10 Most Beautiful Women 2012

Radiant and Remarkable Females Who Shine Inside and Out




Business owners, musicians, dedicated mothers, marathon runners, educators, philanthropists and simply some of the most positive people—our group of 10 beauties deserves attention for being stunning in so many ways. It was once again an honor selecting and meeting the 10 winners in our second Most Beautiful Women contest, and the HRM staff appreciates all of those readers who took time to nominate the female figures who enhance their lives on a daily basis. Their outward beauty will be obvious in the photos that color the following pages, but we invite you to take time to also read their insightful interviews that are sure to inspire. Thanks ladies, for being lovely in so many ways.

Compiled by Melissa M. Stewart
Photos by Keith Cephus

Sincere thank you to: the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts (www.sandlercenter.org) in Virginia Beach for providing an equally outstanding backdrop for our beautiful women; Elizabeth Paschall (www.elizabethpaschall.com) and assistant Sarah Mintzer for their superb hair and makeup magic; and Keith Cephus of Keith Cephus Photography (www.keithcephus.com) for bringing our 10 women to life with his lens and endless energy.


Rebecca Lawlor
Age:
42
City: Williamsburg
Occupation: President and CEO of Rebecca Lawlor Limited; founder of Hearts of Hope Incorporated
Family: Married for 19 years; blessed to have one 17-year-old daughter
Standout Assets: Proud mother; philanthropist; advocate for abused children

Rebecca says...
How would you define beauty?
There is nothing more beautiful than someone who knows who they are and is in touch with their purpose.
What’s the first thing you think about when you wake up? Like most women who are trying to make a difference in the world, raise a family, maintain a household, run a business, be a great mother and be a great friend, I, of course, think, “What will I wear?”
What do you feel is your most important role? I believe that answer changes throughout the course of a woman’s life. At this time with my daughter, Claire, getting ready to begin her life away from home, I am embracing and loving the role of mother.
Tell us about a charity or organization that has had the strongest influence on you. I started The Hearts of Hope Foundation Inc., a non-profit organization based on the premise of bringing hope to children who have been abused. I created and patented a unique heart that is part of my collection at www.rebeccalawlorlimited.com. A portion of the proceeds from the heart and the handbag collection will go to further the mission of the foundation.
What is your biggest goal in life? My life’s work is to bring awareness education and to help stop childhood domestic and sexual abuse.
What is the best piece of advice you have received and would like to share with other women? If you want beautiful eyes, look for good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone. —Audrey Hepburn
What are three words that describe you? Evolving, authentic and creative.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received? Last summer while away at camp, my daughter, Claire, wrote me a letter, and in that letter, she said I had done a fantastic job raising her. She also said that I always have the best things to say on a bad day and that my support for her has made her life 100 times easier. She said I give the best mommy hugs.
What do you feel is your best feature? Smile.
What is your favorite aspect about living in Hampton Roads? The people. My life will forever be changed by the wonderful people I have met here who have stood by me throughout my journey and embraced my vision and helped us accomplish some tremendous things.

Christina Repa
Age:
28
City: Virginia Beach
Occupation: Fourth-grade teacher at Ocean Lakes Elementary School in Virginia Beach
Family: Married to Mike, who she has known since childhood, for two years
Standout Assets: Marathon runner; recently named Teacher of the Year at Ocean Lakes; sponsors a running club at Ocean Lakes

Christina says ...
How would you define beauty?
Beauty is having the confidence to be whoever it is that you want to be.
Who is your strongest female role model? Allison Sansone, Kelly O’Brien and Brenda Carawan. Alli, who has been named Teacher of the Year twice, has shown me what kind of teacher I want to be. Kelly is a former Boston Marathon qualifier who has been my running partner for the past six years. Brenda is a 2011 Badwater Ultramarathon finisher and a new Hampton Roads race director who has opened my eyes to the beauty of ultra-running.
Tell us about a charity or organization that has had the strongest influence on you. My teaching partner, Randi Porter, and I have the opportunity to sponsor a running club, Operation Smile Final Mile, at our elementary school. We meet every Friday morning at 7 a.m. to train for the Operation Smile Final Mile race in March. We have more than 100 students that have signed up for the race to benefit children who were born with cleft palates.
What has been your proudest moment? Crossing the finish line of my first marathon.
What is your biggest goal in life? My nearest goal is to complete a 100-mile race. Hopefully in the next two years. As for the rest of my life, I would love to open a counseling practice for troubled youth. My heart really goes out to children who suffer from situations that are out of their control.
What is the best piece of advice you have received and would like to share with other women? When I called my mom while crying on my bedroom floor because my ‘fat pants’ were too tight and I had nothing to wear, she said to me, ‘Baby, you’re beautiful ... now get in the car, go buy a pair of bigger pants, and do something tomorrow that will help you to get to where you want to be.’
What are three words that describe you? Determined, motivated and gullible. My husband teases me that I change my opinion based on whoever I talk to. I like to think of it as open minded.
What do you feel is your best feature? While they are not perfect, my legs are my favorite feature. They have taught me that they can do great things other than fit in a smaller pair of jeans.
In what ways do you feel your community has helped you? Before I came to Hampton Roads, I was a former high school athlete and recent college graduate who had lost my sense of identity. Due to the limitless opportunities in the Hampton Roads area, I have been able to shape myself into what I am today. I can call myself a teacher, runner, tri-athlete, beach bum, volleyball player, homeowner, landlord, graduate student, wife, and most importantly, I can call myself blessed.

Maya Warburton
Age: 39
City: Norfolk
Occupation: Owner and operator of Maya Couture, a bridal and formal wear store in Norfolk.
Family: Committed to an amazing man; one daughter, Sophia, who just turned 7
Standout Assets: Successful business owner; donates wedding gowns to military brides annually as a part of Brides Across America; designs her own line of bridesmaid dresses—Maya Couture Maids

Maya says...
What’s the first thing you think about when you wake up? I start every morning with a choice to be happy or miserable. I choose happiness ... every day.
What do you feel is your most important role? I am a mother before any other role. Raising a daughter who is smart, confident, kind and giving to others is my number one priority. My mother raised me to be a leader and to set examples for my peers, and I hope my mothering skills offer the same opportunities for my daughter.
Tell us about a charity or organization that has had the strongest influence on you. A few years after I bought my business, I was introduced to an organization called Brides Across America. It works with bridal salons nationwide to recognize brides-to-be who serve our country or are engaged to a service member. We give free wedding gowns to these deserving brides every Veteran’s Day.
Describe the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome. Truly loving myself. All of me—genuinely. I was tall and gangly at a very young age, and I didn’t look like anyone I grew up with. It took me a long time to embrace my height and my “different” features. Now, at almost 40 years old I wouldn’t change a thing!
What is the best piece of advice you have received and would like to share with other women? Know your worth. If we don’t value ourselves, we can’t expect to be valued by others.
What are three words that describe you? Genuine, charismatic, optimistic.
What do you feel is your best feature? My ability to relate to and understand all different kinds of people. Despite our views, values and the ways we choose to live our lives, I always try to find a common bond and respect for another person’s life choices.
Do you have a guilty pleasure? Fine cuisine, chocolate, spa days, shopping—particularly for new shoes— are just a few.
In what ways do you feel your community has helped you? When I moved here nine years ago, I instantly felt at home. In all my years and the different places I’ve lived, I never felt like I belonged as much as I did when I came here. I attribute it to the amazing family, friends and the professional peers I gained when I moved here. I was born in the North, but I’ve always been a Southerner at heart!

Meredith Cummings
Age: 32
City: Virginia Beach
Occupation: Partner at Richard James & Partners, a sales leadership firm
Family: Married for three years to a wonderful and charming husband
Standout Assets: Started her own company; founder of the Rudee Inlet Foundation and Surfing Gals; surfer and paddle boarder

Meredith says...
How would you define beauty? For an individual, it would be a beautiful heart and soul. For me personally, it’s the autumn night air, watching the kingfisher hunt, my cats lying by the fire or my husband’s embrace. In my life, it is the small moments that bring pure happiness and the feeling of being content.
Tell us about a charity or organization that has had the strongest influence on you. Rudee Inlet Foundation. I love the environment and animals, and Rudee Inlet Foundation has allowed me to have an opportunity to help both. I cherish the moments I have in Rudee Inlet. It’s like a secret garden, and working to preserve it makes me feel whole.
What has been your proudest moment? Seeing and living out one of my dreams of helping someone else achieve their dreams through Richard James & Partners. It’s very fulfilling personally when something you started for yourself becomes bigger than you. Now in the four years I have been in business, I have helped various businesses grow their people and ultimately their businesses together.
Describe the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome. When I moved to the area, I started over after working hard to make a life for myself in N.C. I left everything— my successful career, my family, my friends and my great life for a chance at real love. Everyone thought I was crazy, but I believed it was right and where the next part of my journey needed to be. It was fabulous and scary all at once.
What are three words that describe you? Driven, passionate, warm.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received? From a mother with an autistic child during a surf event. Her grateful words when I didn’t think I should have received them made my heart swell for weeks.
What do you feel is your best feature? My eyes and my instincts never seem to steer me wrong.
What’s your favorite way to spend your free time? Anything in the water, playing in Rudee Inlet, being in nature or helping animals.
Do you have a guilty pleasure? I have too many! Dark chocolate, pizza, spaghetti and meatballs. A great day would have all three.
In what ways do you feel your community has helped you? Our community is wonderful in so many aspects. Regarding the Rudee Inlet Foundation—the city and the Aquarium supported me right away, along with the numerous wonderful people and businesses that live and work in the watershed. I sincerely want to send a big thank you to everyone that has helped me become successful in Hampton Roads.

Gail Easley
Age:
52
City: Norfolk
Occupation: Executive director for the Crispus Attucks Cultural Center, Inc.
Family: Married 30 years to Kenny, the rock of her family; three fantastic children— one son, 24, and two daughters, 22 and 19
Standout Assets: Dedicated wife and mother; a strong passion for her work

Gail says...
How would you define beauty?
Confidence.
What do you feel is your most important role? Being a parent is my most important role, and in many ways I’ve modeled my values after my own parents. I think parenting should be about instilling a work ethic and a sense of responsibility and respect and a sense that we have to give back to other people, our community, to our family, ourselves and to the country.
Tell us about a charity or organization that has had the strongest influence on you.
Working for a non-profit means bringing a mission to your work that is completely passion driven. I am deeply connected to the Crispus Attucks Cultural Center’s focus on education and transforming the lives of children through the arts. I’m especially proud of the RISE! program, which inspires at-risk children to reach their potential in life.
What has been your proudest moment? In 2006, I finished my first half marathon at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon. In a time of three hours and 48 minutes, I fought through the mental and physical challenges among thousands of participants, finishing next to last place, but it was so worth it.
Describe the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome. I re-entered the work force after choosing to stay home full time to parent for 22 years. My biggest obstacle was finding the right work-life balance. I believe that women should not feel guilty about having a passion for work.
What is the best piece of advice you have received and would like to share with other women? Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90 percent of your happiness or misery. Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.
What’s your favorite way to spend your free time? Taking the time each day for conversation with family and friends. It’s often the little things that make the best memories that last a lifetime.

Tiffany Kidwell Gaylord
Age:
42
City: Virginia Beach
Occupation: Former restaurateur
Family: Just married for the first time to the love of her life in May 2011
Standout Assets: Loves feeding people and ballroom dancing; Type 1 Diabetes survivor; local business leader

Tiffany says...
How would you define beauty?
That which inspires me.
What do you feel is your most important role? To walk with integrity, to always tell the truth, to pay it forward and to lead by example.
Tell us about a charity or organization that has had the strongest influence on you. Hampton Roads Community Care, Wave Church Community Care, Share Our Strength, No Kid Hungry, Judeo- Christian Outreach Center, Food Bank, etc. No person should be hungry in my opinion, and in the words of Mother Teresa—“If you can’t feed 100 people then feed just one.”
Describe the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes three years ago, and I am insulin dependent. It is an obstacle I face daily, but I am grateful it is manageable with a healthy diet, exercise and insulin.
What is the best piece of advice you have received and would like to share with other women? My mother always told me if you work hard you can have and achieve anything you want, and she was right.
What are three words that best describe you? Compassionate, passionate and driven.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received? At a particularly difficult time in my life, I was told, “You may have been knocked down, but you haven’t been knocked out ... you’re tough, you’re smart, you can do this!”
What do you feel is your best feature? I would like to think my smile—smiles are contagious.
What’s your favorite way to spend your free time? I love to ballroom dance.
Do you have a guilty pleasure? Maldon sea salt; I like to sprinkle it on everything from bread to chocolate.
What is your favorite aspect about living in Hampton Roads? I like that it is somewhat of a melting pot, with interesting people here from all walks of life.
In what ways do you feel your community has helped you? As a restaurateur, supporting me and my businesses. On a personal level, by showing me there are so many kind, loving, giving people in our community that are committed and dedicated to come together and help those in need.

Staci Carwile
Age: 38
City: Hampton
Occupation: Instructor/ owner of Move Me Brightly – Extraordinary Art Education Classes; Marketing consultant for Tidewater Chiropractic
Family: Happily married for six years; three remarkable children—Chase, 15, Caroline Elise, 4, and Scarlett, 2
Standout Assets: Serves on the Board of Directors for the Special Olympics; abuse survivor; described by her friends and family as one of the warmest people they know

Staci says...
Who is your strongest female role model?
My grandmother, Angelina Marra, passed away many years ago, and yet I think about her every single day. She was the best interpretation I’ve ever had of what it is to be a woman, a wife, a mother and a friend.
What’s the first thing you think about when you wake up? The to-do list I compiled the night before.
Tell us about a charity or organization that has had the strongest influence on you. The Virginia Special Olympics has been a passion of mine for nearly 14 years. I believe that the volunteer community, board and committee members I work with are helping to make the world a better, healthier and more joyful place.
Describe the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome. Not many people know that I was a victim of emotional and mental abuse throughout my childhood and into adulthood at the hands of my mother. Most would define me as one of the happiest individuals they know. It wasn’t until last year that I began conveying to others what I suffered through, started therapy and initiated healthy coping strategies.
What is your biggest goal in life? To raise three healthy, happy and successful individuals who will in turn do monumental things with their lives and make their mama proud! I am also in the process of starting a support group for women like me who’ve floundered under the weight of emotional abuse and a non-profit reading program for children that will help them connect with parents who are incarcerated.
What is the best piece of advice you have received and would like to share with other women? There’s a quote that I keep a copy of close by at all times—“It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else’s eyes.” —Sally Field.
What do you feel is your best feature? My curves.
What is your favorite aspect about living in Hampton Roads? This waterfront area steeped in history allows me to feel like we’re only a short boat ride from fun. I have an unlimited attraction to the vast number of musical venues, museums, sites, sounds, tastes and the stereotypical ‘Southern accent’ of this area and the people who live here. I realize we’re lucky.

Myra Jennings
Age:
65
City: Virginia Beach
Occupation: A retired science teacher (VBCPS and NPS)
Family: Married to husband, Bill, for 42 years; three children— Elizabeth, 40, Briana, 38, and Will, 34
Standout Assets: Member of the Community Services Board in Virginia Beach; rehabs injured dogs for a local rescue; teacher for NAMI (the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill)

Myra says...
How would you define beauty?
True beauty lies in our behavior; the most beautiful people I know are those who treat others with kindness and consideration.
Who is your strongest female role model? My mother. Her mother passed away the day she was born, and she was suddenly widowed at 35. With few resources and little assistance, she raised me, kept our family home and gave me a wonderful childhood.
What’s the first thing you think about when you wake up? How fortunate I am in so many ways ... and how fast I have to let the dogs out.
What do you feel is your most important role? My most important role has been as a mother—raising three extraordinary children. This is the most difficult job, but to paraphrase Jackie Kennedy, if you don’t do this well, nothing else that you do in life matters much.
Tell us about a charity or organization that has had the strongest influence on you.
There are two organizations that deserve recognition. The Community Services Board in Virginia Beach is an amazing organization of dedicated people who provide mental health, substance abuse and/or developmental services to our neediest citizens. I also teach a class for NAMI (the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) for providers as well as family members of adolescents who experience severe mental illness.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received? One of my middle school students gave me a note after class that said, “You were born for this job.” I was overwhelmed.
What do you feel is your best feature? My sense of humor, which I needed teaching middle school!
What’s your favorite way to spend your free time? I would like to say reading, but the injured beagles I currently rehab for a local rescue have eaten the last two books I intended to read.

Linda Wilder Dyer
Age:
55
City: Portsmouth
Occupation: Self employed— development strategies for nonprofit organizations
Family: Joyfully, newly engaged to Michael Bollinger, executive director of the South Orange Performing Arts Center in New Jersey; two amazing daughters—Ashley, 27, professional violinist, and Elizabeth, 21, junior engineering major at JMU; two soon-to-be step children
Standout Assets: Author, plays viola for Symphonicity; etiquette expert; classical music teacher; advocate for several charitable organizations.

Linda says...
How would you define beauty?
A radiance that comes from being on this Earth long enough to have had experiences that develop character, soul and a sense of pride.
Who is your strongest female role model? If I have to pick one, I’m going to say Pearl Smith. When she was executive director of the Central Business District Association, she fought fervently to make sure that the dream of Town Center in Virginia Beach became a reality. She is now working her magic with the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce as director of women’s programs. She has been my go-to person when I need advice or a straight answer about just anything.
What’s the first thing you think about when you wake up? Taking Tyler-Amadeus, my 5-pound, blind, rescue Chihuahua outside before his thimble-sized bladder wakes up!
Tell us about a charity or organization that has had the strongest influence on you. I have been incredibly blessed to have served on a number of non-profit boards and also as a development professional for many years. Norfolk Botanical Garden, Samaritan House, Easter Seals, WHRO and Girl Scouts are very near and dear to me, but the one that has touched me and my family the most is The Governor’s School for the Arts.
Describe the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome. My parents died when I was in my early 20s. As an only child of older parents, I was already a fairly independent kid and had no choice but to get myself together and make my dreams come true as a tribute to them.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received? That I could still be recognized from my Granby High School senior picture!
What do you feel is your best feature? If you want physical, I’m pretty happy with my eyes; if we are talking warm fuzzies—my ability to really listen to you when you talk.
What’s your favorite way to spend your free time? Playing my viola. So proud to have played with Symphonicity—The Symphony Orchestra of Virginia Beach for over 20 years. Also, working on a novel— so much fun.
In what ways do you feel your community has helped you? The community
has always been supportive of my manners and etiquette business and endeavors. When I wrote my first book in the 80s, a local department store chain embraced not only my books and classes but me as an entrepreneur. The media has always been kind and generous as well. I have been incredibly blessed by so many mentors for so many years.

Amber Ivey
Age:
28
City: Portsmouth
Occupation: Owner of Posh Retro, a clothing boutique in Portsmouth
Family: Single; her mother is her strongest female role model—one of the most patient and loving people she knows
Standout Assets: Business owner; has a goal to run for public office; expert secondhand shopper

Amber says...
How would you define beauty?
Beauty is when you discover who you truly are despite what the rest of the world wants you to be.
What’s the first thing you think about when you wake up? When I wake up, I roll over to my iPhone and start my day off by reading scripture. It allows me to clear my mind and get direction needed for the day.
Tell us about a charity or organization that has had the strongest influence on you. Volunteering with the Department of Health and Human Services in Newport News truly helped me to see that my heart is open to help others. I worked with women who were disenfranchised and trying to get back into the workforce, and it made me realize that we all are knowledgeable in different avenues, and it is our job to reach and teach someone else what we know.
What is the best piece of advice you have received and would like to share with other women? Love is the foundation of everything. If you are not building your life on love, you are building on the wrong foundation. I am not speaking of temporary love, but the love that is patient, kind and long suffering. If you do not learn to love freely, you are not living life fully.
What are three words that describe you? Productive, posh, positive.
What’s your favorite way to spend your free time? I am a busy bee and love to travel. If I have free time, I am headed to do something exciting (snowboarding, jewelry making, indoor rock climbing, etc.) or traveling to other states to visit friends.
What is your favorite aspect about living in Hampton Roads? I love that it is a melting pot of people and cultures. There isn’t any set lifestyle in Hampton Roads. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, and together we represent a place that has many unique footprints.
In what ways do you feel your community has helped you? The community has helped me to not get stuck in my own bubble but to realize that we all need each other. In this economy, we have to pull together and realize that it is going to take all of us regardless of our backgrounds to come together to keep our communities strong.