Panel for empowerment: Key takeaways from Orange County United Way's Fall Women United Event / by Jasmine Tate

On Wednesday, August 15 more than 100 women entered the Lincoln Experience Center in Newport Beach, CA  for an event described to be “uniquely female.” Combining networking, wine sipping, food tasting and engaging dialogue, a local panel presented by Orange County United Way and Bank of America gathered a diverse group with one goal, empowerment.

As three women took over the stage to take on the topic of branding, their words were met with head nods, laughter and internal reflection.

Photo courtesy of Orange County United Way

Photo courtesy of Orange County United Way

Skyler McCurine is an anti-fashion stylist on a mission to change the look of leadership empowering her clients to spend less time in front of the mirror and more time in front of the table. Speaking her truth and sharing techniques to help the women in the room own theirs, Skyler brought energy into the atmosphere and added valuable practices that could be implemented immediately.

She was joined by an award-winning lawyer bringing leadership and style to an iconic and international fashion brand, Christina Zabat-Fran, the Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for St. John. With a passion for service and experience incorporating her personal style from the seat of a piano to the taekwondo mat and into boardrooms, Christina addressed the audience with warmth, compassion and authenticity.

Guiding the conversation and keeping the program on schedule, Lanän Clark, a US Navy Veteran and Bank of America’s Vice President and Practice Management Consultant for the Southwest Division of Merrill Lynch, ensured smooth transitions through each prompt while adding valuable insights of her own.

Panelists gather for a photo prior to the start of the program. Pictured left to right: Skyler McCurine, Lanän Clark and Christina Zabat-Fran. Photo courtesy of United Way Orange County

Panelists gather for a photo prior to the start of the program. Pictured left to right: Skyler McCurine, Lanän Clark and Christina Zabat-Fran. Photo courtesy of United Way Orange County

Branding, by definition

According to McCurine “branding is just the truth; people wearing and dressing for the truth of who you are.”

Corporate brands evolve from personal brands as Zabat-Fran noted the translation of loyalty into brands and life, leading to longevity and growth. Consistency is a key element of the equation. As told by Clark, “the way we do one thing is the way we do everything and the answer is yes to all” - all that you are and all that you aspire to be.

Reminders on leadership, building and maintaining a brand

“You cannot have a conversation about leadership without having a conversation for you, about you.” - Skyler McCurine

“Working hard and believing in yourself never goes out of style.” - Christina Zabat-Fran

“You’re not crazy. You’re dynamic and powerful, and with dynamic and powerful comes a little bit of crazy.”  - Lanän Clark

“Philanthropy is power in your personal brand.” - Susan B. Parks, President and CEO | Orange County United Way

5 Questions to answer on the journey to growth

  1. How do you want to show up?

  2. What are people going to call you for?

  3. How do you want to feel?

  4. What makes you most comfortable?

  5. What makes you stand up straight in a room?

To Do List:

  • Wear things in your closet with a tag or give it away.

“Dress for the size you are now. You deserve it now.” - Skyler McCurine

  • “Call on your mentors.” - Christina Zabat-Fran

They have been in your shoes and can help you navigate challenging situations or work through them from experience.

“When you come in looking for something you have a tendency to find it.” - Lanän Clark,

While each woman in attendance showed up for different reasons, I’m confident they all left with more than they hoped for. “Local, Global, Me” is a three-part women empowerment series hosted by Orange County United Way’s Women United Affinity Group. The next event will take place on Wednesday, November 7 from the global perspective of Disneyland Resort's Senior Vice President of Experience Development & Integration, Mary Niven.

For more information on Orange County United Way, Women United or ways to get involved contact Amanda Hastings or visit



Jasmine C. Tate