Can you imagine? The angels in heaven have gathered, there is a rumor that Dr. Barbara is about to preach, Diahann Carroll and Cicely Tyson are about to perform and Mary Wilson will sing. Heaven will never be the same!
Odyssey Media is in a race to honor the iconic women of our times. We are proud to have featured Cicely Tyson and Mary Wilson for our 20th anniversary. Both ladies discovered an environment where they wanted to stay longer because they felt free to roam the hallways and just chat with women.
The participants’ respect for them was overwhelming and each had planned to return in 2020. These two icons, along with Diahann Carroll, Dr. Barbara, and so many others are a constant reminder that fancy titles, stock options, and social media is just hype. The true measure of a woman is her hands of service and the lasting impact she has on her community.
It was 2016. The St. Louis Urban League’s Salute to Women in Leadership was honoring me and their Lifetime Achievement Award recipient: Mary Wilson. Concierge to the stars, Raymond Lewis was coordinating the event. He worked his magic and put us in the same limousine from the hotel. I plopped into the car in a tight long dress with a split and she said, “Girl, they don’t teach you guys anything these days. If there were photographers outside, they would have gotten a picture of your unmentionables!” When we returned to the hotel, giggling uncontrollably, she demonstrated how to get in and out of the limo and I practiced. It was the beginning of a great and incredible friendship. She told me the story of Motown’s charm school and how the “Supremes” were required to attend and she never forgot those basics.
Later that night I learned that she was an astute businesswoman and convinced her to come to the Vineyard as a speaker for our annual Odyssey luncheon. She wowed the audience and we learned that one of her specialties was tracking down people who violated the Supremes’ copyrighted images and music without permission. Many came to see Mary the Supreme, but left with an understanding of the business issues women like her faced back in the day and how similar they are to the issues we still face today.
She reigned over the vineyard. It was her first time there and suddenly she was invited everywhere. The island was abuzz with her supreme presence.
Wherever she performed: Blues Alley, The Carlyle; Odyssey women would show up with flowers and applause. Just two short years ago, she attended our 20th anniversary and it took two volunteers to keep up with her. We lovingly called them “Mary sightings.” She attended the workshops and participants were amazed at her business acumen as she constantly compared today’s corporate environment to what it was like to break through in the ’60s.
When she took the stage, she set the record straight, people wrote books and plays about them and they never saw a dime. She and “Ms. Diana Ross” were not enemies and much had been exaggerated. They both loved Florence and her children; together, they did all they could do to help. The audience gasped when she revealed that Flo had been attacked when they were young and it changed her forever.
A hilarious “Mary sighting” occurred when she wore a leopard bathing suit to the beach and women in their 20’s started putting on their cover-ups! No one could believe she was 74. She had an amazing body and like Cicely Tyson, they both practiced self-love and disciplined diets.
On Prudential’s night I could not believe that to my right was Mary Wilson, to my left was Cicely Tyson and Vanessa Williams had offered to sit at another table if I needed. Wow, what a gathering. On our final night, EnVogue sang Stop In The Name of Love as a tribute to Mary. We all thought: “what an ending”; the power of girl groups and their enduring message.