Top Female Achievers
Each year New Orleans Magazine profiles a selection of extraordinary women from across our community continuing to make a difference. This year, our group highlights artists, businesswomen, an educator, leaders in women’s health care, and an Oscar-award winner. What is most difficult is not so much finding worthy contenders, but narrowing the list. We feel enriched by those who have been selected and encouraged by knowing there are so many others to consider.
A self-taught artist from Montgomery, Alabama, Ashley Longshore is just as colorful and larger-than-life as her creations, which include a painting of Jesus hovering over an Oompah Loompah, Ruth Bader Ginsburg backed by an array of hands giving the finger, and a wide variety of whimsical and glamorous iterations of Audrey Hepburn in profile.
“I just love painting female icons,” she said. “And I love making them large because it feels like I have my goddesses around me.”
Working out of her studio on Magazine Street, Longshore — who has been compared to a young, feminist, Andy Warhol — has garnered a long list of Hollywood celebrity collectors, as well as partnerships with high-end brands like Bentley, Veuve Clicquot and Rolex.
Her most recent venture has been with famed fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg, for whom she created 37 portraits of influential women that were on display in Von Furstenberg’s flagship store in New York City through May 1 in celebration of International Women’s Day.
“All I can say is that Diane and I will be continuing to work together in London this summer and Shanghai in the fall,” said Longshore. “And huge announcements will be made in September.”
Dana Keren—Co-founder, Birthmark Doula Collective
Half of the two-woman team that created Birthmark Doulas in New Orleans in 2011, Dana Keren moved to New Orleans from Wisconsin in 2010 as part of a Jewish service corps called Avodah to work at a community-based health clinic, when she met another young woman named Latona Giwa who had also come to the city from the Midwest at the same time to help post-Katrina. Both were also doulas, trained professionals that provides physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and after childbirth. Both were dedicated to improving birth outcomes in their new home state — a state with one of the highest C-section and lowest breastfeeding rates in the country.
Birthmark Doulas has since grown to become Birthmark Doula Collective, an organization owned and operated by 12 doulas that also provides a wide array of pre- and post-natal services.
In addition to her work at Birthmark, Keren is the senior administrator for Tulane University School of Medicine’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, where she manages all financial, clinical, HR and operational issues for the OB/GYN Department, including managing the practices of the physicians, residency program and student clerkship program. She is also the director of the Tulane Pharmacy.
Latona Giwa—Co-founder, Birthmark Doula Collective
A Minneapolis native who came to New Orleans in 2010 for a community organizer fellowship in Central City, Latona Giwa ended up organizing her own fellowship of doulas — Birthmark Doula Collective — with fellow Midwestern transplant, Dana Keren.
In addition to helping to run the collective, which also advocates for things like trying to get Medicaid to cover the cost of doula services and creating more hospital support for doulas, last year Giwa helped open the New Orleans Breastfeeding Center — the first freestanding center of its kind in the state and the only place where women can receive assistance that is covered by insurance and Medicaid.
“We have all three tiers of breastfeeding support professionals,” said Giwa. “It’s a place where women can come and prepare for breastfeeding or get help with any problems.”
Just like at Birthmark Doula Collective, which has always provided services on a sliding scale, providing support to low-income women is a focus at the New Orleans Breastfeeding Center.
“Black families tend to have less access to support for breastfeeding,” she said. “I’m very proud that our support group for women of color now has three locations and serves hundreds of area families.”
Dr. Kimberly Field-Marvin—Headmistress, Louise S. McGehee School
On July 1, 2018, Dr. Kimberly Field-Marvin became the 12th headmistress in the history of the all-girls Louise S. McGehee School. Founded in 1912, the school currently serves 460 students from kindergarten through grade 12, along with 150 in McGehee’s early childhood education program.
A native of New York, Field-Marvin holds two master’s degrees in English and education and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.
“I did my dissertation on how to shape learning environments in order to help girls best develop agency,” she said, “which includes expressing their opinions, making decisions, organizing themselves and maybe motivating others.”
Field-Marvin believes strongly in the value of an all-girls educational environment like McGehee.
Speaking of the benefits of all-girls schools she said, “Girls play every role of leadership in this school. “From senior class president, to editing the yearbook to captain of a team. When out of the gaze of boys, especially in adolescence, girls tend to speak their minds more. They’re not afraid to be smart.”
Judge Monique Morial—President, Allstate Sugar Bowl
This past February, Judge Monique Morial became president of the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the first woman to do so since the organization was founded in New Orleans in 1934. A native New Orleanian, Morial is quick to credit her father with both her love of sports and the organization she will now lead.
Elected as New Orleans’ first black mayor when she was 7 years old, Ernest Nathan Morial, known as “Dutch,” was also a part of the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
“I went to so many games growing up,” she said. “It was just a part of my life. I went from fan to playing sports myself in high school.”
Outside of the 86th Sugar Bowl Football Classic, set to take place Jan. 1, 2020, the nonprofit hosts more than 60 events every year, including a wide range of amateur sporting events far beyond football, like sailing regattas and lacrosse.
This year the Allstate Sugar Bowl will also play a big part of the host committee for the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship, which comes to New Orleans January 13.
“It’s so inspiring to be around young athletes,” said Morial. “And I’m grateful that our members donate 3,000 hours of volunteer time every year making these events happen.”
Christine Vinson—President-Elect, Junior League of New Orleans / President, Vinson Guard Service
Since 2015, Christine Vinson has served as president of Vinson Guard, the third generation of her family to run the company which is one of the largest privately-held, American-owned security providers in the nation.
On June 1 she’ll also take on another presidency — leading the Junior League of New Orleans’ 2,200 members for a year.
Vinson joined the organization in 2009 in an attempt to give back to her home city following Hurricane Katrina. She said she was drawn by the variety of opportunities available to members, all with a common goal: to advocate for the wellbeing of women and children throughout New Orleans.
In her new role, Vinson said she plans to work to further refine the organization’s already strong programs.
“I want to take a deeper dive into the impact we are having in communities and look at how we can maybe go even bigger and better,” she said. “I’m also excited about adding a new offering, our Women’s Leadership Summit, in the winter of 2020.”
Hannah Beachler—Production Designer
“New Orleans, ya heard me?”
These were the first words Hannah Beachler spoke, on Feb. 24 of this year, when she stepped on to the stage of the Academy Awards and made history as the first black person to be nominated, and to win, for production design in recognition of her work on the highest grossing movie of 2018, “Black Panther.”
An Ohio native, Beachler has been a New Orleans resident since 2004. She said she soon fell so hard for New Orleans that she now considers it her hometown.
“It was important to me to shout out New Orleans first thing,” she says, “because I want people to recognize the film industry here and how incredible it is.”
Other highlights of Beachler’s career have been her work on the 2013 film “Fruitvale Station” with director Ryan Coogler (who also directed “Black Panther,”) on the 2016 film “Moonlight” and on Beyonce’s visual album “Lemonade,” which heavily features New Orleans.
“New Orleans is my home. I’m never going to leave,” she said. “My next step is actually buying a house. I’ll go when and where I have to for work, but I’m always coming home.”
Dottie Belletto—President/CEO, NOCCI
In 1987, Dottie Belletto started a company with the simple goal of taking care of visitors to New Orleans and giving them the best possible experiences of the city. Thirty-two years later, NOCCI — which remains a small company of between 12 and 15 full-time employees — has played an integral part in a vast majority of the city’s most popular festivals and unique events over the past three decades.
Jazz Fest, the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, the Tricentennial, multiple Super Bowls, the Bayou Classic, the grand re-opening of the Saenger Theatre — NOCCI has helped bring them all to fruition, while also creating festivals like Jeff Fest and All American Eats. The event marketing and logistics company was behind the longest Mardi Gras parade to happen in the Superdome and has welcomed dignitaries including the Dalai Lama, Archbishop of Canterbury and King and Queen of Spain.
This fall, NOCCI is helping the Urban League of New Orleans and Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus come together for the first time to create a convention that will include panel discussions from national presidential hopefuls.
“We like to do what’s never been done,” said Belletto. “New Orleans is such a great product and we love selling it.”
Danielle Del Sol—Executive Director, Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans
Beating out almost 250 applicants, this past February Danielle Del Sol became the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans’ fourth executive director since its founding in 1974.
A Miami, Florida native, Del Sol came to New Orleans chasing a master’s in historic preservation and landed at PRCNO as the assistant editor, and then editor, of its magazine, “Preservation in Print.” Now, taking on a role previously filled for 37 years by Patricia Gay, Del Sol said the organization is maybe more needed now than ever.
“We don’t have the mass demolitions like we had in the late ’60s and early ’70s to rally the troops,” she said, “but the fear now is that we’ll start to take things for granted.”
PRCNO just completed and approved a new strategic plan this past December which, among many other things, includes an effort to develop a micro grants program to pay for required repairs on homes owned by low-income residents.
“The idea is to alleviate that financial burden by paying for the work that needs to be done to stay up to code in their district and hopefully get the city to forgive any fines,” she said. “It could be a real game-changer.”