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The Trailblazers: Rewriting the Narrative

The editorial team has a special attachment to our new series, The Trailblazers: Rewriting the Narrative, because so many of us feel that media portrayals of women have been too one dimensional. Today, women are doing incredible things in all fields – from science and technology to finance, law, business, athletics and more.  With the Trailblazers series, we hope to highlight and celebrate female role models, encourage more equal and just representation in the media, and help foster a more tight-knit community locally helping women find mentors, business partners, friends and more.

Carrie Cantrell

I am the owner and sole photographer at Carrie Ellen Photography. I am a self-taught wedding and lifestyle photographer. For as long as I can remember, I had a love for taking pictures and looking back at the memories and stories that a photograph holds. I never once considered my hobby turning into a career but this began to change into my adulthood. My love for photography really blossomed after running a handmade jewelry business on Etsy from 2008-2012. I invested in a nice, DSLR camera to take better photos of my jewelry and quickly learned that I enjoyed taking the photos more than making the jewelry. My first child was born in 2011, so I put my jewelry business on hold for a couple of years to focus on my family and my camera had a new subject. Then after my second son was born in 2014, I loved capturing my boys as they were growing and took their photos regularly. Read more>>

Maria Dinoia

I started as a freelance writer for the magazine over six years ago. When the previous editor left to pursue other endeavors, I was offered the position and jumped at the chance. I’ve been in the editor role for almost five years now and love it!. Read more>>

Amanda Ashley Rodriguez

I was born and raised in Long Island, New York, and began my musical journey at the early age of 6 years old. Of all the activities I explored in my youth, music, and art was my constants, Where  I excelled and felt most at home. Around the age of four, my babysitter called my mother to offer her piano, as she was getting divorced and had noticed the gravitational pull music had on me at an early age. From her house to my childhood home my parents moved it and I had begged for two years for piano lessons. On my sixth birthday, my father drove me straight to the music store to surprise me with my first piano lesson. Music ignited me in a way that nothing else ever could. Eventually, I had begun playing violin, and then guitar in my early teens, and eventually began taking myself more seriously as a vocalist. Read more>>

Caitlyn Foley

Since I was a little girl I have always found an interest in Photography. My family is from Staten Island, NY but we moved across the country to Arizona when I was 6 years old. There I fell in love with the color of the sunsets & the mountains in the deserts. I use to take my parent’s old disposable cameras and just take pictures until the film was fully used all the time. When I turned 13 years old we moved back to the Northeast where we were stationed in Pennsylvania. My grandmother gave me my first digital camera when I turned 16. (That was my first year in High School.) When I got to High School I decided to take black and white photography & Immediately fell in love with the course and a 35mm film camera, with a knack for landscape photography. After high school I got accepted to a local community college where I studied Communication & Design and Photography, I later transfer to East Stroudsburg University to continue learning Graphic Designing & Fine Art Photography. Read more>>

Haley Birdsey

I’m Haley Birdsey – owner and lead photographer of Haley Terrell Photography. Terrell is my maiden name. I’m mainly known for my photographs of others. Specifically couples and weddings. But I’m also a wife, daughter, friend, and Christ-follower. I believe that those titles are what led me to where I am today. My story started like many others – a young twenty-something-year-old that had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had recently graduated college and was working a great advertising job when I realized that wasn’t what I was meant to do forever. There was no passion behind my work, and I so desperately desired to find my passion. I had owned a camera for several years at this point, but to be honest I had never even opened the user manual or learned how to properly use it. However, I enjoyed taking photos of my life with it. Read more>>

Ashley Thompson

Like a lot of little girls, I grew up being pretty obsessed with horses. In my imagination, it was more than just wanting a horse though, I wanted to BE a horse. I remember carrying my little sister on my back around my grandmother’s living room until my knees were nearly bleeding from rug burn. My dedication to embodying the horse’s spirit was something that I took very seriously. My mother would foster my obsession by taking me and some of my friends for birthday trail rides, buying me toy horses with barns, books about horses, but I never had the opportunity to take riding lessons and my passion for horses remained bottled up in my heart like some love spell waiting for it’s the right moment to work its magic. Fast forward to me in my twenties. I’m in graduate school pursuing my Ph.D. in Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, California. I had largely forgotten about horses and had turned my focus towards my education and work in the service industry to pay my bills. Read more>>

Katie Parker

Growing up, I would never have dreamed that I’d be working extensively with bodies as a licensed manual therapist, focusing on people’s health in private practice, and feeling as aligned as I do! I’ve come to realize that I am exactly where I need to be. People often ask me what style of bodywork I offer, and the truth is, it’s changed so much since I first studied the human body and began my practice in New York City almost 12 years ago. Once you begin spending so much time with yourself and others in quiet, healing spaces, transformation is inevitable, unless you are fighting it. It’s been a really beautiful – sometimes messy – journey, and it’s led me right back into a relationship with myself in ways I never could have imagined. I absolutely love what I do. Since I first began practicing massage, I’ve also become a mother. We moved our family from New York to Nashville four years ago, and in doing that, I discovered a strong desire to build community here, to reconnect with nature, and to continue to become more aware of my body, my breath, the energy that supports all of us, and to share that with people I am in a relationship here. Read more>>

Jennifer Barlow

The honest truth is that I decided to go to Esthetics school in 2017 because I felt like I looked OLD. I was a mom of three and I had had twin girls in 2015. Sure, a litter of babes could make any mom feel worn-out and tired, but I felt like it was painfully present on my face and I was extremely uncomfortable in my skin. I asked myself, “Is this it?! Is this what happens?  You get married, have kids, and in your mere 30’s it’s over? You’re old and unattractive and have to accept that?!” How could it end so quickly?! NO… No! No! No! I refused to allow that to be my fate. It was dramatic thinking I’m sure, but it was enough motivation that I decided I would learn as much as I could about skincare anyhow to age gracefully. Long story short: I enrolled in esthetics school, graduated as Valedictorian, and by the time I graduated in 2018, I had a thriving esthetics business out of my home!. Read more>>

Blair Toney

As far as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be an artist in a bigger city. As a little girl, I dreamed of living in the hustle and bustle while doing what I love. It has been an absolute honor and privilege to be in a position today where I can say I have accomplished that but it didn’t come without its obstacles. My background comes with 7 years of experience in design, marketing, and PR. I knew I always wanted to start my own business but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I got a clear idea for what I wanted my business to represent. Bair was started and founded upon the idea of genuine authenticity and women empowerment. The name Bair is a playoff of my name, yes, but also of the word “bare”, which speaks to the authenticity of the brand, stripping down to the bare essentials of who you are. I began custom illustrations for friends and clients that more than not featured nude women and the response was overwhelming. I had women, and men, reaching out saying the art had brought lost confidence back into their lives. Read more>>

Amanda Tallon

“You’re not good enough.” These are the words that played on repeat in my mind as I dreamt of becoming a photographer for years. I compared myself to my incredibly talented brother and friends. I knew so little of the technical side of photography but I continued finding a creative outlet taking photos on my vlogging camera my mom bought me to document our home reno. It was a fun hobby. But that was all it was and all I believed it could ever be. One chilly, winter day two talented women I knew from church reached out to me asking if I would take their photos for an upcoming business they were launching. I was shocked. I had never advertised myself as a photographer. Why me? These women knew so many other talented people. Nonetheless, I agreed, communicating full well that I was no “pro.” They continued to emphasize that they saw something in the way I creatively documented the world through my Instagram. Wait… like my personal Instagram, full of plants and home renovations and awkward selfies? Yup, that Instagram. Read more>>

Torianne Valdez

I was born with music in my soul. My mom has been an elementary music teacher at the same Title 1 school in Tampa, Florida for 41 years and my dad, now retired, was a band director and was the sax player in a Top 40 cover band called Toca when he was younger. Being raised by two music educators and musicians helped me really appreciate music and see how it affected their students in such a powerful way. I really started getting into country music in middle school, when my aunt taught me all the great 90’s classics. I remember being so intrigued by the songwriting process and fell in love with the simple, stripped-down sound of the acoustic guitar. In college, I was undecided about what I wanted to do but knew I loved sports and entertainment. I chose Public Relations and interned at different sports organizations, but soon realized that it wasn’t where my heart was. It was with music. Read more>>

Karynn Hough

My career started in the corporate world. Around 2010 I got laid off as a Marketing Manager. I began freelancing as a graphic designer using my marketing skills to help build and rebrand myself. During that time my daughter was advancing as a dancer. She was booking small gigs and I began to help her more with her career as a dancer. She later relocated to Los Angeles signed with one of the largest talent agencies in LA. I found myself getting more involved in helping her career by reading contracts, negotiating deals, and much more. Soon people saw her success and would ask me to help their kids get jobs. Before long, I found myself helping several people and I realized I was acting like an agent as I guided the kids and parents in further their careers. And in 2016 I launched FreshTalent Group. Read more>>

Hannah Kenney

My dad is a business owner. Growing up, I always admired his freedom: time, financially, travel, etc. Because of this, my mom was able to stay home which was so special. To that point, my morals growing up were very empowering: my parents never asked if I wanted to go to college, but where. So, I attribute my early creative, entrepreneurial mindset to a super healthy, supportive home life and parents who encouraged me every step of the way. After high school graduation, I attended Ohio University where I studied Communications, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship. When I realized that everyone seemed programmed to find a “job” after graduation, I panicked. I remember thinking, “I don’t only want to do one thing.” Thus, I chose Communications, the broadest major I could find. Though I should have been focusing on class alone, I launched a few startups my Junior year of college: a rental review website called Rent Rate and a small, hand-made jewelry business called Han’s Tuition. Neither of them took off, but they helped me to realize my calling: I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Read more>>

Hanna Rain Krueger

I was born in Michigan and raised all over for my first decade of life. I have family in Michigan and Florida so my parents settled in a happy medium- Tennessee. I have called Tennessee home sweet home since 2007. I would describe myself as an introvert, Type A personality with a creative side with neither a northern or southern accent- ironically. I never dreamed that I would be a wedding or family photographer, but I have been blessed that my art ventures me to new places and sweet people. I fell in love with photography as a nature photographer first. When I’m not behind the camera, I’m pursuing a bachelor’s in Environmental Science with a concentration in Conservation and Natural Resources. I’m also a beekeeper! Some would describe me as a tree hugger and environmental enthusiast. I believe the natural world, specifically the relationship between every biological system in an ecosystem, is the most amazing thing God’s ever created. Read more>>

Rakia Joh

As a child, I developed an eye for fashion, and started to dream of becoming apart of the fashion industry at an early age. I always knew that I would be in the field, because every time I grabbed a pencil, crayon, or marker, I was drawing clothing items found in the pages of my Seventeen magazine. After attending college, where I studied Apparel Design, minoring in Costuming, I began to build my brand Raki and Ruth clothing co. (formerly known as MSc, My Style clothing). The brand name, Raki and Ruth, is derived of two names, Raki, current sole designer, pattern maker, and seamstress, and Ruth, who is Raki’s late grand mother whom I share a birthday with. Since graduation in 2012, Raki and Ruth has appeared in multiple fashion shows, and even a couple hosted by myself. I plan to keep Raki and Ruth clothing co. at the cutting edge of fashion and continue to amaze my clients with my custom visions coming to life!. Read more>>

Nicole Gheorghe-Doering

I began my yoga journey early in life when I was just 8 years old! My mom is a long-time yogi and would take me to yoga classes with her. It wasn’t until college that I really started practicing regularly myself, but at a time when everything felt too hard and overwhelming, yoga was my lifeline. I got my 200-hour YT certification in 2012 and have been teaching ever since. Along the way, I’ve done many other trainings, and currently am registered as an E-RYT 500. After years of teaching and practicing in the Nashville yoga community I decided to go my own way and that’s how Dope Yogi was born! Dope Yogi is an online virtual yoga space and community. We offer many different styles of yoga for all different levels including vinyasa, restorative, gentle yoga, hiit/yoga fusion, and meditation. Read more>>

Emily Rios

I have had a deep love for photography from a young age. I remember being eleven and going around the yard with my family’s point and shoot camera and capturing anything I found interesting, I would then go in to paint shop and add my name to the bottom of the images so they would feel professional. Being dyslexic I was very much a visual learner and struggled in school, photography helped me bring to life the world inside my head, as well as bring me confidence and help me overcome my insecurities about my intellect. It has really been a creative outlet and place of healing for me. My goal with my photography is to bring worlds to life, mine and my clients. My work is a piece of me, a little map of my world, my clients are the handprints in that world. Read more>>

Courtney Mroch

It probably all technically started with my dad, who was always seeking out offbeat places for us to visit. But it was actually three incidents, one in 1998, another in 1999, and a cancer diagnosis in 2008 that was really the catalyst for Haunt Jaunts. In 1998, I was a young paralegal working for a major law firm in Phoenix, Arizona. I’d been assigned a job in Salt Lake City, where I stayed at the Shiloh Inn for the two weeks I was in town. One night I woke up at 3 a.m. to the sound of children giggling in the drawers. Or had it been a dream? One that was lingering because didn’t I still hear them? I knew it was irrational, not to mention impossible, but the only way to appease my mind was to get up and check. Of course, nothing was there. While I was up I decided to use the bathroom. As I passed the open closet, something big and dark flew off the top shelf at me. I covered my head and ducked, thinking as I turned on the light that the extra pillow must have fallen off. Read more>>

Amanda Craig

I began my journey 18 years ago. My original goal was to become a nurse. I soon realized that although I loved helping people. I wanted to help people in a different way and that’s when I knew my journey was the beauty industry. I love this industry and mentoring the next generation is so important to me. I have worn many hats in this industry. I have been a stylist behind the chair, I have toured with artists- I worked with Blake Shelton for 8 years on The Voice, along with working with other artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Gwen Stefani, Clea Shearer, Miranda Lambert, Jay Cutler, Cassadee Pope, Raelynn to name a few. Fast forward I now own two salons called Leigh, Edwards & Co. in Nashville. I love my businesses and my team, they are wonderful. Recently I began my next chapter, mentoring stylists and salon owners. It is my mission to help others see their full potential in the beauty industry. Read more>>

Cassidy Manning

We can tend to take our health for granted – and sometimes it can take getting sick or hurt to realize how essential our health is to our quality of life. I’ve always had a natural interest in fitness, nutrition, and all things holistic health and wellness along with a desire to motivate others, and would say that I’ve been on a journey of learning for 20+ years—a preventative approach – how to take care of myself and actively pursue health in body, mind, and spirit. My road hasn’t always been a smooth one – 10 years ago, life threw some circumstances at me that I never saw coming (as life has a way of doing for all of us, just in different ways). I went through a painful divorce and spent a season as a single mom to young children, but it was through that most difficult season that I realized how critical my health and wellness was to those I was responsible to and for, including myself. Read more>>

Katie Telepak

I’m a travel, wedding, couple, and family photographer here in Nashville with my photography company, Fields & Freckles Photography, LLC! I like to consider my work an honest and real representation of the different seasons of my clients’ lives. I’ve always loved the visual side of everything in life. Ever since I was little, I’ve always loved creating things – art, crafts, food masterpieces, and even home cooking videos. I had a very simple, digital camera in college and actually started to bring it when I would travel to music festivals. I fell in love with documenting the simplest but most beautiful moments. If you just take a second to sit and watch the world around you, you’ll see tiny moments that may not mean a lot to one person but may mean everything to another, beautiful colors you probably haven’t appreciated in a while, smiles of love or gratitude, and experiences/moments that change in the blink of an eye. Read more>>

Sara Grace Morrison

I have had a love affair with light my whole life. In high school and college, I was on the journalism committee. I was the keeper of memories and always had a camera in my hand. My first official camera was an AE-1 35mm manual film camera and completely obsessed with it. I learned how to study light and how to do things “old school”. I remember while teaching in Europe I was in Amsterdam I visited the Rembrandt museum. He was A master of light and I was hooked. The love affair went on and even though photography was my passion I never thought I could make money at it. So while attending Baylor University I chose science. I thought medicine was my future but I get faint easily so not for me. I loved photography so much and with some support from my family, I created a business. I took two marketing classes in college and one business class so why not. Read more>>

Victoria Hjelte

I discovered my love for photography when I was 13 years old. I went on a cross-country road trip with my family from my hometown in Minnesota to the PNW, and I found myself taking photos on my iPod Touch of everything in sight. That Summer, my mom let me borrow her point-and-shoot camera and gave me a stack of photography magazines from the library. I absolutely devoured the articles in these magazines and came away so inspired to take more photos of my own. I was obsessed, to say the least and told everyone that I was going to be a photographer one day. My teen years were spent taking as many photos as I could, watching photography youtube videos, and reading blog posts on everything about DSLR cameras, Photoshop, posing, and composition techniques. I quickly found that I loved taking photos of people the most, especially in the outdoors with natural light. Midnight of my 16th birthday, I launched my first website and started booking sessions of all kinds. Read more>>

Shanelle Burton

I grew up in Metro Nashville Public Housing my entire life from birth to adulthood in two of the most impoverished, unsafe, high crime and active gang violence communities in South Nashville “Tony Sudekum Apartments” and my adolescent years in “Cheatham Place Apartments” located in North Nashville near present-day Germantown and the Buchanan District. Upon completion of High School I enrolled as a Freshman at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, TN on a full academic scholarship of which was considered a Great Accomplishment considering where I was raised, but I had the best parents that a daughter could ever ask for and a praying grandmother that was my support system and supported me through. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them and my family’s village of support. Read more>>

Lori McConnell

Somewhere around 2000, I took a Wilton cake decorating class for fun at a local craft store in Cool Springs. At that time I was working as a pediatric RN and I would bring my leftover class projects to work so I wouldn’t eat the whole thing! People started asking me to make cakes for employee birthdays and that transitioned to employees’ kids, and before I knew it people were kind of spreading my name to their friends and family. Eventually, I left nursing due to some health issues, but I kept the cake business going and a few years later I added decorated cookies to the mix. Read more>>

Jennifer Harvard

“My background in Natural Health and Holistic Healing spans over 30 years. I was inspired by my mother who was a Reflexologist while growing up, which spurred me to seek alternative approaches to healing. I worked in health food stores in the 1990s while studying Massage and Bodywork and went on to become a massage therapist and energy healer. My true path as a seeker didn’t end with the physical. As a Recovering Alcoholic, I looked for a community and a spiritual practice that met my needs. Along my journey, I became a Tibetan Buddhist Practitioner, studied some Yogic Philosophy, and dabbled in Other Nature Based Religions but found my true spiritual path and home in Nature-Based Spirituality or Shamanism. From these traditions, I have learned that if one of us is not liberated, none of us are truly free. ​ Much of my work today involves using Ritual and Ceremony to create a Safe space for women to gather in the community and honor each turn in the Celtic Wheel Of the Year. Read more>>

Chelsea Connerley

My life could easily be compared to trying to piece together four different puzzles into one and nothing making sense. Up until the last year, I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. I was just going with the flow and figuring out each piece along the way. I went to college for Art History and Anthropology then earned my Master’s in Museum Studies, all along thinking I belonged in an art museum. Cut to the job search post-graduate degree when jobs were hiding in plain sight. But alas, an exciting and unique job opportunity fell into my lap…. Manager of a wellness spa? I found myself instantly called to helping open a business called Bluestem Wellness and manage it from the ground-up. My passion for health and wellness blossomed from there. I soon became a personal trainer and it all seemed to fit. Jump to the pandemic… like most of us, I questioned my future, my hobbies, my interests, etc. I realized there was still one puzzle piece missing that I had needed, and wanted, my whole life. Read more>>

Sherry Nicholson

After a night of having dinner together with my husband Steve, we got caught at the corner of West End and 23rd in Nashville. It wasn’t the beauty of the architectural work that caught my attention, it was the very elderly lady sleeping on the park bench with all her belongings secured close to her. She was sitting there trying to get a little black comb through her matted hair and tucked away to her side was a small little yellow stuffed animal. That left me full of questions for the rest of the evening, I was broken-hearted. She had to be somebody’s mother? Someone’s daughter? Why at her age was she alone on the streets? And what was so important about that little yellow stuffed animal? All those questions brought me back to a very personal place where I experienced being homeless with two children during a very broken time of my life. Due to domestic violence, I found myself sleeping in the car with my two babies, ages of 10 months and 6 years old, trying to figure out life. Read more>>

Ashley Hastings

When my now husband, Brandon and I met, we quickly connected over our love of plants. I (Ashley) had quite the collection started and Brandon had a bunch of his own. After a while, we noticed that Brandon’s huge agave Americana rightfully named “Bertha” had babies in her pot. I remember that night we stayed up late watching YouTube videos on how to safely remove her babies from her pot and get them started on their own. We found out these little guys were called “pups”. Aloe, agave, and other like species reproduce by making these offshoots. We chatted about the possibilities of monetizing our hobbies (including my thrifting obsession) and quickly landed on the name “Pups Plants + Goods”. We started selling in a local antique mall in February of 2019 which proved to be very successful. So successful in fact, that we soon after scored a booth at another antique mall, Miss Lucille’s Marketplace. Read more>>

Jasmine Dominique

My story began when I was in my mother’s womb. My parents were free spirits that loved laughter, friends and family. They were risk takers and they did not like to hear the word “no”. They had big spirits that were oftentimes confined by perceived barriers and limitations. During my freshman year of college in 2003, at the age of 37 my mother died. Later we discovered that her demise was caused by an aneurysm in her brain that was the size of a small berry. During my first year of graduate school, in 2009, my father died. He utilizes drugs for many years and his heart was frail and was unable to function after his last encounter with drugs. Both of my parents utilized drugs and alcohol to cope with life’s stressors for many years. They were amazing people that needed to know that it was ok “to not be ok”. Read more>>

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