Announcing WILMA’s 2019 Award Winners

And the winners are...

Photo by Michael Cline Spencer

The winners of this year’s Women to Watch Awards were announced Friday in an event that recognized thirty-five women who are advancing in their career fields while contributing to their community.

Out of the finalists, there were seven winners in arts, business, education, health, nonprofit/volunteer, public service, and rising star categories.

Here are the 2019 WILMA’s Women to Watch Awards winners.

Lauren Brooke Brown
Owner/ Cosmetic Tattoo Artist
Lasting Looks by Lauren Brooke

Artist Lauren Brooke Brown uses her talents to restore the confidence of women.

After earning degrees and certificates at both UNCW and CFCC, Brown opened her own cosmetic tattooing business, called Lasting Looks by Lauren Brooke.

Brown uses a tattooing technique called microblading to create delicate, natural-looking, highly personalized eyebrows. Many of her clients suffer from conditions such as alopecia, thyroid disturbances, or from the side effects of cancer therapy.

Since opening the business in 2017, she’s continued to seek training courses and learn the latest and best techniques to offer her clients, many of whom travel from far and wide.

Brown says she cannot think of a more rewarding career choice than helping women regain their self-assurance. She hopes to soon offer realistic areola tattooing for women who have undergone mastectomies.

Her plans include strategies to raise funds so she can decrease costs for clients in need of areola restoration work. She is already the producer of a local burlesque show and intends to host an annual event for which proceeds go toward that fund.


Catherine Hawksworth
Modern Legend

Catherine Hawksworth thought she was opening a music and fashion shop when she launched Modern Legend in downtown Wilmington. Just over two years later, she realizes she has also created a community.

“I would describe the store as its own world. We have clothes, records, home goods. But, it’s more than that – it really is a whole lifestyle,” she says.

In building Modern Legend, Hawksworth has become an impresario of sorts, opening her store as a music performance space, matching musicians with other local venues, booking regional tours for bands, and working Live Nation tours.

“I grew up with parents in the music industry, so music is literally in my blood,” says Hawksworth, who holds a degree in music business from Berklee College of Music. “It’s always been my thing.”

On the regional music scene, Hawksworth’s work is cross between booking and promoting.

“(In) these last six months specifically, but the last few years as a whole, I’ve tried my hardest to find … bands and artists worth believing in and giving them a stage to perform on and a place to feel inspired,” Hawksworth says. “I think it’s a very exciting time for Wilmington – a lot of young blood, and they’re all ready to make some awesome changes to the music scene.”


Kellie Criggs

Assistant Professor

UNCW School of Nursing

Kellie Griggs is an assistant professor and maternal/infant course lead at UNCW’s School of Nursing. She is also a part-time clinical nurse educator at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

With her expertise, Griggs, who holds a doctoral degree in nursing practice, has been part of many efforts to advocate for nurses and women and infant health.

She has provided free community childbirth classes to families living in underserved communities and was part of putting together an event at UNCW on increasing awareness and advocacy for human trafficking victims. Her study on nurses’ views of fetal monitor safety, leading to improvements in staffing safety, was published in The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing in August.

Griggs was part of developing initiatives that reduced rates for cesarean sections rates at a local community hospital from 48% to 16% over the course of a year.

“As a nurse and educator in the field of women’s and infant health care, I have the privilege to be in a position to create positive change in the lives of others,” Griggs says. “My hope is to be an inspirational mentor and servant leader who creates a pathway to help others advocate for those in need.”


Lauren Gainor
Medical Director, Inpatient Pediatrics & Newborn Services
Coastal Children’s Services

Lauren Gainor has undertaken several initiatives to help train medical school students as well as improve care for newborns exposed to drugs during pregnancy.

Gainor started with Coastal Children’s Services in 2014 and became its medical director the next year.

Starting in the fall of 2016, UNC medical students who rotate through NHRMC departments during their third year received a new pediatric curriculum, designed by Gainor.

She also led a clinical team to create a new unit to care for infants diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome with the goal to keep mothers and babies together during hospital stays while newborns are observed and treated for drug withdrawal. In the supportive environment, mothers learn about infant care and are empowered as caregivers to help try and improve outcomes for them and their babies.

Gainor also worked on a move for comfort measures that are not drug based, such as swaddling and low-stimulation environments, for babies being treated for withdrawal as a way to cut down on morphine usage.

“The changes and focus,” she says, “are in line with the national focus on the opioid epidemic and specifically for us, how that relates to the care of infants born with opioid addiction.”


Evelyn Bryant
Chief Executive Officer

Northside Bridge Builders

Evelyn Bryant is the founder of Northside Bridge Builders, a grassroots organization that aims to educate and provide resources to those undergoing hardships.

She is also a legal assistant, community activist, volunteer, and mentor.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, Bryant and Northside Bridge Builders volunteers dedicated many hours to recovery efforts by providing, food, clothing, supplies, and resources to Northside individuals and families.

“We continue to educate and provide resources to individuals and families who maybe struggling due to unforeseen circumstances,” Bryant says about the group, which operates out of a location at 1021 Princess Street.

Bryant is vice president of the YWCA Lower Cape Fear board and has chaired the group’s Community Outreach Committee and Stand Against Racism Committee for the past four years. Bryant, who has served in the state advocacy pilot cohort for North Carolina, also formed the YWCA’s Potluck for Peace locally that started in 2016.

Bryant is also chair of the joint county-city Community Relations Advisory Committee and secretary for the New Hanover County Board of Elections. She is also a board member for LINC, the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Prevention of Youth Violence, and the city’s Commission on African-American History, among others.

Jessica Loeper

Chief Communications Officer

New Hanover County

When Jessica Loeper joined the New Hanover County government in 2016 as its communications and outreach coordinator, she brought an approach that colleagues say has changed the way the county communicates, highlighting programs and services in “new and meaningful ways.”

Her achievements have won her two promotions: to communications and outreach manager a year ago and to chief communications officer this past June.

Under Loeper’s leadership of the county’s communications team, the county has boosted its social media presence.

In 2018, she updated protocols for the county’s Joint Information Center to use in public communications during emergencies. She led the team through two weeks of activation during Hurricane Florence and built the framework for daily media briefings and updates.

“After I put the new (JIC) structure in place,” she says, “each person had specific tasks and roles that fit their needs and were more closely aligned with what they do on a regular basis.”


Kobe Campbell

Licensed Professional Counselor Associate

The Healing Circle

Twenty-six-year-old licensed trauma therapist Kobe Campbell works to change the landscape of mental health by providing education, compassion, and accessibility to communities of color that have been otherwise underserved in Wilmington.

In addition to offering private practice therapy, Campbell provides mental health education and outreach for African American communities.

“Though The Healing Circle provides services to people of all backgrounds, I wanted to provide services that honor the context of people of color and make space for them to be themselves as they heal,” Campbell says.

She integrates her cultural background and theological degree with her trauma training to teach businesses, churches, and organizations about the effects of mental health issues to destigmatize seeking therapy services.

She and her husband founded The Healing Circle Therapy Fund nonprofit to provide financial assistance to racial minorities seeking mental health services and to provide a directory of culturally competent and accessible therapists.

The Rising Star category was for women under 30.


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Categories: Women to Watch