Over a decade ago, Tiffany Johnson-Thompson relocated to Eleuthera from New Providence to manage Daddy Joe’s Hotel and Restaurant. It was a move that took her out of the “rat race” and into a more peaceful plane – a lifestyle that she sought, but at the same time, she can still recall a period when she felt “stuck”. To move beyond that uncomfortable period, she sought mentorship life coaching and networking. It also made her realize that if she was going through a period of feeling “stuck” that others on the island were too, and could benefit from mentorship as well.
Johnson-Thompson spoke to two pastors about what she felt and that there was really nothing for women that wasn’t, in her words, between “churchy-churchy” or in the club. She was hoping either pastor would take the lead in doing something about it – that was until she said the Lord spoke to her and told her she could do it. The result was G.E.M.S.S. (Gather. Empower. Motivate. Socialize. Support.), which hosts a monthly girls’ night out to bridge a gap in the social atmosphere on the island.
“I wanted to provide a safe space … a night where women could kind of get away from their busy lives, and husbands, and the church atmosphere, and the club atmosphere, and just kind of be on one accord,” said Johnson-Thompson.
G.E.M.S.S. and Girls Night Out, she said, is motivating by mentorship, networking opportunities, and encouraging and cheering each other on. She said it’s about supporting each other and charitable organizations and the fact that socializing and networking are key components as women have very stressful lives. Her goal is for the girls’ night out social to hopefully serve as a stress reliever. The vision, she said, is for like-minded women to gather in a safe space while empowering and motivating each other to gain insight and knowledge in key areas of their lives while socializing and supporting a worthy cause.
“I’ve spent a lot of money investing in myself in coaching and mentorship and I realized there’s a lot of people that can’t afford that, and I wanted to bring even just a snippet of that experience to them through this one night. When women gather, great things happen. Empowered women empower women, and the power of women gathering is immeasurable,” she said. “So, the empowered woman is beautiful beyond measure, and beautiful beyond description.”
During Girls Night Out at Daddy Joe’s in Gregory Town, Eleuthera, Johnson-Thompson lines-up speakers for themed nights during the once-a-month meeting.
For her third girls’ night out, under the theme “Pretty in Red”, which will be held on Saturday, February 8, Duquesa Dean will host a sip and talk with the conversation centered around the power of non-negotiable self-care and unconditional self-love; with Anya Ferguson, Keyshana Kemp and Trez Isaacs also to be featured, as they explore all avenues of self-care and self-love from finances to wellness and fitness.
During each monthly event, G.E.M.S.S. hosts a silent auction from which funds raised are donated to a cause or charity. This month, funds raised will go to seventh-grade student McKayla Knowles’ diabetic charity.
Knowles has organized a diabetes walkathon in honor of her grandmother who had diabetes, and for the past two years, she has raised funds to help people on the island purchase test strips and test machines.
The pre-teen’s initiative is one Johnson-Thompson said she has supported through sponsorship as well as through participation in the walk and this year decided to assist McKayla even more through monies raised from the February girls’ night out.
When Johnson-Thompson started G.E.M.S.S., she did so with the thought that all women go through a journey where they have really bad times, but she remembered that before a diamond gets its shine it has to go through a process.
The first G.E.M.S.S. event took place in November 2019, themed “Pretty in Pink” to piggyback off the fact that October’s breast cancer awareness month had just passed. And with Eleutherean women with a high prevalence of breast cancer, Johnson-Thompson said she wanted that focus as the starting point. Funds raised from the inaugural girls’ night out silent auction went to Sisterhood of Survivors, an Eleuthera organization that aims to support, strengthen and inspire women diagnosed with cancer to rise above their challenges.
The Daddy Joe’s manager said she usually gives a donation from her business to the group so that they can attend the Susan G. Komen Walk and decided the funds from girls’ night out would be donated to them.
Dean and Sharnette Kemp, co-pastor at Eleuthera’s Gateway Kingdom Ministries, led the first sip and talk, covering topics that included breaking traditional molds, the true spirit of support, to not be counted out, making a comeback despite challenges, and on the past paving the way for the future.
The first girls’ night out was attended by approximately 35 women.
December’s theme featured “Pretty in Teal” and focused on ovarian cancer and featured a dream board soirée with Keshelle Davis during which they spoke about defining their dream, listening to their soul and focusing on life areas, their livelihood and lifestyle, body and wellness, creativity and learning, relationships and society, and essence and spirituality.
“Keshelle led them through these five life areas and they talked about what dreams they had and what goals they had for themselves.”
Johnson-Thompson is a fan of vision boards and does one for herself every December for the year ahead. Two years ago, she had a party for her friends in New Providence to create vision boards, and wanted to give the experience to the women in Eleuthera. She had Keshelle do a vision board event at her church two years ago, and now at the G.E.M.S.S. meeting.
Funds raised from the December girls’ night out were donated to Johnson-Thompson’s sister Lavelle Johnson who is battling a rare ovarian cancer.
“She’s going back and forth to Florida, and I can’t be there with her for every trip, so I wanted to find a way that I could kind of show her that I care and give her my support, by raising funds for her to help with her travel,” said Johnson-Thompson.
The group skipped a January meeting, and are now on track for February with a focus on self-care and self-love, with Dean returning for her second sip and talk in three months by popular demand, along with Ghandi Knowles. After Dean’s first talk, Johnson-Thompson said a number of the ladies told her they could listen to Dean forever and that she had to bring her back.
Dean’s second G.E.M.S.S. sip and talk at Girls’ Night Out will be held this weekend in conjunction with a talk she will present to the girls at the North Eleuthera School on Friday on self-care and self-love.
“Since I was already bringing her in, I decided to combine it with doing something for the school,” said Johnson-Thompson.
As she gears up for her third girls’ night out, Johnson-Thompson believes the event is making an impact.
“Some women look forward to just that night and being out and away from the kids. It’s encouraging,” she said.
G.E.M.S.S.’s symbol is a lotus flower.
“The lotus flower has its roots in the mud at the bottom of streams and ponds, but it grows to become the most beautiful flower despite its origin. It symbolizes rising from a dark place in beauty and rebirth and symbolizes how we, too, can overcome all obstacles on our journey towards enlightenment, and flourish. It also represents growth and spiritual development,” said Johnson-Thompson.
Participation in G.E.M.S.S. Girls’ Night Out is $20 per person, inclusive of bites, cocktails and mocktails.