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When was the last time you were celebrated?

“Brides, Babies, Blazers & Beyond: Redefining the culture around who and how we celebrate.”

While presenting at a women’s leadership conference in 2019, I asked my audience this singular question, and at the end of my presentation a person came up to me to share how that question had hit a chord with them. A chord they didn’t realize was even there until they struggled to find an answer to my question, and was suddenly hit with a slew of emotions. Sadness, disappointment, and longing being some of what she was feeling. I could empathize with her because I was her, just a year prior. 

Do you remember the last time you were celebrated? How did you feel? Who was with you? What stood out to you? Or better yet, do you remember the feeling of when you wished you were celebrated but was not? Anyone who knows me, can attest to the fact that I love celebrating. I enjoy the whole process of preparing to celebrate someone, something, or some significant moment. I love thinking about the space that is created for celebration and the ways people experience themselves and each other through the whole course of the event where relational and communal opportunities of connection, depth, encouragement, and empowerment abound. For me, celebration has always been about awareness, intentionality, and communal flourishing. Celebration has been my act of resistance.

This love of gathering and acknowledging the importance of being together; to commemorate a change in season, reaching a  specific milestone, enjoying a sense camaraderie after going through something difficult, or simply reuniting after a prolonged time apart, I believe was cultivated in me by my family and Filipino immigrant community. Ever since I could remember my family was always gathering together. Whether it be family clan reunions every February, or a town fiesta with other new immigrated families from the Philippines every August,  I grew up being shaped by the power of celebrations, ceremonies, rituals, and communal parties to ground us and connect us to one another and to our heritage and communal identity.

As I got older, these celebrations continued for my family and community, however I also began to notice  two very prominent milestones in the lives of women around me that were accompanied by significant rituals, ceremonies, and celebrations: marriage and motherhood. In my 20’s I was in over a dozen weddings as either a bridesmaid or maid-of-honor, and when I turned 30 I was in 4 weddings in one year in 4 different states. It is safe to say that by the time I hit my 30’s I had a vast and intricate knowledge of rituals and frameworks of what was to be done for a friend or family member who had hit this life milestone. I loved coming alongside my community to remind them that they didn’t have to navigate the next season alone, and that they had others who were there to offer wisdom from their own experiences, offer care, and provide tangible acts of support, whether it be monetary, items from a gift registry, or the gift of their time.

Shortly after the first wave of marriages, began the next significant season of celebrations: baby showers. I became the proud Tía, Aunty, Ninañg, godparent to the most adorable children and lived my best life as the “cool aunt.” However, as I entered into my thirties, and though I had experienced my own significant life milestones; like being the first in my family to graduate from college  and go on to complete grad school, or landing my first official full salaried position in higher education and live on my own, I realized that although these were significant markers in my life, they were not part of the cultural narrative of events communally celebrated for women. 

Therefore, when I was hired to be a Director at my university,  and one of only a few Asian-American women at the mid-level administrative position, I knew I wanted to bring my community together to acknowledge and share this transition and accomplishment in my life. There was also a practical element in my desire to have a professional shower, the need for new professional attire that I knew I didn’t quite have the budget to purchase on my own, but with a gift registry it just might be possible. It was a vulnerable moment for me to express my desire and need, especially as someone who tended to fall into the role of caretaker.  Deep down I had subconsciously fed into the narrative that women weren’t supposed to be asked to be celebrated, as it would be viewed as prideful or vain. However, there was an even more personal pain point that I was navigating, and that was the thought that I didn’t know if I would ever get to experience my own bridal or baby shower, and yet I deeply yearned to have that personal moment of being seen and celebrated within my community.

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That genuine yearning and desire to be seen and celebrated, to share about my transition into a new professional role, commemorate a significant accomplishment in my life, and the practical need for professional clothing moved me to ask my friends and family if they would throw me a professional shower. I didn’t know then, but this act of courage, vulnerability, and honesty planted the seeds of what would be the origin story of The Empower Showers Company, with my Blazer, Blouse, and Briefcase shower held in March of 2018 paving the way for the dream company we have today! It is my hope alongside my remarkable team at The Empower Showers Company LLC, that we can change the culture around who and how we celebrate and in doing so empower womxn one celebration at a time. 

This dream has always been rooted in community, knowing that success is rarely ever done alone. Therefore, it is my great joy to invite you to be part of this brave and grand new adventure with us and joining the movement to create more expansive and  inclusive narratives around who and how we can celebrate one another, and empowering womxn as they step into whatever new venture or season that awaits them!

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