DMV Links Red Dress Event Gives the 411 on Total Lifestyle Changes Needed for Heart Health & Wellness

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Inaugural virtual activation garners over 28,000 views and reaches nearly 100,000 people featuring special guest Joy Reid of MSNBC's "The ReidOut With Joy Reid"

Kimberly Jeffries Leonard, PhD

“Now that we are awake and aware, what will we do to improve our own heart health, and that of our sisters, our family and our friends,” was the thought provoking question posed by The Links, Incorporated National President and Public Health expert, Kimberly Jeffries Leonard, PhD.

Live from Facebook on National Wear Red Day, the 13th Annual DMV Links Red Dress Event took center stage on Friday, February 5th from 7pm-9pm EST. With the global health crisis affecting the African-American community disproportionately, particularly those with pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity it was paramount that The Links, Incorporated’s (The Links) community-wide health and wellness signature events remain at the forefront. Thirteen (13) District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia Links Chapters joined forces in partnership with the American Heart Association (AHA) Greater Washington Region to create an engaging and transformational event themed Heart Health & Wellness: The COVID-19 Wake-Up Call. “Now that we are awake and aware, what will we do to improve our own heart health, and that of our sisters, our family and our friends,” was the thought provoking question posed by The Links, Incorporated National President and Public Health expert, Kimberly Jeffries Leonard, PhD.

This year’s Red Dress amazing sponsors were platinum plus sponsor MELE Skincare (a division of Unilever), along with platinum sponsors INOVA Heart and Vascular Institute (INOVA),, Monarch Magazine and Popular news anchor/reporter Jummy Olabanji (NBC4) and award-winning media veteran Andrea Roane (formerly WUSA9) were this year’s host and moderator, respectively. Leading medical, mental health and public health experts were headliners along with special guest Joy Reid of MSNBC’s “The ReidOut With Joy Reid.” The end result was an exponentially expanded footprint with tremendous impact across the U.S. and Canada. With the strategic utilization of social media in partnership with in driving home the life-saving message of heart health, Red Dress reached nearly 100,000 people and garnered more than 28,000 views. In the over 2,700 positive Facebook comments, “Meet people where they are in helping them reach health and wellness goals,” was a key take away.

A wealth of eye-opening information was shared throughout the night by sponsors and panelists. “We can and must take action to give our skin the attention it deserves,” Esi Eggleston Bracey, Unilever’s COO and EVP of Beauty and Personal Care North America noted during her remarks. Not only was the connection between skin health and heart health brought to the forefront, the need for equity in skincare education was also emphasized as well as a call to action petition with MELE Skincare ( COVID-19 was another area that also received attention at Red Dress. Kelly Anderson-Epps, MD, Director of the Center for Women’s Cardiovascular Health at INOVA charged the audience with “spreading the word that taking the vaccine will save lives.”

The interactive panel featured topics ranging from heart health, stroke, mental health, oral health, weight management, stress management and nutrition. Attendees felt more empowered, enlightened and ready to commit to total life changes like never before to live healthier longer lives. Expert panelists were as follows: American Heart Association Eastern States President Elect, Dr. Reginald L. Robinson (cardiologist); Links Eastern Area Vice-Director Dr. Lisa Loury Lomas of Lisa Speaks (therapist/ counselor); Dr. Debra E. Bruner of Denise E. Bruner & Associates (weight management expert); Dr. Yolanda Holmes of Yolanda L. Holmes Dermatology (dermatologist) Arlington (VA) Chapter; DC Board of Nursing Chair Meedie Bardonille (cardiac ICU nurse); American Heart Association spokesperson Latia Howard (stroke survivor). To view Red Dress

Meeting the critical needs of underserved communities is another vital component to Red Dress. “We are proud to have awarded tens of thousands of dollars to local charitable organizations since the inception of Red Dress,” remarked Michelle M. Bailey, Arlington (VA) Links member and event chair for the second consecutive year. “And, for the first time in our thirteen year event history, upwards of three organizations were recipients of philanthropic donations thanks to the generous contributions of platinum plus sponsor MELE, platinum sponsor INOVA and the thirteen (13) DMV Links host Chapters,” commented Diane M. Harley, Links Arlington (VA) Chapter president. Unity Health Care (Washington, DC), Open My Heart Foundation (Maryland), and Doorways (Virginia) were this year’s recipients. Last year’s single community partner was Dress for Success DC.

Giveaways are always a highlight of Red Dress, and this year was no exception with nearly $8,000 worth of prizes from companies who understand the importance of giving back to the community. Contest winners were amazed at gift packages from businesses such as: Cultura Dermatology & Laser Center, Dr. Yolanda L. Holmes Dermatology, MELE Skincare, Cocotique, The Honeypot, The Stretch Room, Club Pilates Tenleytown, Prettifeet, Joy Reid, Latia Howard, The Grill DC, Negril Jamaican Eatery, JOY Collective, Mama Sita’s Miracle Body Butter, Mischo Nail Lacquer, Prime Beauty Cosmetics, Social Media How To’s With Ramona, B Affirmed, Forever’s Treasures, The DC Dentist, Alphonzo Davidson, DDS and more.

Notable Red Dress attendees included: Congresswomen Joyce Beatty, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Sheila Jackson Lee, Frederica Wilson, Val Demmings, Ayanna Pressley and the Honorable Muriel Bowser, Mayor of Washington, DC. Various business and organization leaders in attendance included: Stacey Stewart, CEO March of Dimes; Rosie Allen-Herring, President and CEO United Way; Joi Gordon, CEO Dress For Success Worldwide; and Kornisha McGill Brown, President Jack & Jill of America, Inc.

The Red Dress planning committee, representing all thirteen (13) chapters, organized incredible events for the entire weekend. Alvin Ailey and Dance Theatre of Harlem trained dancer, fitness guru Tasha Ware (HLS) started Saturday off with Go Red & Get Fit (virtual) worked. Saturday afternoon’s Culinary & Conversations, a virtual cooking experience, was presented by platinum sponsor Monarch Magazine. Hosted by celebrity Chef Cynthia Pean whose client roster includes actor Will Smith and who's who, she prepared delicious plant based cuisine while interviewing the Links National President, Kimberly Jeffries Leonard, PhD. On Sunday Links members and friends worshiped virtually with Dr. Howard-John Wesley and the Alfred Street Baptist Church family (Alexandria, VA).

This year's record number of DMV Links Red Dress Event Host Chapters (13) are as follows: Arlington (VA) chair chapter; Capital City (DC); Greater Rappahannock (VA); Loudoun County (VA); Metropolitan (DC); Old Dominion (VA); Patuxent River (MD); Potomac (VA); Reston (VA); Silver Spring (MD); Southern Maryland Chain (MD); Washington (DC); and Willow Oak (MD).

In 2008, the Arlington (VA) Links Chapter through a grant from The Links, Incorporated and the American Heart Association, started a Heart Truth Program. The goal was to educate women of color in the Arlington, VA community about Heart Disease. This program laid the foundation for what became the Arlington (VA) Links’ Red Dress Event which attracted 50 attendees that same year on National Wear Red Day. Now the free community event has taken on a new direction. Ten to thirteen (10-13) Chapters across Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland (DMV) have since joined together in a partnership annually for greater scale, reach and impact. As a result, DMV Links Red Dress has become the largest event of its kind in the region and among the largest regional events highlighting heart disease.

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Michelle Bailey-Arlington (VA) Links
Michelle Bailey Media
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Arlington-VA Chapter of The Links, Incorporated
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