Meet Christina Stevison, the 29-year-old executive director of the Sisterhood Showcase. She's the daughter of entrepreneur Tina Birchett, founder of Grace magazine and the creator of the Sisterhood Showcase. Christina grew up in the business, learning from her mother and gradually doing every facet of the showcase until she finally became director of operations in 2013.
It was an exciting time. Then, life took an unexpected turn. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and died in August 2014. She was 53.
After taking a year off to “regroup and refocus” (she also had legal matters to attend to), Christina has come back strong. When I call her mid-July, she tells me she's in the midst of "putting out a fire" and laughs, though I expect she's used to that. After all, when you're planning a party for 20,000 guests, you know there's going to be a few fires. From securing celebrities to buttoning down contracts with vendors, it's paying attention to every detail that makes for a great show.
Sisterhood Showcase • Memphis Cook Convention Center
Saturday, August 15, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. & Sunday, August 16, noon-5 p.m.
Admission: $15 until August 8. $20/week of show
You’re celebrating the 19th anniversary of the Sisterhood Showcase and I noticed on Twitter you’re using the hashtag #ThisisforTina. What’s the meaning behind that?
I wanted the showcase this year to center around what my mom and I would often talk about: Empowerment and supporting all women. She wanted to give back to the community but she also wanted to create a place where African American women, all women cou,ld connect and have access to resources. The Sisterhood Showcase does that with its three components: Entertainment, education, and empowerment.
What were some of your mom’s best qualities?
Mom loved to help people, to help women. The showcase was her way of helping people on a larger scale. She also had a relentless ability to never give up, she had drive. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to guide me.
What are some of your memories growing up with Showcase?
I remember the first one, just being little and hanging out. With each year, I would be given more responsibility. It increased from doing small things to eventually becoming the director of operations in 2013. When I was young, it was so cool because we’d have celebrities come over and mom would introduce them to my friends. They thought my mom was a rock star.
At age 29, you’re a young, single, African-American woman and a Memphis business owner. Is producing the Sisterhood Showcase your full-time job?
Yes. In fact, a lot of people don’t realize how many moving parts there are in an event like this. It's full-time! We are a team of three and together we deal with a range of issues, from getting entertainers under contract and securing sponsorships from area businesses to signing up more than 300 vendors for the show and coordinating talent for our various stages. Like my mother, I want to help others. I want to share the challenges I’ve overcome; I want to be a resource for other women.
Since your mother passed away with breast cancer at age 53, how does that shape your lifestyle?
After her passing, I took a year off to regroup, rebuild, and reflect on lessons learned. I’m all about eating healthy, trying out different workout regimes, and getting regular exams. I talk to women about the importance of early detection.
How will this year’s show compare to those of the past nearly two decades?
We’ve had to scale back and reprioritize for 2015. I saw a mother struggle with her baby recently and I thought, ‘We should do something for new moms!’ I want to help everyone. But we bring it back to three words: Entertain, educate, empower. This year, in addition to our main stage, which will feature celebrities like actor Bryshere Yazz Gray from the popular Fox series Empire, and Rasheeda from VH1's Love & Hip Hop Atlanta.
Our teaching stages are: Health and wellness, which will offer women healthy eating tips and disease prevention; healthy hair, how to keep your hair healthy and manageable; and our community stage, which will focus on moving women forward professionally, by talking about interview skills, resume wrting, and networking.
What does the future hold?
My mom and I had many conversations about how to grow the show. She even left journals that reveal her ideas. So we’ll see. Ultimately, I want to make her proud.