Stacey Lorin Merkl (Founder & Executive Director) is a native of Denver, Colorado. She holds a BA in Theatre Arts and a BA in French from the University of Northern Colorado. She has taught theatre and music to children and teens at various arts centers in Colorado, Seattle, Paris (France) and New York City. Stacey founded Realize Your Beauty, Inc. in 2010, combining her love of theatre arts with her passion for social change and education. She is a longtime volunteer for the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and is a trained facilitator for NEDA’s Body Project. Stacey is also a trained facilitator of Confident Body, Confident Child, an evidence-based resource providing parenting strategies to promote positive body image, healthy eating and physical activity in children aged 2 to 6 years. She is a member of Endangered Bodies NYC, IAEDP Denver Chapter (International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals), AED (Academy for Eating Disorders), Colorado Nonprofit Association and the American Camp Association.
Kellie Amend (Board President) is honored to be the Board President of Realize Your Beauty. She has previously been involved with the organization as a consultant and advisor. Kellie comes to the board with extensive experience in management, event organization, and performance. She is the founder of TrebleMaker Productions, LLC, and the owner of Dance My Way, LLC. Understanding intimately the struggles that children face - the increasing pressure to conform to unrealistic standards and the unhealthy and dangerous tactics to gain approval from peers and society, Kellie is committed to Realize Your Beauty’s mission statement. She is excited to contribute to RYB her time, knowledge, creativity, and passion!
Francisca Diaz-Nobles (Board Member) Born in The Bronx interacting with many cultures and traditions, Francisca has always had a love and interest for diversity. In her previous nonprofit position, Francisca created and facilitated workshops on global issues to middle schoolers leading them to connect what was learned to their own neighborhoods and lives. She has also coached and mentored teens (13-17) and young people (8-12) in a program using the lens of ontology. Francisca currently works as a Director of Homework Café/Student life at Fusion Academy Upper West Side. She enjoys the multi-tasking of planning events, assisting with homework and having social interactions with the young people she works with. Graduating Cum Laude from The City College of New York with a double major in Anthropology and Black Studies, she has an interest in the lack of indigenous practices in learning institutions along with how important they are. Francisca also holds a Masters of Arts in Youth Studies from The CUNY School of Professional Studies, where she deepened her understanding of various hurdles that might get in the way of young people and their learning. In her free time, she likes to read, travel, and be silly with loved ones.
Tracy Jennissen (Board Treasurer) is an original cast member of Realize Your Beauty, and is proud to say that she took part in the inaugural “My Body Is” performance in Harlem in the summer of 2010. She is excited to continue working with the organization as a Board Member. With a personal commitment to a message of positive self-image, Tracy offers the board insight from the perspective of the performer. Hearing the young voices of many different RYB audiences has given her a valuable understanding of the positive impact the programs can offer. It has also allowed her to see, first hand, the real need that exists for the RYB programming. Tracy feels that this insight is not only relevant as an RYB board member but also as an artist living and working in today’s world. Tracy currently lives and works as an actor in Toronto, where she tries to realize a little bit of beauty every single day. (see Cast bio below)
Jackie Schwartz (Board Secretary) is an award-winning FEMALE filmmaker. In 2014, she co-created and produced a digital series called Rare Birds of Fashion, which champions the plus-size community and female entrepreneurs. Since then, she’s produced three web-series, which have premiered and won awards at various festivals throughout the country. Her latest project is a comedy horror pilot in association with YouTube Studios and Troma Entertainment. In her daily life, Jackie is the Speakers' Bureau Executive at a major New York non-profit. She previously worked as an associate producer at Fully Branded Media, collaborating in the production of films such as: The Romantics, Margin Call, and Kill Your Darlings. Jackie is a proud advocate of self-love and is thrilled to join the board of Realize Your Beauty. She currently lives in New York City and is working on her satirical memoir: I Only Came for the Food.
Mirjana Domakonda, M.D. (Board Advisor) is a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist and researcher at Hartford Hospital / Institute of Living, and an Assistant Professor Adjunct in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Domakonda’s conducts clinical trials and uses neuroimaging to study the neurobiological underpinnings of childhood psychiatric disorders. Specifically, her research focuses on understanding how altered brain circuitry and cognition contribute to the development and persistence of eating disorders and obesity. Ultimately, she hopes to translate her research into novel therapeutic/pharmacologic interventions aimed at reducing the physical and psychological burden of these disorders.
Christy Reeves (Board Advisor) has been a passionate advocate for philanthropy and community betterment for more than two decades. As the former CEO of I AM THAT GIRL, a global movement inspiring girls to be, love, and express who they are through education, content, and community, Christy is focused on empowering young women. A seasoned nonprofit executive, Christy has extensive experience building and sustaining organizations, with a successful record that spans strategic planning, program development, fundraising and advocacy. Prior to I AM THAT GIRL, she served as the CEO of Single Stop USA, a national anti poverty organization that has served over 1.5 million households connecting them to over $4 billion in resources. For eight years, she served as the Director of Community Relations for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana and as the Executive Director of its foundation. Earlier in her career, Christy served as the CEO of the Girl Scouts Audubon Council. On the personal side, folks who know Reeves best speak of her charismatic personality, which some say she developed thanks to a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from Louisiana State University. She remains an active member of her local theater arts community.
Catherine Weingarten (Resident Playwright) is a recent graduate of Bennington College where she focused in drama. Her one act play, Venus Mars and Torturous Change Your Life Intense Idealistic Love was a finalist in the school’s playwriting competition and was chosen and artistically directed by her playwriting professor, Sherry Kramer. Her short plays have been produced at such theaters as Project Y, Newborn Theatre Festival, Poetic Theater Productions, Wishbone Theater Collective and Piper Theater Productions. She is very passionate about positive body image activism and was an intern at NEDA and blogged for their teen site Proud2bme.org. She regularly explores themes of femininity, outsider-ness and body image in her playwriting work.
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Elise Arndt (Actor) received her BA in Musical Theatre from American University and is a native of San Clemente, CA. Previous credits include: the premier of Briar Rose and the Thirteenth Fairy (Fanged Fairy) at the Jan Hus Theatre in New York City, Love New York (Ensemble), Bare: A Pop Opera (Nadia), Measure for Measure (Mariana), The Who's Tommy (Minister's Wife), and multiple cabarets. She is thrilled to be jointing the Realize Your Beauty project, and is grateful to be a part of this very important message.
Flor Bromley (Actor) is an actress, singer, director and storyteller from Lima, Peru. She graduated from La Escuela de Teatro de la Universidad Catolica and holds a BA in Theatre Education. In 2007 she moved to New York. She is a graduate from The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, a member of Rising Sun Performance Company, the bilingual children’s theatre company Teatro Sea, Amore Opera, Plays for Living, Realize Your Beauty, Inc., and a teaching artist for the Creative Arts Team at CUNY and Making Books Sing.
Halley DeVestern is an actor, singer, songwriter, voice actor, visual artist and teacher. She earned a BFA in Acting from Boston University’s College of Fine Arts. A New York City native, Halley DeVestern has performed in Off-Broadway and regional theatre, film and television. As a singer, Halley has toured with Big Brother and The Holding Company (Janis Joplin’s legendary band) as their lead singer; she and The Halley DeVestern Band (co-lead by husband, co-writer and bassist Tom Heinig) have been recording and touring since 2006 and were in the running for a 2014 Grammy Award. Halley is thrilled to be a part of Realize Your Beauty's vital and impactful mission of Positivity.
Ivy Quainoo was born and raised in Berlin, Germany; Ivy started to gain interest in music at an early age. After joining a stage art school in her city at age 14, her focus became singing. In 2012, Ivy won the first season of 'The Voice of Germany' and has been working as a Singer professionally ever since. In 2015, she moved to New York to pursue acting and recently graduated from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. One of her favorite roles to play was Leigh from the play 'Baltimore‘ by Kirsten Greenidge, Feste the Jester in a production of Shakespeare’s 'Twelfth Night‘ and being part of the Ensemble in the workshop production of 'Cleopatra: The Pop Experience‘.
Janet Conroy-Quirk was born in Manhattan and raised in The Bronx and Central Massachusetts. She holds a BA in Communications from Fordham University at Rose Hill and an MSW from Hunter College. Throughout Janet’s social work career, she has served populations ranging from the homeless to older adults. Recent stage credits include off-Broadway and off-off Broadway productions of The Twelve Dates Of Christmas; Women Behind Bars; A St Patrick's Day; A Sketch of New York and Speed Court, which she co-wrote and co-directed. Janet is thrilled to join Realize Your Beauty, and to have found a way to combine her love of performing with her passion for the empowerment of women at all ages.
Leah Dubbin Steckel is a New York based actor, dancer, and vocalist. Originally hailing from Calgary, Canada, she is a graduate of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy and has spent the last few years involved in projects ranging from dance captain in Razia’s Shadow (Thrift Shop Productions), to songwriting and recording with Nevin Park Productions. Leah is beyond excited to be joining this amazing team!
Starr Kirkland (Actor) is an actress and poet from San Diego, CA. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a BFA in Theater. As a writer and performer, Starr has used her spoken word to combat racism, violence, and bigotry, and to promote tolerance and an awareness of social issues. Some of the other programs Starr has worked with include: street outreach with The Storefront, an emergency shelter for youth; and Take Wing Transitional Living Community, a transitional living community specifically designed to break the cycle of homelessness for youth. She later started her own peer education theater troupe for at-risk youth, The Y.E.S. Program (Youth Expressing Self). Starr was a recipient of the Gandhi Nonviolence Award for her work in violence prevention in the community with specific emphasis on teen relationship and gang violence. Find out more here: starrkirkland.com
Lizzy Marmon is an actor, singer and performer, who was born in Manhattan and raised in Philadelphia. She received a BA in theatre, with honors in acting and a minor in music, from the George Washington University. She has performed in staged readings at Arena Stage and the Kennedy Center in Washington and toured as a vocalist to Brazil and South Africa. Since returning to New York City, she has been taking classes, trying to find a work/life balance and was a finalist in the third season of "So You Think You Can Belt" at the West End Bar & Lounge. Her theatre training and work are rooted in social justice and advocacy and she is very excited to be an ensemble member sharing the important message of Realize Your Beauty!
Sarah Matusek (Actor) is a performer and writer living in Brooklyn who directs the performance group Small Claims Court. Her work has appeared at such places as The Silent Barn, The Green Building, Dixon Place, Cherry Lane Theatre (for their first Cherry POP! event), Austin's FronteraFest, Vermont Arts Exchange, and at The Brick with Buran Theatre. Sarah is overjoyed to join the Realize Your Beauty team. RYB's crucial mission is close to her heart: to challenge the surface of an image and to celebrate healthy models of self-esteem and confidence.
Sarah Gwynne Walker is a NYC based character actress! She is a graduate of Marymount Manhattan College where she earned her BFA degree. She’s thrilled to be joining the RYB team and honored to be able to help instill self worth and self acceptance to young minds across the five boroughs of Manhattan!
Former Troupe Members:
- Elizabeth Sauter
- Molly Stoller