Leah here! I can't say enough how delighted I was to see everyone who was able to make it and hearing from those who couldn't. I was overwhelmed by the florals, the treats, and the willingness to help set up everything. I get super cheese-bally when people say nice things, so my awkward faces was a reflection of gratitude. Your willingness to be present and cheer Behold on is...gah, it's just so fucking amazing and I will never have the words to truly explain how grateful I am to have met and keep meeting beautiful humans. I can't get enough of the mix of faces in the crowd. HUGE thanks to our Behold.Her Fellow, Vanessa, for taking photos and interviews during the event and writing her recap of the event. Cheers to more years!
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE BIRTHDAY BASH BY VANESSA BAIONI!
Last night was a blast! A huge thank you to all you lovely ladies who came out to party with us and to celebrate Behold.Her's first trip around the sun - and of course, to Aphra for letting us use Sally's Middle Name as our amazing space for the night! The set-up was spectacular: while Leah, Haleluya, and I were perhaps breaking a law or two driving over with those big ass confetti balloons packed in our cars, so many people were already there getting shit together and prepping the space for the decorations and amazing treats that were soon to fill the space. Arrin sent Claire from Wollam Gardens literally spruced up the place, with some evergreen boughs along the walls and adding some texture to the gorgeous seasonal bouquets. The little potted plants on almost every surface were so popular, many ladies (and I'm not naming any names) may or may not have swiped some to take home. Everything went so smoothly thanks to all the help we had - it felt like everything developed organically from frenzied set-up to a bumpin' party at exactly the stroke of 6pm.
As people started filtering in, they drifted towards the delectable DIY s'mores table we had set up at the front. Those sugary-sweet marshmallows and melted chocolate bars from RareSweets stained more than a few fingers throughout the night, and I know for a fact I am not the only one who was guilty of smearing marshmallow bits on my phone screen (I'm looking at you, Hal). The delicious mulled wine provided by Elisa was another huge hit at the start of the party - people naturally moved towards the yummy apple warmth she was dishing out.
I, for one, was eyeing that blueberry-filled vanilla cake baked for us by the talented Lauren Petri of Sweetri Bakery the ENTIRE night. Leslie in particular was a fan. Her severe gluten allergy prevents her from enjoying stuff like that usually, so she was stoked about it, saying, "The cake was incredible and scary gluten free: he kind of gluten free that tastes so good that you think someone mixed up the order. I do not have many opportunities to enjoy the cake at a party, so this was such a treat. I legit had a photo shoot with my piece of cake. There are maybe 30+ pictures in my phone right now of the experience! I also woke up thinking about it and was sad I didn’t grab some for the road. Oh and big thanks to Leah and Theresa for taking the proper precautions to reduce cross contamination, because I wasn’t trying to go out like that. Nope!" Refraining from picking berries off the top of the Sweetri masterpiece, I grabbed a couple of those mini pumpkin curry pies beside it, and goddamn!!
Talk about a bitchin' treat! Claire aka The Pie Bitch brought in some bite-sized tastes of heaven, and I don't know if you tried the apple cheddar pie, or the pear gorgonzola one??? But, like, shit. I could have eaten solely that all night long.
After the initial mingling and stuffing our faces with all the yummy food and drinks, everyone settled in and grabbed a seat on the floor to participate in a short panel discussion on holiday anxiety and struggles to overcome in the next year. Cierra, Theresa, and Sarah took the lead and spoke about their own struggles : Cierra is facing a time of unemployment, Theresa is continuing to learn to live with anxiety and depression, and Sarah is working on separating her identity from her brand for the sake of her mental health. These women got really real with us, and while there were laughs all around at certain points, I saw so many women nodding in recognition of the problems these women were coping with. Krista in particular spoke up and shared her story - something that most of us find difficult and uncomfortable to do, especially on our first time at a Behold event.
"When everyone turned their heads to listen as I spoke, nod along as I exposed a bit of myself, and snap for me in agreement and understanding - it was a comforting shower of 'I hear you; I respect you; I get you.' That's powerful, particularly in a place like DC, where - I think - women may wear a thicker layer of competitiveness and perfection than some other places in our country. I love seeing this love for one another."
Towards the end of the night, I realized that while I'd gotten to know some dope women, I hadn't talked to them that much about Behold.Her - aka the entire reason we were there??? So I chased down a couple of awesome ladies who shared their thoughts on what they love about the series. Laura was super chill even when I popped out of a corner to introduce myself. She shared what keeps her coming back to Behold.Her: “It’s totally about community. I’ve followed along with the development over the past year and few months and there’s just so many different kind of people, so many different interests, so many different subjects being talked about. Being brought together into one place, being able to have real conversations, is something really unique in DC.”
Phoebe was so friendly and willing to chat with me about her experience with Behold.Her. She was even down to record in the bathroom since the room was so loud. She leveled with me about her previous experiences with our events, saying how she's wanted to go to so many but felt overwhelmed and anxious with the idea of being the only one in the room who didn't know anyone, and potentially not fitting in. That night, though, she said she was so happy that she built up the courage to come through and join us. "Just being able to be around other women who are there for genuine connections and just share and cry and be anxious and have these real emotions and not be a Type-A Washingtonian all the time is really great."
The night finally came to an end and as people started to filter out, some grabbed those tasty mini birthday and mint chocolate Lil' Miss Whoopie pies provided on the way out. Others were busting out some sick dance moves in front of the balloons and having a full-on photo shoot, lingering for a bit to make sure they got that shot for the 'Gram. It was an amazing night of warmth, sharing, and building each other up in every interaction - and of course, celebrating Behold and Leah, the woman behind it who made all of this possible! So thank you all for joining us, partying with us, maybe shedding a tear or two with us, and we can't wait to see you again and share all the new things we're bringing to Behold in its second year!
HUGE THANKS TO ALL THE WOMEN WHO MADE THIS POSSIBLE
We had several people who made contributions to this evening outside from our guests, including a special donation by Alisha from Girls Night In Club. Aphra Adkins provided her second home, Sally's Middle Name, as a venue to gather in; Meredith from RareSweets created a DIY S'mores table; Elisa made a batch of mulled wine; Claire owner of The Pie Bitch made large and bite sized pies; Arrin and Claire donated greens and florals from Wollam Gardens; Take Home Pies by Lil' Miss Whoopies; DJ Ayes Cold mixed a Spotify playlist for the evening; and Lauren Petri of Sweetri Bakery made a beautiful birthday cake. Our raffle items included: a flower arrangement by Joanna Ball of Flourish Studios, a complimentary manicure by Varnish Lane, five free class from Soul Cycle, a unique necklace from Hati of Definition Studio, a handcrafted leather backpack by ENAT, a tea sampler from Shafa Blends, and an amazingly engineered hair towel rap by La Aronet. Cheers to our volunteers Raisa, Maurielle, and Maya! Big hugs to our Panel Speakers Sarah, Cierra, and Theresa!
Originally published for Behold.Her on November 14, 2017 at beholdher.co. Does not include audio interviews contained in the original post.