While most of us plod along living our daily lives, Dianna Bowes dances among the stars. But it’s not enough for this energetic 50s something woman to reach for and attain new vistas – she turns the stars so they focus on earth, creating a path of light for others to join her.
For Dianna’s vision is not only to change her own life, but also to transform others. As founder of Fabulous@50, a network for women in and around their 50s, Dianna is a guiding light to thousands of women who read her e-newsletter, come to her events and pick up copies of Be Fabulous! Magazine.
“What I see are a lot of women in their 50s who are stuck,” says Dianna. “They’ve devoted their whole lives to family, children and jobs, and now they’ve raised their kids and are maybe in the middle of a divorce… some are retired and bored silly. They feel like it’s time for a fresh start, but they don’t know what to do.”
Others, like Dianna herself, got jolted out of complacency by a traumatic event.
“I was in my 40s and only going through the motions, sleepwalking through life, until I was told I had a tumour on my vertebrae. Then my 15 year marriage ended.
Suddenly I had no job, no car, no money, no husband and was wearing a back brace 24-7, unable to do even the basics.”
Dianna used her down-and-out time to take a good, hard look at her life and decided it needed a major make-over. “I had been so busy with husband, children and career that I had had no time to reflect on what I needed or wanted – I had been in survival mode,” she says. “I realized that though my body was weak, I was incredibly strong,” she says. “The only limitations I had were in my own mind.”
It wasn’t the first time her life took a down turn. Born in 1958, Dianna had a turbulent early life; unstable parenting led to her being raised by grandparents. “I didn’t really have a childhood,” she says. “I had to be mature long before my time.”
Like many boomers, Dianna married young, but tragedy struck when her young husband died and she was widowed at 20. The fairy tales of childhood and the socialization of the times made her reach out for rescue from a “knight in shining armor.” She remarried and had two children, Amber and David, the lights of her life. Soon this marriage, like the silver teaspoons received as wedding gifts, began to tarnish slowly and irrevocably.
A Catalyst for Change
Again, though pain, poverty and life as a single mother are not routes many would choose, they were a catalyst for Dianna. She decided her path to self-fulfillment would be inspiring others. She retrained as a personal life coach and formed a company called Creative on the Move that offers an eclectic mix of graphic design services, event planning and life coaching.
In 2008, she expanded her outreach by forming Fabulous@50. Her vision is to inspire, educate and empower women in midlife by bringing them together virtually and in person to network, share, care and grow.
“I started this group because I felt there was something missing in the community for the average woman. Women’s lives have changed so much: work, family, community, so much to do. But there’s little time to spend on keeping us connected with other women and who we truly are. This is an age of transformation - your body, your family, your career - so much is changing. I started this group, not just for a place to meet other women, but to be inspired by other women, to grow and most of all to move forward, letting go of the crap we women manage to carry around and finding something new to feel excited about being in this age of transformation.”
But though the underlying intent is serious, the women in Dianna’s circle also have a lot of fun. “If you can learn to laugh about the foibles of menopause or marriage, aging and aching, you’re half way to accepting them and getting on with your life.”
Some of her methods may appear superficial – the Fabulous @50 trade show is also dubbed a Martini Experience and includes exhibits ranging from designer purses to botox to belly dancing. But in the midst of the bling, there’s also serious information about health, finances, investments and personal development.
Take the Fab@50 makeover contest for example. Launched in 2010 in conjunction with the trade show, it appears to focus on appearance – winners received a new hair style, make-up and clothing – but the underlying message was inner transformation as Kimberly Smith, a 2011 prize winner attests. Smith, now 53, is a single mother of five who began her own midlife transformation by losing 65 pounds five years ago and keeping it off. The makeover was her reward. “The whole idea of spending a day being pampered is not something I’ve ever done for myself,” she said. “The budget just doesn’t allow for that; if the choice is get my hair done or feed my children, what do you think I choose?”
This year (2012), Dianna has changed the make-over contest to a talent show; a partnership of Fabulous@50 and the YWCA. “There are a lot of older women out there, like Susan Boyle, whose talent is overlooked. We are not looking for someone who is glamorous or well on their way to success already. There are many women who hide behind closed doors and need this opportunity to sing, dance, play an instrument or perform stand-up comedy before a supportive group of peers,” says Dianna.
Many women have received Dianna’s encouragement to try a new challenge: Kelly Falardeau had lots of persuasion before she followed her dream to become a public speaker and share her powerful story. “Dianna was the first person to praise me when I gave my first presentation,” says Kelly, “and she is always trying to find ways for me to get my ‘beauty from within’ message out to others – all without asking for anything in return.”
Rae-ann Wood-Schatz, a life coach who helped Dianna recreate her life, now leans on Dianna occasionally as she steps out of her comfort zone to plan a major event, an October conference featuring Gregg Braden, author of Deep Truth. “Dianna’s creative nature has never been used exclusively for personal gain,” says Rae-ann.
“In fact, she makes decisions based on what will have the greatest positive impact on others.”
Change and self-fulfillment for Dianna and the other Fab@50 women often come from helping others. “Yes, there are the people who say ‘poor me’ and others who say ‘look at me’, but there are far more who say ‘how can I help?’ Helping others is a foundation of Fabulous@50,” says Dianna.
Members get involved in everything from preparing Christmas gift shoeboxes for inner city kids to organizing an elegant charity auction. The group’s charity of record is Suit Yourself, an organization that helps women dress for success as they enter or re-enter the working world. Suit Yourself named Dianna Bowes and Fab@50 as their Top Fundraiser in 2011 and Dianna received further accolades when she was named a 2011 YWCA Woman of Distinction in the “Turning Point” category.
“Many lives have been changed because of Dianna’s decision to change her own life,” says Kim MacIssac - a friend and business associate. “She wants others to know that she is no different from anyone else. She is an ordinary woman who has done extraordinary things. She overcame adversity, survived and thrived, and now she is committed to helping women realize their dreams and live life without regrets.” •
Written by Andrea Collins
Photo by Ealanta Photography
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