Announcing Our 2017 Babes of the Year

As ever, our community is filled gill-to-gill with women who are doing it—there's no other way to put it. As 2017 comes to an end, we're recognizing six incredible Austin-based women for their resilience, commitment to equality and all-around talent as organizers, creators, artists and leaders for change. We could not be more proud to call them friends, collaborators. 

Join us in applauding their efforts:

Evelyn Ngugi Babe of the Year

Evelyn Ngugi is a #MagicalBlackGirl who loves to tell hilarious stories online. She's a video producer (, journalist (Austin While Black), and Internet personality (Evelyn From The Internets) dedicated to highlighting the experiences of women of color. From not-so-serious beauty tutorials and cultural critiques to humorous takes on somber current events, the Austin-based YouTuber inspires and entertains fans, including Beyonce, who featured her Lemonade review on the Formation World Tour. Yes, that really happened. 

Why We Love Evelyn:
Y'all know this year was a tough one, right? That's why we're thankful for content creators like Evelyn Ngugi who keep us laughing, honest and downright appreciative of good-natured comedy. From her Youtube channel to her work through Austin While Black, Evelyn inspires us to read between the lines, forget the bullshit and be better role models. We appreciate you!

If this were high school, she would win "Most Likely To Brighten Your Year."

Kandace Vallejo

Kandace Vallejo is the Founding Director of Youth Rise Texas, and has dedicated her life’s work to supporting immigrant rights organizations like the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Workers Defense Project. Vallejo holds a Masters in Education from the University of Texas at Austin and has been published in Global Policy TV, Waging Nonviolence, Edible Austin and in the book Be the Change: Teacher, Activist, Global Citizen and Uses of a Whirlwind.

Why We Love Kandace:
We believe empowerment looks like mindful leadership and education and a connected teaching community. And that's exactly what Kandace Vallejo has created at Youth Rise Texas. She works directly with young adults to give them a voice and agency in their futures—one that is intersectional, interdisciplinary and informed. We salute you, Kandace!

More on Youth Rise: Youth Rise Texas is a new project in partnership with Grassroots Leadership, dedicated to using mentorship and multi-generational organizing to develop the leadership of youth of color who are directly impacted by parent incarceration and deportation. Using popular education, mentorship, community organizing, and creative cultural production, Youth Rise is cultivating young people to lead the struggle against mass incarceration and immigrant criminalization, while contributing to the movement for racial and economic justice.

If this were high school, she would win "Most Likely To Lead The Resistance."

Virginia Cumberbatch

Virginia Cumberbatch began serving as Director of the Community Engagement Center (CEC) in the fall of 2016. The CEC is an arm of The University of Texas' Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and incubates the Social Justice Institute, which focuses on connecting the resources of the university to the community to address concerns of equity and access in education, housing, health-care and social justice. In 2015, she and her brother co-founded HUX STORYHOUSE, LLC, a creative strategies collective that uses culturally relevant storytelling to help organizations engage thoughtfully and authentically with markets across the Black Diaspora. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Virginia is a founding board member of Six Square: Austin's Black Cultural District, an organization focused on preserving Austin's Black history and heritage in East Austin and on curating ongoing cultural and economic contributions of Black Austinites. She is currently serving as Curator for the Austin Shapers (a hub of the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers), on the board of KLRU (Austin's Public Broadcasting station) and was vital in re-launching the National Urban League's Young Professionals program in Austin. In 2017, she was appointed to and is currently serving on the Mayor of Austin's Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Bias. She is the recipient of the 2016 Anti-Defamation League of Austin Social Justice Award and the Austin American-Statesman named her "Person to Watch in 2015" for her work in community engagement. Her book, As We Saw It: The Story of Integration at The University of Texas at Austin, will be published in 2018.

Why We Love Virginia:
As a creative, scholar and organizer, Virginia sits at the intersection of many communities. Her work at the University of Texas and through various cause-based and creative organizations reminds us that intersectionality is the key to progress; now more than ever, we need people who are willing to stand at the bridge between different languages, world-views and approaches to work and life and to serve as a welcoming mediator for accessible middle ground for conversation and community dialogue. We're grateful for all that you do to connect the dots in Austin, Virginia! 

If this were high school, she would win "Most Likely To Transform The Community."

Ashley Jennings

Ashley Jennings is an award-winning producer, media consultant and entrepreneur based in Austin, Texas. Through her work in the startup ecosystem, she's been deemed a top "connector of people and organizations," focused on driving real change around systematic problems for women in the workforce. Ashley is the co-owner and Executive Producer of Spero Labs, LLC, a creative production agency championing content for clients of all sizes, from local tech startups to fortune 500 giants. She also serves as the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer for DivInc, a non-profit accelerator for women and ethnically diverse tech founders, aimed at increasing diversity in the tech industry. Ashley also produces for conferences, events and festivals, including SXSW. Prior to moving back to Texas from New York, Ashley helped launch Al Jazeera Media Network’s American channel, Al Jazeera America, and was part of the ABC News field team who traveled the country covering breaking news, weather and politics. Ashley serves on the board of 3 Day Startup and volunteers with UT's Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency, Genesis Program and Planetshakers Austin. Her greatest joy is getting to mentor students and young storytellers at local high schools and at the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations.

Why We Love Ashley:
Inspired by the barriers and sexism she faced in the journalism industry, Ashley Jennings set out to be the change she wished to see in the world. As the co-founder of Divinc, a nonprofit accelerator for women and ethnically diverse tech founders, Jennings has become a passionate and hardworking advocate for gender and racial equality in entrepreneurship. On top of her work at Divinc, she works day in and day out to bridge the gap between Austin's entrepreneurial and creative community. We appreciate you, Ashley!

If this were high school, she would win "Most Likely To Topple The Patriarchy."

Xochi Solis

Xochi Solis is an Austin, TX-based artist sharing her studio time between Texas and Mexico. Her works include multilayered, collaged paintings constructed of paint, hand-dyed paper, vinyl, plastics, and images from found books and magazines. Solis considers the repeated act of layering in her work a meditation on color, texture, and shape, all leading to a greater awareness of the visual intricacies found in her immediate environment. She received her B.F.A. in Studio Art from the University of Texas in 2005. Recent exhibitions include: Mi Tierra: Contemporary Artists Explore Place, Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO (2017); We must build as if the sand were stone, South Texas College Library Gallery, McAllen, TX (2016); Rivers of our Vision, Lawndale Art Center in Houston, TX (2013); Summer Invitational, Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, New York City, NY; Flatlander, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder, CO (2015); New Art in Austin: 20 to Watch, Austin Museum of Art, Austin, TX (2008); and currently Shaped by Subtraction, BOX 13 Artspace in Houston, TX (2017). In 2016, Solis held a residency at Pele Prints in St. Louis, MO and in 2013 was a resident artist at Arquetopia in Oaxaca, MX learning to work with natural pigments. Solis is one of 30 artists featured in the book Collage: Contemporary Artists Hunt and Gather, Cut and Paste, Mash Up and Transform (Chronicle Books, 2014). In addition to her studio practice, she manages and spins records with the Austin chapter of Chulita Vinyl Club.

Why We Love Xochi:
From organizing Chulita Vinyl Club to producing culturally significant collage work, we're honored to know and work alongside Xochi. At CVC, she fearlessly supports and leads a network of local DJs and crate-diggers. In her own art practice, she continually assigns value to her ancestry and brings attention to underrepresented Latinx narratives. Her eloquence and resilience in times of community strife are also prescriptive and healing (like that time she refused to take shit from the management at Upstairs at Caroline's). We're grateful for cultural organizers and producers like you, Xochi! (PS: Xochi will be on our programming committee in 2018.)

If this were high school, she would win "Most Likely To Organize The Art Show That Changes Your Life."

Cristina Fisher

A native Southern Californian, Cristina Fisher has been living in Austin, TX since attending the University of Texas from 2006 to 2010. She currently runs events and content for Urban Outfitters’ Space 24 Twenty, a community events space that helps provide exposure to local artists and creatives through unique and varied programming each month. Outside of Space 24 Twenty, Cristina practices film and digital photography, in addition to serving on the Localeur Advisory Board, Soho House Austin Committee and Ballet Austin Fundraising Committee. 

Why We Love Cristina:
Truth be told, Austin's running out of affordable, accessible (and beautiful) space. That's why we love Cristina Fisher! As a creative herself, she's attuned to artists' and makers' needs and has transformed Space 24 Twenty (which could have easily been an exclusively corporate space) into a supportive spot for emerging producers, organizers and activists. She's hosted everything from our 2-year anniversary to local markets to pop-up festivals, and for that we are grateful. Thanks for setting an incredible example! (PS: Cristina will be on our programming committee in 2018.)

If this were high school, she would win "Most Likely To Host The Revolution."

If you ever see our Babes of the Year out in the wild, give 'em a hearty pat on the back! We're inspired by their spirits and humbled to be impacted by their efforts; we're looking forward to all they accomplish in 2018.

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Jane Claire HerveyComment