2016 FIERCE Woman of The Year Honoree: Emani Davis

Emani Davis

Emani Davis


I’m excited to share that The Fierce Woman​ has selected Emani Davis as it’s third and last honoree for the 2016 FIERCE Woman of the Year award. 

Emani Davis is the co-creator and partner at Life.Beautiful Event Planning, serving Westchester County, NYC and the Tristate area. Over the years Emani has grown a commendable portfolio in social work relating to family counseling, rights of the child, rehabilitation and community leadership in New York and California. Staying true to her mission, Life.Beautiful is committed to serving clients whose work expresses the company’s commitment to social justice and equality.

Prior to launching Life.Beautiful, Emani was an independent consultant, providing criminal justice related consulting services to various agencies and programs in New York and California. She has been an advocate for the rights of children of incarcerated parents and in 2004 was the first American nominated for the World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child for her work on behalf of children of prisoners.

Emani has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology with a concentration in African Studies from Manhattanville College, NY, certifications in health education and massage therapy from the National Holistic Institute (2005, CA) and is a certified facilitator of Framework for Breaking Barriers and Framework for Recovery, cognitive restructuring programs (2006, Gordon Graham and Company). She has taught parenting classes for fathers in New York State prisons and Rikers Island, and in various prisons throughout the U.S. Her training and experience has helped her to successfully prepare incarcerated fathers to take a responsible role in raising their children from prison and following release.

In addition to her academic and teaching portfolio Emani has led the implementation of new program initiatives nationally, including a mentoring program for children of incarcerated parents in northern California and a defender-based advocacy program for parents in San Francisco, as well as C.A.S.A.’s Project Family Connect in New York City’s Family Courts. She has provided a wide range of youth and children’s services in East Oakland and Richmond, CA including direct case management services, violence interruption, and gang intervention. Emani also provided training and technical assistance to the Oakland Police Department on youth violence related issues.

When asked how she uses her platform to inspire and empower other women Emani says:

“Representation is a form of social justice, but that is where we start, it is not where we end. In the event planning industry, there are few women of color. Therefore, when any of us do anything, we have to be responsible for the precedent we set. Still, we are able to infuse a knowing about the people that our clients serve so that we can create an experience that is culturally relevant and necessary. Thus, we must be thoughtful of the work that we do and share. At the same time, we align ourselves with causes we believe in; causes that make our communities and ultimately, the world, better and more inclusive.

Every interaction we have with other women is based on possibility because we know that we’ve done something that many women do not give themselves permission to do. I never miss an opportunity to let a woman know that I am a business owner. I want women, especially women of color, to know that it’s for us, too. It’s not just reserved for well-to-do women. In doing this, I hope to inspire women to know that whatever their abilities and talents, business ownership is possible. We reject the gendered notion that women are supposed to think, live, dream and play small.

Similarly, our intention and presence gives others permission to see themselves living out their dreams while using their gifts for the greater good. I started this business as a single mother. As mothers, we are now responsible for the lives of others. I know that this responsibility often discourages women from taking risks. But even through the fear and financial anxiety, motherhood can serve as motivation and inspiration to pursue your dreams. It makes me proud that my daughter is growing up knowing that her mother is a business owner. She is provided with a firsthand example of what fierce dreaming and goal setting can mean for her own life.

2016 FIERCE Woman of the YEAR Honoree: Mariela Regalado

Mariela Regalado

Mariela Regalado

Mariela Regalado, is a Dominicana from Brooklyn who works as a College Counselor, helping to change the landscape for students of color attending institutions of higher learning. She works for the Young Women’s Leadership Network, College Bound Initiative program. Mariela chose to work at a middle school and high school located in the same neighborhood she grew up in. She was born in the Dominican Republic and raised between the Williamsburg and Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhoods in Brooklyn. She is able to pour her passion and experience into the work she does with students because she grew up with the same obstacles and circumstances they currently fight against.


Mariela Regalado2

Mariela was recognized as a “Hometown Hero” in Education in the series created by the New York Daily News. The Daily News presents the Hometown Heroes in Education to showcase NYC educators who display generosity, compassion, dedication, selflessness and ingenuity. She was nominated for the award by Johileny Meran, a former student, and homeless teen with Cerebral Palsy. Johileny currently attends NYU and lives on campus on a full scholarship thanks to the guidance of Mariela in helping her craft a winning application and apply for financial aid.

Mariela & student Johileny

Mariela & student Johileny Meran

Last Fall, she was presented the award by James Milliken, the Chancellor of CUNY. A large percentage of her students attend CUNY schools, while 95% of her graduating class attends college upon graduation. During her birthday she was given the honor of introducing Mayor Bill De Blasio for his press conference on “Education & Equity”. It was because of her personal story and her work as a college counselor.

She was inspired by her 7th grade ELA teacher to write. Recognizing the importance of giving students a safe space to create and find themselves through Art, she co-facilitates creative writing and poetry workshops.  She hosts these monthly workshops with “Brooklyn Gypsies” at the Brooklyn Public Library for teens to unlock their creativity and strengthen elements of style. She is also a member of the Full Circle Ensemble and has performed with them in several events at the National Black Theater in Harlem. Mariela is currently working on documenting her multidimensional experience through bilingual poetry and prose. She is a daughter, sister, friend, counselor, mentee and mentor, foodie, writer, Latina, and the proud mom of a Pomeranian Yorkie named Lola.


2016 FIERCE Woman of the YEAR Honoree: Gloria Rodriguez

gloria rodriguezGloria M. Rodríguez, is the Founder & Director of DeAlmas Women’s Institute, a community-based organization launched in 1998. Literally meaning “of the soul”, DeAlmas is dedicated to providing women the opportunity to reclaim, honor, and express their divine feminine gifts and human potential through spiritual and personal transformation. Ms. Rodríguez presents workshops, keynote addresses & lectures to national and international audiences at major colleges, conferences and retreats.

Ms. Rodriguez is a tenured Professor of Psychology at Bronx Community College of The City University of New York and holds a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. Her interests and ongoing research include women’s, multicultural, spiritual, positive and transpersonal psychology. She is also a Certified Spiritual Life Coach.

Gloria has authored articles for academic peer-reviewed journals and released her first published book, You Are More Than Good Enough in 2011, which won First Place awards in the Self-Help and Spiritual categories, and Second Place in the Women’s Issues category at The International Latino Book Awards 2012.  She has received numerous community awards by various women’s and community organizations, most recently being honored by The National Puerto Rican Day Parade Committee, Dedicate to Educate, Inc. and The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diasporic Institute.

Gloria practices New Thought/Ancient Wisdom teachings and is an initiate of the Diety Oshun in the Yoruba/Lukumi religious tradition.  She is a mother and adoring grandmother. Gloria enjoys travelling, the arts, and experiencing the infinite beauty that exists within the global community.

TFW Founder Nancy A. Ruffin & Gloria Rodriguez

TFW Founder Nancy A. Ruffin & Gloria Rodriguez               2014, Latina 50 Plus Awards Luncheon (Fordham University)



Events: The FIERCE Woman 1yr Anniversary Celebration

Group Pic

Something beautiful happens when you have the courage to live out your dreams. When you are doing what you love, life suddenly begins to have meaning. You finally realize what you were put on this earth to do and as I continue to uplift, inspire, and motivate others I find that I am also uplifting, inspiring, and motivating myself. This weekend was so full of love and inspiration for me.

This past Sunday, April 26th, I spent the day celebrating the 1 yr. birthday of my other baby The Fierce Woman™ (TFW). What started off as just a vision/idea has turned into a passionate dream; one that I will continue to nurture and raise and love like one of my offspring. I could not have asked for a more perfect event. Everything and I mean everything went off without a hitch. The weather was perfect. The venue looked beautiful. The attendees showed up in all their fabulousness. The food and desserts were amazing. My honorees and speakers commanded the room and left a piece of themselves on the stage and in our hearts. They reminded us of the beauty, strength, and resilience we all possess. They reminded us that we are not what happens to us, but what we choose to become as a result of what happens. They embodied what being FIERCE truly means.

Throughout the 3 hour event which included a cocktail hour, brunch, and awards ceremony the women mingled, networked and got to know each other. It felt like a family reunion. There was nothing but great energy in that room. When our honorees and keynote speakers took the stage each of them blessed us with pearls of wisdom. Latina techie and self-taught software engineer Raygrid Calderon reminded us that “You find yourself when you’re doing what you love.” Discovering your own passion and power is what our mission is. One will never truly be happy until you are doing what you love. Stop making excuses for why you can’t and start creating reasons for why you must.  Maribel Rivera said it best “There’s no way you can have successes without failure.” In order to succeed you have to be willing to fail. But you also must know that even in failure there is a lesson. Figure out what went wrong. Create a better plan. Then put that plan into motion. Continuously repeat the cycle until you have reached your expected outcome. None of the great entrepreneurs became great overnight. It took commitment, dedication, persistence, and a relentless desire to succeed. Be relentless in the pursuit of your dreams. You’re worth it.

What the attendees had to say about the event:
“I am honored to have been selected to coordinate such a phenomenal brunch event for The Fierce Woman at Mott Haven Bar to be surround by such great woman. Thank you, I walked away feeling uplifted, inspired, and motivated. I received more than I expected thank you again.” – Yina Santiago

“An absolutely beautiful loving positive empowering event today.” – Maria Aponte, Founder Latina 50 Plus

“This was such a wonderful event. I walked away inspired and motivated and met amazing women. Women do support each other and when we do great things happen.” – Cynthia Branch, Life Coach

“Super exited to be a part of this wonderful event with so many great women.” – Keyla Vargas, Entrepreneur, Cake Pops by Keyla

“All the speakers are making me cry!!! Love being in a room with such inspirational and successful Fierce women!!!” – Jessica Castillo-Perez, Entrepreneur, Glam with Jess

To see all the photos from the event please follow us on Facebook or click below:
Celebrating our 1 yr. Anniversary

The FIERCE Woman 1 yr. Anniversary Keynote Speakers & Honorees

raygridRaygrid Calderon

In 2013, Latina techie, Raygrid Calderon launched her mobile application, DreemKaCHer, under her new start up tech company DreemKaCHer ECLECTIC. The app made its debut on Apple’s iOS platform as a business networking tool for entrepreneurs, musicians, students and the creative mind. Those looking to get booked or connected are called ‘Dreemers’, while those looking for products and services are known as ‘Kachers’. The dynamic allows a balance between users on the interface where each person’s profile serves as an interactive resume. The company also provides users with information and tips to help people start their business while helping inspire and motivate those in unconventional working fields.

Maribel Rivera, Marketing ConsultantMaribel Rivera

Maribel Rivera is a Marketing Brand Specialist focused on creating brand stories that influence for clients that include not only global organizations but small businesses and individuals. Maribel develops brand strategies so that a company’s brand touch-points (corporate identity, product design, web site, online marketing, traditional advertising, PR and word of mouth) all work in harmony to create a positive perception in the mind of clients and prospects.

A person of action, Maribel has developed strategies to attain her goals including learning to listen instead of speak. She is considered a social connector constantly networking, meeting new people and seeing what she could do for others. While being a single mom raising two sons of her own and taking in six other boys, Maribel climbed the corporate jungle gym moving through the ranks from secretary at 19 to VP of Marketing & Events prior to starting her own company in 2013. Maribel sits on the board of three associations – Women in eDiscovery, which is focused on developing women both professionally and personally and ARMA Metro NYC, an association for records and information management professionals and ACEDS NY Metro, an association which promotes e-discovery competence and professional development. She is currently working with a group to create mentoring programs in technology for young adults. In her spare time, Maribel can be found at the gym or shoe shopping.

“In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be, by remaining what we are.” ― Max DePree

F.I.E.R.C.E Woman of the Week: True Poetess (April 23 – April 29)

I am fierce because I aim to empower women by embracing the natural characteristics of ivy and creating a global mentoring program for teenage girls that will allow them to travel the world before attending college.

This week’s F.I.E.R.C.E Woman of the Week hails from Queens, NY and is a mother, budget manager,  poet, author, and  founder of The Climbing Ivy Project, Inc. Known solely as True, she is the only female member of the highly acclaimed and much respected poetry ensemble El Grito de Poetas, a collective of diverse Latinos dedicated to educating though creative forms of art.

True’s passion for the spoken word and for expressing her truths through poetry exude an honesty, rawness, resilience, and determination that make her stand out from the rest. Her upcoming book slated for release June 21st, holds the same name as her non-profit organization, Climbing Ivy.

The Climbing Ivy Project, Inc. which is also launching June 21, 2014 has been created as a celebration and heralding of the women who never wanted to be flowers. Women who pride themselves on being noticed for what they have achieved instead of what they were told to aspire to. Women who preferred to stand firm on their roots, claw their way out of the shade, and climb to the top instead of being compliant and docile objects.

All too often women are bombarded with misconceived standards of womanhood and femininity, notions rooted in an infertile ground that does not provide them with a healthy foundation to grow into the strongest, happiest, most fulfilling versions of themselves. These messages include the language of “not…enough;” not beautiful enough, not intelligent enough, not talented enough, not “man” enough to achieve the lofty dreams imagined in a male dominated world. We are often instructed to be “quiet” and “pretty,” to not make spectacles of ourselves. Told to be ladies. Admonished to be soft and beautiful like roses, growing gently in the sunlight.

True believes that women have the capability to endure and overcome obstacles and thrive vibrantly even in the harshest of conditions.  The Climbing Ivy Project’s goal is to connect women around the world through an on-going discourse expressed through their respective fields and art forms, fostering self-respect and the belief that their power is truly limitless.

Through The Climbing Ivy Project, True is providing  women with tools to transcend barriers & societal constructs. She is cultivating a  support network of interconnected women that will serve  as a professional and mentoring enclave.

For more info on The Climbing Ivy Project visit their facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/ClimbingIvyProject

“As women, we need to accept that we can be fierce, cunning, and predatory” – Unknown

F.I.E.R.C.E Woman of the Week: Maria Aponte (April 16 – April 22)

Maria Aponte

Maria Aponte

This week’s F.I.E.R.C.E Woman is someone who I have the utmost love and respect for. She is a woman who embodies everything that a F.I.E.R.C.E Woman is. She inspires, empowers, recognizes, and cultivates evolution. Maria Aponte is one of those people who by just being in her presence inspires you to believe that you are capable of doing anything. She is an educator, activist, author, performer, playwright, curator, producer, you name it she’s done it.

Born and raised in New York City’s East Harlem, (El Barrio) Maria has worked extensively in Latino Theatre. She has performed in various theatre productions; and videos that dealt with racial discrimination, women’s rights in theatre and film. Maria’s work as an artist and teacher is focused on community art related projects and the empowerment of women through positive affirmation of self esteem and education.

Her book Transitions of a Nuyorican Cinderella which was published in 2012 won 2nd place for Best Poetry in English at the 2013 International Latino Book Awards (an award that my book Letters to My Daughter is up for this year). Maria is everything that I aspire to be. She has recently launched Latina 50 Plus, a program which pays tribute to Latinas over fifty years of age who were pioneers. Women who shaped their careers in a time when Latina women were venturing onto pathways where very few Latinas were seen or accepted. This program acknowledges the trailblazers who were among the first in their profession. By creating this venue which expresses public appreciation for Latina women over fifty, Maria is giving these women the opportunity to tell their personal narratives so that they can provide a historical perspective on what it was like to have lived in a time when Latina feminism was not the norm or tolerated.

By honoring these Latina Pioneers, Maria believes that we are honoring the history of women of a certain generation who laid down the stepping stones of change for future generations of Latinas. These are the women who mentored and inspired younger women (like me) to pursue their own dreams and realize their own goals.

Personally, for me there are many Latina 50 Plus women who have inspired and continue to inspire me. What Maria is doing with Latinas 50 Plus is what I am doing with the I am F.I.E.R.C.E initiative for younger women. Coincidentally (or not) both of these initiatives launched around the same time. Maria, thank you for laying the foundation for Latinas like myself. It is because of you and women like you that I can dream and believe that those dreams are not only worth pursuing but also worth making come true. You are this week’s F.I.E.R.C.E Woman of the Week.

For more info on Maria or the work that she is doing with Latina 50 Plus visit her personal website at:

http://www.mariaaponte.com or http://www.latina50plus.com

F.I.E.R.C.E Woman of the Week: Catherine Brignoni (April 9 – April 15)

Catherine Brignoni

Catherine Brignoni

This week’s F.I.E.R.C.E Woman of the Week is Catherine Brignoni. Catherine is a single mother of a beautiful 8 yr. old girl. A self-described independent woman she is a native of Puerto Rico and was raised in the South Bronx. She is a self-proclaimed woman of God and is a true believer that everything will work out for the best in God’s timing.

Catherine has worked in different fields with each leaving her feeling empty and unfulfilled. Her ambition and entrepreneurial spirit led her to take a chance on herself and she is now an independent Real Estate agent.  Catherine says “I’m super excited with the career path that I’ve chosen. It provides me with the flexibility of being my own boss and it allows me to take part in my daughter’s school life.”

Catherine’s willingness to take risks and go-getter attitude is what being a F.I.E.R.C.E woman is all about. Being F.I.E.R.C.E is about discovering the power within yourself and using that power to elevate yourself and others.

Catherine, thank you for being an exemplary example of a F.I.E.R.C.E woman.


F.I.E.R.C.E Woman of the Week: Maria Rodriguez (4/2/2014-4/8/2014)

Maria RodriguezOne of the reasons I created the F.I.E.R.C.E Woman website was to highlight and feature women who have decided to take their lives into their own hands and create the life they’ve always dreamed of. We are all just one choice away from changing the direction of our lives.

The F.I.E.R.C.E Woman of the week is following her dreams, supporting other women in achieving theirs, and inspiring us all to discover the power within ourselves and live the lives we were meant to live. This week’s F.I.E.R.C.E Woman is Maria Rodriguez, a Puerto Rican Writer and Performance Artist born and raised in East New York Brooklyn.

Mother of four, she discovered her penchant for self-expression during her adolescent years, while writing songs to a freestyle beat. Maria has been published in the New York Daily News, Sofrito for Your Soul and “Me No Habla with Acento” an Anthology of Contemporary Latino Poetry. She is an original cast member, Co-Writer and Co-Producer of “Soledad Speaks”. An intergenerational tale performed through monologue and spoken word and produced by Odd Girl in Entertainment that has enjoyed sold out shows to almost every performance. The most recent sold out show took place last Friday, March 28th when the cast performed at the  BAAD! ASS Women Festival at the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance.

In additon to being a writer, Maria is a curator who has curated shows for El Museo del Barrio and the legendary Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe.  She is a workshop facilitator and has facilitated workshops for both women and youth. Most recently Maria published her first book and collection of poetry, Brooklyn’s Daughter.

Brooklyn’s Daughter is all grit and grace. In her first collection of poems, Maria captures the essence of her beloved borough, city, and people through vivid imagery and poignant delivery. Infusing raw humor, wit, and splanglish idioms, she waxes poetic about assimilation, gentrification, culture, pride, lessons and life. The ride is gripping. This book is a definite must have and I encourage you all to purchase it if you haven’t already.

Next up for Maria is is a featured reading at Word @4F on May 1st and a book signing/reading at NYC’s trendiest nail bar, Nail Lounge, on May 4th. She will also be giving a private performance for Wyckoff Hospital’s AIDS benefit on April 16th, but that event is closed to the public. To find out more about this modern day renaissance woman visit her site at http://www.mescribidora.wordpress.com. While you’re there don’t forget to buy her book.



Check out the trailer for Brooklyn’s Daughter:

I am F.I.E.R.C.E because I use my art to raise awareness, inspire, and empower my community. I am a modern day renaissance woman. – Maria Rodriguez