NEW ORLEANS (press release) — Fifteen exceptional New Orleans-area women will be honored at the inaugural FestiGals Hats Off Luncheon this Friday at 11:30 a.m. at The Jung Hotel and Residences! The Celebrating Women’s Conference is presented by Fidelity Bank P.O.W.E.R. The women will be recognized for their professional accomplishments and their commitment to their New Orleans communities.
Meaghan Bonavita: Bonavita is a civic activist and President of Dress for Success New Orleans. Her passion for New Orleans-area women has driven the incredible growth of the volunteer-driven organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence.
Liz Broekman: Broekman has been influential in growing the Fidelity Bank P.O.W.E.R. program for women entrepreneurs and influencers throughout the metro New Orleans area since 2017. She is also involved in the community through many organizations such as the ABWA, NAWBO, Junior League of New Orleans, and the Krewe of Muses and serves on the board of trustees for the New Orleans Opera Association.
Priscilla Lawrence: Lawrence is the executive director of The Historic New Orleans Collection and has worked tirelessly to preserve the art and heritage of the greater New Orleans area. A member of Women’s Professional Council, Lawrence has received the title of Chevalier in the Order of the Arts and Letters from the French Minister of Culture and Communication, the Woman of the Year Award three times from New Orleans CityBusiness and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Most recently, Lawrence won the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Award for Lifetime Contribution to the Humanities.
Essence Harris Banks: Harris Banks, who is the executive director of the New Orleans MultiCultural Tourism Network, is a heart disease survivor and advocate. Since 2004, Harris Banks has worked tirelessly for women’s heart health with organizations such as the American Heart Association, WomenHeart, and the National Coalition of Women with Heart Disease.
Sandra Dartus: Dartus is a tourism advocate and trailblazer in the festivals and events industry and is best known for her passion for New Orleans and its culture. Among numerous awards and honors, Dartus was recognized as one of the “300 for 300 People who made New Orleans, New Orleans” in a Tricentennial Tribute, received the WHERE New Orleans “Spirit of Hospitality, Lifetime Achievement Award,” and was honored by French Quarter Festival, Inc., with a namesake scholarship.
Brenda Melara: Melara has over 30 years of experience working in Hispanic media in the Greater New Orleans area, currently as editor-in-Chief of Que Pasa – a bilingual newspaper highlighting art, culture, and entertainment. Her mission is to promote the Latino/Hispanic arts, culture and heritage in Louisiana through a multitude of festivals and charitable events held throughout the year.
Beverly Matheney: Matheney is a community activist passionate about civic responsibility and philanthropy throughout the community. She was named 2012 Activist of the Year and has received numerous awards including the Outstanding Service and Leadership Award from Young Audiences of Louisiana and the Prix d’Elegance Award presented by the Men & Women of Fashion.
Mayra Pineda: Pineda is the President and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana and was worked tirelessly to develop strong and long-lasting relationships between Louisiana and the Hispanic Community and Latin America. Pineda is a board member of the International Hospital for Children of New Orleans, New Orleans City Park, the Jefferson Economic Development Board, Cerro de Plata Tegucigalpa Foundation of Honduras, and the Jefferson Parish Diversity Board.
Ingrid Rinck: Rinck is a self-made entrepreneur who created the country’s largest meal-prep company, Sensible Meals, with the last $50 she had in her bank account. Rinck is now at the helm of a nine-figure business based in greater New Orleans and employs more than 1,200 people. She is the founder of a nonprofit organization, the Leading Ladies League, dedicated to giving back to women in the community.
Claudia Shebati: Shebati is active in many civic and professional organizations in the community and has served on the boards of Casa Argentina, Unidad Hispanoamericana, and is currently the Vice Chair of the Jefferson Council on Aging. Shebati is also a member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary and serves as Assistant District Staff Officer for Public Affairs.
Amy Sins: Chef Sins is a culinary entrepreneur and powerhouse with an award-winning cookbook, a publishing company, a culinary event business, and a radio show. Sins has used her talent and connections to organize and manage disaster relief efforts and led a team that prepared and delivered more than 10,000 meals during the Baton Rouge floods and has airlifted more than 5,000 pounds of prepared foods to disasters Carolinas and Florida.
Lois Harris Sutton: Harris Sutton has risen through the ranks of the publishing business in New Orleans and is now the Publisher of WHERE New Orleans and Wheretraveler New Orleans and its many associated brands. She is a dedicate advocate of the French Quarter as a business owner and resident, and is a long-time board member of several civic and charitable organizations.
Mary Katherine Lonatro-Tusa: Lonatro-Tusa has dedicated her life to patronage of the arts and community in greater New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. She founded the Mystic Krewe of Shangri-La and has served on numerous boards and committees, including the Gulf Coast Symphony, the March of Dimes, and the New Orleans Philharmonic, among many others.
Gerri Valene: Valene has been actively engaged with local arts and charities for more than 30 years, serving as chair for the CAC’s SweetArts Gala, the New Orleans Opera Gala, and multiple BRAVO fundraisers benefitting the New Orleans Ballet Association, the JPAS Pasta & Puccini Gala and the Jefferson Performing Arts Center Opening. In addition to her philanthropic activities, Valene is a board member for Men & Women of Fashion and is a Prix d’Elegance “Hall of Fame” honoree.
Jennifer Weishaupt: Weishaupt is the founder and CEO of the Ruby Slipper Restaurant Group, a rapidly growing business with two brands spanning four states. Weishaupt is dedicated to the New Orleans community and serves on the board of directors of Liberty’s Kitchen, an organization where underserved young people create and achieve their visions of success through food.
Louisiana cultural ambassador, Amanda Shaw, will provide the keynote address at the Hats Off Luncheon. The fiddler and recording artist will share stories of growing up in the spotlight while breaking glass ceilings in the entertainment industry. Shaw will release a new video at the event from her upcoming album, Please, Call Me Miss Shaw. The album continues the artist’s efforts of expressing independence and female empowerment through her music.
Following the Celebrating Women’s Conference on Friday, the festivities continue all weekend!
Friday, June 21
VIP reception at 6 p.m. in the spectacular new $38 million dollar exhibition center in the Seignouret-Brulatour Building at The Historic New Orleans Collection.
A very special dinner at 7:45 p.m. at Dookey Chase’s where Sybil Morial will share her memories and stories about her long-time friend Leah Chase while discussing her award-winning book, Witness to Change.
Saturday, June 22
Uniquely New Orleans Experience
Beginning at 9 a.m., enjoy private home tours, private lunch at Apolline Restaurant, and pampering poolside at the Jung Hotel and Residences
Step Up Second Line Parade
Grab your glitter and step up to shine a light on heart disease with 1,500 of your closest friends. Start the event at the pre-party from 6 to 8 p.m. at the New Orleans Jazz Museum followed by the parade from 8 to 9 p.m. and close out the night at the After Glow party from 9 to 11 p.m. at Harrah’s Casino.
Sunday, June 23
Sip mimosas and enjoy an eye-popping drag brunch at the Jung Hotel and Residences from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. featuring New Orleans’ favorite drag queen, Reba Douglas, and her fabulous friends.
Register at FestiGals.org for the entire weekend or by event.