Archive of ‘TFG Spotlight’ category

A Day with HIV: Jeff Berry

You know how you “know someone” but you realize that you don’t really know them? That’s how I felt when I was asked to link up with Jeff Berry, the Editor-in-Chief of Positively Aware, and talk about his life and the A Day with HIV campaign.

I’ve known Jeff for a couple of years through work, but our conversations have centered around my day job duties and the magazine. However from those interactions, I could tell you that Jeff is incredibly passionate about the work that he does, is very connected to the HIV community both in Chicago and nationally, and takes his role as an advocate very seriously.


(Photo: TPAN)

What I didn’t know is how Jeff journeyed from his own diagnosis to the place where he is today. He was diagnosed in 1989 and noted that it was “very scary” time for him because there weren’t really any treatments available like there are now. While many would agree that an HIV diagnosis today can still be scary, Jeff notes that it is in a different way. Mainly it is due to the continued stigma around HIV. He says that there remains a “need to lessen the stigma” around the disease, an assessment with which I completely agree.

According to Jeff, it is most helpful for those who are living with HIV to be around other people. “Support is key to finding your own way,” he shared. At the time of his diagnosis, Jeff had gone back to school for radio production but he felt like everything has shifted for him. A year after his diagnosis, Jeff went to Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN), Chicago’s oldest peer-led AIDS support organization in Chicago, for services and what he found there was a non-judgmental community that would soon become a key pillar in his story.

It was as a client of the organization that Jeff received copies of Positively Aware. He noticed that there was an ad asking for volunteers for the magazine and decided to get involved. That was 23 years ago. I was very impressed to learn that he worked his way from volunteering to transition into the role of Editor-in-Chief about 11 years ago.

My stash of Positively Aware issues, including last year’s “A Day with HIV” cover.

Five years ago, the team at Positively Aware launched the “A Day with HIV” as an anti-stigma photo campaign inviting people to show off what it looks like to live in a world affected by HIV. Over the years, the campaign has grown in both numbers and significance as people both HIV-positive and negative participate in this visual storytelling project that is designed to collectively rally against the stigma of HIV.

Tomorrow, September 22nd, we are all asked to grab our cameras and capture a moment in our day and share it across social media with the hashtag #adaywithHIV. Although I am familiar with the campaign, I have never participated! Of course, that changes tomorrow… I’m already thinking about what picture to snap and share.

When I asked Jeff if he knew what photo he was going to post, he initially surprised me by saying that he had no idea yet. In the past, Jeff has shared a photo of him with his partner, a shot of him working out, and, of course, a snap showcasing his life as an editor. After Jeff told me that was a DJ in his previous life, I secretly hoping that Tuesday’s photo will be a shot of him behind the turntables. *hint, hint* Probably won’t happen, but you never know!

There are 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States and they are our friends, neighbors, colleagues, family members, and so much more. That is what represents the beauty of this photo-focused campaign. It reminds the world that our community members living with HIV are living multi-faceted lives – no different from anyone else. This concept is simple yet incredibly powerful. That is why for the past three years, Positively Aware has linked their campaign with Let’s Stop HIV Together, a campaign launched by the CDC to raise awareness about HIV and its impact on the lives of all Americans.


So, how will you take your best shot tomorrow? You don’t need to tell me… I’ll be checking out the hashtag #adaywithHIV to see what pics are being posted across the internet. Keep an eye out for mine too. When posting to social media, remember to include a caption describing your picture, along with a date and location. You can learn more about the campaign by checking out the website Also, keep track of everything by following along on social media using the links below:





This post is made possible by support from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. All opinions are my own.


#TFGDoesWCW: Nancy Mahon

Ah, #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday). It’s an Instagram holiday that I’ve never really celebrated, but I think that has something to do with the fact that I’ve never been anyone’s WCW. However, I can appreciate the spirit of the idea, especially when smart and beautiful women are being featured. Given that March is National Women’s History Month, I decided that I would show some love to four role models this month.

You should know that these women will not just be beautiful but also brilliant and have a big heart (duh). They come from different walks of life but each currently is inspiring me to dream bigger, work harder, and give more. Let me introduce the first woman of the month.

Nancy Mahon MAC AIDS Fund

I first learned about across Nancy Mahon several months ago while researching the team behind the MAC AIDS Fund. Nancy is a Senior Vice President at The Estee Lauder Companies and the Global Director of the Fund (#GirlBoss). If you check out her bio, you will learn about all of her accomplishments which include graduating from Yale and NYU Law, publishing numerous articles, and leading God’s Love We Deliver before joining MAC. Impressive? Absolutely. However, it’s her work now that caught my attention. Through sales from the MAC Viva Glam product line, the company is able to raise money for the MAC AIDS Fund. Currently, the company gives away $35 million across the world and Nancy is at the helm of this incredible work.

She inspires my nonprofit side as well as my business side. I don’t believe that corporate success and doing good has to be mutual. In fact, I’ve spent the past 21 months in a position that allows me to effectively do both. There are a lot of lessons to be learned by MAC. I’m glad that they give us the blueprint for how to do both, and I love Nancy at the helm.

If you’re not familiar with the work of the MAC AIDS Fund, please check out the video below. She is awesome and you will know so much more after watching.




UPDATE: My husband actually made me his #WCW today. I’m not sure if he read the opening paragraph of my blog this AM or was just feeling rather affectionate, but I’ll take it! *insert googly eyes*

Recharging my Life at ColorComm #C2Miami

Last week, I attended the inaugural ColorComm Conference in Miami and it COMPLETELY recharged my life. The high-quality sessions and sisterhood among the attendees were perfectly framed against the beautiful backdrop of the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne. If you’re not familiar with ColorComm, it is an organization devoted to women of color in communications. The members of the organization are found in fields such as advertising, public relations, journalism, marketing and more. I’ve been involved with the Chicago group since last year and have met many great women as a result.

Highlights from #C2Miami


The conference kicked off with an awards dinner and keynote from Soledad O’Brien and just kept getting better. There were sessions about personal finance, the future of digital communities, mentorship, and integrated marketing communications. I loved the holistic aspect of the sessions and that the topics were designed to make sure that we are well-rounded communications professionals. During the closing luncheon, we heard from Johnson Publishing CEO Desiree Rogers and she shared five tips for us to always keep in mind. I listed them out below because they were too important not to share.

  1.  Carry yourself with confidence.
  2. Don’t be afraid to go with your gut.
  3. Opportunities to create change can be the most rewarding but also the most challenging. (Amen and amen.)
  4. Seek an opportunity that speaks not only to your intellect but to your heart.
  5. Savor every thing, every experience, every relationship.

I left Miami feeling recharged and renewed in my focus on creating and delivering impactful messages. If you are a woman in communications who is looking for a great (and growing) organization to get involved with, then I highly recommend ColorComm. You can learn more here. Also, for other highlights from the event, feel free to check out the #C2Miami tag on Twitter.


Birth Control Convos Don’t Need to Be Awkward

This post is sponsored by Bedsider. All opinions are my own.

As a gal who supports women’s health and empowerment (um, hello, Red Pump), my eye is trained to notice interesting campaigns that aim to educate women in smart and non-judgmental ways. That’s why I have been pretty impressed with the Bedsider campaign since first reading about it in the New York Times last year.

For those of you who aren’t as familiar with the campaign, let me give you the deets: Bedsider is an online birth control support network for women 18-29 operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. They teamed up with BET and the Ad Council to create a campaign that uses humor and relatable situations in order to get folks talking about birth control. Did you know that seven in 10 pregnancies among unmarried women between the ages of 18-29 are described by women themselves as unplanned? Eek. That seems like a lot!

I spend a good portion of my time discussing how women can take action to avoid putting themselves at risk for HIV or other STD/STIs. I actually think some of the same advice applies to the topic of preventing unwanted pregnancies.

“Don’t be intimidated by the topic, find a knowledgeable source of information, and make an informed decision that best protects your health and goals.”

Bedsider is a great site for anyone who is looking for the actual factuals on birth control. You can get started here.

While you’re on the site, check out some of the awkwardly funny PSAs. The spot with the grandmother??? Omg. No way. I would have to stop my Granny right there.

Have you ever had any embarrassing convos about birth control? Thankfully, I haven’t but I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Let Us Inspire One Another…

Hebrews 10:24

As I move through this Fabulous Giver lifestyle, I am constantly motivated by friends of mine who are doing selfless things for others, both near and far. Today, I wanted to spotlight two current projects being spearheaded by two of my friends.

Cover Chicago

My broseph, George, has one of the biggest hearts that I know. So, I wasn’t surprised when he announced his goal to collect socks and warm blankets to help get 213 people through this bone-chilling Chicago winter. The initiative, Cover Chicago, has also inspired similar efforts in Atlanta and Sacramento. Kindness is definitely contagious! For details on drop-off locations in Chicago, check out the flyer below. You can also keep up with the efforts on the blog.

Madie’s $10,000 Birthday Wish

Birthdays are a time of celebration, reflection, and wish-making. My soul sister, Madie (one of the fab ladies behind Divas, MPH), has made one BIG wish for her 30th birthday. And, that is to raise $10,000 to build a well in Ethopia. When she accomplishes her goal, the well will provide clean water for 500 people. Hopefully, I don’t have to tell you what a big deal that is. Madie has already raised over $3,000 dollars for the cause and has less than 70 days to raise the rest. Learn more about her wish and make a donation on her page!

So, these are two of the people who inspire me. Do you have any do-gooder friends? Tell me about them!


20 Social Good Instagram Accounts You Should Follow

I knew that I would become addicted to Instagram before I even purchased my iPhone. Like most technological advances, there are people who use the service for ill activities but also folks who use IG to shed a little light on their daily do-gooding activities. Out of sheer curiosity, I started jotting down IG accounts that were connected to a cause or social impact. What started off as 12 names has somehow amassed into a list of over 40.

Those on my list include social advocates, nonprofit organizations, foundations, and socially-responsible companies. I love seeing how each group uses images to capture the story of their brand or cause. It’s rather fascinating. So, you ready to see who made the first list?

Check out the images below!


Any other organizations or companies that I should include for future lists?


Monday Motivation: How Far Will You Go for Change?

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to attend a luncheon hosted by the team behind the incredible MAKERS series. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the MAKERS’ site includes videos of women who have done and are doing incredible things. These women have blazed and are blazing trails in industries ranging from politics to education to health and they are all HUGELY impressive.

With Dr. Amy Lehman

At this luncheon, we had the opportunity to meet Dr. Amy Lehman and to hear her story. She is the founder of the Lake Tanganyika Floating Health Clinic, which provides health care access to millions of Central African people who live in the isolated Lake Tanganyika Basin. Let’s stop here.

Can you please take a moment and soak in the awesomeness of that sentence? A floating hospital that provides invaluable medical services to those who might otherwise go without. Okay. Let’s continue.

As Dr. Lehman talked, I had a thought: What would’ve happened if she hadn’t accepted her mission to serve this community? As a surgeon trained at the University of Chicago, I’m pretty sure that she could’ve found a posh practice to show off her skills. But, she didn’t. Which leads me to this question: How far are you willing to go to make an impact?


Dr. Lehman’s incredible tattoo of the Lake Tanganyika region

When we discuss making an impact, we often limit ourselves to the communities around us. And, I don’t always mean community as a physical location. Community can be your affinity group (i.e. Catholic, African-American, or disabled), a specific neighborhood, or a specific cause. Like many things that we do, there is a tendency to stay within our comfort zone when it comes to assisting those in need.

As we close out 2012 and look ahead to a new year, let’s resolve to go one step further to make a difference. If Dr. Lehman can execute her purpose on another continent, then there’s no reason why we can’t execute ours across town.

To learn more about Dr. Lehman’s work, visit her website at

To learn more about the other women recognized by MAKERS, visit their website at


Cause and Effect: Multiple Sclerosis

As a fun new way to spotlight causes and issues that I think you should know about, I’m launching a new series of posts called “Cause and Effect.” This series will give you a bite-sized piece of information about an issue and showcase a few items that you can rock in support of the cause. The first cause on my list? The fight against multiple sclerosis. Check the image below for a quick stat about the disease and some fab orange pieces that you can snag to rock in your support whether you’re attending a MS fundraising soiree or just lounging around the house.

1. Chevron Fabric Tablet Cover, $28 | 2. Madewell Thermal Sweater, $88 | 3. Aqua Floyd Skater Dress, $184.50 | 4. Ginger+Liz Dancehall Queen, $12 | 5. ALDO Fravel, $38.49

To learn more about multiple sclerosis and ways to show your support, visit


I Dare You to Dream

“You can find your greatest cause in your greatest failure.” – Pastor Matthew Barnett

The Dream Center Los Angeles

Last week, I had the opportunity to listen to Pastor Matthew Barnett tell the story of his journey as the co-founder of The Dream Center in Los Angeles. The Dream Center is a church that never sleeps nor closes, and instead offers residents (and everyone else ministry) around the clock. More than just a church, The Dream Center is a vital part of the community that it serves. The Center offers residential rehabilitation programs for teens and adults, a shelter for victims of human trafficking, a transitional shelter for homeless families, mobile hunger relief and medical programs, and a foster care intervention outreach.

Housed in a former hospital, over 700 families live on the center’s 400,000 sq. ft. campus and the organization receives and distributes one million pounds of food to LA residents. When I heard this, my mind was blown away…Another amazing fact? None of the operations are supported by the government. Incredible, especially with the size of their operations and the amount of work that they do.

As Pastor Barnett spoke to us, he reminded us that we all have one great cause, even if we don’t recognize it yet. It was an uplifting and motivating talk, which inspired me to order his New York Times’ bestseller, “The Cause within You: Finding the One Great Thing You Were Created to Do in This World.” It’s supposed to arrive by Friday and I can’t wait to rip into it.

If you need a reminder about the power of believing in someone and following your dreams, I encourage you to learn more about The Dream Center. They’ve been recognized at the White House and various national press outlets. Here is a cool clip from CNN Heroes of George Lopez volunteering with the organization in LA.

CNN Heroes from PlainJoe on Vimeo.


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