Role Model Beyond Beauty: Part III

Giving Back to Our Community

This month’s edition of Urban Call Briefs features another group of “Role Models Beyond Beauty” who are doing wonderful things in our community.

“Role Model-Beyond Beauty” has been a Sophisticates Black Hair Styles and Care Guide magazine feature for more than 25 years. It highlights women of color who have made
significant advances in their careers and who have given back to their communities. Nearing its 100th edition, the column has honored black women in a wide range of fields.

The column portrait art by commissioned artist Leo Rucker is also an art exhibition of 180 pastel portraits with the Role Model story about these accomplished women and their distinguished careers are in the personal collection of beauty industry leaders Sandra and Lafayette Jones. Visit and the SMSi-Urban Call YouTube Channel ( In August 2013 the Role Model Beyond art portraits and editorial were featured at the National Black Theater Festival held bi-annually in Winston-Salem, NC where more than 30,000 festival participants had an opportunity to view the exhibition at The Sawtooth School of Visual Art.

The column is written by beauty industry and icon, Lafayette Jones and is co-authored by his daughter, Bridgette Miller Jones, who joined as co-columnist five years ago. Bridgette is a 2011 Spelman graduate and now East Carolina School of Dental Medicine candidate (2015). The “Role Model Beyond Beauty” column originally debuted as a touring 180+ piece art collection and exhibition.
The expanded exhibition opened for a second year in Winston-Salem, NC, the City of the Arts. Selected pastel portraits of the large collection commissioned by Sandy and Lafayette Jones and illustrated by Artist Extraordinaire Leo Rucker were shown July 13—August 9, 2015 in the Milton Rhodes Sawtooth. A handful of profiles are included in this OTC Beauty Magazine edition.

urban_call_photo_saranaSarann Knight Preddy
Las Vegas, NV Entrepreneur and
Community Activist

There is an old saying that mentions we must “play the hand that we were dealt,” facing life and its obstacles for what they are and strategizing for the best possible success. Sarann Knight Preddy, entrepreneur and community activist certainly validates that “playing the hand we are dealt is worthwhile.” Her successes and commitment to her community is immeasurable. Making history as the first woman of color to own a non-restricting gaming license in the world, Preddy used her niche for entrepreneurialism and leadership to transform the $8.5 billion gaming business in Las Vegas and her community.

Born in Eufaula, OK in 1920, Preddy inherited her edge on entrepreneurship from the successful business skills of her parents who owned a meat market, restaurant and construction company. After graduating from Dunbar High School in Okmulgee, OK, she moved to Nevada with her family and husband in 1942. There, she was inspired to go into the gaming business after she took her first gaming job as a keno writer at the Cotton Club.
After a series of gaming jobs, Preddy was offered an opportunity to purchase her own gambling establishment. With the help of her family she purchased the Lincoln Bar in Las Vegas, making her the first woman of color to own a non-restricted gaming license in the world in 1951. She later obtained ownership of other gaming institutions like the Play House Lounge, The People’s Choice and the Moulin Rouge, the first integrated hotel casino and her most famous business investment.

Throughout her career Preddy interacted with legends like singer Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis, Jr. and blues singer B.B. King. After endeavors preventing her from renewing her gaming license and financial setbacks, Preddy closed the Moulin Rouge during the late 1990s. After the hotel burned down in 2003, Preddy had its location declared as a historic landmark. Besides conducting business in the gaming industry, Preddy also owned a dress store and dry cleaners on the Las Vegas strip.

Preddy’s financial success allowed her to become a prominent member of her community. She was active in civil rights, serving as president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) of Hawthorne, NV, and created the first NAACP Women’s Club. She was also very politically active. In 1981, she ran for Las Vegas City Council, becoming the first woman to win the primary and advance to the general election. She also served as co-founder of the Barbara Jordan Democratic Club.

Preddy has won a number of awards and honors throughout her lifetime for her entrepreneurial and community contributions. She was recently inducted into the Smithsonian Institution, awarded a US Postal Black History Stamp in 2008 and received the NAACP Humanitarian Award in 2000.

At the age of 90, Preddy continues to remain active in her community through her church and other community organizations. She is currently working to organize the Las Vegas Black Historical Society to ensure the inclusion of African Americans in the story of Las Vegas. While she has played the best she could with the hand she was dealt, others can easily conclude that she is the best hand dealt to her community, family and business industry.

Cookie Johnson
Wife, Mother, Entrepreneur and Health Advocate

Cookie Johnson is as comfortable with these titles as she is in a pair of the jeans brand she launched — “Cjs.” The wife of legendary basketball player, Magic “Earvin” Johnson, she stood by the star athlete when it was announced that he was HIV-positive and could no longer play basketball. Today, she and Magic work together on an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign in black communities. According to the Center for Disease Control, black Americans are 13 percent of the population, but have 49 percent of newly diagnosed AIDS cases. Because Cookie is in good health and Magic is living well with an HIV positive diagnosis, the couple wants to demonstrate that it is possible to rise above the disease. Cookie’s message in the “I Stand with Magic” campaign launched by the Magic Johnson Foundation is to tell black women to get tested and to learn everything they can about HIV/AIDS.

Cookie’s jeans line comes with faith inspired names like “Grace” for the bootcut line; “Truth” for the high-waist, wide-leg version; “Love” for the boyfriend; “Joy” for the legging, and “Glory” for the pleated jean. Becoming a fashion entrepreneur is not a cameo role for Cookie. She pursued a degree in clothing and textiles at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. Her next big move was to an Ohio department store where she became a buyer.

“I was in my element,” she says. “It was a thrill to fly to New York every season, to have appointments all day long, to select the clothes that would grace my department, and finally to see the end result on a happy customer.”

When she moved to Los Angeles she worked for a junior sportswear company and then for LA Mart where she evaluated new lines and determined buyers’ schedules. Not finding jeans to fit her own healthy size 8 body, Cookie Johnson pulled out all the fashion stops.
“I knew there was a hole in the market; it couldn’t just be me. Top designers were excluding this demographic.” She met with Michael Glasser (Seven and Citizens founder) and the Cj line of jeans was born. The brand’s secret—more room for the curvy woman and a denim fabric that stretches.

Cookie is involved in the Successful Youth Women’s Program at her church, the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, where she teaches teenage women. She is also involved with “Have I Got a Story to Tell,” an All Trees Productions project in which entertainers tell inspirational stories through word or song.

There’s one more key role on Cookie Johnson’s resume: that of mother. She and Magic have three children—Andre, Earvin Johnson, III (EJ) and Elisa.

urban_call_photo_alishaAlisha Thomas Morgan
Member of the Georgia State House of Representatives

Alisha Thomas Morgan is a courageous champion for justice, equality and empowering communities. She made history at age 23 by becoming the first African-American to serve in the Georgia House of Representatives for Cobb County. Elected to her fourth term in November 2008, winning over 72% of the vote, at age 31 Morgan remains the youngest female member of the entire Georgia General Assembly. A powerful political voice, inspirational speaker and empowering trainer, Morgan is one of today’s trailblazing architects for change.

As a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, Morgan serves on the Children and Youth, Education, Health and Human Services, and Governmental Affairs Committees. Morgan has become a statewide leader in the movement for education reform, bringing together an alliance of civil rights activists, education advocates, and faith communities to work with both parents and students to bring real change to Georgia’s education system. An advocate for more parental options in education, Morgan was instrumental in passing HB 881 during the 2008 legislative session—a historic bill that created the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, offering an alternate route for groups and companies seeking to establish charter schools. In 2009, she launched the “Closing the Achievement Gap” Campaign, assembling K-16 stakeholders for the first time in recent history to comprehensively identify ways to level the playing field in public education and prepare students to compete in a global market. Additionally, Morgan forged a bipartisan coalition and succeeded in passing the landmark education reform legislation HB 251, which empowers parents to access more options within the public school system. Other pending legislation includes a bill creating a “Closing the Achievement Gap” Commission to study best practices to decrease education disparities in Georgia.

A rising star on the national scene, Morgan helped develop the Young Elected Officials Network—a national non-profit program she helped developed, dedicated to connecting and supporting progressive elected leaders under the age of 35. Morgan is a sought-after speaker and trainer, with clients including the Harvard University Black Policy Conference, the Yale University Women’s Campaign School, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and numerous other national agencies and organizations. Morgan has been featured in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and on both CSPAN and BET.

She has also launched Morganics, a people services company that focuses on public speaking, leadership development, training and advocacy. You can stay connected with Alisha Thomas Morgan at and

urban_call_photo_vanettaVanetta Keys

Over a decade ago, Vanetta Keyes found herself watching her teenage daughter struggle with obesity. A graduate of North Carolina A&T University and owner of Vanetta Stringfield Keyes, CPA P.C., she became eager to aid her child in embarking upon a healthy lifestyle and weight loss. She quickly came to the realization that there was a lack of community support in fighting this epidemic in children.

In 2002, a year when 16% of American children aged 6-19 were considered obese, Keyes decided to fill the void of support in the Atlanta-area and reached out to other concerned parents whose children were also suffering from obesity. Those interactions led to Keyes founding The Center Helping Obesity in Children End Successfully, Inc. (C.H.O.I.C.E.S.), a grassroots organization created to spread awareness and fight the childhood obesity epidemic ( “So my goal, of course, is just to try and educate children and parents so they don’t experience some of the anguish [my daughter and I experienced],” said Keyes.

First Lady Michelle Obama who in 2010 launched Let’s Move! (, a national program designed to combat childhood obesity in the U.S., partnered with C.H.O.I.C.E.S. in Atlanta. “None of these goals can be accomplished without people all across the country thinking big and working effectively to find solutions that work for their own communities,” expressed Mrs. Obama in a letter to Keyes.

Recognized for the improvement she’s made in her community, Keyes has been voted Atlanta’s General Mills’ Feeding Dreams Community Champion and awarded $10,000.  She has also been featured on CNN.

C.H.O.I.C.E.S. makes over 50 annual trips to Atlanta afterschool programs and health fairs to educate children and parents on exciting ways to get active and eat smart. “[We teach children] to understand that you’re only allowed like 40 grams of sugar a day and if you drink a soda…you’ve already had your quota of sugar for the day,” explained Keyes.

According to the American Heart Association, 12.7 million American children are battling obesity. “We just try to work with families and have them understand that it’s just the small changes that you need to make in your lifestyle and over time change will come,” she passionately said.

Urban Call Briefs author: Lafayette Jones

Each month, Urban Call Briefs covers subjects that provide readers of OTC Beauty Magazine with information on multicultural consumers, Hispanics and African Americans, who are the fastest growing consumer segments in the U.S. The mission of this column is to build a bridge of communications and information between manufacturers and retailers and the ethnic consumers they wish to serve better. The column offers resources covering marketing, retail merchandising, consumer research, purchase behavior, fashion and beauty trends, industry events and people, trade association news, new product launches and a potpourri of information designed to help the readers make intelligent decisions about the customers they serve. Urban Call is a registered trademark of Segmented Marketing Services, Inc. (SMSi).
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