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Monday, Aug. 31, 2015

The Fall Five

Women tell must-read stories, model fall fashions

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What does it take to be a model? Is modeling really just about looks or who to look up to? The following five women are a representation of different types of women. A mother. A young woman. A mom-to-be. A businesswoman and a grandmother. We invite our readers to see fall fashion on real women who are redefining the meaning of models, and more importantly, these are real women who are just like you.
These five women are not often in the spotlight, but CityLife is about representing the women we are and the women we strive to be. 

Clementina Agricole

Out from the corner of the weight room, Clementina Agricole raised her hand. Three men look at her as she walks up to the door.
“Hey, Clementina! Are you a model?” one shouts.
She smiles and walks out of the room. When she walks back in to the room, she looks completely different. Dressed in a long black-and-white skirt with a ruffled top, she peers down at her tape on her fingers for weightlifting and asks, “Should I keep these on?”
“Yea, I think I want to keep these on,” she said.
Agricole admits she isn’t used to wearing clothes like these. Her normal attire is a T-shirt and workout pants because she is a weightlifter.
With her hair high and wearing a high-collared neckline, Agricole resembles a young Ida B. Wells. The look on her face is definite as she easily lifts about 202 pounds over her head. Her body shakes a little as she yells out to the photographer, “You got it?”
For three months Agricole has been in Shreveport training under LSUS Weightlifting Coach Dr. Kyle Pierce. She first met him during the Commonwealth Games in Scotland. After speaking with one of Pierce’s athletes, Agricole knew she needed to train under him to reach her goal.
But it took her a long time to get to this moment.
Agricole was born in the Seychelles Island, located east of Africa, when her mother was 16. As a young teenage mother without a job or money, her mother had nowhere else to live. To save money, they lived in a home with Agricole’s grandmother.
“Growing up at my grandmother’s place was a bit difficult because my grandmother’s boyfriend abused me for many years,” Agricole said. “It was sexual.”
Without giving many details of the abuse, she attributed being so young and abused as her first time in her life feeling weak.
When Agricole was 8, her family moved out from her grandmother’s home, and her life changed after the move.
“I remember when we moved in, I was watching TV,” Agricole said. “I saw [a] lady was lifting weights, and I didn’t know what it was. I was like, ‘Wow that is amazing.’”
Agricole ran to her mother to let her know she wanted to weightlift. Luckily, her mother was friends with a male weightlifter. Her mother introduced Agricole to her friend and asked if she could lift. He told her no.
“I was a bit disappointed,” Agricole said. “I was so small and 8. Instead of that, I looked for something else that had to do with weights.”
Her mother was also friends with a bodybuilder, and she spoke with him. Soon at age 8, Agricole starting lifting.
“When I turned 12, I went back to the weightlifting gym and starting training at the weightlifting gym. I started getting disappointed because I wasn’t getting any bigger,” she said. “I was crying and told my coach I’m quitting because I’m not getting any bigger. He sat me down and told me that it doesn’t work that way.”
Her coach told her as she grew older she would get stronger, and she will see an improvement in her strength. Agricole continued to train but still felt anger.
“When I was doing weightlifting, I was looking for something. I didn’t know,” she said. “I was an angry person. I think that weightlifting kind of changed me because I was looking for something to take my [anger] out of me, so I choose weightlifting.”
Agricole said her anger came from the years of sexual abuse she endured.
“I wanted revenge. I wanted to make my revenge on him. I was getting stronger because of my rage and because of my bitterness,” she said.
Then her abuser died.
“I was like, ‘What will I do now?’”
“I felt like I wanted to quit, but I kept on training for a while, but my motivation was down,” she said.
As a weightlifter, her focus was on her abuser and being stronger than him, Agricole said. It wasn’t until her first international competition that she gained the confidence and urge to keep competing.
“When I’m training, that is a way for me to get the rage out, and I am still doing it right now. Whenever I’m competing I take the rage out,” she said.
After traveling the world, weightlifting became Agricole’s passion, yet another interruption would almost cost her life.
In 2010, when Agricole was 22, she competed at the Commonwealth Games. She began the competition with a headache, and after one of her first lifts, she injured her elbow causing her to not continue in the competition.
After bowing out of the games, her headaches got worst, and soon she went blind. A weightlifting colleague took her to a village eye doctor and referred her to a specialist in a larger village. A CT scan revealed a brain tumor the size of a tennis ball.
“Most athletes know their body, and I knew there was something wrong with me. I wasn’t nervous or scared. I knew there was something wrong,” Agricole said.
Her operation took place immediately the next day.
“They shaved my head, but it was fun. I’m like that. I always take the positive things out of it. You know, I never had my head shaved before. So it’s kind of fun to be a girl with a shaved head sometimes,” she said.
Agricole spent a month and a half in the ICU. To her, it was like a prison. She didn’t see her family because of the distance. She missed the sun and being outdoors. And she saw her weightlifting dreams slipping away.
Determined and with her dream in mind, Agricole spent the later part of her time in the ICU lifting whatever she could find heavy in the hospital room. The nurses and doctors scolded her for being too active in such a fragile state.
“I remember when I was sleeping once I overheard some of the doctors saying I am so strong; I’m really strong because the way I am recovering and the things I would do [as a] person who just came out of a big surgery. I was smiling while I was sleeping, and that motivated me more,” Agricole said.
In 2011, when Agricole thought she was going back for a routine checkup, it was actually part of her second surgery to remove the remaining part of the tumor. Again she found herself bald and lifting in the ICU eager to return to her normal life of weightlifting.
Agricole said it was difficult when she returned home because the federation refused to let her train without approval from her doctor.
For a while, she was training at home with cement inside of cans fashioned like heavy weights. It was hard for Agricole to see her colleagues training and not being able to continue on her path toward her dream.
At 23, she received approval and started vigorously training. Through all of the months in recovery, she grew weak and was determined get her strength back.
Agricole felt the sting of defeat during her time building her strength and admitted she didn’t like that feeling. She grew stronger and after competing in the Commonwealth Championship in 2013, she won and took home the silver metal.
“I turned my life around when I had my second surgery,” she said. “The Lord was watching me; God is good.”
In Shreveport, her training schedule begins at 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Saturday. After her training at the LSUS weightlifting gym, she goes home to sit outside and reflect on her day and techniques.
Agricole’s dream is to qualify for the Olympic Games and compete in 2016 in the Rio Games.
“I want to hit like the Top 15. I know it will be hard, but nothing is impossible,” she said.
Aside from her life as a weightlifter, Agricole has also taken a stance and become an advocate against sexual abuse. Last month, she learned of a colleague in her program back home who was allegedly raped by a massage therapist. Agricole took matters into her own hands and began texting officials and eventually the CEO of the federation to tell them what happened.
This move changed her world back home and brought an increased awareness to those involved in sexual abuse.
“I want to fight for her. They are messing with her life, and it is not fair,” Agricole said. “I’m willing to fight for something that I believe in.”

Julia McGrew

Julia McGrew is unlike any other mother of four. With her calm demeanor, she is the subtle matriarch of her big family.
As she sits in her kitchen chair to get her hair curled, chaos is happening behind her in the kitchen. Everything is scattered everywhere around the room. Drawers are open, the sink is filled with dishes and one of the middle children is working on an experiment that hopefully he won’t taste.
“The truth is that is usually looks like this [in the house] but not all the time,” she said. “It’s crazy around here all the time.”
And quickly she is interrupted by her second to oldest son, Christian. “Mom, do I look OK?”
She stares at her son in his football uniform, covered in flour. She laughs and said, “Yea.” Her other three children continue to work on disassembling the kitchen.
McGrew and her husband started their business McGrew Wastewater Products a few days before she was to give birth to Christian almost 10 years ago. She helps out by doing the books for the company in the evenings.
The company is a construction business that handles septic tanks, manufactures and installs treatment systems and completes mobile home improvements. The company keeps her husband working almost 12-hour days except for Sundays.
“That is family day. We worship together at church. We usually spend it going to a movie or out to eat,” she said.
Her life is their life. McGrew is completely devoted to her children as a full-time stay-at-home mom. But after she gave birth to her first child, she lost sight of her needs.
McGrew became a mother at age 23 after marrying her high school sweetheart at 18. They waited four years to have children. Her first child was Elijah.
McGrew began gaining weight and eventually gained 70 pounds.
“I didn’t care what I looked like. I kept to myself and had no type of a social life. One day, I woke up and realized I didn’t recognize myself,” she said.
“When I became a mom, naturally I gravitated toward the instances of being a mom and didn’t take the time for myself.”
After the birth of her second son, Christian, she had gained a total of 70 pounds and started to lose weight. Christian spent a while in the hospital fighting for his life after he contracted E.coli at a young age. He made it through the sickness but has permanent kidney damage. He is on daily blood pressure medicine as a result and has to be monitored.
“Somehow through that whole ordeal, I became pregnant with my third son,” she said.
Julian was next and was born with progressive hearing loss. At two months, he responded to an [auditory brainstem response] test with almost perfect hearing in one ear and a slight hearing loss in the other. At 13 months, another ABR test revealed there was no response and that he completely lost his hearing.
“As devastated as I was, it has always been hard to worry about him because he is such a happy little boy, and it does not hold him back at all. He has learned many signs and follows direction really well,” she said.
McGrew and her husband began the journey to get him cochlear implants.  “It was a bit of a challenge,” she said. “He learned many signs to communicate as he was learning speech, which has really come a long way! He continues to make tremendous progress. He is simply amazing. All my kids are!” At that time, her weight was still a struggle but not on the forefront of her mind.
Her last child Josephine was born and soon McGrew knew it was time to take back her life. She started becoming mindful about her eating habits and began weight-training. Last year, McGrew began CrossFit.
“It was high-impact. After losing weight, I wanted to get back into the gym so I started group classes. After being in the gym for a couple of years, I started cross fit, it was like nothing I had ever done before!” she said. “Anyone and everyone can do it. The harder you push yourself, the stronger you will be.”
Now McGrew is a regular at the gym and trains five days a week for about an hour each day. She has lost all the weight she gained. She is mostly muscle and has regained her confidence.
“I have to make the time [to go to the gym] and stay balanced,” McGrew said. “We are doing the best we can, and it is unreal how fast time goes.”
McGrew isn’t looking to lose any more weight.
“That is what I love about CrossFit. With CrossFit, you don’t have to [focus on losing weight]. It’s more about being stronger and faster. Be strong and have a totally different mindset.”
Though McGrew doesn’t let her diet run her life.
“I eat healthy, but I can eat a piece of cake,” she said. “Everything in moderation.”
As a body builder, her husband was very supportive through her journey.
“The best advice I could give any young mother is that even though we naturally feel the need to focus all our energy into our children, we forget how important it is to be a wife first. This time with your children is precious, and it goes by so fast. You’re going to make mistakes no doubt, but don't get too caught up in trying to get it all right that you forget to live in the moment and enjoy the gift of motherhood,” she said.
Losing weight and getting in shape was only one of her goals, now she is working toward her next challenge to go back to school and become an interpreter for the deaf in the school system.

Rebecca Kerry

Rebecca and Josh Kerry were a team from the time they were teens in love. From the moment Josh walks in the door of their home, the couple exchanges sweet looks.
Piper, their daughter, runs to the door to hug her daddy. At age 3, Piper is inquisitive and full of energy. As her mother gets dolled up like a princess, she peers over the table and asks, “Mommy, what are you doing?”
“I’m putting on makeup.”
“Oh.” Quickly, Piper walks away and becomes mesmerized by the children’s show playing on TV. She is anything but shy, but soon she will become a big sister.
Rebecca is six months pregnant with her second child and is due on Halloween. They have already chosen the name Ryder Knox Kerry for the new baby boy.
For Rebecca, pregnancy is different from her first when she was a teenager. Back then her life was different.
At 15, her father kicked her out of the house and she moved in with her brother and sister-in-law for a while. Later on, she moved in with a friend while she was dating Josh. Soon after, she moved in with Josh and his family.
“My siblings and I just weren’t shown how to love by our parents, it’s been a learning process to show it to Josh. We’ve always said that our parents showed us what not to do while growing up instead of what to do.”
Adjusting to life with a new family was difficult at first for Rebecca. “[Josh] is a great guy. He worked and got his bachelor’s degree, and soon we got our own place,” Rebecca said.
At 19, Rebecca got pregnant with Piper.
“Having her made everything better,” she said. “A baby is not a mistake or an accident. Nothing happens by accident. God has a plan for everyone, and that child needs you, or in my case, I needed them.”
Piper helped Rebecca and Josh grow closer as parents. “God knew I needed Josh in my life, and he knew I was too stubborn to fight for anything. So he gave us our first little blessing and knew that we would fight for that,” she said.
She admitted becoming a mother was a learning process at such a young age. After her newborn came home from the hospital, Piper slept 10 hours. As new parents, they thought something was wrong with her. Rebecca said Piper was a good baby and stuck to a schedule.
“I almost feel like I love on [Piper] too much sometimes, especially when she stops me and tells me, ‘Momma, I love you too, but that’s enough!’ I know it will be the same way with Ryder once he gets here,” she said.
To Rebecca, being a mother is a life-changing experience.
“[Being a mother] is amazing and full of chaos but the right kind of chaos. It makes you stronger and shows you and a kind of love that you have never experienced before,” Rebecca said. “I was never really shown love or how to love growing up, so getting love and affection from Josh was hard for me to accept. The first time I held Piper, all I could do is cry and stare at her because it’s such a raw true love that you will instantly do anything for it/them. It’s like nothing I have ever experienced, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I thank God everyday for all he has given me, and I can’t wait to see what else he has in store.”
Being pregnant for the second time isn’t easy for Rebecca. “I’ve [swatted] someone’s hand away from my belly. I’m self-conscious. It’s not a lamp, a genie isn’t going to come out.”
She also hates it when people comment on her weight. From a recent Facebook rant Rebecca explained:
“I’m growing another human life, and it changes everything about my body. I’m OK with that. It’s an amazing thing. Not necessarily the most fun process but it has the most amazing result. This tiny little person I created gets to finally come out and see the world, and I get to meet them. I get to have the privilege of being his mommy.”
With her first pregnancy, she showed hardly any symptoms. Lately, she has been tired, hungry and sore.
Rebecca’s most important task after Ryder is born will be to preserve her relationship with Piper and attend to her just as much as they have been when it was just three in the family.
“She kisses my belly before bed. It’s an emotional time. I want her to be happy this is happening. I don’t want her to feel like we are pushing her aside. I want her to be a key part of this, too.”
After Ryder is born, Josh and Rebecca plan on adopting one more.
“I’m happier as a mom than ever before.”

DeAnza Duron

DeAnza Duron works for the Lord. One of the first things noticeable about her is her smile and the spirt of joy surrounding her.
This is a woman of God but also a woman of force who created an empire – though she would never admit to it. She is known to many in her church and as “Zaza” to her four grandchildren.
Modeling comes easy to Duron as she is light on her feet and familiar with fashion. Knox Goodman knows her by name and dresses her for many occasions – the most recent being her son’s wedding.
After a simple touch-up on makeup, she poses exactly without direction. With Duron, there are no sad stories only meaningful moments that lead to more opportunities.
Duron was 3 when her father died. She grew up in a blended family and was the youngest. Growing up, Duron sang for her church and community and had the chance to tour the world. Her vocal talent lead her to places she dreamed of seeing, like behind the Iron Curtain (when it was there) also to China and Hong Kong.
Her family lived modestly. Duron said her best attributes come from her mother.
“Is there such a thing as a Renaissance woman?” she said. “If so, she was it. She made my life full, and she was always there, and I always knew she was always in my corner. I know that there was nothing that could make me lose her.”
Her mother was in her 30s and a music teacher when she became a widow. “She always had a grace and dignity about her,” she said.
“My mom was initially that key window into how to look at the world. And she always conveyed that I could do anything, I could accomplish anything, that there was a God that was with me and that I wasn’t alone,” she said. “It just gave me that anchor that I was able to take risks. You fail, you get up. That is part of life, and that is OK.”
When Duron was 27, she was fixed up on a date with her now husband. “I’m from New Mexico, and I married a Cajun [from Louisiana], and I am Italian,” she said. “We have what some call an extremely full life.”
Full indeed as Duron is the mother of six and took in a seventh. Duron said she always wanted a lot of children. The Duron clan is made up of two girls and five boys. Some have degrees in business, some live in Florida and others are involved in the church but for certain a large majority of the Durons sing.
“Our home was always filled with music. When I had the third [child], I didn’t want them to fight so I wrote them a song. It was called ‘Best Buddies.’” Duron has written over 100 songs.
“Family messages help you to be connected. You could live in the same house and feel like you are not connected and feel like you are not on the same team. That is one of the saddest things, when children are in competition with another. When the reality is, that we could be rooting for one another. The family is God’s greatest support system.”
Duron has a special place in her heart for mothers because they “carry a heavy load at times.”
“It’s just from morning to night. You are not only dealing with your children’s practical needs but emotionally and spiritually. You want to see them grow up into strong, contributing adults – people that have found a purpose and a happiness deep inside.”
Duron hears many praising her family.
“[I tell them] God fills in the gaps,” she said. “There’s always areas in our lives that we wish we could go back and do better. But if you are honest with your children and your mistakes you can say, ‘You know I missed it there.’”
Being a grandmother put life into perspective for Duron. After her first grandchild, she remembered how much a joy “little ones” brought to the family. “I plan on being eternally young. It’s a state of mind. I want to enjoy life to the max and who better to enjoy it with than the little ones [where] everything is a first [for them]. It’s so fun to teach them things.”
Duron has become a cheerleader rooting for togetherness. She said she first became aware of the importance of family after working in the church and going through funerals with other families.
“At the funerals, you see the pain and separation within a family. You know that is not good for anyone,” she said. “Everyone is needed at the table, and everyone has a place at the table in a family, and that is important. They can be different.”
Embracing diversity is what keeps her family strong. As the leaders of two churches in Shreveport-Bossier City, she plays a vital role in outreach to the community. Each service on Sunday at Shreveport Community Church, she speaks a word of encouragement and is heavily involved in the women’s outreach program.
Reaching out to the world is what makes Duron share her message of togetherness. She becomes a bond that speaks to a new generation of families.
“I think it’s a good assumption that everyone you meet needs encouragement. When we encourage others, we become encouraged,” she said. “A smile and a hug goes a long way.”

Megan Bamburg

Just after 5 p.m. Megan Bamburg sips on a glass of red wine while her makeup is applied. This is her quiet time to unwind from her day.
Being a friend of a makeup artist, she is used to having her makeup done. As she reaches her arms into the long black leather blazer, she begins to look the part of her full-time job as a manager for a fuel company.
In black, she turns into a powerhouse businesswoman. Her job as the director of administration/accounts payable manager for Pel-State Services tasks her with working at the top of a growing fuel company. It’s a demanding position she has worked hard to obtain.
With a professional poise and an assertive tone, Bamburg is all business. Though taking a deeper look into her eyes reveals a lust for her youth.
In a sense, youth was stripped from her at a young age. “Coming from where I came from I didn’t have much of a support system at home,” she said.
She was born into a young family. Her mom was 15; her dad was 26.
“I always told my mom, ‘No one thought that was a big red flag?’” Bamburg said. “When [my parents] were together, they drank a lot. They used drugs. They fought and physically fought.”
At age 8, she allegedly witnessed her dad physically abuse her mom and her grandmother.
“We were driving home from a family function in Coushatta, and my mom and dad got into it. They pulled off the side of the road, and I remember my mom and dad getting out. My grandmother got into the middle of it, and he pushed her down what looked like – I can’t even call it a ditch because it was so steep. He pushed her right on down there, and she broke both arms.”
The abuse continued, and at age 11, her dad molested her.
Bamburg said she pretended to be asleep as her dad molested her. She was petrified that he would beat or kill her.
“There were signs of that there. I remember my half-sister lived with us for a while, and I remember waking up – there was like four of us sharing a tiny room, and I slept on the bottom bunk bed with her – waking up with her screaming because he was trying to do that to her, and this was a couple of years before he did that to me.”
“But he stayed [in the house].”
“It took me a good minute to tell my mom [what he did to me]. I was so terrified,” she said.
“When you are so young, you don’t understand. You just don’t understand why, why that happened to you. Why would he do that to me? He is supposed to be my dad.”
After she told her mom, she kicked him out of the house, and her parents got a divorce. However, there were some weekends that she and her sisters would stay with her dad wherever he was living.
“Again, [I was] completely terrified,” Bamburg said.
She said as a victim, she analyzed her relationship with her father. “Maybe it’s just something that you said or did or maybe you looked at him a certain way. I’m really not sure how to pinpoint it,” she said.
Bamburg hasn’t spoken to her dad in years after he moved to Florida and was arrested.
Throughout her childhood, Bamburg’s only sense of stability was living with her grandparents. Each night, they ate dinner together and had a few family traditions that Bamburg recalled. She talked to her grandfather and trusted him.
At 16, Bamburg was in a long-term relationship with her boyfriend, and she found out she was pregnant. The couple discussed having an abortion. She said she was scared to tell her mother but later found her mother was willing to help her take care of the baby.
A change of heart came when Bamburg’s grandfather talked her out of getting an abortion. “Grandpa pulled me aside and told me, ‘You cannot do this. You cannot take this baby. That is my blood.’”
A few months later, Bamburg was a teen mom. “It’s funny you have to grow up really fast, but when you are that young still, it’s like a constant battle in your head,” she said. “I don’t really know what I’m doing because I’m a child pretty much, and now I have to take care of this child.”
Bamburg admits as a young mother she made plenty of mistakes but learned from them. At 20, she had her second daughter.
The abuse from her dad still weighs heavy on Bamburg. “I cry about it every once in a while. That is not something ever that you stop dealing with.”
“I always knew that it wasn’t my fault,” she said. “I think I was more angry about it than sad. But along the way, I found God. I knew for the sake of my kids, I knew that I couldn’t dwell if I [didn’t] have to.”
After graduating high school, Bamburg took on a job at a hotel and a few temp jobs which landed her in the oil field working for Key Energy Services in 2007.
In 2010, the oil field began to slow down. After looking for something different, she went to work for Select Energy Services where she found her niche.
“I was good at cleaning up other people’s messes,” she said.
Select Energy has multiple divisions, and soon she moved on to the well-testing division. Bamburg’s job was billing and completing reports.
Two of the operations managers decided to leave the company and take Bamburg with them. She worked from home and then things started to slow down.
In 2013, Bamburg took a job at Pel-State Services.
“I didn’t have a title for about three months, I think. Basically, what I did was come in and review their policies and procedures and review anything that they have going on and figure out what I thought the issues were and came up with processes to present to my boss to make them better.
“I would analyze. A big part of my job was just to analyze data just to start and then use my prior experience to come up with a better plan.”
During the time she started working with Pel-State, the company took off quickly. After about three months on the job, her boss promoted her to the director of administration role.
“Basically, I just got thrown in there. [My boss said] you are going to do this, you are going to do that. Make a PO process and fix these work orders – and I did. I just did it.”
“He saw something in me, I mean I didn’t realize that I had,” she said. “Over the past two and a half years, he has been amazing, coaching me on anything I presented him with. We communicate very well together. Because of that support, I never really felt like I was in over my head.”
In her position, Bamburg is quick to say she loves her job. She manages four women at Pel-State and admits it is hard being a manager but gets through it to support her family.
“I never would have thought I would be where I am now. I have credit. I have my own car. I bought a home last year,” Bamburg said. “I have everything I need and more.”
“It took me a while to find those people to see something in me. To see that I am skilled and that I have value. But if you are persistent, you can find that, and it’s definitely worth waiting for and definitely worth fighting for.”

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