesh, and Kathryn Turley-Sonne 
Co-founders of Club 203, a social club for adults with disabilities

When Kathryn Turley-Sonne moved to Westport about three years ago, she was quickly introduced to Stacie Curran, a native who has been here 50-plus years. The reason? They are both parents to adults with disabilities, “and it was clear that we had kids with similar needs that were not getting filled,” says Kathryn. Chief among them? “Social opportunities in the community,” says Sharuna, whom Stacie brought into their conversations, too. Soon, the idea for Club 203, a social club for adults with disabilities, was born. Westport Human Services helped them fast-track it, and since 2022, they’ve hosted one social event in Westport per month, with up to 200 people attending.
Why they started:  “When people think about others with disabilities, very often it's about mobility, or employment,” says Stacie. “People hardly ever think about ways for them to meet other like-minded friends. And that is really what motivated us.” 
Their favorite moments: “The joy on our members’ faces is so much fun,” says Stacie. “The fact that these adults keep coming back every month tells me we’re doing something right,” agrees Sharuna. 
The Westport community has been so supportive: “We’re 100 percent volunteer based: it’s teachers, paraprofessionals, or even just friends of ours that love to give back,” says Kathryn. “All our spaces, as well as all the food, are donated to us,” says Sharuna. “The ongoing generosity has been incredible. It is so amazing to live in a town that takes care of people in a real way,” says Kathryn.

3. Amanda Mas 
Owner, Rebel & Rose Tattoo

Rebel & Rose is not your typical tattoo shop. You notice it from the second you walk in— the bright, airy feel, photographs by female photographers on the walls, scattered antiques—but most notably Amanda, who opened the shop downtown in 2022, only employs women. “I wanted to give women a space where they can thrive and feel comfortable—the clients as well as my employees,” she says.
The approach is different:  “I originally wanted to do art therapy. When I got my first tattoo—angel wings for my aunt who passed away— I realized: this is art therapy. Tattoos are more than just the art, there are so many backstories as to why people get them. [Getting a tattoo] is like working through the trauma, in a way.”
Her favorite pieces to work on:  “I of course love certain pieces because of the art aspect, but the stories resonate with me most. I do a lot of mastectomy tattoos for breast cancer survivors covering their scars. I could cry thinking about clients who’ve lost pregnancies. And then I’ll see them again, and they’ve come back to get something for their new baby who was just born. It really shows you how strong people are.”

4. Athena Adamson
Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Westport Country Playhouse

Last June, the Westport Country Playhouse was on the brink of collapse. They needed to raise $2 million in two months, and named Athena the new board chair to spearhead the effort. Under her leadership, not only did they survive, they are thriving. “When I asked people for help and support, people really stepped forward,” she says. “That meant a lot to me.”
A long history as a patron: “I started attending productions [at the WCP] when I was in college. I fell in love with the old barn theater and the friendly faces. I felt connected to the place. Eight years ago, I got involved: first chairing the gala, then joining the board, and now chairing it.”
Seeing the community rally to save the WCP: “We’re 93 years old. To watch that rich history and legacy go away would have been unthinkable. When it seemed like that was a possibility, there was a big group effort. And during that time, we developed a new vision for the playhouse— we realized our audience was changing and we wanted to listen to them. It seems like the community really wanted that. I am so, so grateful.”
What’s next: “We want to be a place where people of all ages can watch amazing performances. First and foremost, we're a theater that puts on world-class plays. But additionally, we have year-round programming that includes legendary Broadway stars. We have this wonderful barn next to the theater, and we're doing a series in there called the Barnstormer series—an opportunity for smaller things. There's always something happening!”

5. Danielle Dobin
Volunteer, Staples High School’s We the People program

Danielle’s name might sound familiar— she’s on Westport’s Board of Finance, and before that was chair of the Planning & Zoning Commission— and while her public service is, of course, outstanding, she was nominated to this year’s Women of Westport list for the intersection of her passion for local government and her dedication to community service, as she’s become an involved volunteer with We the People, the nationwide civics competition program started at Staples High School by beloved AP US Government and Politics teacher Suzanne Kammerman. Her time working with Staples students on this rigorous program exploring the American constitution has dovetailed beautifully with her involvement in local government. “We the People is such a phenomenal opportunity to help the kids really understand the strength of the [democratic] process and the strength of our union,” she says. “It’s been really fun to help them understand the differences between, say, ancient Roman democracies and our town charter here in Westport.”
Guiding future leaders: “I love seeing the kids develop into scholars of American constitutionalism. I love the way that they research and learn. The students are from all across the political spectrum, and they all have different life experiences, but they synthesize this information and then they have to work together as a group. It’s fantastic to watch them grow. I’m so proud of them.” 
True Westport love: “Obviously, I love the beach (you can often find me there walking my dog, David Beckham), the amenities, and the schools. But what’s really wonderful about Westport are the people. It’s a special place because of who chooses to live here.” 

6. Carole Orland 
Co-founding member and partner, Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC 

Carole and her partner, Eric Broder, opened a family law office in Westport in 2005, which is now the largest family law office in Connecticut, thanks in no small part to her hard work and dedication to her clients. Carole is a consummate go-getter: not only is she a co-founder and partner at her firm, she is a passionate mentor, avid golf player (and board member at her country club, Birchwood), dedicated mother and grandmother, and trustee at The Westport Library. “I say to everyone, ‘If you don’t love living in Westport, you won’t love living anywhere.’ It’s an incredible community.” 
She’s nonstop:
“I rarely sleep. Everyone who knows me will attest to the 4 AM emails! My energy generates more energy for the things I love. I am blessed that our daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids live in Westport. They are the busy ones, so I try to catch up with them!”
A loyal customer: “I love shopping at Mitchells. They have fabulous clothes, and the people who work there are warm, welcoming, and accommodating. For my 70th birthday, Bill Mitchell arranged for me to throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game. My dad and I would always go when I was growing up—he would have been so proud.”
An emphasis on the next generation: “I take mentoring very seriously. I was lucky to have a couple of great ones, and I find sharing life experiences is especially important in our type of practice. Our firm is like a family.”

7. Penny Yi
Owner, La Beauté Artistry Brow + Nail Salon

For Penny, nails are in her blood. Her dad brought their family from Cambodia to Connecticut and opened a nail salon, and Penny, a mom of two, did the same last year when La Beauté Artistry opened. “I wanted to open my own place, because it’s my family’s legacy— like following in my father’s footsteps,” she said. Since its debut, La Beauté has become one of Westport’s most beloved hidden gems. 
Her goals for La Beauté: “I wanted to create a safe space for the community, fostering connection and offering a space where our clients can feel seen.  We really talk to our clients and get to know them. I aim to provide a way for people to express their creativity through nail art and nail extensions. I really want to be the one to help boost the people of Westport’s confidence!”
A good manicure matters: “Your nails are a canvas. You can play around with the design, and it makes you happy. Even driving around and looking at your nails, if they look good, it makes you happy. To be able to have a place that I can help create that—for women or men!—is  really nice.”
Her business philosophy: “I have a community over competition mentality. I believe in all local businesses rising together.” 

8. Jes Bengston
Executive Chef, Terrain

For the last 8 years, Jes has headed up the kitchen at Terrain, the beautiful, botanical cafe inside the garden and home mecca. “Terrain is owned by Urban Outfitters, so I get that corporate structure, but with creative freedom. And the people on the retail side are educated in agriculture and design, which you wouldn’t normally learn about in a restaurant. It’s all just been incredible.”
She’s built a supportive environment: “When I started, I was the only woman in the kitchen. Now, my kitchen is filled with women, and people from every background. [My approach is:] Let's teach each other. Let's make sure people are getting paid. Let's make sure our mental health is being taken care of. I started a four-day work week at Terrain, and it’s been so well received. I’ve had people working here for 10 or 11 years, which is unusual. It’s a great environment.” 
On the amazing Westport food community: “It is the most encouraging, most collaborative, smartest group—they're like my family. If I run out of an ingredient, I can text Bill Taibe to borrow some. If I have a question about what produce will be in season, I can call Lori Cochran [the director of the Westport Farmers Market] to answer it. Everyone wants to help each other.” 
A favorite customer memory: “It wasn’t easy for my wife and me to get pregnant. When we shared that we were, people were overjoyed for us. One couple made us a little toy wooden cheese board, like you’d see at Terrain, with crocheted fruits and veggies. That was so special.”

9. Emily Blundell
Founder, Jeweled Coquette

It was a happy accident that Emily’s hobby— making jewelry for her friends— turned into a full-time job. But that’s exactly what happened. She’s the founder of Jeweled Coquette, a jewelry line you can find at local spots like Middlemarch, the MoCA marketplaces, or in her studio on Post Road (where she also does permanent bracelets). “Being able to do something I’m passionate about feels like a dream come true,” she says.
A leap of faith: “Before Westport, we lived in South Orange, N.J. and I worked in finance. I always kind of had impostor syndrome, like, this is not where I belong. I was pursuing creative outlets on the side, and when we moved here, I was like I just want to do something I love. I started making jewelry for friends, and the business grew organically from that. Going full-time was scary, but I found my true identity. The corporate world was not me.” 
Her jewelry tells a story: “Every item is created by hand, and has positive intentions behind it. That translates to the person who wears it. My permanent bracelets—people come in to get one with their kids when they go off to college, or as a celebration of life when someone close to them has passed. Every time I go in to do one, I hear a special story, and I always feel blessed to be a part of that experience.”

10. Stephanie Mastocciolo 
Co-founder, MSC International

Stephanie and her two sisters lost their father, an international producer of Caribbean music, 10 years ago. Stephanie had held on to his vast collection of music from their Haitian culture for personal use, but there was a lightbulb moment last year when a music supervisor called —he wanted to use one of her father’s records in a film project. “Right now, the industry is asking for pre-1980s music [with a Caribbean/Latin feel]. And here, I have thousands of songs they can’t access— they’re not on the internet. We realized: we can share this music with the world.” So she and her sisters created MSC International to digitize and license their collection of Haitian music for television, commercials, and film. 
Her father’s legacy: “My father was always distributing his music; it was how we grew up. But this market [for TV and film] didn't exist when he was around. And there’s not that much inventory out there. Here in my basement, I have thousands of songs by really cool artists. When I put on an album and write a few notes about it, it stirs up memories, and it’s also so gratifying.”
Introducing people to Haitian music: “It’s got a danceable beat, and it’s about a positive attitude and way of life. I’ll play it by my pool or in my car, and it brings people joy. When you start to listen to this music, you just want more.”
The story of their name: “My sister Christina and my sister Monica are the M and C in MSC. My middle sister pointed out that MSC is ‘music’ without the U and I. It holds a lot of significance, which I’m really proud of.”

11. Lewis Derogene
Head of Exhibitions, MoCA Westport

In early 2023, Lewis came to MoCA as a teaching artist. She quickly shot up the ranks, first to curatorial assistant, and now serving as their head of exhibitions. “I’ve always wanted to help expose people’s art,” says Lewis, who hails from an artistic family including painters and woodcarvers, and is an artist herself. “The art scene in Westport is super vibrant and alive, and I think that's so great to be surrounded by. You never run out of ideas, you never run out of projects.”
She’s helping make MoCA a true destination: “One of my big goals in this position is to build partnerships. We’re inviting guest curators to curate shows, and are reaching out to schools like Yale trying to create fellowships and art residency programs in the museum. It’s really exciting.”
Her work inspires her creatively: “I got to visit the home of Roe Halper, who we just featured in the Westport Public Art Collection show, and see all of the work she’s created since moving here in 1960. That motivated me as an artist: to say wow, you should never stop creating, no matter what. She never stopped, because it was her true passion. That’s the kind of community we need, and the fact that I’m surrounded by that, as both an artist and head of exhibitions, is really great."
A powerful inspiration: “One of my favorite poems is Maya Angelou’s ‘Phenomenal Woman.’ I chose PhenomenaLewis as my art moniker because I want to make work that's just as phenomenal and impactful as her poems make me feel.”

  • Photo by KD Photography.
  • Photo by Mark Smith.
  • Photo by Sophia Andersen.
  • Photo by Hande Gurdogan Photography.
  • Photo by Lewis Derogene.
  • Photo by Penny Yi.
  • Carole Orland throwing the first pitch at the Red Sox game, thanks to Bill Mitchell.
  • Photo by Brittany Kowalski.
  • Photo by Jerri Graham.
  • One of PhenomenaLewis's self-portraits from her "The Lady and the Chair" series.
  • Photo by Winter Caplanson.
  • From left: Sharuna Mahesh, Stacie Curran, and Kathryn Turley-Sonne. Photo by Shea Curran.
  • Photo by James Dobin-Smith.