By Shayna Mace
Back in 2011, Michelle Kullmann, who was BRAVA’s publisher at the time, and the team at BRAVA Magazine first dreamed up the idea of Women to Watch (W2W). In January 2012, BRAVA kicked off its first-ever Women to Watch awards, honoring 23 Madison-area women.
“Women often don’t pat themselves on the back, for fear it’s too boastful or seems too vain. They also tend to quietly share the full story of their involvement and interests,” says Kullmann. “I wanted to create a recognition of women celebrating women, acknowledging their successes and accomplishments, skills, expertise, brilliance and to do so in a very public, very loud and clear way.”
We talked to Kullmann and Kate Bast, who was BRAVA’s editor-in-chief from 2013-2018, about their reflections on the 10th anniversary of Women to Watch.
What was your vision when you dreamed up Women to Watch, and who were the women you wanted to feature?
Michelle Kullmann: We created this annual award and feature sharing these notable women’s stories, and a festive public event to acknowledge them. We wanted the award to be forward-thinking in the sense that many women are or already have made great contributions in their industries, endeavors and the community — and were on the cusp of more. We wanted to know who had big things on the horizon for the year ahead.
Kate Bast: We wanted to also celebrate a W2W for her success, but also for who she is as a person and how else she contributes to and shows up in our community — the depth and breadth of investment. These women are powerhouses and gifts to our community — how lucky we are to live in the community in which they do their work.
From the outset, were the women always nominated by friends, colleagues, family and community members
MK: Correct, we didn’t allow self-nominations. We wanted this to be a notable and noteworthy award, which required our official nomination papers be filled out and submitted by anyone in the community to start the lengthy consideration and selection process.
Describe the feeling at the Women to Watch events you hosted.
MK: … One year that particularly stood out [was] when Sabrina Madison was honored as a Woman to Watch along with many other amazing women, and she performed a spoken-word piece she wrote for the event. The energy in the room the entire evening made it feel like the roof of the building was going to blow off!
KB: The energy behind each and every W2W event was incredible, and contagious. Gather a bunch of dynamic women to celebrate each other — and yes, themselves — and wow! Each year I left the awards celebration feeling the pulse of possibility — what lay ahead for each woman, and for our community and, in many cases, the world, because she was making great things happen.