LEADING LADIES at Premiere Orlando
LEADING LADIES at Premiere Orlando

LEADING LADIES Founder Tracey Hughes is changing the world, one lady at a time.

Here she answers some of the most common questions asked about the concept and movement:

What is the concept driving Leading Ladies?    With our industry being over 85% female we simply wanted to celebrate the female leaders that are really are making a difference and to create a community of support for the industry as a whole.   The biggest objective of Leading Ladies is to inspire others to believe in themselves and their dreams while charting their own journey courageously.   Leading Ladies made history when they took the stage together for the very first time addressing, today's issues facing women in the beauty industry head-on. They tackled the challenges they face both in the beauty business and in life in general as wives, girlfriends, mothers, daughters, businesswomen, entrepreneurs, educators and philanthropists.    The audiences at all the Leading Ladies events have witnessed a raw, emotional, honest and heartfelt look into life on the road and in the limelight as the Ladies shared their inspirational stories.   The business advice and personal insight into the lady’s own growth strategies have been empowering guidance to all that attended. Ultimately these female leaders are breaking barriers and connecting deeply with our community as we all go through similar journeys within our industry.  

How are the panelists for Leading Ladies selected?   We initially began with 5 Ladies on the panel. However, due to the demand for more Leading Ladies events, we have expanded the speakers so that each event has a different panel.   I hand-picked the inaugural panel based upon the women’s strong commitments to ‘give back’. However, since then I gave the decision making over to the event organizers to select the panelists that they would like. Therefore, there will be many more amazing women joining future panels.   I have been approached by so many amazing women that want to be part of Leading Ladies, so we have created a fabulous list and I would love all of them to have the opportunity to share their message.   However, since the events host Leading Ladies the selection process is now in their hands. The only directive I provide is that the 5 panelists fall into the 5 categories so we have a diversity of expertise: icon, educator, influencer, artist and entrepreneur.   The most important factor any of these chosen women is because they are selfless and giving individuals who all have heart and soul, who are resilient and inspirational. All the women being chosen are selected because they have displayed leadership and paved the way for many others.  

Who are some of the Ladies you have had involved?   The panelists so far have included: Eden Sassoon, Candy Shaw, Sonya Dove, Jenny Stebe, Vivienne Mackinder, Larisa Love, Kris Sorbie, Ruth Roche, Nahah Aziz, Deborah Penzone, Cassandra McLaughlin, Rebecca Taylor, Danielle Keasling, Jennifer McDougall, Michelle Pargee and myself.  

How important is it to represent diversity in generations, cultures, and experiences amongst the panelists?   These never before seen together icons, entrepreneurs, educators, artists, and influencers are collaborating to inspire the audience, so it is crucial to bring differentials between the ladies.  Bringing multi-generations together allows the icons and the influencers to reach a wide and varied audience. We need to acknowledge that these icons and influencers have all made an impact and by bringing them together this is bridging the gap in the industry.    We all celebrate the rich diversity within our industry, and the diversity the population has, plus we celebrate what success looks like at different stages in our lives.   We aim to provide the audience with a raw, emotional, honest and heartfelt look into life on the road and in the limelight. And about the quest for that all elusive “balance” between work and life. In addition, it provides the opportunity to look at different perspectives on how to build your profile, brand, and business.    

Where was the first Leading Ladies event held and where have you been hosted since?   We chose to launch Leading Ladies at Premier Orlando in 2017 because Premier Orlando is a prestigious event and their Main Stage auditorium is totally unsurpassable.   The Premier Show team were very supportive of the concept and brilliant to work with. After the success of the inaugural appearance, the Premier Show Group hosted us at all of the shows throughout 2018.   Howard Britt, the President of the Premiere Show Group shared his thoughts with us too: “Tracey’s vision for bringing together the Leading Ladies of the beauty industry to Premiere Orlando 2017 exceeded our expectations. We experienced one of the largest crowds on our Premiere Main Stage and received many positive responses from the audiences, feeling the panel was empowering and inspiring. In 2018, we were excited that the Leading Ladies joined the lineup at all four of our annual events at Premier Orlando, Premiere Philadelphia, Premiere Beauty Classic and Premiere Birmingham.” said Britt.   At the start of 2018, we were honored to appear at ISSE at their first ever evening event where they also made the announcement that NAHA was moving to Long Beach. This was a great night and we just kicked off 2019 at ISSE again.   We also have had a very memorable experience in September of 2018 where we appeared at the Sola Sessions in Chicago. The Sola community is truly unique as they have over 10,000 independent business owners. So, we felt this event was special to be able to empower these individuals and we were so grateful for the Sola team’s hospitality.   

How do you determine what topics to discuss?   I take the time to personally get to know every Leading Lady on a deeply personal level. This then helps me determine what powerful messages they have to share from their journey.   We focus on primarily providing sound business advice to help the audience be motivated to learn from this wisdom to develop their own leadership acumen. Also, we share stories of real challenges we have faced because this provides inspiration to others that they can be courageous and resilient to reach their own aspirations.   We pre-plan the questions the MC asks, however, the women all answer spontaneously and authentically. The topics are what we all believe are extremely relevant to our industry right now.  

How important is the role of the male MC?   Our ‘token male’ MC is so important to us as the moderator. He must have a strong stage presence that is engaging and be well loved by the audience. So, the men who have taken this role are experienced highly respected industry leaders.   Industry legend, Sam Villa, has been our MC for over 80% of the events. He was the first person I pitched the concept of Leading Ladies too and he embraced it whole heartily in the infancy stages. Sam was the obvious choice because everyone loves him!!   Since then we have had 3 other amazing men join us, including Mark Bustos, Frank Gambuzza and Gordon Miller, and we have a list of other outstanding speakers who would love to moderate for us too.   

What are the future plans for more Leading Ladies events?   Well for 2019 we just kick started off our first appearance at ISSE in Long Beach, California. Then this is followed by IBS in New York and ABA in Toronto. I am excited to see the growth of Leading Ladies now going into Canada, Europe, and Australia.   If the demand keeps growing, I will introduce a Leading Ladies Mentorship program which I have already designed a blueprint for. This will enable anyone to have access to coaching from all of the Leading Ladies.

How is Leading Ladies funded? Leading Ladies is simply about giving back, therefore no-one makes any money for their appearance or time invested, including myself. All we ask is that the events who host us cover the expenses involved.  As a team everyone involved in Leading Ladies collectively agreed that this movement must remain brand-neutral therefore we can not generate any sponsorship so this remains a not-for-profit brand.   

Why do you think Leading Ladies has created so much momentum?   Ultimately, what made Leading Ladies a success was the emotional connection the audience felt with the women onstage. After each event we spend hours taking photos with the attendees, all of whom are usually crying or laughing, and they hug and surround us with so much love and gratitude. It’s certainly very heartwarming! The industry needed this. With so much disruption and change within our industry, the timing was perfect. Leading Ladies isn’t about girl power either, we simply want everyone to realize that they can develop their leadership skills no matter what their personal goals are.  

What is your greatest hope for the future of women in the beauty industry?   We need more females in key leadership roles that have experience and emotional intelligence to balance out the influence on decision making.   I believe everyone has a message and skills to share. So, I would love the industry leaders to share their knowledge - To teach and guide others. Through sharing fears and challenges this will inspire other women to overcome any adversity and develop more confidence. Plus we need more females in leadership roles within the corporate brands. By being a positive mentor to as many future female business leaders as possible this will have a greater ripple effect and will guarantee future sustainability of our industry. My greatest goal is to drive positive consumer perception, making our industry be seen as a service worth paying for but most importantly relay the rewarding career opportunities that can provide stylists tools to achieve their aspirations.

Learn more about Leading Ladies (and that special pink worn by Hughes) in this video interview:

Originally posted on Modern Salon