Debora Balardini, 2019 recipient of the Essence of a Boss Award. Portrait courtesy of Gilberto Tadday © 2019
As 250 attendees buzzed about the Crown Plaza Hotel in anticipation of 2019 The Essence of a Boss conferences, they’re eagerly gearing up for a rainy season all weekend of inspirational keynote speakers, educational panels, champagne mixers and, most significantly, a time for upper echelon diaspora women to celebrate sisterhood amongst their peers in a safe environment. The conference was hosted by Sharon-Frances Moore, Chair of the Collaborative Entertainment Outreach Program (ECCO – Obama Administration).
While most of the guests weren’t only well informed about the 2nd annual ceremony, but had attended the inaugural ceremony a year earlier, one guest had no idea that he had been coaxed into an awards dinner so that he could be presented with not 1, but 2 awards. After receiving the news from The Essence of a Boss team that Debora is being presented with a Social Impact & Arts Innovation award, her friend and husband Duke York willingly conspire to make sure she succeeds without spoiling the surprise.
News of a further proclamation that the awardee from the United States National Council on Women (NCW/US) will receive in Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council emerged in the days leading up to the event for their humanitarian work dedicated to women’s empowerment.
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 (Pioneer Award), and Saideh A. Brown.
Photo courtesy of kjamaalphoto.com.
On the day of the event, modest Debora, convinced her visit was to meet a fictitious events director at the hotel who is interested in bringing an original theatrical piece she is producing into the line-up for the next season, arrives with her husband and is shown to seats strategically placed near the stage. A pregnant pause comes as Debora sits down, listening to her bio being shared before it’s revealed that she is being presented with an award. Debora complimented and thanked the guests and the Essence of a Boss team for enjoying this special moment.
Following a fascinating opening speech, Saideh A. Brown, President Emeritus and 40th President-elect, then gave an official statement from NCW/US to Essence of a Boss founder Jody Prendergast, making May 4th officially Essence of a Boss Day in the State New York. Unbeknownst to Debora and the other 2019 Essence of a Boss award recipients including Vivica A. Fox (Boss Woman of the Year Award), Teresa Weatherspoon (Pioneer Award), and Xiomara Small (Good Citizen Award), many more awards were being presented.
Essence of a Boss Social Impact & Arts Award 2019. *Photo courtesy of Kissing Lions PR.
Brown called 4 The Essence of a Boss the award recipients took to the stage with the news that they would each receive a second award from NCW/US which serves as the official proclamation of their humanitarian work dedicated to women’s empowerment.
Balardini recalls her 30 years as a veteran of the performing arts, “In the arts sometimes, especially theatre, women can be sidelined and their work overlooked as important, so I am humbled to be recognized as an artistic innovator and for my drive to empower women around me. I feel grateful but it’s mixed with motivation to continue on my mission. This is definitely a blessing.”
Balardini, driven by Essence of a Boss’ commitment to inclusivity, is a Brazilian New Yorker who embraces each side of her multi-cultural Brazilian and Afro-Brazilian roots. Recently elected Co-VP of Programming alongside Co-VP Yvette Heyliger on the Professional Theater Women’s League (LPTW) board, Balardini continues her strong commitment to the #RoadToParity campaign to empower fair hiring practices for girls in theater such as producers and playwrights .
In addition to the Pharaoh cocktail rings and swag from sponsored beauty, fashion, health, wellness, and travel prizes Balardini and other honorees have received, her key takeaways, including, “…confirmation that when we work with confidence and a sense of the universe, only good thing that can occur. I’m aware of all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me and that I thank the universe for that each day. I believe what I’m searching for is searching for me and this event is one of those moments in life where one meets the people who are supposed to be a part of your life.