]The YWCA Metropolitan Chicago made a significant declaration during its 4th annual New Look of Leadership fundraiser and fashion event at Macy's on Sept. 22 when local entrepreneur and advocate Kinley Preston stepped up to the catwalk and dazzled the over 350 attendees, wearing an elegant gown and fur.
Preston was the first transgender woman to be honored by the YWCA as one of the evening's 23 "business, civic and community leaders who demonstrate the strength, diversity and style that is positively impacting Chicago's workplaces," according to a YWCA press release.
The owner of Vanité and member of multiple boards including GLAAD and the Chicago House TransLife Center advisory committee, Preston has been singled out for redefining empowerment, having fought her way out of a personal abyss of homelessness, police profiling, abuse and discrimination to become a prolific leader and benevolent source of inspiration for the transgender community.
"We have amazing leaders in Chicago," YWCA Metropolitan Chicago Chief Executive Officer Dorri McWhorter told Windy City Times. "They are doing good things in the community and really making Chicago an amazing place. Kinley is our first transgender leader and we are so excited to demonstrate that the city is doing some things differently."
Preston joined a roll call of diversity, each adorned in the latest design chic for every occasion. The names included author and Northwestern University Associate Director Dr. Susanna Catherine Calkins, owner and founder of BECLOTHESMINDED Heidi Best, and PNC Bank Executive Vice President Terri Cable.
Event emcees were Kathleen Henson, founder and CEO of Henson Consulting, and Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Senior Vice President Cindi Cervone Carlson.
"With the YWCA being one of the oldest and largest women's organizationslet alone a Christian organizationI think this speaks volumes to where we have come as trans people," Preston told Windy City Times. "I feel validated by an amazing organization not just as a woman but for all the work I do. What's also amazing is that this has come from outside the LGBT world."
According to McWhorter, the event's honorees are referred to the YWCA by individuals who have recognized their work in the community. She said the organization was impressed by Preston's courage and ability to be a role model for others. "We like people with voices and who use them," she added.
"It's a little overwhelming," Preston acknowledged. "I was sweating bullets when I walked in because you never know how things are going to go. But I felt very welcomed by the YWCA and all the other nominees."
Funds raised from the evening go towards the YWCA's mission of "eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all."
For more information about the YWCA, visit www.ywcachicago.org/site/c.fmJWKcOZJkI6G/b.8235297/k.BF47/Home.htm .