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WOMEN OF EXCELLENCE


Erika Bracey B


eauty products entrepreneur Erika Bracey is Chicago’s best-kept secret. She was born on the South Side and is founder and creative force behind the alluring Butter Kup Spa Collection and Blest Bracelets.


After graduation from Clark Atlanta University in 1993 with her B.A. and working for a five-year stint as a networking specialist in Corporate America, Bracey decided she had enough of the corporate culture. To the shock of her family, co-workers and friends, she stepped out on faith and in March 1998 resigned from her prestigious job in Atlanta. She moved back to Chicago with limited funds in her pocket, which was quickly absorbed by C.O.B.R.A. and life’s obligations. But, that didn’t stop this budding entrepreneur. Bracey used her best assets -- brains and personality -- and became the quintessential industrialist by under- taking various trades. This would include stints as a freelance writer and cable TV host. She also worked as a fashion stylist in New York, screenwriter, personal shopper and marketing consultant.


While most of the jobs came about rather capricious-


ly, she credits them to being highly favored and always prepared for a good opportunity. Eventually Bracey’s entrepreneurial spirit would open the door to a joint venture where she and a partner joined forces and developed a popular spa product.


Everything was going well until tragedy hit. August 13, 2003, her then-fiance died unexpectedly of cancer. The once resilient woman now searched for light on a


sunny day.


Three months later, after an amicable split from her partner and a stint in New York, the wheels of ingenu- ity were once again turning inside the business propri- etor. On Nov. 21, 2003, she unveiled her own spa col- lection, Butter Kup, which pays homage to fond mem- ories at one of her favorite New York restaurants “Butter Cup Café.”


Notables who’ve received Butter Kup products include Deloris Jordan, Common, Taraji P. Henson, Cheryl Burton, Oprah and Erykah Badu. Bracey is a recent breast cancer survivor and in February of 2012, this visionary launched Blest Bracelets (www.blestbracelets.com). These fashionable artistic designs were created to serve as a constant wearable reminder that individuals are suffering and early detection is the only cure to survival. Aportion of the proceeds from the bracelets will go to assist women with their” right now” needs. Billions of dollars are donated annually to breast cancer research, but in real time men and women are suffering and dying due to many disparities, barriers and lack of or limited access and resources. Bracey holds a Masters in Business Administration, is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and current- ly serves on the board of Common’s - Common Ground Foundation. She is a Philanthropist, the Director of Tailored Beginnings Two pre-school and CEO of Butter Kup Spa Collection and Blest Bracelets.


www.chicagodefender.com


Maggie Brown M


aggie Brown is a tremendously talented singer, songwriter and performer using her gifts to not only entertain, but educate as


well.


Brown is the daughter of the late Oscar Brown Jr., a world-renowned composer, playwright, social activist and legendary giant on the Jazz music scene. Oscar Brown passed on his artistic integrity to his daughter who now uses her own voice to create images that we can all be proud of. She’s got her own style, however, with a four- octave range, she has the ability to more than just sing a song or deliver a lyric. She embodies every note, drawing from it its deepest meaning with pure joie de vivre. When she performs, you feel it. The Chicago native made her professional acting and singing debut at the Body Politic Theater. She stud- ied music, theater and voice at Columbia College Chicago and has since taken her polished vocal style on the road.


In 1991, Brown began touring both locally and nationally in her dynamic one-woman show LEGA- CY: Our Wealth of Music. LEGACY is a lively and engaging musical demonstration/lecture about the history and evolution of African-American music. She describes what she does as “edutainment.” She calls on all of her talents to demonstrate how


Black people courageously and virtuously responded to the horrors of slavery, segregation and disenfran- chisement by creating inspiring and thriving art forms which have become part of our American cul- tural heritage. This year marks the 20th anniversary of LEGACY and Brown will be celebrating on June 1 at the International House on the campus of University of Chicago.


Brown has toured nationally in concert, released recordings with major artists as well as through her own independent label, MagPie Records. She is well known in Chicago for her concert appearances at Millennium Park, Chicago Jazz Festival, Hyde Park Jazz Festival and at colleges and venues throughout the Midwest.


She is called upon by various arts organizations and schools to serve as Artist-In-Residence. Brown enjoys using those classroom opportunities to engage young minds with poetry and songs that help them recognize and hopefully value their place in the world. The mother of three young boys sees the need to work through the Arts to make an impact on young lives. Her message fosters care and respect for words, music, history and life. Brown’s vocal musicianship proudly heralds the legacy left by those who came before us.


8 CHICAGO DEFENDER / APRIL 25-MAY 1, 2012


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