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Women of Westport

Amazing Women Among Us

Is it possible to limit the number of fabulous Women of Westport? No. But we must, and it gets more difficult each year. We are, and live among, some of the most interesting, dynamic, and passionate women in the world (and men, but we'll get to you next month). Thank you, ladies, for your inspiration, leadership, creativity, and courage to be exactly who you want to be.

Quite simply, you rock.

Sunny Sherman

old fashion guru and Former Fashion Designer/Fashion Business Owner

You were in the fashion business for over 45 years and had your own line of clothing. Tell us a bit about that.

“I first designed hand-painted and hand tie-dyed tees, then colorful washed silk separates. That morphed into a complete sportswear collection under the Sunny Leigh brand that was sold in almost every major specialty, chain, and department store in the country over the course of 30 years.

“I dressed millions of women over the course of my career which led me to come up with my handle “Old Fashion Guru” when I started blogging on Instagram.”

You’re considered an expert on high/low dressing. Name a favorite “high” item and a favorite “low” item.

“Thanks. That’s a compliment I proudly accept! One thing I’ve learned is that a high price does not dictate high quality and a good fit. 

“The Gucci blazer I bought in the Tom Ford era. It’s perfectly tailored, fits like a dream, and is the perfect accessory for almost any fashion scene. I can wear it with Old Navy jeans and a white flea market tank and feel like a billion bucks.

“For low, the aforementioned Old Navy jeans. I find jean shopping more painful than bikini shopping - especially as our bodies age. I discovered the perfect fitting straight leg in the Men’s department last year that was on sale for $25.”

Yours and your husband’s, Guy, generous donations helped make Oyebog Tennis Academy for underprivileged kids in Cameroon the biggest tennis academy in the region. What does this donation mean to you?

"Through the sport of tennis, we give children hope, an education, and life skills. It’s the most fulfilling donation we’ve ever made to any organization because we know that every dollar goes directly to helping these children."

OTATennis.org

@oldfashionguru

OldFashionGuru.com

Marcia Selden and daughter Robin Selden

Marcia Selden Catering

You all make working together look super fun. Is it, or do you want to slap each other? When did you decide to make it a family business?

Robin: "On around my 30th birthday the business was exploding. I happily joined with one stipulation: if we got to a point where we’d want to kill each other I’d leave, as it would not be worth compromising my relationship with her. Fast forward 25 years and while we’ve had our smack down moments for sure, at the end of the day we have such a true respect for each other and a love for our team and [our] business."

I love your “food art,” the way in which you serve or display your food. Who’s the brainchild behind this? 

R: "Mom and I both studied design and love the art of playing with our food to create that food art. Our team gets excited to work on research and development to help us execute new and inventive ways to serve our dishes. They are really jazzed when their creativity is showcased at our events, too. "

Marcia, did you ever compete for gigs with Martha Stewart?

Marcia: "No. She had just come out with her book called Entertaining and I was smitten. I told my husband I could do that, too, and he said 'so do it' and the rest is history. What’s amazing is that over the years we’ve been featured in multiple editorial pieces in her magazine and worked with her personally on events."

How many pairs of glasses does your brother, Jeffrey, own?

R: Over 100 pairs… not even a joke.

MarciaSelden.com

Kitt Shapiro

Owner of WEST, daughter of an icon

In your book, Eartha & Kitt, one of my favorite anecdotes is about your mom, Eartha, forcing you to try on an outfit that looked ridiculous on you. What did it look like?

"It was a navy blue jacket and either dress or skirt, with a Peter Pan collar and gold buttons. I looked like I was enrolling into an old-fashioned Naval service."

How is your style reflected in WEST?

"My mother often talked about how I had a very strong sense of ’self style’ even at a very young age. I always have fun with fashion and encourage my customers not to overthink their clothes. Wear them. Put that sparkly blazer with a pair of distressed jeans and t-shirt. Wear a classic skirt with motorcycle boots and a leather jacket. Enjoy your clothes. Don’t save them for special occasions. "

What did you do prior to WEST?

"I developed a lifestyle brand called Simply Eartha, accessories that SAY something, a tribute to my mother, incorporating her words, wisdom, and beauty with my designs. Prior to that, I ran her production company, Eartha Kitt Productions."

Eartha was hysterical as Yzma in “The Emperor’s Groove.”

"I think Yzma is one of the best Disney villains (yes, I am biased). Her desire for power and finding the fountain of youth resonates on so many levels. I think Disney got it right."

West2Westport.com

SimplyEartha.com

Lori Cochran

Executive Director, Westport Farmers’ Market (WFM)

What is your greatest achievement at WFM?

“To be honest, I haven't thought about it much. There’s a lot to be done so I guess I’ll wait until later in life to sit back and revisit it all.

“I’m endlessly grateful that I took the chance to change my career and support a mission I believe in so deeply. I’m grateful to family and friends who have supported me at every turn. Westport is a special place - its leadership is instrumental in WFM being the organization it is today. I love my job and that’s something to be celebrated!” 

What are your goals for the next 5 years?

“To focus on the next generation of farmers' market managers and embed my message: farmers’ markets must put farmers as their top priority. 

“Continue to educate and influence prepared food vendors to source local ingredients that support area farmers AND I want to influence as many people as possible that green products are a must. Seeing plastic bags and receptacles at farmers’ markets is an oxymoron, in my humble opinion. 

“Work with up-and-coming chefs alongside Bill Taibe, who has remained a strong supporter of WFM and my efforts, to help them understand that buying from local farms provides so much beyond the food itself. As a chef you can influence your community by simply buying from a farmers’ market.”

WestportFarmersMarket.com

Jerri Graham

Photographer and Writer

Your photographs are more than just pictures. How do you manage to get to the depth of a subject?

“I’ve always seen [photography] as a way of leaving a visual representation that we existed. We can either have images that truly capture us or ones that are a false representation. When I shoot, I’m thinking of not just today, but tomorrow and 20 years from now. I’m thinking of how you’ll feel when you look back at yourself in images I took and hopefully it’ll make you smile.”

You’ve written some amazing stories and essays, but not many people know you as a talented writer.

“I’ve recently joined a group and will finish my novel by the end of 2022. It’s set in Westport and is the type of book I’d want to read with characters we can all connect with.” 

You’re comfortable inviting people into your struggles. Do you think the openness you have with yourself enables you to be a better artist?

“I’m only doing this lifetime once and I’m not really concerned with impressing too many people. I know where I am and who I am in the world. Those that don’t like it don’t matter to me and that’s fine.”

If you could photograph one person who would it be and why? 

“I’d give anything to photograph my father. I have only one photograph of him that I took and I look at it every day. He introduced me to photography not knowing how it would change my life and give me purpose. Our memories are sparked by photos and I want more memories of him because the real ones are starting to fade.”

JerriGrahamPhotography.com

Deb Placey

Former Sportscaster and co-owner of The Post

You were a sports broadcaster for 28 years beginning in the early ‘90s, when not many women were in the industry. How did you build credibility among the athletes and fans? 

“Honestly, there were very few times that being a woman was an issue. Some trailblazers had gone before me that had a much more difficult time; they were initially denied access to locker rooms and were at an unfair advantage. But I found that as a woman I usually approached a story from a different perspective than most of the men, and players and coaches responded to it. "

You were president of Pink Aid recently. Why did you become involved?

“After so many years traveling and working nights, weekends, and holidays, it was a wonderful time in my life to give back and work locally. My mother passed away from breast cancer when I was very young. PinkAid initially asked me to do some hosting for their annual luncheon, but once I met the founders I was hooked on the mission. I joined the Board and ten years later became a Co-president."

Aaaaand now you own a beautiful home design store with friends, The Post. How did you become interested in design and is there anything you can’t do?

“The guys used to joke with me - on off-days between games I'd browse in antique shops and search for fabric. 

“My best friend has a fabulous store in St Louis, our hometown, and we decided to partner together and open a "Westport version!" It’s a lot of work... but a blast!”

ThePostCT.com

Courtney Davis Schlesinger

Comedian

Tell me a bit about your first stand-up experience, but only if it was really bad.

“Awful. Although one person laughed at a joke (it was a man) and I was hooked.”  

As someone glamorous, wealthy, and privileged, you manage to successfully poke fun of people who are glamorous, wealthy, and privileged. How do you suppose you can do this?

“Um thank you so much-this interview is starting to become a real confidence booster.

“I don’t really think about what I say, I just talk about my day, which is usually so embarrassing that what could come across as ‘cool’ immediately goes away when I start speaking. I basically want to show that no one’s life is “perfect”. For example, I talk about my nanny a lot, but she’ll see me coming down in my flannel squirrel pajamas at 2 p.m. and she’ll go ‘Ooh your husband don’t deserve this, Courtie. He gonna leave if you keep looking like this.’”

Do you ever get hate for being so opulent?

“Yes, one time someone left a comment on a picture I posted that my house should be in arch [sic] digest, and another person commented back that I should NEVER be in arch digest - that her family’s home in Naples has been in that magazine and I’m far too trashy to ever be in it.  

“I actually feel anyone who criticizes anyone clearly cares about them and feels threatened. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t say anything.”

@thecourtneydavis

Kathryn Sirico (owner, Greg & Tony Salon) and daughter, September Sirico (co-owner Greg & Tony Salon, owner blow dry)

September didn’t get into GFA in first grade because she was too social. I’m reasonably certain you’ve come to terms with this, but was it upsetting at the time? Or flattering?

Kathryn: “As a very social person it was flattering. It made us happy for her to be surrounded by friends, many of whom she still has today. Staples suited her as a student and an athlete.”

September: “Everything happens for a reason. Go Wreckers!”

You’ve both seen Westport salons come and go. To what do you attribute the longevity of Greg and Tony?

K: “Always a little bit of timing and luck... in addition to quality work, consistency, and dedication.”

Kathryn, your daughter credits you with the idea for blow dry. What was you “A-ha” moment?

K: “In my generation, women styled their hair once a week. Our salon was busy with other hair services and we saw a calling for space and stylists to accommodate blow-out clients. September then took it to the next level with no cuts or color.”

What is your favorite hairstyle trend throughout your years with the salon?

K: “Variations of The Bob are timeless and classic.”

S: “The Shag transcends eras.”

What’s your least favorite hairstyle trend? Besides the mullet. And the beehive.

K: “Hair with no movement.” (Editor’s note: I laughed out loud in agreement.)

S: “Its a toss-up between Kelly Taylor and The Rachel.”

September has fabulous style. Does she get this from her mother or her father?

K: “Her father. Tony has phenomenal taste in most everything.”

S: “Tough call… they are both icons to me.”

GregAndTonySalon.com

BlowDrySouthport.com

Samantha Yanks

Founder, Samantha Yanks Creative

Prior to starting Samantha Yanks Creative (SYC) you were Editor-In-Chief of Hamptons Magazine from 2009-2018. What kind of changes did you notice in the Hamptons during that time?

“When I first began spending time in the Hamptons, I always felt a deep sense of being close to nature, surrounded by beauty and community, and that has changed to a degree. One of the many reasons we moved to Westport is that it reminds me of what I loved, and still love, about the Hamptons.”

What are you focusing on since moving to Westport, besides SYC?

“It’s important to me to be deeply rooted and knowledgeable about my community, to get to know the people who make this town what it is. As a former editor nothing gave me greater joy than supporting existing and discovering new emerging talent, and telling the story of community. I launched @theconnecticutedit to fulfill my desire to do the same here in Westport.”

During Fashion Week 2014 you were stuck in an elevator with Leon Talley, Peter Davis, and other fashion and media executives. Rumor is that emotions flared. Do you now fear elevators or fashion and media executives?

“This was one of the most dramatic moments in my years as an editor. We were leaving the Oscar de la Renta show, en route to Narciso Rodriguez, and were stuck for hours in a tight elevator on a high floor. Needless to say it was fueled with some fear but, no, I was  back in elevators with fashion and media executives the next day!”

@theconnecticutedit

Louise A. McGlynn, Jacquelyn Conlon, Lauren M. McCann

Of Conlon, McGlynn & McCann

You’ve all chosen difficult career paths, but intellectually and emotionally.  What compelled you to practice family law?

Jackie: “It suits my personality: I love to solve challenging problems. We’re helping people at the worst times in their lives and getting them through a very difficult time.” 

Lauren: “I like the substantial client contact. We get to partner with our clients in practical problem solving to achieve the best results for the client.”

Louise: “I came to this practice having gone through my own divorce; I use my experience to help others through this difficult process.”

Can you tell me a bit about your philanthropic pursuits and why they’re important to you?  

Jackie: “My first career was in the military, so as a way to give back I work with Legal Services for Veterans. I have two Great Pyrennes dogs and I work with rescue groups to protect this amazing breed.”

Lauren: “I'm active in bar associations including co-chair of the Bench/Bar committee of the Fairfield County Bar Association and various community groups to share information about the divorce process and the importance of protecting children’s best interests.”

Louise: “I accept pro bono appointments through the Probate Court representing children. Our office focuses on protecting children’s interests in the divorce process and acting as Guardian Ad Litem provides a service that families in that area of the court system often can’t afford. I’ve been on the board of the DVCC - domestic violence is often part of divorces - and have participated in the Second Saturday workshops to share information with those contemplating divorce.”

ConlonMcGlynn.com

Dr. Shreya Patel, OD PC

You’re an optometrist. Why eyes?

“I get to help improve people’s quality of life by improving their vision and eye health. I will never forget a patient once said to me after I introduced them to multifocal contacts ‘It may seem like a small thing but you changed my life.’ On the flip side I had a patient come in for a contact lens exam and I diagnosed a tumor in the back of her eye. [Diagnosing this tumor] not only saved her vision but also her life. I still have the letter she wrote to me."

You believe in the merits of a healthy diet and lifestyle for eye health. What are some of the best foods for eyes?

“Your diet has a large impact on your overall health, including your vision. Staying hydrated and maintaining a balanced diet that is high in fruits and vegetables and low in sugar and saturated fats is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your eyes. Our eyes are vascular so it’s important to have a heart-healthy diet to keep the blood vessels that service our eyes healthy.” 

As a foodie, what type of cuisine do you enjoy eating most, and what do you enjoy cooking most? 

“I grew up in a home where meals were a big deal and we were exposed to all types of cuisine. I had to ask my son for help on this… he said it depends on what I’m craving at the time. He’s right. I guess it depends on my mood.”

DrShreyaPatel.net

(203) 557-8426

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