Chapter 52: At the Border of Crazy Sans Trophy
My hands tremble as I hold the index cards containing my acceptance speech. I only get to give the speech if I am announced as the winner at the 15th Annual ADCOLOR Awards Show.
Nervously, I grab my reading glasses to read the words when I’m on stage. Now fingerprints from my sweaty hands fog up the glasses so I anxiously attempt to clean them.
Sensing my nerves, Mr. Pizza’s warm hands reach over to touch mine just as the MC of the night announces the next award. I look over to my right as my mentee Fatou offers an encouraging smile with fingers crossed.
MC Lyte says, “And now get ready for the nominees for the ADCOLOR Change Agent Award. A Change Agent is an individual within a company who uses their talents and position to enhance the corporate culture and create a more inclusive environment – calling attention to the talents of all types of people.”
She then reads the nominee’s names while showing our pictures on the large screen at the stage of the Ziegfeld Ballroom. I am one of three nominees from hundreds of submissions.
I quickly take a sip of wine. My heart is beating out of my chest. There is a strange loud buzzing in my ears as I take a deep inhale of breath, dreading the long walk to the stage yet wanting SO much to take that walk.
The other guests at our table realize I am a nominee and smile while wishing me luck! More fingers crossed.
And the winner is…(everything goes in slow motion. All I can hear is Womp, Womp, Womp, the familiar sound of the adults in Charlie Brown cartoons).
Then she says excitedly, “and the winner is Aubrie L.”
Time stops. And my heart shatters.
Gathering my pride, the image of Aubrie L. comes up on stage as she accepts her award virtually. She seems in shock and overwhelmed by the honor.
I would be too.
After years of watching award shows, it strikes me that I’m now part of the group who bravely yet bitterly says, “it was an honor just to be nominated.”
I’m embarrassed to say that tears welled in my eyes. Aubrie L. is deserved.
Truth be told, there really are no losers for this type of award because Change Agents are winning when the impact of our work is felt and recognized. We win when change transpires.
Truth be told, I wanted to win.
I wanted to win for the team that cared enough and spent so much time working on my nomination. I wanted to win for the little girl who always felt unseen, for the teenager who was told she would never amount to anything. For the college drop out that always had something to prove.
For the divorced career mom that gave up so much of her personal life to succeed in her career. For the woman that waited 46 years to feel deserving of love.
And most of all, for my daughter who sacrificed time with her mother so I could pursue my dreams.
I wanted to win for all I gave up, to give to others. To rationalize the sacrifice.
As reality sets in, the index cards fall to the floor. Don’t need those anymore, I bitterly think to myself. I pick up my glass of wine and chug it trying to hold back more tears. And waited until Aubrie’s speech was complete so I could take a walk outside to shake off the loss.
All the preparation leading into the award show seemed anticlimactic, from the interview with a morning show correspondent to the ad my company created (and paid) to run in an industry trade magazine. From the Emmy-award-winning make-up artist who did my hair and make-up (thank you so much KK) to the designer dress, shoes, and accessories I spent far too much money on to feel like a Rockstar. From the three dozen roses, box of chocolates, and champagne Mr. Pizza sent to my 5-star hotel room to the beautiful gift my team made with the honoree ad in a gorgeous silver frame.
Was that all for naught?
I needed the Cher moment in Moonstruck, a good slap across the face, “Snap out of it!!”
I battle these ugly thoughts by saying to myself: stop wallowing in self-pity, stop discounting what it meant to read those nomination letters. Remember how touched and moved you were when the nomination was announced. Stop ignoring all the love, energy, and work that surrounded you so you can pull up to this moment. Don’t forget how filled you felt receiving all this attention and love!
This inner pep talk helped to get me through the rest of the night. Fatou was a doll and whispered that I would always be her Change Agent (more tears).
Mr. Pizza hugged me, but I could see that he knew how much it hurt in his kind eyes. He was with me through it all leading into this moment and witnessed the roller coaster of emotions I experienced.
I know myself; I needed to mourn the loss, lick my wounds and start again. Dreading the next day when I would have to tell everyone that I didn’t take home the trophy.
My mission was to get through the night, then crawl into bed and cry myself to sleep. There is always tomorrow. It will be better tomorrow.
And it was. Life went back to normal. The anticipation was over, the pomp and circumstance a distant memory.
In sweatpants and a sweater, we drove home on Saturday morning to attend two soccer games and attend my nephew’s 21st birthday party. Luckily, I was with friends and family who literally had no idea what transpired the night before. They don’t quite get my industry or how special this was to me. For better and for worse, I was among those who loved me just for being me.
I decided to focus on learning the lesson in the loss. This apparently is a superpower of mine.
I privately shared my congratulations with Aubrie the night of the award show and publicly congratulated her on LinkedIn the next day. She is a polka-dotted unicorn. I learned much about her and from her during the nomination process. Aubrie opened my eyes to the specially-abled community to which she belongs and advocates at her tech company. She was nominated because she was part of a team that built programs to improve their AI interface for those with unique or impaired speech patterns. She inspired a BOLD vision for a future program focusing on the need to build culture, acceptance and infrastructure for this community in my industry (and beyond). A group of incredible humans that has unfairly been ignored (shout out to the Westchesbian for always being a loud and proud advocate. Thank you for being patient Jess!).
Yeah, I lost to her! It’s an honor in and of itself to be in her company.
Then I posted a recap of my experience on Facebook to get some sort of closure (and so I wouldn’t have to keep breaking the news and reliving it to those asking if I won).
In response, I received an immense outpouring of love. A tidal wave of support from my old and new friends, family, and colleagues filled my heart back up. The disappointment faded immediately. They all came to the rescue to pull me out of my melancholy and I am so profoundly grateful. Not only did I get closure, I got affirmation. The juice was worth the squeeze.
As I reflect on this experience, I would change nothing nor do anything differently. The universe delivers to us when we are ready to receive, and there is always something to gain from loss.
I learned that there are vast communities of people who need support and advocacy. Until equity is reached, our work is not complete. I recognized that I still had some wounds to heal. I learned that I am loved and admired greatly. I realized that I’ve touched and helped change many lives, with many more on the horizon.
Most of all, I learned that a change agent never walks alone, whether they win or lose.
And then a gratifying thought entered my mind. While I couldn’t give the speech at the award show, I have The Daily Feels community to share it with. To convey the whole sordid tale, about one of the most memorable moments of my career, really my life.
Thank you, Daily Feelers (and my long-time friend and editor-in-feeling, Janis), for feeling this with me and going along for the ride. Thank you for allowing me to share my crazy, wicked, wild, and vibrant life with you all. Thank you for showing up and indulging me as I share my scars, wounds, and beauty.
This platform was my therapy.
Writing for The Daily Feels got me ready to give, receive and accept love. It allowed me to peel the onion of my pain and release it. It gave me the chance to put my life in a time capsule of words, pictures and memories, to always look back and reflect on the best years of my life so far.
What a privilege to share my wonderfully crazy family with you all and the moment I found my life partner. This community helped support me through some brutal moments, hysterically funny experiences, and most of all, soul-baring confessions. It gave me the chance to help others who were going through a divorce, had trouble with pre-teens, or experienced infamously bad dates.
You all challenged me, cheered me on, and, together, we laughed at the absurdity of dating after 40. Thank you for being part such a vital part of my story.
With that said, this freak plans to take a little hiatus from writing about my life so I can focus on living it.
There comes a time when every artist craves a new creative medium, and right now, my interior design and vacation rental business is calling me. This is not good-bye as I plan to guest blog in the future. I mean, how could I get married on a beach at my pirate wedding without sharing that moment with you all?
Now, that would be the perfect ending to my John Hughes film for sure…
With ALL the feels,
Cherry Maggiore, aka The Freak of Nurture aka BOLD Change Agent
Here I am all dressed up with Mr. Pizza and Fatou:
Below is the acceptance speech I didn’t get to give:
This is utterly overwhelming.
It’s funny when I was nominated for the Change Agent award; I was in tears and truly felt like I won, so this now feels a bit gratuitous.
However, I have to say this award is the Cherry on top
And since Cherry happens to be my nickname,
Tonight, Cherry is on top!
Being selected as a Change Agent is the culmination of a rebellious life because change is woven into the fabric of my being.
From early in my life as this short, spunky Italian white girl growing up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, during the ’80s, cohabitating with my crazy Italian Catholic family
(Imagine, My Cousin Vinny meets Moonstruck),
I felt unsettled, entirely out of place.
I was the outlier, the minority opinion, the “liberal” in a sea of conservatives–
The rebel (without a clue) who sought anyone and everyone different to find a sense of belonging.
And that is where my desire to paint a different world came into being.
I manifested a community of friends that felt more like I did on the inside than how I looked outside.
The more people I met that were different from me, the richer my life became.
Their difference was and IS their significance.
That is when I began to encounter polka-dotted unicorns.
This experience inspired my BOLD story; and throughout 25 years in this business and nearly 48 years on this planet, I knew I could be a catalyst for change in our industry the same way I changed my personal community.
I knew that I had the power to create a safe space and brave place for other rebels, for those who would not be a culture fit but a culture ADD.
A simple concept formed, and BOLD was born to build opportunities for leadership and diversity. To create a home for all those Polka Dotted Unicorns that don’t belong to the status quo. But seek to change it, to redefine it.
I see you.
And thank YOU for seeing me too!
Thank you to my protégé and teacher, Fatou, who is here with me tonight who helped me PULL UP to this stage.
Special thanks to all the BOLD leaders at my company, especially Linda, for supporting this BOLD journey, empowering me to reach out and pull up others.
Heartfelt gratitude to my family and friends, my fiancé Mr. Pizza, and especially my muse, my very spunky unicorn-loving daughter MSP.
Finally, Ms. Tiffany W., you are the ultimate Polka Dotted Unicorn with Glitter on top.
Thank you for gifting me with this honor.
I’m so proud to be in the presence of all of you tonight, my fellow polka-dotted unicorns and change agents who reach out, stand up and pull up, especially my fellow nominees, Aubrie and Kevin.
Your bold bravery and sheer audacity changes minds, changes lives, and ultimately, in time, my hope is that we change the world.
Molto grazie amici!
And finally, here are the reasons I was humbly nominated in the first place (these are excerpts from the three letters written in support of my nomination)
“Before there were any official DEI initiatives within our group, there was Cherry Maggiore, with her passion for leadership at all levels, her commitment to diversity in all dimensions, and her vision to bring these together for the betterment of our team. That vision was BOLD: Building Opportunity for Leadership & Diversity, to influence, inspire, and develop the next generation of leaders by anchoring diverse, high-performing talent at every level through volunteerism and mentorship.
BOLD is not an ERG, but a grassroots initiative built for our people, by our people, entirely voluntary and with no official funding. It is no one’s day job, including Cherry’s, and Cherry will tell you herself that she’s not a DEI expert, which may be the very thing that makes her so effective at pioneering change. With grit, perseverance and, above all, empathy, Cherry has galvanized talent from across our team and with external creators (ever heard of De La Soul, Salt N Pepa, Lilly Singh? well, they’ve heard of BOLD!), transforming what started in 2017 as a passion project into a movement.”
“No matter who you speak to within our company’s ‘virtual’ walls, 9 times out of 10 they will know of Cherry Maggiore and have an anecdote for how she has made a difference in their careers and lives. She is that kind of Change Agent. She is a force of nature but her true power is her relatability and her ability to make YOU realize your full potential. She takes a personal interest in all the members of her marketing division, knowing almost everyone personally while recognizing talent outside of her team. I know this firsthand as Cherry has gone above and beyond to help me in my career. Cherry has been my mentor, sponsor, and Advocate for the last two years!
Over the years, she has continued to empower me in numerous ways. When I first joined the company, I was just going through the motions and trying to master my day-to-day role. Cherry showed me that I had so much more to offer the company. She invited me to be a part of her BOLD leadership task force and tasked me with creating its first mentorship program. I accepted the challenge and we worked together to ideate, create and execute an executive mentorship program, BOLD Advocates, that pairs high-potential rising talent with executive leaders who’ve committed to giving back to our talent. So many people crave mentorship and Cherry filled the gap within our organization, providing a much-needed development experience for our mid-level talent.
We launched in February of 2020 and have since taken 37 mentees (50% POC) through 3 rounds of the program, with 97% of the mentee/mentor relationships extending to a sponsorship.
If that isn’t enough, Cherry is a ballroom dancing, interior designing, creative writing/blog posting extraordinaire, who empowers individuals at ALL levels within/outside of her department to take on leadership roles and get out of their comfort zone regardless of title. She always says your title does not define you and you can be a leader regardless of your role. She has helped people at a macro and micro level regardless of color, race, gender, sexuality, etc. Cherry Maggiore is the epitome of a pioneer, visionary, and thought leader.”
“Cherry is one of the hardest working creatives I’ve ever met. In fact, she’s so exceptional at her work— a consummate professional who consistently goes far beyond what we ask of her—that I’d like to focus on how she creates a more inclusive culture outside of her day-to-day responsibilities. I cannot stress this enough: DEI is not officially part of Cherry’s job, but her commitment to equity and inclusion is an immutable part of who she is, and what she gives to the world.
It starts with the work she does every day. Cherry centers her values and uses her platform to ‘influence the influencers’ and push brands to tell more inclusive stories and think differently about the audiences they hope to reach. But she’s not just moving her clients—Cherry has a profound impact on our division. Her strength lies in her candor. No matter where you sit on the org chart, Cherry speaks her truth to power—engaging with patience and grace, but never compromising on the principles she holds closest to her heart.
Over time, Cherry has helped grow BOLD into a platform for intersectional change, doing what a change agent does best, and “calling attention to the talents of all kinds of people.” And together with the BOLD team, she’s building visibility, community, and opportunity into our company culture. For example, last year during our nationwide reckoning with racial inequality, Cherry helped create the BOLD & Brave series to make space for honest conversations for our BIPOC colleagues from every level of the organization, led by Black employees.
Meanwhile, in 2021, BOLD Vets, which originated in 2019, launched a residency program for veterans looking to transition into the private sector, offering them the opportunity to join our company at a leadership level. And last year, we announced that some of BOLD’s most successful programming would be opening to the entire industry.
In other words, Cherry takes after my own heart—and knows how a transformative vision and consistent action can do more than just change a company or a culture, but the entire industry. In short, Cherry catalyzes change at every level: personal, organizational, and industry wide. Whether it’s through running and growing an organization like BOLD, or simply through her own boldness—Cherry is truly one of the best at lifting the talents of so many, and there is no one more deserving of this award.”
Yeah, trophy or not, I won.
Cherry Maggiore is the proud mom of her 11-year-old super-sassy daughter (aka MSP – Miss Sassy Pants), two-year old furry daughter, Bella and soon-to-be betrothed to Mr. Pizza. She’s spent the past 25 years as an award-winning senior marketing executive at a major media company.
Beside her side hustle as the Freak of Nurture, she also started a home design company, Cherry Home Designs LLC, after being inspired by renovating and designing her 1880’s home in NJ.
This insanely curious and passionate “multi-potentialite” can be found dancing the Argentinan tango, swing and Hustle every Saturday, cooking her family an Italian Sunday dinner, singing and air drumming at concerts or searching for her next adventure.