New Orleans - Lisa McKenzie grew up thinking she'd like to produce shows on Broadway. Her sense of style, her creativity, her ability to dream big coupled with her attention to detail-- all of it would be perfect for taking an idea and turning it into a blockbuster.
Today, McKenzie uses all those traits to produce a show that is as glitzy as anything you'd see on Broadway, with an entirely different purpose.
McKenzie is the founder and CEO of "You Night," a nine month empowerment program for women who have cancer or are cancer survivors. And nearly every woman who enters the program feeling fearful or embarrassed, will finish nine months later by strutting confidently down a runway in a Broadway-style fashion show.
"You Night," says McKenzie, gives the women in the program "a common goal and a success date." It also gives them a "sisterhood" of life-long friendships.
McKenzie coordinates two "You Night" programs a year. One for 25 women on the North Shore and the other for 25 women on the South Shore. Hospitals and medical clinics refer potential participants to McKenzie and her team of 40 volunteers.
Each group of women goes through a process of emotional counseling and team-building. The program also offers support groups for the women's spouses and children.
But the events aren't all warm and fuzzy. The women are "warriors," says McKenzie, "who have been, and continue to be, in the battle of their lives." The women may be suffering from physical struggles and pain related to chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries. They may have depression, anxiety, and a sense that they are no longer whole or beautiful.
There is also the ever present fear of death. Since she started the program in 2013, McKenzie has been to 19 funerals for women in the "You Night" program.
But the success stories inspire McKenzie to continue. She says 450 women who've gone through the program are now a "national sorority of survivors who don't see themselves as victims." And that's why they're able to end the program with a "celebration of life."
McKenzie arranges for professional stylists to make each woman look her best. Their gowns and costumes are tailored to fit, and each woman's hair and makeup is done by volunteers from local salons. Local modeling agents teach the women how to walk the runway with attitude. And the result is amazing.
Watch our story above and see for yourself!
For more information, go to: www.younightevents.com
More remarkable facts about Lisa Mckenzie:
When you were a child, what did you think you'd be when you grew up: Broadway show producer
Person who inspired you the most: My grandmother
Hours of sleep you get each night: 5
Personal motto or mantra: "Trust the process."