Photos by Sawyer Photography
Move over millennials, these Over 40 & Fabulous! contest winners steal the spotlight. From business to broadcasting, health care to human rights, and fitness to philanthropy, our winners reflect the energy and enthusiasm that makes 40 and beyond a season of life to celebrate. Meet them all—and the contest’s Advisory Board members—on the following pages!
Winner – Lisa M. Washington
After kidney disease nearly stole her life, 46-year-old B’Tyli Wellness and Beauty Co. CEO, Lisa M. Washington, is dedicated to living life on her own terms.
How has your perception of this age changed since you were younger? It hasn’t changed a whole lot. I always dreamt of being here. When I was younger, I looked at the women in my life in their 40s and I saw this great freedom of expression and confidence. In my 20s, I would tell my friends I couldn’t wait to turn 40. I am so grateful that I had women in my life that epitomized beauty, grace, and power in this era of their lives.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? After battling kidney disease for 35 years, being unconscious in the hospital for three days, being on dialysis for three months, receiving a kidney transplant, and starting a beauty and wellness company, with God, my best accomplishment has been living and dreaming out loud despite it all.
What is your favorite book? Outside of the Bible, it is “The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself” by Michael A. Singer.
What is your favorite way to give back? The biggest way I love to give back is by helping others establish well-being in their body, mind and spirit. I have a long list of organizations I’ve worked with in the past and work with currently, including HOPE worldwide, Georgia Transplant Foundation, Junior Achievement USA®, Autism Speaks, Youth Villages – Inner Harbour Campus, Jack and Jill of America, Inc., Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign, and Children Helping Children.
What is your favorite way to workout? Yoga, walking and a little strength training.
What is your favorite healthy meal? Baked halibut with lemon, parsley, pistachio pistou and roasted veggies with a side of my quinoa pilaf. For dessert, it’s my Vegan Vanilla Bean Green Matcha Panna Cotta with wild blueberries. I am a personal chef, too. I love food.
Who are the experts/professionals who help you be your best self? My chiropractor, Dr. Julie Marie Lord, at Chat Hills Chiropractic located in Serenbe. Emily Hutchinson, L.E., L.M.E., and Paramedical at Laser Lights Cosmetic Laser Center and Southern Plastic Surgery. Meghan Madhavi Burke, founding director of the Healing Arts Centre. Jeju Sauna. Ebb & Flow Yoga and Surf. Life Time Fitness. My hairstylist, Brandi McWilliams at Keri Gold Salon. My massage therapist, Loyale, the owner of The Green Room Massage and Wellness.
What advice do you have for someone who isn’t yet over 40 and fabulous? Enjoy every decade of your life fully. Live fully where you are. Love fully where you are. Make mistakes fully where you are and learn from them. Forgive others and yourself.
Inspiration Award – Tran Bui Smith
For 45-year-old Tran Bui Smith, her 40s are the culmination of a lifelong path toward self acceptance and self discovery. She couldn’t be more grateful for where those revelations have led her.
How has your perception of this age changed since you were younger? Did your parents look and act at 40 the way you do? My parents, Thu and Bich Bui, were in their 20s when they had children. They faced huge challenges during that time—fled Vietnam by boat, moved to a new country, learned English, worked multiple jobs and put four children through college. They had worked so hard and accomplished so much by the time they reached 40. That kind of work ethic and drive forces me to step up my game.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? In 2010, I looked around and saw all the things my children had in their lives and came up with the idea for a family volunteer group called Little Helpers. I convinced a couple of friends to join me and today we have chapters in Memphis, Rochester, N.Y., Mooresville and Charlotte, N.C., Denver, Las Vegas, Fairfield, Conn., and Atlanta. We’ve even taken it to Ireland and Vietnam.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? Professionally, my greatest accomplishment was receiving an Emmy Award for a show titled “Traveling with Tots” that I co-created and hosted. It was a labor of love and the best part was that I got to work with my friends and family.
Personally, the nonprofit I co-founded, Little Helpers, has changed my life. When I get frustrated or saddened by what goes on in the world, I am reminded that there is still so much good in it that I am literally brought to tears. There are angels on Earth who give their time and hearts so freely. I am constantly inspired by these volunteers.
Name something on your bucket list. The biggest thing on my bucket list was finally fulfilled last year. I had made so many excuses, but after more than 40 years, I returned to Vietnam. Even though I was only 3 when my family fled during the Fall of Saigon, I had such regret for leaving the rest of our relatives behind. I felt guilty for finding freedom, while they struggled under Communist rule.
I thought our language barrier, experiences and differences would prevent us from connecting with one another, but when I came face-to-face with my uncle, aunts and cousins, the love we felt was instant. There was no judgment, guilt or jealousy. The goodbyes were long. It was a trip of discovery. I am forever grateful for my life, but something was missing and I didn’t even know it.
What advice do you have for someone who isn’t yet over 40 and fabulous? For most of my young life, I tried to hide from the real me. I wanted a different name, look, and even, history. I wanted to fit in. My advice is to embrace what makes you stand out. The Vietnamese girl who begged to change her name to Jennifer became an award-winning newscaster with a name people didn’t forget, then ended up marrying a Smith. I love how life teaches you these beautiful lessons!
Give-Back Award – Steve Hightower
Compared to where he is today, Steve Hightower, 52, owner of Steve Hightower Hair Salon & Day Spa, came from humble beginnings. It’s that background that motivates him to inspire others to reach their full potential.
What is the best thing you’ve learned about yourself since turning 40? Patience pays off.
What makes you laugh? Life. And shocking people in a fun, harmless way.
What is your favorite way to workout? Walking, stretching at home, gardening, and doing yard work.
What is your favorite healthy meal? I love grilled salmon.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? My success in life. I am from a poor family and I am not ashamed of it, but I wanted more from life than what I saw around me. I want to show others that you can be more than where you are from. Where you are from is not who you are.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? The charities I help are small local charities that assist children in need and the disabled. I have supported The Center for Children & Young Adults, Inc., Childkind, FOCUS + Fragile Kids, My Sister’s House, Living Room, and National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC), just to name a few.
In 2010, I founded my main charity event, the Thriving Children Gala. This gala has always benefited children and youth in need.
Brandie Park, 41, is as driven in her work as a sales consultant as she is to giving back to the organizations that helped shape her into the woman she is today.
How has your perception of this age changed since you were younger? Did your parents look and act at 40 the way you do? My parents have always been very active. At my age, they were avid water-skiers, played volleyball weekly with their friends and were active in the community. I am fortunate to never have had a number in my head that I considered “old.”
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? I am most dedicated to the large youth development organization, Georgia 4-H Club Foundation, Inc. I have been a trustee on their board for over a decade. I was a 4-H’er growing up and credit that organization with teaching me public speaking skills, how to take initiative, and how to manage others.
What inspired you to do this particular kind of charity work? I believe in giving someone a leg up through education and opportunity. Growing up in a rural community, I would have never been exposed to the personal development activities I was able to participate in without organizations like 4-H or “Y” Clubs.
What makes you laugh? My family and my friends. My husband and I are comedy nerds and love to see stand-up comics and improv shows. My son even attends summer camp at the Whole World Improv Theatre every year.
“Atlanta & Company,” WXIA-TV host Christine Pullara, 48, knows the power of a good story and that abandoning the pursuit of perfection to enjoy life makes for the ultimate tale.
What is the best thing you’ve learned about yourself since turning 40? I’ve learned to accept my imperfections in my marriage, my parenting, and my job. I’m really hard on myself. I think it’s OK to be forgiving of mistakes or missteps, but of course, I always strive to learn, grow, and figure out how to do better next time.
What is your favorite quote? “This, too, shall pass.” I used to only think of it in a context of working through hard times, but now I think of it as a reminder that time is fleeting and every moment counts. So, savor and be grateful for the good ones!
What is your favorite book? “Living, Loving & Learning” by Leo F. Buscaglia, Ph.D. My mom had it when I was growing up and I read it after my parents divorced. His messages of joy and love are timeless.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? There are so many worthy causes that need our attention, but I have a few organizations that are near and dear to my heart such as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® (LLS), Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance, CURE Childhood Cancer, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Name something on your bucket list. Going to Paris with my family and having a picnic at the Eiffel Tower! Oh, and I’d love to do a segment with Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford!
Business consultant and med spa owner, Jennifer Curtin, 46, realizes the importance of slowing down and enjoying the ride toward achieving her goals.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? My son, Colin, 11, and daughter, Carson, 6.
What is your most embarrassing moment? Showing up to a client meeting with two different shoes on.
What is your favorite way to workout? I like to take classes. My favorites are the Full Body Class at Stellar Bodies and the West Coast Barre and Best of the West classes at West Coast Workout.
What is your favorite book? Right now, I’m reading “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy” by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam M. Grant Ph.D., and loving it.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? I think it is important for everyone to get involved with their community and help wherever they can. I love the work that Tapestri Inc. and Open Hand are doing. Tapestri supports survivors of human trafficking and helps increase awareness. Open Hand provides nutritious meals to the sick, elderly and underserved. They are always in need of help in the kitchen and with delivering meals. Every September, there is also a fundraising event for Open Hand that everyone can attend called Party in the Kitchen.
What advice do you have for someone who isn’t yet over 40 and fabulous? Try to enjoy every step of your journey. Sometimes, we are in such a hurry to achieve our goals that we don’t enjoy the adventure.
Randall K. Smith
Randall K. Smith, 51, owner of RKS COUTURE and The Randall Effect, is a champion for women. The pageant coach, who also serves as the national educational director and distributor of Dudley Beauty Corp, LLC., helps equip women with skills to succeed on and off the stage.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? Successfully working with so many pageant contestants and seeing them grow beyond measure. Pageants are not just about outer beauty. It’s the beauty from within that allows contestants to set high goals and become doctors, lawyers, corporate executives, educators, models, actors, singers, socialites, and domestic goddesses. They take the lessons learned from their pageant preparation to the boardroom, classroom and the home to succeed and change the lives of others, as well as their own.
What is your favorite book? “Think Like a Winner!” by Dr. Walter Doyle Staples.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? I love giving back! The three main organizations I am currently focusing on are Mercy Care, Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation, and Renaissance Kares.
What is your favorite way to workout? I like jogging, walking, and of course, walking while shopping.
What is your favorite healthy meal? I’m gluten free, so my favorite meal includes salmon, asparagus, broccoli, or any other green vegetable.
Name something on your bucket list. When I turned 40, it was to go parasailing. Now, I think I might need to be more grounded. I would love to live abroad, as opposed to visiting, for a few years to experience living outside the United States.
After a harrowing journey to find a natural way to treat her daughter’s life-threatening eczema, Jennifer Hankey, 42, discovered her purpose as “The Green Queen” of nontoxic living.
How has your perception of this age changed since you were younger? Did your parents look and act at 40 the way you do? My mom was diving with great white sharks and bungee jumping off Victoria Falls in her 40s. That zest for life and sense of adventure has certainly passed down to me.
What is your favorite way to workout? I like to work up a sweat doing cardio and playing tennis when I have time.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? Healing my daughter, Hayden, 5, from her eczema and allergies and helping other moms who are going through health struggles with their children find natural healing.
What advice do you have for someone who isn’t yet over 40 and fabulous? I know this sounds cliché, but do what you love. The success will come to you. You spend almost your whole life doing what you do for work. You have to find what you love and love what you do for those eight to 10 hours a day it takes to get the job done.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years? At 62, I hope I can look back at a world that was made healthier and less toxic in some way by my efforts as the owner of Green Queen: Nontoxic Services. I hope that we’ll see healthier children with less chronic conditions. We can turn the tide on all the toxic chemicals in our environment and become good stewards of the earth and of all the animals and people who live here.
Kim Steen Langan
For Kim Steen Langan, 42, owner and founder of Intown Tumbling and Yoga for Kids, her 40s have brought her greatest adventure yet—motherhood.
How has your perception of this age changed since you were younger? Did your parents look and act at 40 the way you do? Personally, I’m still a little shocked that I’m over 40. Time is a strange thing. At 40, my parents were having a great time! I’m a new mom, so life looks pretty different for me than it was for them. I’m having a great time, too, but in a much different way.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? I am involved in the Atlanta Yoga Movement, which is a nonprofit program that brings yoga into metro Atlanta schools. I am also a member of the Morningside-Ansley Friends of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta group.
What inspired you to do this particular kind of charity work? I have always been passionate about working with children. When I was a kid, I suffered from self-esteem issues, as a lot of kids do. In my work with children, I really do my best to help each child see what makes them unique. All children should feel cared about.
What advice do you have for someone who isn’t yet over 40 and fabulous? Don’t feel like you have to have it all figured out. You don’t. I’m still figuring it out as I go and having a blast seeing where life takes me. I do that by being as present as possible in each moment. Enjoy the ride!
It’s said that dogs are drawn to people with good hearts. That must be true for realtor Robin Fink, 42. The dog lover devotes her spare time to helping them find forever homes.
How has your perception of this age changed since you were younger? Did your parents look and act at 40 the way you do? After I turned 40, and got into my new decade, I realized 40 is a number and that life is even greater now. The older you get, the more you realize the little stuff doesn’t matter and, no matter the challenge, everything works out exactly as it’s supposed to.
What makes you laugh? Situations where something funny happens and I am not “supposed” to laugh—those make me laugh the hardest.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? I support dog rescue organizations such as You Lucky Dog Rescue and Sanctuary, Inc. and Angels Among Us Pet Rescue. I transport, foster and do home checks. When I am busy and can’t donate my time, I then donate my money. When friends and acquaintances in the rescue world send me business, I donate $500 from each closing to a rescue of their choice.
In addition, I support a great organization called BeLoved Atlanta, Inc. that my clients started. BeLoved works to get women out of sexual exploitation situations and into group homes. Through their programs, these women can live a normal life without abuse.
What inspired you to do this particular kind of charity work? I love dogs and always have. I started rescuing dogs in college. They always seem to find me. And I thought BeLoved was a great organization because I want everyone to have the opportunity to succeed in life.
A development specialist at Morehouse School of Medicine, Michele Thomas, 47, doesn’t let lupus hold her back from honoring the legacy of civil rights leaders through her volunteer work.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? As a lupus survivor, I accept the fact that I am beautifully flawed.
What is your favorite book? “One Day My Soul Just Opened Up: 40 Days and 40 Nights Toward Spiritual Strength and Personal Growth” by Iyanla Vanzant.
What is your favorite way to workout? Using a combination of the treadmill, free weights, resistance bands and the balance ball allows me to work my entire body.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? For the past 18 years, I have served as a steering committee member and/or committee co-chair for The King Holiday Observance, commemorating the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For the past three years, I have also served as a member of the SCLC/W.O.M.E.N, INC. steering committee for the Drum Major for Justice Awards Gala, commemorating the legacy of Dr. King by providing a forum to recognize today’s drum majors who are making outstanding contributions in our community.
What inspired you to do this kind of charity work? The pleasure of working directly with the late, great, Coretta Scott King and Jesse Hill Jr. inspires me to continue my mission of service in their honor.
What makes you laugh? Life! It is full of lessons and laughable moments. I use laughter to replace tears.
What is your most embarrassing moment? I once tripped while walking up a flight of stairs onstage in front of an audience.
Voting results were so close that we wanted to recognize these next Fab Five winners who enhance the lives of those in their communities, whether through medicine or activism.
Pictured L-R: Kim Dennis, Kim Saunders, Leigh Mallis, Mrs. Stephanie Jester, Dr. Lisa Billars
As the owner of Lift Yoga Studio, this 54-year-old California transplant extends her helping hands across the globe.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? I love to teach free yoga classes for our community, wherever and whenever I can. You might find a Lift Yoga Studio class at the library, at local parks, at Avalon or at community centers. In addition, our studio and students donate to Himalayan Children’s Charities and have ‘adopted’ Sita, a child who lost everything in a devastating earthquake two years ago. We just paid for a recent surgery for her and we are optimistic about her education and future.
Name something on your bucket list. I want to see that stunning water in Tahiti. I’d also love to go to Nepal and meet our Himalayan ‘orphan.’
Where do you go for “me” time? My back porch. I fell in love with all the trees when I moved to Georgia—their beauty inspires me!
Dr. Lisa Billars
As a wife, mother and Chief of Departments of Neurology and Sleep Medicine at Kaiser Permanente, this 41-year-old considers her life fabulously full.
How has your perception of this age changed since you were younger? Did your parents look and act at 40 the way you do? I thought I would feel more settled in life at this point, which is how my parents appeared to me then. At 41, I have the benefit of abundant life experience, but can still see so much potential in life.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? My three great kids, Peter, 9, Jake, 7, and Alexandra, 4. They are a labor of love every single day.
How do you maintain the balance between self-care, family and work responsibilities, and giving back? Being mindful of how fortunate I am to be busy doing all these wonderful things helps me to refocus when things get overwhelming. I am very fortunate to have an amazing partner in my husband, Dan, as well as a career that is tremendously rewarding.
An avid mentor and voice for those without one, Kim Dennis, 46, finds joy in helping others through her nonprofit work with Create Your Dreams. She also makes it a point to not take life too seriously.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? Through my relationship with Create Your Dreams, I help provide the vital resources, opportunities, and relationships for children living below the poverty line. It is a privilege to be called a mentor, second mom, and friend by my students and our alumni.
What is the best thing you’ve learned about yourself since turning 40? I can embrace change. It is never too late for your life to completely change directions.
What is your favorite book? My favorite book is “Harold and the Purple Crayon” by Crockett Johnson because we all sometimes need a reminder that we have the power to create our reality and have a little fun!
Mrs. Stephanie Jester
This 52-year-old business owner and entrepreneur has enjoyed the fruits of success. But now, she aims her focus on building up those around her as the founder and director of the FreeWishes Foundation.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? Introducing my family to the importance of building legacies by starting and practicing good business. I am the founder of INTouch Properties & Management Services and the business/general manager of Freebandz, an entertainment label I started with my son, Future. As one of the world’s top talents, I couldn’t be more proud of the fact that my son looks to me to make decisions that contribute to the ever-evolving culture of music.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? The FreeWishes Foundation is an organization my daughter and I introduced. Every year, we execute programming in the Kirkwood community that my children grew up in, and at senior centers that foster healthy and happy lifestyles.
What is your favorite book? The book that I find most guidance in is the Bible.
After walking out on the corporate world in 2004, Leigh Mallis, 42, found a higher calling by sharing with others the very principles of yoga and meditation that renewed her. She is now a Pranic Soul, yoga and meditation teacher.
What advice do you have for someone who isn’t yet over 40 and fabulous? Spend less time judging yourself and others.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? Following my passion of yoga and meditation as a way to create work-life balance. I have the opportunity to certify students to teach and share the same styles of yoga and meditation that have greatly transformed my life.
What is your favorite way to give back to your community? There are several charities that I’ve had an opportunity to donate yoga classes and private sessions to as a way to raise money for causes. JDRF is close to my heart. My brother-in-law has Type 1 diabetes and started JDRF Rock the Cure, which I participate in each year.