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Women making an impact in the Charlotte Community

Powered by Opera Carolina 

 By Shirley Griffith

November 5, 2018

Beginning November 10, Opera Carolina presents The Daughter of the Regiment, a two-act operatic comedy composed in 1838 by Gaetano Donizetti. The work, first performed in Paris in 1840, stars a young woman, Marie, who was orphaned as a baby. Much of the plot runs parallel to Disney’s Mulan, a popular 1998 animated film sharing an empowered and fiercely independent female lead. Even Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a cameo in the 2016 performance with the Washington National Opera.

Celebrating women in the community, Opera Carolina’s The Daughter of the Regiment plays at Belk Theater on Nov. 10, 15, and 18.

For their 2018/19 performances, Opera Carolina treats Charlotte with works from some of the most exemplary composers of the art form. Their timeless selections have been curated to highlight multiple aspects within magnitude of the female archetype. This revolution, or new women’s movement, comes at a time when women need to be lifted up and admired for their strength, perseverance, and voices. As Opera Carolina initiative states, “not all heroines are tragic; many are independent and headstrong.”

In today’s world, female empowerment and independence have taken control of the wheel thanks to the efforts of strong-willed, innovative women who no longer wish to abide by the cruelty of the patriarchy which kept (and continues to press) its boot on many a neck. We can’t possibly begin to tell all the stories of women who have risked tradition, safety, and love in the name of following her heart and creating a new path for history. But in the Charlotte community, there are a few women who have made such an impact.

Colleen Odegaard

Colleen Odegaard, NBC Charlotte Today anchor

Most people around Charlotte know Colleen Odegaard as the NBC Charlotte Today co-host alongside Eugene Robinson. What puts Colleen on this list is her semi-regular Facebook videos called “Curler Confessions” that offer an intimate peek into the newscaster’s personal thoughts. For these Curler Confession videos, Odegaard sits in her car with massive curlers in her hair and speaks directly to fans, friends and neighbors about anxieties she faces as a woman in the shallow spotlight of television, a mom of two teenage sons (one of which recently survived a brain hemorrhage from a rugby accident) and a wife. What resonates with her videos is her genuine honesty and charming humor, Odegaard isn’t channeling a story to tell viewers, she’s sharing her very own story. The videos lift the veil on how people “are supposed to be” or how things often seem in this age of Instagram influencers and aesthetics. Her videos are important because they are kind, full of humility and wit, just like the woman behind them.

Zhang Qian

Qian Zhang, The Dumpling Lady

Lovingly referred to as “The Dumpling Lady,” Chinese-born Qian and her unfathomably tasty dumplings and noodles are quickly becoming a Charlotte staple. Qian is a self-taught cook who started her dumpling business at Atherton Market after moving to America in 2015 to be with her now husband. The couple had kept up a long distance relationship for years with her in China and himself attending graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill before she decided to make the move. Qian is expressive but soft-spoken, joyous to share the connection of culture and food from her old home with people in her new home of Charlotte. She supports local, buying her produce, fish and meats from local farmer markets like Atherton. Her business has grown so much that she was able to quit her former job of teaching and for two years now has been owner of the food truck, The Dumpling Lady. The food truck serves a rotating variety of dumpling and noodle dishes; wontons, steam buns, and ramen noodles, not to mention a Qian specialty, the Neijiang beef noodles, which originate in the same province she grew up in.

Kris Reid

Kris Reid, executive director of the Piedmont Culinary Guild

Marvelously accomplished and serving now as the co-founder and executive director of the Piedmont Culinary Guild, Kris Reid is a passionate local food advocate in our area. The PCG is a grassroots effort to create a dialogue with the food industry by providing a platform that is easily accessible for all to utilize and benefit. PCG was founded on the idea that sharing resources and promoting educational opportunities can help develop and secure our local food system. As Reid stated, she believes that everyone “has the right to eat clean, unadulterated food that comes from local gardens and farmers they know.” She served on the board for Charlotte Mecklenburg County Fruit and Vegetable Coalition, Slow Food Charlotte, and chaired the Food and Beverage Committee for Charlotte Clean and Green. In 2010, Reid was selected to be a Slow Food Delegate to attend Terra Madre in Turin, Italy for her work in Charlotte community gardens. While working as executive chef at Southminster, she received the NC Leading Age Dining Services Award for her work, which included turning an institutional-style frozen food dining experience into a fresh food program that embraces cook-to-order restaurant-style cuisine. While there, Reid also launched a community garden in collaboration with Friendship Gardens which has produced thousands of pounds of produce that has been shared between the Southminster and Friendship Trays kitchen.

DJ Fannie Mae

DJ Fannie Mae

There are a lot of words to describe the vanguard DJ Fannie Mae: stylish, original, and vibrant all float to the top in an instant. It’s no surprise since she is as effervescent and interesting as her music selections. A North Carolina native, Fannie Mae brings positivity and representation to our special pocket of the southeast and she describes herself as a “purveyor of deep, infectious southern sh*t and a feel-good energy.” Fannie grew up playing instruments and quickly deciphered the therapeutic nuances and magnitudes of different forms of music. Her comprehensive knowledge of funk, gospel, hip-hop and afrobeats, which she fell in love with while working at an African bar in Tokyo, keep her enlightened DJ sets flowing and entrancing. Having such an accomplished and savvy female DJ in our city has broken the stigma of the primarily white male DJ gatekeeper. More female DJs have started to create their own vibe and Fannie uses hers to refine herself, turning the art of music into a tool to process and understand the world around us. Fannie has spent her life writing songs, sharing music, and being an advocate for the arts. With a deep love of music she is looking forward to sharing energetic moments of love with beautiful people around the world.

Julia Simon 

Julia Simon of Nourish and VegFest

Julia Simon is one hard working, innovative, and simply rad woman in our community. Every action she takes is one of intentional forward-thinking movement and ideology. As founder, owner, and executive chef of the locally-sourced, organic, vegan meal delivery service Nourish, Simon’s life is dedicated to spreading the compassionate and healthy attributes of plant-based diets via an accessible platform that complements a variety of lifestyles. Under Simon’s care, Nourish is able to provide fresh, wholesome food from local farms with organic ingredients, as well as having 100% biodegradable and recyclable packaging. Every trait of Nourish reflects her own constant striving for environmental awareness and conservation. Not only does she center her career around nourishment, she nurtures the community around her on a daily basis. On any given day Simon works to share her inclusive philosophies and add to the greater good wherever she possibly can. From her past work with Food Not Bombs to her annual contributions as a team member of Charlotte’s own Vegfest, she shows up for her city with incredible humility, sensitivity and, well, nourishment.  

Celebrating women in the community in 2018/19, Opera Carolina’s The Daughter of the Regiment plays at Belk Theater on Nov. 10, 15, and 18

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