2019 Essence of a Boss Conference

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Debora Balardini, 2019 Essence of a Boss Award recipient. Portrait courtesy of Gilberto Tadday © 2019

As 250 attendees buzzed about the Crown Plaza Hotel in anticipation of the 2019 Essence of a Boss conference, they eagerly prepared for the weekend-long monsoon of inspirational keynote speakers, educational panels, champagne mixers and, most importantly, a time for women of the upper echelon diaspora to celebrate sisterhood among their peers in a safe environment.  The conference was hosted by Sharon-Frances Moore, Chairperson of Entertainment Creative Collaborative Outreach Program (ECCO – Obama Administration).

While most guests were not only well-informed about the 2nd annual event, but had attended the inaugural event a year earlier, one guest had little idea that she’d been lured to the awards dinner so she could be presented not 1, but 2 awards.  Upon receiving the news from the Essence of a Boss team that Debora was being presented the Social Impact & Arts Innovation award, her friends and husband Duke York willingly conspired to ensure she made it without spoiling the surprise.

News of an additional proclamation that honorees would receive from The National Council of Women of the United States (NCW/US) in Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations arose in the days leading up to the event for their humanitarian work dedicated to the empowerment of women.

From left: Debora Balardini (Social Impact & Arts Innovator Award), Xiomara Small (Good Citizen Award), Vivica A. Fox (Boss Woman of the Year Award), Teresa Weatherspoon (Trailblazer Award), and Saideh A. Brown.
Photo courtesy of kjamaalphoto.com.

The day of the event, an unassuming Debora, certain her visit was to meet a fictitious event director at the hotel interested in bringing an original theater piece she produced to its next season lineup, arrived with her husband and were ushered into strategically placed seats near the stage.  A pregnant pause arose when Debora sat, listening to her bio being shared before it was revealed she was being awarded. Debora gave praise and gratitude to guests and Essence of a Boss team relishing the special moment. 

Following endearing opening remarks, Saideh A. Brown, President Emeritus and 40th Elected President, then served an official proclamation from the NCW/US to Essence of a Boss founder Jody Prendergast, making May 4th officially Essence of a Boss Day in the State of New York.  Unbeknown to Debora and the other 2019 Essence of a Boss honorees which included Vivica A. Fox (Boss Woman of the Year Award), Teresa Weatherspoon (Trailblazer Award), and Xiomara Small (Good Citizen Award), more honors were afoot.  

2019 Essence of a Boss Social Impact & Arts Award. *Photo courtesy of Kissing Lions Public Relations.

Brown called the 4 Essence of a Boss award recipients up to the stage with the news that each would receive a second award from the NCW/US which served as an official proclamation for their humanitarian work dedicated to the empowerment of women.  

Balardini reflects on her 30 years as a veteran in the performing arts, “In the arts sometimes, especially theatre, women can be marginalized and their work overlooked as important so I am humbly honored to be recognized as an arts innovator and for my drive to empower women around me.  I feel grateful but it’s mixed with motivation to keep going with my mission. This is definitely a blessing.”  

Balardini, moved by the Essence of a Boss commitment to inclusivity, is a Brazilian New Yorker who embraces both sides of her multi-cultural Brazilian and Afro-Brazilian roots.  Recently voted as the Co-VP of Programming alongside Co-VP Yvette Heyliger on the board of the League of Professional Theater Women (LPTW), Balardini continues fierce commitment towards the #RoadToParity campaign to empower fair hiring practices for women in theatre such as producers and playwrights. 

Aside from the Pharaoun cocktail ring and trove of swag from beauty, fashion, health, wellness, and travel gifting sponsors Balardini and other honorees received, her key takeaways, included, “…confirmation that when we put in the work with confidence and awareness of the universe, only good things can happen.  I am aware of all of the blessings I have been given and I thank the universe for it every day. I believe that which I seek is seeking me and this event was one of those moments in life that one meets the people who are meant to become a part of your life.” 


Having worked alongside a host of niche creatives, Kahshanna Evans is a storyteller with an affinity for social impact. Evans has supported and written impactful stories about culture and the arts, celebrities, influencers & icons, lifestyles, real estate, social impact, tech, trends, and wellness as a contributor to the Huffington Post contributors platform, MeetMindful, Ebby Magazine, and Social Lifestyles Magazine.

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